Norfolk is a low-lying and predominantly rural county in eastern England, in the region known as East Anglia. It has county borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest, and with Suffolk to the south. Its North Sea coastline, including The Wash, forms one of the area's main highlights. The county capital is Norwich. Norfolk is the fifth largest county in England, with an area of 5,371 km2 (2,074 sq mi) and a population of 816,500. The name 'Norfolk' is a portmanteau of the Old English North Folk, taken from the tribes of ancient Angles people who lived there.
The Broads, one of the region's most popular tourist destinations, lie primarily within the county.
Cities and towns
- 2 Acle
- 3 Attleborough
- 4 Aylsham
- 5 Cromer
- 6 Dereham
- 7 Diss
- 8 Fakenham
- 9 Great Yarmouth
- 10 Harleston
- 11 Holt
- 12 Hunstanton & Old Hunstanton
- 13 King's Lynn
- 14 Long Stratton
- 15 North Walsham
- 16 Potter Heigham
- 17 Sheringham
- 18 Stalham and Sutton
- 19 Swaffham
- 20 Thetford
- 21 Wells-next-the-Sea
- 22 Wymondham
- The Broads – a vast network of inland waterways, lakes and marshes, much of which is similar in status to a National Park.
- North Norfolk coastline, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Thetford Forest – a huge area of managed woodland. Activities within include walking, mountain biking, nature watching, husky dog sled racing. The area also contains a massive war memorial and a Centre Parcs holiday centre - both near Elveden, south of Thetford.
“I’d like to tell you about a very special place. Whether you know it as “East Anglia”, “The Plump Peninsula”, “Home of the Broads”... “Albion’s Hind Quarters”, or quite simply “The Wales of the East”. This is Norfolk.” — Alan Partridge, Welcome to the Places of My Life, 25 June 2012
For many in the United Kingdom, Norfolk is synonymous with the exploits of hapless (fictional!) local disc jockey, Alan Partridge. Yet, despite the antics of Steve Coogan's character, this is a county that prides itself on its unspoilt countryside and beautiful surroundings.
Norfolk has much to offer the traveller: from beautiful and historic Norwich to the scenic Norfolk Broads National Park, this is self-proclaimed 'Big Sky' country, and those from areas with smaller skies are certainly in for a treat.
In many rural communities of Norfolk you will find the rich, soft dialect that is only found in this corner of Britain. The accent and dialect is so broad, in fact, that you may have difficulty understanding it immediately, since consonants are heavily softened and syllables merge into one another. You'll hear a variety of accents at voices at one of the region's many weekly markets, such as that held every Saturday in Swaffham.
The organisation 'Friends Of Norfolk Dialect' (FOND) records and promotes the regional dialect, publishing newsletters, organising events and collects material.
Norfolk has one small airport with scheduled passenger services: 1 Norwich Airport (IATA: NWI) in the northern suburbs of Norwich. The off-shore oil and gas industry supports a busy helicopter service to North Sea oil platforms and a number of (expensive) regional services to cities related to the oil industry around the North Sea. KLM is the principal feeder airline at Norwich with four daily services to its international hub at Amsterdam Schipol. Scheduled airlines and destinations serving Norwich include:
- BMI Regional: Aberdeen
- Eastern Airways: Aberdeen, Stornoway and Wick
- FlyBe: Chambery (seasonal), Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter, Geneva (seasonal), Guernsey, Jersey, Manchester, Paris
- KLM Cityhopper: Amsterdam
Under the name ducthflyer a partnership with Stena Line and Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Netherlands Railway), Greater Anglia (Norfolk's principal rail operator) promote and sell connecting train-ferry-train tickets from any station in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to any station in the Netherlands. Fares start at around £25 one way or £50 return.
The two principal routes in and out of Norfolk are the two railway lines that connect Norfolk with London:
- Norwich (in the east of Norfolk) is served by up to thirty-five daily services in each direction to and from London Liverpool Street station, via Stratford (London), Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, Stowmarket and Diss. The journey takes about two hours, and offers a full restaurant car service. A small number of additional direct services operate direct between London and the east coast towns of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. These services are all operated by National Express East Anglia.
- King's Lynn (in the west of Norfolk) is served by hourly services to and from London King's Cross station, via Cambridge, Ely and Downham Market. The service is operated by First Capital Connect
Additionally an east-west railway crosses the counties of Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk connecting these two principal London - Norfolk rail routes. It runs from Peterborough to Norwich, via Ely, Thetford, Attleborough and Wymondham. Travellers from the north of England, the Midlands and the north-west can use the direct East Midlands Trains service from Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, Grantham and Peterborough which runs from Ely to Norwich. National Express East Anglia also operate an hourly train between Cambridge and Norwich.
National Express is the principal operator of scheduled long distance coach services. These include:
- NX308 from Birmingham to Norwich and Great Yarmouth via Coventry, Leicester, Peterborough, Wisbeach, King's Lynn, Swaffham and Dereham, once a day, six hours.
