Archive for category Norfolk

How Norwich Combines the Medieval and Modern

Norwich proudly displays its historic heritage. You can still see the original walls that guarded it in some parts, and there are plenty of intriguing buildings from the city’s rich cultural heritage, including the striking Norman cathedral.

The city also has a contrastingly modern dynamic, reflected in its striking riverside and forum development, and in its well-earned reputation as an individual and attractive shopping destination.

Norwich sits in the heart of beautiful countryside, close by to the Broads, making it a great place to visit if you want a wide choice of things to do on your self-catering, holiday cottage holiday.

Two Cathedrals

The Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist is regarded as one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Britain. This 19th century building contains fine carvings and stained glass and provides vivid views of the city from its tower.

The much older, Anglican Norwich Cathedral is a stunning example of early medieval architecture, dating from the Normans, with the largest monastic cloisters in England. It also has a spectacularly high spire, the second tallest in the country. Strangely, because of the layout of the surrounding streets, the cathedral can appear almost hidden, which makes it feel like a real reward when you come upon it.

Norwich Cathedral has a licensed restaurant attached to its cloisters, and it hosts choral and orchestral concerts as well as lectures.

Norwich Castle

This imposing Norman building is a central landmark of the city, standing squarely on a hill, it was built as a royal fortification and is mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Survey.

As well as its impressive Norman keep, the castle includes a museum and two galleries. Here you’ll find ceramics, jewellery and textiles on display, dating back as far as the Ancient Britons. There is also a gallery housing paintings from the 17th century to modern, contemporary artists.

There are also interactive and digital displays and models that help tell the story of Norwich Castle.

Shopping in Norwich

Norwich has a deserved reputation as a major shopping centre. With its two contemporary malls – Chapelfield and the Castle Mall – and numerous independent and specialist shops, it has pretty much something for everyone.

Visit the medieval Norwich Lanes for a whole range of unique shops, cafes and bars.

Norwich Market is the largest open air market in the country, selling food, clothing, flowers, accessories and household goods.

In the Market Square in the Victorian Old Skating Ring Gallery building, Country and Eastern is a vast treasure-trove of oriental rugs and textiles, antique furniture, clothes, accessories and decorative objects. The high-ceilinged, arched wooden building is an attraction on its own.

Cultural Attractions

Norwich is a year-round cultural destination. It is the first ever UNESCO City of Literature, making part of a network of 20 cities worldwide. The city has a programme to help young writers develop and helps fund and promote literature-associated events.

There are several festivals held in the area throughout the year, including the Norfolk and Norwich Festival (showcasing performing arts and literature) a Food and Drink Festival and a Science Festival.

The city has various museums and art galleries, such as the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, part of the University of East Anglia. Here you’ll find Henry Moore sculptures, paintings by Picasso and Degas and one-off exhibitions and special events.

The 14th century Strangers’ Hall is a fascinating period building in the centre of Norwich. This was the home of mayors and merchants in the city’s heyday. It is a beautifully preserved, impressive set of rooms.

Finally, for lovers of condiments, there is the Colmans Mustard Shop & Museum, celebrating over 200 years of Norfolk-made mustards.

Water, Wildlife and Wonder on the Norfolk Broads

The Broads are a manmade national park in Norfolk, comprising 125 miles of waterways set in beautiful countryside, punctuated by towns and villages full of character. Here there’s plenty of opportunity to make your holiday experience rich and varied one, in the unique setting of the Norfolk Broads.

Norfolk is an ideal part of the world for self-catering holiday cottage accommodation.

The Broads by Canoe

Canoeing along the Broads means you combine being on the water with getting close the environment and its wildlife. There are plenty of canoe hire centres to choose from and there is a Boards Canoe Network which ensures quality and safety standards.

Because of the layout of the Broads, using a canoe gets you into parts that you would otherwise miss.

You can choose from a variety of canoe trails, including:

  • Wayford Bridge and Sutton Staithe;
  • Salhouse Broad;
  • Norwich to Rockland;
  • Rockland to Loddon; and
  • Bungay to Geldeston Lock.

There are plenty more canoe trails to explore, and, if you want, you can choose to have a guided canoe tour, which can be handy if you’re a canoeing novice.

The local canoe hire centres will be able to advise you on routes according to your ability and how adventurous you want to be.

