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In the footsteps of Royalty

3 Nights Itinerary

The East of England has a long history steeped in Royalty, all the way back to when Vikings raided our shores, up to King Charles III and his annual appearances at the Royal Family’s estate in Norfolk which is open to the public year-round.

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Day 1
England's first Patron Saint and Anglo Saxon treasure
Sutton Hoo and Bury St Edmunds

After a night in the Woodbridge area, head for National Trust’s Sutton Hoo on the River Deben. In 1939 the burial ship of Anglo-Saxon King Raedwald was excavated, arguably one of Europe’s greatest-ever archaeological finds. The movie ‘The Dig’, starring Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan, is based on the eponymous book and re-enacts the events that took place that year.

Sutton Hoo replica King's helmet and shoulder clasps, Sutton Hoo

Royal treasure at Sutton Hoo.

Visit the museum where you can learn more about the King and the Anglo-Saxons, then enjoy a stroll through the grounds, take an overview of the site from the viewing tower and look down into the Deben Valley – transport yourself back in time and imagine a Royal long boat being rowed up river.

St Edmund, Bury St Edmunds

A statue of St Edmund by the Abbey.

Head over to Bury St Edmunds, where a later King of the Anglo Saxons, Edmund, lived and was martyred by the Vikings for his faith. Shot through with arrows and beheaded, Edmund’s body was guarded by a wolf and when head and body were reunited the two fused together. Clearly a miracle. Edmund became the original Patron Saint of England.

King Athelstan founded a religious community to care for his shrine which became a place of national pilgrimage. King Canute built a stone abbey on the site in 1020 to house the shrine and for centuries Edmund’s resting place was patronised by the kings of England and the abbey became increasingly wealthy as the cult of St Edmund grew.

Bury St Edmunds

Bury St Edmunds Abbey and Cathedral.

Such was the influence of St Edmund that on St Edmund’s Day on November 20, 1214, rebel English barons held a secret meeting here before going to confront King John with the Charter of Liberties, the forerunner to Magna Carta which he signed a year later. This event is reflected in the motto of Bury St Edmunds: ‘Shrine of a King, Cradle of the Law’.

Edmund is remembered at Bury St Edmunds’ cathedral and Abbey Gardens.

The best way to learn more about the story is take a tour.

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Day 2
The Sport of Kings and Royal residence
Newmarket and King's Lynn

Head to Newmarket, the world headquarters of flat racing, made famous by King Charles II and where he built a Royal Palace, part of which now serves as the National Horseracing Museum.

Newmarket tour

Taking a tour at Newmarket.

The town’s name goes back to King Henry III (1207-1272) when it was granted the right to hold a yearly fair and weekly market ie a new market.

James I (1556-1625) recognises the open heathland as perfect for pastimes like hunting, hawking, hare coursing and racing horses and builds a palace close to the present Jockey Club Rooms on the High Street. Later, Charles I (1600-1649) brings his Court to Newmarket regularly and, after capture in June 1647, he is kept prisoner in the town for ten days.

Newmarket Gallops

Visit the Newmarket Gallops early morning and see the racehorses exercising.

In 1666, Charles II returned to Newmarket, where he spent much of his childhood. He bought additional land off the High Street to construct a new Royal Palace and this survives as Palace House. His mistress, Nell Gwynn, lived in a small house nearby which survives on Palace Street.

On to King’s Lynn, which has more historic Graded houses than any other town in the country, and was central to the Hanseatic League, a forerunner of the European Union.

King John statue, King's Lynn

The statue of King John in King’s Lynn.

King’s Lynn’s charter was granted by King John in 1204, who famously lost the Crown Jewels in nearby Wash in 1216 when moving his Court to Nottingham. Perhaps he was trying to avoid Robin Hood. The renaming of the town of Lynn in 1537 from Bishop’s Lynn to King’s Lynn was by order of a charter from Henry VIII.


The Sandringham House and Estate.

Queen Victoria bought the 20,000 acre Sandringham Estate near King’s Lynn in 1862 for the future King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, and his soon-to-be-wife Alexandra of Denmark. Edward’s son and heir George V described the sprawling property as ‘dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere else in the world’. He would eventually die at Sandringham house on January 20, 1936. His son and Queen Elizabeth II’s father, George VI, would eventually pass away in the house on February 6, 1952.

The late Queen Elizabeth II with the Royal Family for a Christmas service at Sandringham.

The Royal family have traditionally spent Christmas at Sandringham, walking to the local church on Christmas Day where there are always crowds of well-wishers.

In 1957, Queen Elizabeth II gave her first televised Christmas message from Sandringham. ‘I wish you all, young and old, wherever you may be, all the fun and enjoyment and the peace of a very happy Christmas,’ said the young Queen.

Since The Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 the public have been able to visit 600 acres of the estate, as well as the house itself and museum.

King Charles III at the Sandringham Flower Show.

One of the highlights of Sandringham’s year is the annual Flower Show in July, usually attended by King Charles III and Queen Camilla.

The Prince and Princess of Wales have a family home at Anmer on the Sandringham Estate which they visit regularly.

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Day 3
A Norman Royal Palace Reborn

Our final stop is Norwich, UNESCO’s English City of Stories, and home to a Norman castle that was designed as a Royal Palace.

Norwich Castle illuminated at night.

In 2024, Norwich Castle will become a ‘Royal Palace Reborn’, when a £15m refurbishment reaches fruition. The new castle will recreate a 1121 Christmas when Henry I spent the festive period here and will allow visitors access to all five levels of the buildings for the first time in 900 years, including the battlements. Now that’s Instagram-tastic.

Artist’s impression of the roof landscaping for Royal Palace Reborn.

Elizabeth I visited the city in 1578 when she stayed at The Maid’s Head Hotel. The hotel, which dates from at least the 1280s, also played hosted to Edward the Black Prince (son of Edward III) and Catherine of Aragon (first wife of Henry VIII).

Queen Elizabeth I invited Dutch and French-speaking Huguenots and Walloons refugees fleeing religious persecution to the city in 1565. Their weaving expertise helped make Norwich one of the wealthiest cities in England… their legacy is there to see to this day.

Her Protector, Matthew Parker, was so assiduous that he earned a nickname… he was the original Nosey Parker.

In the Castle, you can also learn about the first queen of this region, Boudicca, or Boadicea, who fought the Romans after the murder of her husband Prasutagus.

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