King's Lynn and west norfolk
There are around 550 square miles of West Norfolk and every single one of them has something to surprise, inspire and delight, with stunning nature reserves, Fens waterlands, glorious sandy beaches, the seaside resort of Hunstanton, maritime history of King's Lynn, and country homes including Sandringham, the Queen's rural retreat
King's Lynn and nature reserves with amazing wildlife watching
The historic medieval port of King's Lynn has a wealth of stunning buildings, heritage museums and attractions. On Purfleet Quay is the splendid 1683 Custom House, described by Pevsner as 'one of the most perfect buildings ever built', and now the tourist office.
Just outside King’s Lynn is magnificent Norman Castle Rising, one of the largest and best-preserved keeps in the country, atop huge earthworks. Not far away is Castle Acre, not a castle at all, but extensive ruins of a Norman priory.
One of the most popular visitor attractions in West Norfolk is Sandringham – the house and gardens are open from April to October with the estate grounds and visitor centre open throughout the year. A few miles away is Houghton Hall, built by Great Britain's first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole.
West Norfolk borders the Wash, the UK's most important estuary for wild birds and a site of international significance. The sheltered mudflats here provide a vast feeding ground for thousands of water birds from as far away as Greenland and Siberia.
The natural coastal landscape is an ideal habitat for many species of wintering wildfowl, summer breeding birds and migrants.
There are numerous nature reserves in the area including RSPB Snettisham and WWT Welney Wetland Centre on the Ouse Washes, home to thousands of wildfowl such as swans, wigeon and pochard who descend on the reserve during the winter months. In summer there are guided walks of this rich Fens area.
Highlights of King's Lynn & west norfolk
Things to see and do...
Enjoy traditional fun at Hunstanton, otherwise known as Sunny Hunny, the only east coast resort that faces west!
The Royal family's rural retreat is open to the public much of the year
King's Lynn's maritime heritage
The port has a history of Hanseatic trading, with many merchants' buildings still open to the public
Norman castle with one of the largest and best preserved keeps in England, surrounded by 20 acres of earthworks
Best birdwatching in Britain
There are nature reserves along the coast and Wash, such as Snettisham, providing brilliant birdwatching
Great for walking and cycling
Beautiful coast, countryside and Fens all provide the perfect environment for outside activities
'SUNNY HUNNY' HUNSTANTON
The classic seaside resort of Hunstanton has a large, award-winning, sandy beach with safe, shallow water that provides a vast playground, alongside all the traditional attractions of a great family resort. Here you'll find some of the best conditions in the country for windsurfing, as well as kite-surfing, land boarding, sailing and water skiing.
Hunstanton's stunning striped cliffs of Carr stone and red and white chalk rise above the sea to the north of the town. At Old Hunstanton, the original fishing village before the Victorians came by railway, the vast beach provides miles of space to relax and unwind.
As the only west-facing resort on the east coast of Britain, Hunstanton basks in sunshine long into the evening and visitors can enjoy spectacular sunsets from the promenade.
Nearby is Holme-next-the-Sea, the beginning of the Norfolk Coast Path to Cromer, and on a stretch of coast that has tidal marshes and beautiful sandy beaches, including magnificent Brancaster in Norfolk’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Heacham has a connection to Native American Pocahontas, whose husband John Rolfe came from the village - he was baptised in St Mary's the Virgin church. The first inter-racial wedding marriage in north America, it could be said Pocahontas and John Rolfe established the Special Relationship - and Rolfe went on to save the colony and helped create the United States.
Heacham is also home to Norfolk Lavender. It may be best-known from the arid hillsides of Provence, but the aromatic herb has been grown at Caley Mill since 1935 and was originally brought here by the Romans. There are now 90 acres of purple-blue stripes that thrive in the light, sandy soil.
explore the fens
Stretching across several counties and covering around 1 million acres, The Fens are a fascinating 'natural manscape', not least in the villages just south and east of King's Lynn, where you'll find some of the finest medieval ecclesiastical architecture and art in the UK. The landscape here is unlike any other: endless fields of rich black fertile soil and arable crops, split by drainage ditches and the Great Ouse, Little Ouse, Bedford and Nene rivers.
The Fens were originally low-lying marshlands and wetlands, with drainage work beginning in the 1650s under the Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden and finally being completed in the 1820s when the introduction of steam-driven pumps replaced windpumps. Naturally, there's a Dutch feel to the reclaimed, low-lying environment, a world away from the inhospitable wilderness of squelching bogs where before a few hardy souls eked a living cutting peat for fuel, making thatch from reeds and existing on fish and wildfowl.
It's the churches in this area that captivate, their names appearing in village titles. At Terrington St Clement the parish church has the longest nave of any in the country, at Walpole St Peter the church is known as the 'Cathedral of the Fens' for its grandeur and fine proportions; in the Wiggenhalls, St Germans, St Mary Magdalen and St Mary the Virgin are well worth visiting, as is St Peter and St Paul at Watlington.
How to behave like royalty...
The ancient Anglo Saxon town of Downham Market is just fifteen minutes by train from King's Lynn and is well-placed to reach the natural attractions of Welney Wetland Reserve as well as other attractions such as Church Farm, Stow Bardolph, Gooderstone Water Gardens and Oxburgh Hall.
Downham centres on the Market Place, marked by the town's iconic Victorian clock tower. Weekly markets and crafts and collectables markets are held on Town Square and the market place. Nearby is the Downham Market Heritage Centre.
Just outside Downham is Denver Mill and the fascinating Denver Sluices, where fresh and salt water meet in the management of water levels for large parts of the Fens. A little further south is the Welney Wetland Centre on the Ouse Washes, home to thousands of wildfowl such as swans, wigeon and pochard who descend on the reserve during the winter months.
In summer there are guided walks of this rich Fens area, and in the winter the spectacular movement of thousands of geese to and from their feeding grounds is an inspiring sight.