To misquote Samuel Johnson, when a man is tired of Norfolk, he is tired of life… ‘for there is in Norfolk all that life can afford’. In fact, rather than gallivanting around the world, why not come to Norfolk to see our equivalent of the great sights. We’re less than two hours from London…
Las Vegas = Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth’s Golden Mile is just like the Las Vegas Strip. If you want to gamble there’s gaming machines and Bingo. Bright lights… tick. Celebrity shows… tick. Fun and amusements… tick. And while Vegas has its own Eiffel Tower, so does Great Yarmouth… the Atlantis Tower, up which you can have a coffee and savour fantastic views across the town and out to the Broads.
Venice = The Broads
Just as the Venetians made their lagoons and canals, so Norfolk peat diggers helped create the Broads. Feel free to start singing ‘O sole mio’ as you take your day boat or cruiser out on the 125 miles of navigable lock-free waterways (Venice has just 30 miles of canals). We don’t have gondolas but if you go to the Museum of the Broads you’ll see our equivalent… the gun punt. And we do have a car ferry! It’s at Reedham.
Rome = Norwich
Beautifully preserved ancient city with Roman ruins, glorious religious buildings, built on hills… Rome and Norwich have so many things in common. The Norman cathedral in Norwich has more than 400 years on St Peter’s Basilica, although the River Wensum isn’t quite as majestic as the Tiber and there’s no proof (yet) that our Fine City was founded by a couple of wolf-suckled infants. For the Roman ruins, just head out to Caistor St Edmund where you can see the remains of a Roman town Venta Icenorum on the banks of the River Tas.
Stonehenge = Seahenge
Amazing to think that – looking at it from the 21st century – both were built more than 21 centuries BEFORE CHRIST! Both were constructed in circles, although Seahenge, which revealed itself in the sands of Holme-next-the-Sea in the Spring of 1998, was made of tree trunks, and both probably had religious purposes. Unlike its stone equivalent, Seahenge can now be seen in a museum, at King’s Lynn.
Bruges = King’s Lynn
Both were members of the Hanseatic League, a connection that King’s Lynn celebrates to this day. Both prospered and depended on maritime links for trade and business, traces of which can still be found in their cobbled lanes, quays and merchants’ homes. And both made a lot of their wealth on the back (quite literally) of sheep wool.
Lavender fields of Provence = Heacham
If you want to see the beautiful violet of lavender you don’t have to drive all the way down the Route De Soleil down to the south of France… you just have to head over to West Norfolk where the Lavender Farm has been in business since 1932, operating 100 acres! It was the Romans who brought lavender to Norfolk… along with rabbits.
Dorset’s Jurassic Coast = North Norfolk’s prehistoric coast
The Dorset coast is England’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site but Norfolk’s is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is roughly similar. While things like a Pliosaur have been found in Dorset (it was a swimming reptile, 52 feet long, and could have had a T-Rex for breakfast), on the Norfolk coast a woolly mammoth has been discovered, Neolithic flint axes and the oldest-known human footprints outside the Rift Valley in Africa. Yes, Norfolk had the country’s first tourists! Norfolk even has its own Dino Adventure theme park!
St Petersburg’s Winter Palace = Sandringham
Both stately homes where the Royals have enjoyed their Christmases, Sandringham is a slightly more humble version of the Winter Palace but no less regal for that! In fact, sticking with the Russian theme, Sandringham is more a Royal dacha, a country house. Take a tour and you’ll nonetheless see sumptuous furnishings, priceless artwork, fine porcelain and more.
Caribbean = Wells-next-the-Sea and Holkham
Miles and miles of flat, unspoilt sandy beach in the combined sunniest/driest county in the UK… trust us, it doesn’t take much of a leap of the imagination to be walking along Wells and Holkham beaches at low tide in the sun and thinking ‘You know, this is JUST LIKE being on a beach in the Caribbean’. We’ve done it hundreds of times. Bet you don’t get beach huts in the Caribbean though… and they didn’t film the end of Shakespeare In Love in the Caribbean either!
Camino de Santiago de Compostela = Little Walsingham
Whereas northern Spain has its shrine of the apostle St James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia with its pilgrimage route, Norfolk has Our Lady of Walsingham, the title derived from a vision of Mary, mother of Jesus, that appeared before devout noblewoman Richeldis de Faverches in 1061. Lady Richeldis had a Holy House built in Walsingham which became a shrine and place of pilgrimage, receiving visits from monarchs including Edward I and II and Henry’s III, IV, VII and VIII.
Pyramid of Giza = Blickling Mausoleum
Giza is the oldest of the Ancient Wonders of the World and the only one to be largely intact but if you want to see a pyramid closer to home how about the wonderful Mausoleum of Blickling Hall & Estate. Built in 1794 by Joseph Bonomi, the Grade II building is based on the tomb of Caius Cestius in Rome and was constructed for John Hobart, the 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire (1728-93). It also contains the tombs of the Earl’s first wife Mary Anne and second wife Caroline.
Vineyards of Provence = Vineyards of South Norfolk
Provence is warm, sunny and dry which makes for great wine – and so is south Norfolk! In fact, let’s not forget we’re the combined sunniest/driest part of the country so in the last few years a number of top-notch vineyards have popped up around the Yare and Waveney Valleys.
A family affair, Ben and Hannah Witchell have been making wine at Flint Vineyard since 2016 and have won two Decanter World Wine Awards silver medals and been included in The Times Top 50 White Wines.
Situated in the picturesque village of Bergh Apton, 9 miles south of Norwich, Chet Valley Vineyard is another family business, run by winemaker John Hemmant, with a background in farming and chemistry, and his wife Bridget. They’ve been producing award-winning English sparkling wines since 2010.
Both Flint and Chet Valley have wine tastings and tours.
Look out also for Winbirri Vineyard and Humbleyard Vineyard.
And if you really want to get away from it all…
A desert island = Scolt Head
Yes, Norfolk has its own uninhabited desert island, looked after by Natural England. Depending on tides you can wade through the mud creeks, linger in the swimming holes, or take a ferry from Burnham Overy Staithe. Then when you crest the marram-tufted Gun Hill dunes, you will find a beach of pure white sand. Don’t just imagine it, go and see it for yourself!
Oh yes, and Norfolk has a California!
It’s said that California beach, north of Great Yarmouth, owes its name to the discovery of some 16th century gold coins on the beach in 1848 at a time when the California gold rush in the United States had captured the attention of the world.