Wildlife on the Broads

The Norfolk Broads is the UK’s largest wetland area, attracting a large variety of bird species and other wildlife.

Many of these are rare, such as the swallowtail butterfly, which is unique to the area. You might also expect to see otters, grey seals and water deer.

The Broads are dotted with nature reserves, which are the perfect starting point for observing wildlife while enjoying your natural surroundings. The Bure Marshes Nature Reserve lies at the heart of the Broads. Here you’ll find a wide range of habitats, from woodland to open water.

Bird species include the bittern and marsh harrier, while the waterways and fens are home to insect species such as Norfolk hawker dragonflies.

Strumpshaw Fen is a family-friendly conservation area run by RSPB, and a haven for birds and, if you’re lucky, you might spot an otter or two.

The naturalist Ted Ellis created Wheatfern Nature Reserve before his death in 1986. It’s a lovely quiet and contemplative place. You can see marsh harriers and Chinese water deer and walk along the river and over wild fenland.

Ants Broads and Marshes is officially a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI), incorporating the Medieval peat digging of Barton Broad and its rich peatland habitat is home to various species of wildfowl and rare insect life.

There are many more nature reserves of varying sizes on the Broads; enough to keep you occupied, engaged and relaxed during your holiday cottage break.

Boat Trips on the Broads

If you’re less inclined to take the activity route of a canoeing or walking holiday, you can still appreciate the beauty of the broads from the comfort of a larger vessel on an organised or self-hire boat trip

Norfolk Broad cruisers are ideal for this. These small electric boats are available for hire from a whole range of boatyards and small towns, such as Horning, Wroxham, Beccles and Stalham.

You’ve got the added benefit of plenty of charming riverside pubs where you can break your trip for refreshments and meals.

We’ve only touched on the attractions of the Norfolk Broads, but with a great choice of self-catering accommodation, there’s plenty of opportunity to explore this uniquely charming area of the English countryside.

2013 round up

Happy New Year from all of us at Holiday Cottages! Before we start on the news and reviews for 2014, here’s a some highlights of what we covered on the blog in 2013:

We started the year with a report that we Brits are creatures of habit with our holiday choices, often returning to a previous destination and holiday cottage when we’ve had one good holiday there before. Last year was the Year of Natural Scotland, and was launched with an advert featuring Shetland ponies wearing onesies!

In February we found that 50% of Londoners prefer holidays in the sunshine, with many also stating that their holidays in the UK were some of the happiest they have had. We also gave you a run down of some of our most splendid cottages with pools, which are all still available now and could be great for a summer holiday vibe in winter!

Flybe announced flights from Manchester to Scotland in March, making for a quick and relatively cost effective way of taking a short break in Scotland. The Easter holidays were blighted by bad weather sweeping across the country. It didn’t affect Cheshire, though, as I shared my photography adventure in Tatton Park over the Easter weekend.

Our friends at Helpful Holidays swept the board at the Which? Travel magazine member survey in April. Meanwhile, in May, Blackpool was named the most popular British seaside resort at the TripAdvisor Choice Awards.

In June, research by VisitBritain found that more overseas visitors to the UK prefer visiting open green spaces such as parks and gardens than they do museums and galleries.

July started with the news that a change in the law in 2015, which means schools will decide their own term dates, will very likely drive up the prices of holidays year round. There was a rise in visits to UK attractions, helping to bolster domestic tourism.

We gave our top tips for festivals and activities over the August Bank Holiday; we also reported on the large number of UK piers under threat of coming under a state of disrepair if funding isn’t found.

September was a time for activities such as the Devon Open Studios, Frome Cheese and Agricultural Show, and pickling at Powderham.

In October, inbound tourism was on the up, and also Yorkshire was voted one of the top 10 places to visit in the world!

In November we recommended the North Devon Clovelly Herring Festival and reviewed the light fantastic Lumiere Festival, Durham. There was good news for Hull, as it was named the next UK City of Culture 2017.

Finally, in December, we found that we Brits are flavour of the month with Americans, as tourists from across the Pond have been increasing in number year on year. Christmas was also a great time for UK tourism as the number of overnight stays and short trips increased substantially over the festive period.

So, that’s it for 2013! Keep up to date with news and reviews in 2014 by following the blog, or you can like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter


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Halloween 2012 spooktacular activities!