- NX490 from London Victoria to Norwich via Stratford (London) and Thetford five times a day, taking approximately three hours.
- NX496 from London Victoria to Cromer via Stratford (London), Mildenhall, Brandon, Swaffham, Dereham, North Elmham, Fakenham, Holt and Sheringham, once a day, approximately five hours.
- NX497 from London Victoria to Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth via Stratford (London), Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds, Diss, and Gorleston-on-Sea, four times a day, taking four to five hours.
Connections to virtually all UK destinations are possible and reservations are recommended. Discounted advance purchase 'funfares' often available.
First Eastern Counties operate a number of regional services that link Norfolk with neighbouring counties, including:
- Excel X1 from Peterborough railway station to Wisbeach, King's Lynn, Swaffham, Dereham, Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, as well as numerous towns and villages in between. Services operate every thirty minutes, and through train tickets are available for connection passengers at Peterborough as far east as Dereham.
Norfolk's principal attraction for many tourists is that it is not on the way to anywhere. The state of roads into Norfolk, relative to other counties in Britain reflects this, with a mix of dualled and non-dualled A roads carrying most people into the region. From London and places south of Norfolk, the M11, A11, A12 and A14 are the major trunk roads that lead towards and into the county. From the Midlands and North of England the A14, A11 and A47 are the principal routes.
Norfolk County Council operates six purpose built Park and Ride sites, more than any other city in the UK, providing 4912 spaces, located on the main routes into Norwich city centre, see National Park and Ride Directory
National Cycle Route 1 runs through Norfolk, from King's Lynn and beyond to the N and through Beccles and Ipswich and beyond to the S. National Cycle Route 13 enters Norfolk from Bury St Edmunds and beyond to the S.
- The Icknield Way Path runs from Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire into Norfolk near Thetford. The route forms part of the longer Greater Ridgeway running 360 miles from Lyme Regis to Hunstanton.
- The Angles Way runs along the Norfolk Suffolk border from Great Yarmouth to Thetford (passing through both Norfolk & Suffolk).
- The Hereward Way long distance footpath runs from Oakham to Knettishall Heath (4 miles E of Thetford) where it connects with the Peddars Way and the Icknield Way.
- The Ouse Valley Way runs between the source of the River Ouse in Northamptonshire and King's Lynn.
Information on all rail services can be found on the website of National Rail or by calling +44 8457 484950
Information on all national, regional and local trains and buses can be found on the website of Traveline or by calling +44 8712 002233.
In addition to the principal rail routes detailed in the Get In section above, a number of well supported and popular rail services radiate out along named lines through some exceptionally scenic parts of the county. These include:
- The Bittern Line (Norwich – Cromer – Sheringham)
- East Suffolk Line (Ipswich – Lowestoft)
- Wherry Lines (Norwich – Great Yarmouth / Lowestoft)
- Breckland Line (Norwich - Wymondham - Attleborough - Thetford - Brandon - Cambridge)
All services are operated by National Express East Anglia (NXEA). In addition to the standard range of tickets offered by all train operating companies, NXEA offers a series of 'Anglia Plus' rail passes which allow for one or three days unlimited travel in Norfolk Suffolk or Cambridgeshire. These can be bought on the day of travel from the ticket office or from the conductor on board the train if no ticket office is available.
There is also the Poppy Line, a preserved railway run by the North Norfolk Railway, that runs from Holt to Sheringham, where the Poppy Line station is just a short walk from the regular station that runs services to Norwich. Holt station is a couple of miles from the town center, but a horse-drawn cart connects the town to the station. In peak season, Poppy Line trains run approximately hourly. Some trains are steam powered; some diesel.
Information on all national, regional and local buses can be found on the website of Traveline or by calling +44 8712 002233.
In addition to the National Express routes listed in the Get in section above, First Eastern Counties operate most urban buses in and around Norwich, as well as a number of regional and rural services that connection Norwich with other parts of the county. See their website for timetable and fare information. Sanders Coaches also runs buses throughout the county.
Exploring Norfolk by car is convenient and enjoyable. However, during summer the coastal road, the A149, and roads near the Broads can become congested as large numbers of tourists descend on the picturesque towns and villages. Visiting in the off season can avoid getting caught up in (and causing) this seasonal traffic. The coastal route (and more) is equally easily explored by bicycle or public transport.
By bicycle, or on foot
Norfolk's geography makes it an exceptionally easy place to explore by bicycle or on foot, and the county is a good destination for cyclists and hikers to explore. Trains and buses are also increasingly friendly towards cyclists who wish to travel with their bikes, although it is strongly advised to call the transport operator in advance to check availability of space and, if necessary, to reserve it.
For details of cycle routes, visit the website of Sustrans.
For details of paths, visit
- The website of the Ramblers Association Ramblers Association
- Norfolk short & circular walks
- Norfolk long distance walks
- Norfolk cycle routes
- shown on an interactive map.
