Norfolk’s curved North Sea coastline stretches from the Wash bay to Great Yarmouth – and its historic sites and nature reserves complete its appeal.
The county was once home to the Iceni tribe and Boudica, who famously revolted against Roman occupation. The region’s wool trade improved its status in the medieval period and it went on to play a pivotal role in the Ketts Rebellion and the English Civil War. It is also renowned as the birthplace of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, whose victories include the Battle of Trafalgar.
Norfolk today is relatively quiet. Predominantly rural, the city of Norwich and the towns of Thetford, King’s Lynn, and Great Yarmouth together accommodate around 40% of the county’s population.
Living in Norfolk: what to expect
Largely unspoilt by mass development, Norfolk boasts big, sandy beaches, marshes and waterways.
Norfolk is home to the Broads National Park – a network of rivers and lakes – as well as a rugged coastline. And there are walks that span the entire length of the Norfolk coast.
The county’s urban centres are relatively small compared to other major towns and cities in the UK, and the flat countryside is peppered with flint-built small villages and hamlets.
Norfolk has a busy calendar of events, such as the King’s Lynn Fiction Festival and the Lord Mayor’s Celebration in Norwich.
Where to start your property search
Urban living: Norwich city is a good place to start looking. The Victorian terraces near the city centre are popular with first-time buyers and young families. Those in the ‘Golden Triangle’ area to the west and south west of the city are close to the centre and many amenities. Flats are also available in the city centre and its suburbs, many of which are new-builds.
Properties in Norfolk’s other urban centres fetch slightly lower prices. The seaport and market town of King’s Lynn lies 45 miles to the west of Norwich. It has modern apartments and new-build estates as well as period terraces and cottages. There are Grade II-listed townhouses in its historic quarter.
Or you could try Great Yarmouth, where arcades and rides line the seafront. The town boasts medieval town walls and some ‘outstanding’ schools. Situated 20 miles east of Norwich, it is also close to the Broads National Park.
Rural living: Norfolk has many villages and small market towns. Some cottages are made from flint quarried in the county.
Burnham Market in north Norfolk came seventh in the Sunday Times’ list of best places to live in 2015. It has a thriving town centre with independent shops and eateries.
The Georgian town of Holt has a good range of independent businesses, as well as a nearby county park. It was named as one of the best places to live in the east of England by the Sunday Times in 2016.
Wroxham, in the north east of the county, is situated on the Broads and is popular for its scenery. Properties with riverside views are desirable and command high prices.
Mulbarton village and Wymondham town to the south west of Norwich provide a semi-rural environment within 10 miles of the city centre. They are popular with families seeking green spaces with an easy commute, and offer modern and new-build detached and semi-detached properties.
Slightly further out still from Norwich are the thriving towns of Dereham and Attleborough, where the new-build developments of Etling View and Grosvenor Park can be found respectively. For new-build homes in a village setting, try Tharston Meadow.
Coastal living: Norfolk’s coastline is a huge attraction. Importantly, nowhere on the Norfolk coast is much more than an hour away from Norwich.
A popular choice is the village of Blakeney, which lies within the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is surrounded by marshlands and sand dunes. Its flint cottages, many of them listed, don’t come cheap, but residents enjoy beautiful surroundings and a shop-lined high street.
Further east, Sheringham is a traditional seaside town with attractive beaches and cliffs. It has a thriving town centre with a regular market. It’s also home to a landscaped park and the North Norfolk Railway, which has steam train rides running to Holt.
Caister-on-Sea is a few miles north of Great Yarmouth and a more affordable option. Modern bungalows as well as period cottages, terraces and 1930s bay-fronted semis are all available.
Getting around Norfolk
Train: Norfolk’s towns and villages are served by local stations. There is a direct train service to Cambridge from Thetford station, and to both Cambridge and London from King’s Lynn and Norwich stations. The latter also offers a direct route to Liverpool.
Car: The biggest roads in the area are the A1(M) in Peterborough and the M11 from Cambridge to London. However, work is currently underway to improve many of the county’s roads, including the A47 – the main route between King’s Lynn, Norwich and Great Yarmouth. The main route to London, the A11, has recently become a dual carriageway.
Air: Norwich has its own international airport, which offers 1,000 worldwide destinations via Amsterdam. Direct international flights can be made from London Luton and Stansted Airports, which are two hours from Norwich by car.
Things to do in Norfolk
Norfolk has almost 100 miles of coastline, which can be enjoyed on foot, on horseback and by bike. Go to resorts such as Great Yarmouth, Cromer and Happisburgh to enjoy traditional seaside fun. Great Yarmouth has a Pleasure Beach theme park and Cromer has a Grade II-listed pier.
You can also look out for coastal wildlife. Try to spot the seal colonies at Blakeney from the beach or take a boat trip to get a closer look.
RSPB Titchwell Marsh and The Wash, Scolt Head Island and Holkham National Nature Reserves are also ideal to see birds. The BBC’s Springwatch programme was filmed at the Pensthorpe Natural Park in Fakenham for many years.
The Broads National Park is a haven for nature. You can enjoy the view at one of the riverside pubs and restaurants or hire a boat to navigate the waterways.
In the south of the county, Thetford Forest Park is the UK’s largest man-made lowland forest, with 18,730 hectares for you to explore. If you’re feeling adventurous, test your love of heights on the Go Ape! course.
To explore Norfolk’s history, venture into the Neolithic flint mines at Grimes Graves near Thetford, visit a castle or admire on of the county’s many churches. Stately homes like Blickling Hall, once home to the Boleyn family, are also open to the public.
Norwich has two historic cathedrals: the 19th-century Roman Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist and the medieval Anglican Cathedral of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Sit in on a service for a fuller experience.
There's also the chance to mingle with Royalty in Norfolk. The Queen privately owns Sandringham House, an exquisite Grade II listed country mansion with 20,000 acres of land, much of which is open to the public. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were gifted Anmer Hall, a Georgian country house a few miles away from Sandringham, as a wedding present from the Queen.
For art, explore the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. International performance, music, literature and visual arts can be experienced at the annual Norfolk and Norwich Festival.
There are also numerous Norfolk events such as the Royal Norfolk Show, the Norwich Beer Festival or Cromer and Sheringham’s Crab & Lobster Festival.
The village of Walsingham in north Norfolk is an historic centre of pilgrimage. Look out for shrines to the Virgin Mary and admire the ruins of two medieval monastic houses.
5 reasons to live in Norfolk
Relaxed way of life
Compact urban centres
Rich culture and heritage
Wide-ranging property portfolio