Norfolk and Suffolk summer holidays guide: the best new attractions
Expert advice on the top new activities, hotels, restaurants and attractions for breaks in Norfolk and Suffolk in 2015, including new places to stay, walking routes, sailing, and news from the National Trust
Norfolk and Suffolk are classic holiday terrain with lovely beaches, rolling sand dunes, little sailing harbours among the creeks and salt marshes, and gently rolling patchwork fields edged by ancient oaks, square-towered churches and peaceful villages.
New hotel rooms
The Victoria Inn at Holkham, just a short walk from one of the best beaches in Britain has a new wing of 10 rooms, including four large family-size rooms, opening in April. These are in the 16th century Ancient House, within a few yards of the main hotel. The additional rooms will double the capacity of the hotel which currently offers ten bedrooms including a spacious attic room, sleeping five. Also nearby is Holkham Hall, the estate’s deer park, and the seaside resort of Wells-next-the-Sea. Bookings for the new rooms open in early March. (01328 711008; holkham.co.uk/victoria), standard double rooms at the hotel start at £150 per night, including breakfast.
Faster access to Norwich and the Broads
Part of Norfolk’s charm is its inaccessibility, but slow traffic on the A11 has often made the journey there a long and tedious one, especially in summer. Now recently completed improvements to the A11 should mean cuts in the journey time to the north coast, Norwich and the Broads from London and the Midlands. Over £100 million has been spent on creating a dual carriageway between the Fiveways at Barton Mills in Suffolk and the roundabout at the southern end of the Thetford bypass in Norfolk (including a new bypass around the village of Elveden), a distance of just over nine miles. This means there will be dual-carriage road from the M11 to Norwich. For more information see highways.gov.uk.
The Dial House in Reepham is a new venture for Iain and Clair Wilson (owners of the well-established Byfords Posh b&b in Holt). Set in a Grade-II Georgian house, the restaurant overlooks the main square of this rural Norfolk market town, 13 miles north west of Norwich, and serves breakfast (£10), lunch and dinner (£12 to £14 for main courses, which may include grilled salmon with spiced sweet potato or butternut and lentil kedgeree) and afternoon teas. Furnishings in the stylish rooms can not only be enjoyed, but bought; everything (including tables, chairs and crockery), is for sale. Open daily from 9am to 5pm (until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays), a speciality is its aga-cooked cake at £3 or full afternoon tea at £15 per person. The Aga Sunday lunch is a roast at £17.50, from noon to 4.30pm (01603 879900; thedialhouse.org.uk).
Check availability: Byfords Posh b&b
Artworks from the Hermitage
The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia (UEA), near Norwich unveils “Francis Bacon and The Masters”, which will run from April 18 to July 26. The exhibition will transfer from St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum (where it runs until March 8), and on show will be a collection of 25 works by Francis Bacon, plus works by Velázquez, Rembrandt, Titian, Michelangelo, Rodin, Van Gogh, Picasso, Cézanne, Gauguin and Matisse. Many that have never been shown in the UK before (01603 593199;scva.co.uk)
Tinsmiths House in Aylsham is a new b&b near the National Trust’s Blickling Hall and a good base for exploring the Broads, and the east Norfolk coast. It’s owned and managed by Paul Vater and Paul Barrett, who both have a background in arts and design. As its name suggests, the building was originally a tinsmith’s workshop dating from the 18th-century and it contains many original features, including wooden panels and stone floors. It has two guest rooms, Blofields Room with views of the garden, and Elephant Room with views across the town’s pantiled rooftops. Double rooms from £80 per night, including breakfast (01263 586187; tinsmithshouse.com).
As part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival in May, WildWorks (wildworks.biz), which specialises in dramatic landscape theatre, will take audiences on a journey into the woods, in collaboration with the National Trust’s Felbrigg Hall near Cromer in North Norfolk, with the premiere of “Wolf’s Child”, described as a grown-up fairytale of love and betrayal. This promenade performance is one of the highlight shows of the 2015 Festival, which takes place from May 8-24. Performances will be daily excluding Sundays. Tickets cost £20, £18 concessions; a limited number of tickets at £7.50 are available to under-25s (01603 766400;nnfestival.org.uk).
As part of the Landmark Trust’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2015, the Martello Tower in Aldeburgh, Suffolk has been chosen as one of five UK sites for an installation by artist Antony Gormley from May 2015 to May 2016. The exhibition, called “LAND” comprises a life-size, standing sculpture cast in iron and there will be free public access to view it. The Martello Tower is the most northerly of a chain of defensive towers, built between 1808 and 1812 and can be rented as self-catering accommodation from the Landmark Trust. It sleeps up to four in two rooms and has a rooftop battery area with panoramic views of the sea and stony shoreline. A three-night stay in May costs £925, rising to £1,445 in August (01628 825925; landmarktrust.org.uk)
New coastal path
Forming part of the new National Trail which is planned to run around the entire English coastline, a new section of the Norfolk coast path opened this winter between the east Norfolk seaside villages of Weybourne and Sea Palling. The 26-mile stretch includes the villages of Mundesley, Happisburgh and Trimmingham, and passes some of the region’s most scenic stretches of coast. Currently consultations are taking place on the next phase, which will continue the trail all the way to Hopton on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. For more information about this and the trails network (around 1,200 miles of walks, cycle routes and bridleways in the region) seenorfolk.gov.uk/Leisure_and_culture (click on “Norfolk Trails”).
Historic sailing boats
New for 2015, the Broads boating holiday specialist Waterways Holidays will be offering short break holidays on the Norfolk Heritage Fleet Trust’s 1930s sailing yachts. The boats are built of mahogany, with traditional gaff rig sails, and the 14-strong fleet comprises some of the oldest vessels on the Broads.
Down below there is a cabin with dining table, full-sized seats which double up as sleeping berths, a lavatory and washbasin, plus a small hob and grill. There’s no engine or electricity, instead the original oil lamps are used. A week’s hire of a two-berth yacht from Ludham, off the River Thurne, starts at £619, three-night short breaks from £358. Three-berth and four-berth yachts are also available. Sailing experience is necessary (01252 339023; waterwaysholidays.com).
New self-catering accommodation
Two newly restored properties will be available to rent through the National Trust from spring 2015. Barn Owl Loft, in the small village of Itteringham in Norfolk, sleeps two and occupies the upper floors of a Georgian manor house. The apartment, which is south facing, overlooks the river Bure, and costs from £360 for a three-night stay. Also new to the National Trust’s portfolio is Horringer Park Gates at Ickworth in Suffolk; it sleeps four, has a lawned garden and is an easy walk of the Ickworth Hotel with restaurant and café. A three-night stay costs from £465 (0344 335 128; nationaltrustcottages.co.uk).
For more general advice on booking a holiday in Britain, see our UK summer holidays guide. Our guide features expert recommendations for beach, self-catering, heritage, food and drink, activity, campingand cruise holidays.
By Sophie Butler