- The many stately homes open to the public located around the county, usually owned by the National Trust. The most popular include Holkham Hall nr Wells-next-the-Sea, Blickling Hall nr Aylsham, Felbrigg Hall nr Cromer and Oxburgh Hall nr Swaffham.
- Sandringham, an official residence of the British royal family.
- A variety of historical ruins maintained by the English Heritage organisation.
- Birdwatching at Cley, Blakeney Point, Titchwell, Holkham and Holme.
- Walk along the Norfolk Coast Path.
- Enjoy the traditional British seaside resort experience at Great Yarmouth, Sheringham, Cromer and Hunstanton, as well as many other smaller towns & villages.
- Visit the theme parks at Pleasure Beach in Yarmouth, Rainbow Park in Hunstanton and the suitably different Bewilderwood in the Norfolk Broads.
- Visit seal colonies at Blakeney Point and Horsey (at certain times of year).
Those seeking Norfolk's regional cuisine should head for the coast. Although the fishing fleets of Norfolk are not particularly large, their crops can be found in any decent pub or restaurant along the coast, especially that of North Norfolk. Ask what's fresh before ordering, and explore the market towns of the region to find local fishmongers who can tell you about the fish and shellfish that they have for sale. Cromer is noted for its crabs.
With prices for wholesale agricultural produce being forced ever lower by powerful supermarkets and bulk purchasers, many farmers are choosing to apply for organic certification and concentrating on producing high quality natural produce. Fruit such as apples and pears are grown in the region, and there is a small but healthy community of organic meat farmers who sell high quality beef, lamb and pork reared on certified organic Norfolk farms. Once again, you'll find the best suppliers hidden away in the small market towns of the county, so if you enjoy a meal in a pub or with your hosts, ask where the ingredients came from and take some local produce home with you.
In some cake shops and coffee shops and bakers Norfolk Shortcake can be found (sometimes called Norfolk Scones). A normally rectangular shaped cross between a scone and shortcake. Often dusted with sugar on top.
Whereas the neighbouring county of Suffolk can boast several nationally recognised brewers (Adnams and Greene King, to name but two), Norfolk's brewing industry is on a much smaller scale. This is no bad thing though, as the large number of locally produced beers cater for a broad variety of tastes and palettes. If you want to sample a variety of different Norfolk ales, then simply head for a variety of Norfolk pubs, noting whether they are free houses or attached to a specific brewery, and when you get to the bar, just ask for something local.
In larger towns you are likely to find at least one 'off license' (a shop licensed for the sale of alcohol for consumption off the premises) where you'll be able to buy bottle conditioned ales to take home.
- Look East supplements the national news with short local bulletins during the daytime, with a thirty minute flagship programme on BBC One from 6.30pm every weeknight. A short bulletin follows the BBC One 10pm news.
- Anglia Tonight takes its name from the once proud regional television company that produces it, but whose on-screen identity has been all but erased from ITV1. There are short bulletins throughout the day, with a thirty minute programme at 6.00pm and a short bulletin towards the end of the ITV1 National News at 10.30pm.
- Mustard TV is a local TV station focusing on Norwich (Freeview ch 7, Virgin ch 159).
Additional programmes focusing on local politics, sport, culture and food are dotted throughout the weekly television schedules, although usually in the graveyard slots not already occupied by national output.
- BBC Radio Norfolk broadcasts a lively mix of locally produced programmes on 95.1FM, 95.6FM, 104.4FM, D.A.B. digital radio and online. Local news, sport and traffic reports are broadcast at least every hour.
- Kiss 105-108 is an increasingly networked dance, R&B and hip hop music station broadcasting across East Anglia around 106FM.
- North Norfolk Radio is a local FM station covering north Norfolk.
In case of emergency at sea, dial 999 (or 112) and ask for "Coastguard". There are lifeguards at Cromer, Sheringham, Mundesley and Hunstanton from June until the first week in September, from 10:00 to 18:00. The patrolled zone is marked by red and yellow flags on the beach. The beach lifeguard station also flies a red and yellow flag. Do not swim if a red flag is flying. Live ammunition and unexploded bombs from World War II have been found on the coast. If you do come across a suspicious item leave it alone and report it to the coast guard. This is a tidal region so be careful, especially with young children.
The arrival of a low-cost airline (FlyBe) at Norwich International Airport isn't just bringing more tourists to Norfolk, it's also encouraging locals to get on the cheap-weekend-away bandwagon. The next nearest airport to the county is London Stansted, which is at best ninety minutes by car from any part of the county, and the low population density of the county has meant that until now, few affordable flights have been offered from Norwich's own airport.
- London is easily reached from most railway stations in the region, and is an easy day or weekend destination. East Anglia is one of the few regions to have benefited from the rail privatisation process, with new routes and connections appearing to entice travellers onto the trains: recently restored through services from London to Bury St Edmunds and Great Yarmouth mean that more people can now get to the capital without an inconvenient change of trains.
- Cambridge is a short train ride or drive from the county, and is an enticing if extremely popular tourist city to visit for the day.