Best Historical and Heritage Sites in North Norfolk

Best Historical and Heritage Sites in North Norfolk

North Norfolk has a rich history formed by the local farmers, churches, fine buildings and stately homes which have now become well-loved and renowned heritage sites.

The unique historical connections of the area means that it is very popular with visitors looking to explore the origins of this location and the ruins that were home to important historical figures that have been left untouched by time. The impact of these sites on the current structure of the local towns can be explored through the many museums and protected ruins which are dotted throughout the landscape. As North Norfolk is located on the East coast, much of the local history comes from maritime ventures and overseas settlers that came to the region.

There are many historical buildings and places to visit, perfect if you are looking to learn more about the local area when staying in our luxury North Norfolk holiday cottages. Many of the buildings and ruins are unique to the area with both Roman and Saxon influence and were commissioned by Norman invaders. Take a look below at some of our favourite historical sites to explore when visiting the area.

Norwich Castle

Currently undergoing a £15 million refurbishment supported by the National Lottery Heritage fund for development. This 900-year-old castle is home to both national and internationally important artefacts and collections relating to both archaeology and natural history.

Originally the castle was designed to be a royal palace and started by King William II, however no Norman kings have ever lived inside. Built using limestone sourced from France the influence of the international design is seen throughout the architecture.

From the 14th century the keep was used as a county gaol until a new prison was created before finally becoming a museum in 1883. There is the option for exploring with a guide as well as support being provided for disabled visitors. Due to the current works we would always suggest checking what’s on the day you are visiting to avoid disappointment.

Best Historical and Heritage Sites in North Norfolk
Best Historical and Heritage Sites in North Norfolk

Castle Acre Priory

Close to the town of Swaffham, Castle Acre Priory is one of the best-preserved monastic buildings in England. Its origins date back to early 1090 which is reflected in the architecture and decoration as it features the unique taste of the Cluniac monks; this can still be seen in the extensive ruins. Founded by the Warenne family after the Norman Conquest, the priory was used as a refuge for pilgrims, for monks to complete their work and a rest point for noble men and women.

Since 1984 the ruins have been cared for by English Heritage. Where possible the areas have been restored and repurposed to their original use like the recreated herb garden which now stands where the monks would have originally used the plants for medicine and culinary purposes.

The ruins are open to the public and the 6.5 miles long park through the surrounding provides a stunning backdrop for learning and exploring the beautiful ruins. The Church gable still remains around the cloister and is one of the most popular parts of the ruins alongside exploring the Priors lodgings.

There is also a family trail leaflet which guides you around the Priory and into the village, showing you all the different areas and jobs that the local people would have done back then. Though most of the architecture are now ruins, the aged buildings and inner rooms of the remains are still impressive to look at and connect to the past.

Lavenham Guildhall

Now part of the National Trust, Lavenham Guildhall is an early 16th-century Tudor building constructed from original timber. Located in the mediaeval village of Lavenham the hall contains a museum with exhibitions detailing the cloth industry which used to be one of the largest employers in this area and forms an important part of the history.

Lavenham prospered in the 16th century thanks to the highly coveted blue woollen cloth which was in great demand. However, this boost of wealth making the town the 14th richest in Britain soon dismissed with the demise of the cloth trade. The Guildhall was repurposed many times throughout this period to prevent its demolition. It was used as a jail, workhouse, restaurant and nursery before being passed to the National Trust in 1951. This has created a town and buildings definitely worth exploring and a museum detailing the varied past of this town and hosting some very interesting local artefacts.
We recommend exploring the town and the Guildhall, as there is plenty to see and do.

Norwich Cathedral

If you travel into Norwich from Holt, amongst the skyline the tall and distinctive spires of the Cathedral are easily identifiable. Construction began in 1096 and resulted in one the finest Romanesque cathedrals in Europe which featured the second tallest spire.

The stunning architecture is surrounded by traditional cobbled streets, houses and buildings as well as magnificent art. Daily tours are conducted to take visitors around the vast 900-year-old building detailing its history and taking guests to the various exhibitions. The Hostry is now used by artists to display their work offering a unique mix of contemporary art surrounded by historical architecture. The Cathedral is also popular with visitors to explore the nesting peregrine falcons and the Close which is a 44-acre haven of 80 listed buildings, river walks and winding lanes.

The importance of this site is now firmly cemented with the Cathedral being labelled as one of the local heritage sites. The Cathedral still hosts public worship and occasions welcoming all those with different faiths or none to admire its design, history and latest attractions.

Best Historical and Heritage Sites in North Norfolk
Best Historical and Heritage Sites in North Norfolk

Castle Rising

As one of the most famous 12th century castles in England it is definitely worth a day trip out to explore Castle Rising. The Howard family acquired this stunning castle in 1544 and to this day it still remains in the hands of the descendants of William D’Albini II.

The castle is set in just over 12 acres with the inner bailey and remains of a Norman Church found within. The stone keep dates back to 1140 AD and the audio guide provided by the tour will teach you about the history behind this lavishly decorated castle. Some of the most popular elements are visiting the remains of Queen Isabella’s apartments, exploring the Great Hall and taking a picnic onto the vast lawns.

Located close to Kings Lynn, the town centre shops are the perfect excuse to make a day of shopping and exploring.

To find out more things to do when visiting North Norfolk, please take a look at our guide. Our North Norfolk self-catering holiday cottages offer the perfect comfortable base to return to after learning about the history of the area and investigating the ruins. If you would like to check availability for any of our properties please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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