Find the paths and places less travelled in Norfolk and Suffolk…
Please, before you travel to the East of England, Know Before You Go – ensure places you want to visit are open, see if you have to pre-book. We’ve supplied click-throughs to attractions for you to check.
Broads National Park
With 125 miles of navigable, lock-free waterways set in stunning low-lying countryside and studded with charming villages and waterside pubs and eateries, is a delight for walkers, cyclists and wildlife-watchers. But the best way to see it is from a boat, for a day or, better, for a holiday.
The capital of the Broads is Wroxham and from here you can visit attractions such as BeWILDerwood and Wroxham Barns or take a trip on the Bure Valley Railway. Not far away are Fairhaven Woodland and Water Gardens, Roarr! Dinosaur Park and Pettitts Animal Adventure Park.
One of the remarkable things about the Broads is that they’re actually man-made – the result of inundated medieval peat diggings. Yes, really!
Set in rolling countryside on the Suffolk/Cambridgeshire border, Newmarket is rightly considered the birthplace and global centre of thoroughbred horse racing, training and breeding, with royal connections stretching back to James I, who had a palace here.
Visit early in the morning and you’ll see some of the 3,000 horses homed here out on The Gallops or making their way around the town – equine takes priority in Newmarket!
It was Charles II who popularised horse racing and it’s from his reign that it became known as ‘The Sport of Kings’. Learn more with Discover Newmarket’s series of fascinating, behind-the-scenes experiences including guided tours of The Gallops and Trainers’ Yard and The National Stud or visit the National Horse Racing Museum, housed on the site of Charles II’s former palace and opened by Elizabeth II in 2016.
Dedham Vale AONB
Made famous by landscape painters Constable and Gainsborough, Dedham Vale on the Essex-Suffolk border is traditional English lowland landscape, with rolling farmland, grasslands, hedgerows, meadows, woodlands and a rich variety of wildlife.
Essentially still a farming area, the Dedham Vale is punctuated by charming villages and has the picturesque River Stour running through it to its estuary end at Harwich. Look out for the legendary dragon carved into the hillside which can be seen from behind St Stephen’s Chapel in Bures.
A highlight is the National Trust-run hamlet of Flatford with lovely views along with the wool towns of Long Melford and Lavenham.
Thetford, Brecks and South Norfolk
Thetford Forest, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, is the largest lowland pine forest in the country and has the best overall climate. The forest was only created in 1922, with thousands of Scots and Corsican Pines providing commercial fast-growing softwood for the Forestry Commission.
Before that, this area was just pebbles and sand – Charles Dickens wrote in David Copperfield that it was ‘barren’. Very different now, the forest is ideal for walking, orienteering, cycling and there are many bridle paths. Take a picnic and see if you can spot wild deer. Or test your head for heights at Go Ape.
Thetford Forest is within the Brecks, an historic landscape of heaths that were formed thousands of years ago by the felling and burning of forests for grazing land.
Highlights are High Lodge, Grime’s Graves, a Neolithic flint mine you can descend, moated Oxburgh Hall with its priest hole and secret doors, and you can head out on the 8-mile Pingo Trail, circular lakes created in the last Ice Age. And don’t forget the charming market towns here, not least riverside Thetford with its Dad’s Army Museum, Diss, Swaffham, Dereham, Attleborough and Wymondham.
You’ll find more Dad’s Army memorabilia at Bressingham Steam Gardens.
Heart of Suffolk
Meandering rivers and rolling countryside can be found in the Heart of Suffolk, with undiscovered towns and unspoilt villages such as Needham Market, Stowmarket, Debenham and Sudbury, sitting prettily on the River Stour with Watermeadows made famous by Gainsborough. Browse the independent stores, the antique and bric-a-brac shops.
Hadleigh has an incredible 246 historic listed buildings, including a splendid medieval church, pink-painted cottages, 15th century Guildhall and half-timbered merchants’ houses.
The joy of exploring the Heart of Suffolk is the laid-back pace of life and beautiful scenery.
Shotley Peninsula and River Orwell
This is a stunning landscape next to Suffolk’s county town of Ipswich and can be enjoyed from river cruises out of Ipswich waterfront, by car or cycle.
The River Orwell is a beautiful deep-water course that meanders towards the port of Felixstowe and then out into the North Sea and it hasn’t changed much since the days when the Romans invaded. In fact there’s the remains of a Roman fort at Walton near Trimley St Martin, an outreach of the large Roman garrison at Colchester, the oldest recorded town in England.
Highlights include the Butt & Oyster Pub at Pin Mill, the Royal Harwich Yacht Club, Suffolk Food Hall, and 16th century Freston Tower but the undeniable star landmark is the magnificent Orwell Bridge, the longest pre-stressed concrete span when it was completed in 1982. The bridge is made of concrete box girders that allow for movement.
West Norfolk and Fens
The draining of the Fens by Dutch architects in the 17th century created huge swathes of rich agricultural land, but also a special landscape for migrating wildlife. Stop by WWT Welney at this time of the year and enjoy 1300 acres of amazing wetland and its wildlife, such as golden plover, lapwing and black-tailed godwits, but it’s the swans you really come for. You can take part in three daily feedings.
Not far away is Castle Acre Priory, ideal for a walk by the River Nar, and to provide you with that classic autumnal rural experience and vibrant seasonal woodland colours, Sandringham’s Country Park and Visitor Centre remain open to visitors all year.
There’s also unrivalled birdwatching on the coast here, particularly around The Wash.