Carved pumpkins picture by Flickr User khrawlings

Carved pumpkins picture by Flickr User khrawlings


So, it’s half term for many, the clocks have gone back, the nights are getting darker, and this Wednesday is Halloween! If you haven’t planned anything just yet, then never fear! Here are a few activity ideas for at home:

1. Pumpkin carving – an oldie but a goody. Gather together some pumpkins of different sizes, hollow them out and carve in some scary faces. Don’t forget to put a tea light inside for added effect and to chase off those spooks and ghouls!

2. Trick or treat – dress up the children as a ghost in a sheet, a witch with a wart-ridden nose, or a zombie and take them to play trick or treat with the neighbours!

3. Apple bobbing – prizes for each apple caught. No cheating, hands must stay behind backs at all times!

4. Mask making – gather together lots of paper, crayons, cotton wool and thread to make your own spooky Halloween masks.

5. Eye-popping food – make scary eyeballs out of peeled grapes with a dot of food colouring for the pupils are sure to scare and delight children!


Now here are some activities happening around the UK:

1. Fright Fantastic Half Term Horror at Adventure Island, Southend-on-sea. Special scare zones and a new fright attraction all take place this week!

2. Halloween Trails at Croft Castle and Parkland Herefordshire 10am-4.30pm Normal admission charges plus £2 per trail. Follow the clues to hunt down the ghosts and get your goody bag!

3. Lanhydrock Spooky Trail, Cornwall

4. Snaglefang’s Spooky Spectacular, Bewilderwood, Hoveton, Norfolk. Lantern and mask-making together with a parade at 5.45pm all this week.

5. Halloween Festival at Marwell, Owslebury, Winchester. Carve pumpkins at the Pumpkin Emporium and hear stories from Marwell’s resident witch!



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7 Fun Things to do in Norfolk

Below is a guest post from Kett Country Cottages in Norfolk. Let us know what you think — it’s always interesting to get a different point of view, and we’re hoping to do more of these in future. Looking for more ideas? You can read our Norfolk holiday guide on the main Holiday Cottages site.

We all enjoy the traditional Christmas feast with our family, but what else is there to do if you decide to go on holiday in Norfolk this festive season? Going on holiday to this part of England can add some extra excitement to your family Christmas, so go out and have an adventure this year!

  1. Going for a Christmas swim. In Norfolk, the glory of the North Sea is there for all to enjoy, with a number of hardy folk jumping into the sea over Christmas time. There are 3 on consecutive days, so you can go to one or all of them, depending on your tolerance for cold.
  2. Enjoy a Christmas Spectacular. In Thursford, you have the opportunity to enjoy one of the most popular Christmas shows, which features carols, dancers, beautiful costumes and wonderful music. It’s an event the whole family can enjoy. (Shows every day at 2pm and 7pm until the 23rd December)
  3. Take a trip on a heritage railway. A number of different lines throughout Norfolk, including the Poppy Line, are running festive services where you can enjoy a train journey to see Santa, travelling through the countryside while munching on mince pies.
  4. Visit a Norwich Christmas Market. There are a large number of special Christmas Markets happening throughout Norwich, which each offer a unique range of little gifts and treats for the whole family to enjoy when you return to your Christmas holiday cottage. In the Mall, you can find the Norwich Christmas Craft Fair (From 9am every day until 24th December)
  5. Attend the Pantomime. This year Sleeping Beauty is playing at the Norwich Theatre Royal until the 14th of January, so you can take the whole family to enjoy the fun and laughter of a panto featuring well-known actors, and songs that everyone can sing along to.
  6. Take a guided walk or tour. Some of the most interesting sights in Norfolk can only seen if you know where to look and a guide can help you find them. There are a number of different guided tours happening, including:
    • Victorian Ghosts, a walk hosted by the Man in Black, who will tell you the unusual stories that aren’t told on most ghost walks. You can also finish off in the festive spirit with some mulled wine (Adam & Eve Pub, Norwich, 22nd December at 7pm)
    • The Boxing Day walk at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, will allow you to get a guided tour around this beautiful garden from its head gardener, ending with mince pies and mulled wines (South Walsham, 26th December at 11am)
  7. Watch Morris Dancing. This traditional English dancing is being performed by the Kemps Men of Norwich, including their Mummers Dance. This is a fun event that the whole family can watch and enjoy. (Banningham Crown Pub, 26th December at 12 noon)