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Unusual things to do in Norfolk holiday cottages

Unusual things to do in Norfolk

Ruth King 28 April 2023

Not just famous for the bucolic Broads and beautiful beaches, Norfolk has another, less-explored side filled with history and mystery in equal measure - from subterranean flint mines to the bones of a woolly mammoth and a wonderful model village. 

The intrigue never stops in Norfolk, and our guide offers the tip of the iceberg because there seem to be obscurities around every bend in the road. 

If you’re looking for a Norfolk cottage by the coast, in the country or close to the city where you can base yourself for your East Anglian adventure, just click the button below to browse our collection of self-catering cottages. You can also read our guide to the best days out in Norfolk for more inspiration.


Norwich’s hidden street tour

Norwich’s hidden street tour

It’s been said that Norwich was once bigger under the ground than above it, such is the scale of the network of hidden city crypts. Concealed underground, these crypts reveal secrets and stories from the city’s medieval history.

You can discover them for yourself by taking a tour under one of Norwich's medieval streets and back through time to learn the myths and legends of the people who once called this fine city home. 


The Devil’s Punchbowl, Thetford

The Devil’s Punchbowl, Thetford

Found just outside Thetford Forest, the spooky Devil's Punchbowl is one of the most unusual places to visit in Norfolk. You’ll have to see for yourself to decide which is more unnerving: the pool’s almost exactly circular shape or the fact that it seems to fill and empty at random, regardless of the weather.

This unexplained ebbing and flowing was once attributed to the devil, hence the site’s name; whether it’s the work of Satan himself or the geology of Breckland’s chalk sinkholes that’s to blame is for you to deduce.


Great Yarmouth Waterways Duck Race

Great Yarmouth Waterways Duck Race

What’s more unusual than the sight of 2,500 yellow plastic ducks bobbing along the water? Every Easter, plastic ducks race down the historic Yarmouth Waterways with the aim of raising money for local charities.

If you’re visiting Great Yarmouth outside of Easter, the Venetian-style waterways are still a wonderfully unusual place to visit; created to solve the problem of unemployment after the First World War, the waterways were hand dug and have been a tourist attraction ever since, with a recent revamp allowing them to be enjoyed by another generation.


Seahenge 

Seahenge

Dating back to 2049BC, Seahenge is a Bronze Age circle made up of 55 timber posts encircling an upturned tree root. This prehistoric wonder lay hidden by the North Sea until it was revealed by the tide on Holme Beach (above) in 1998.

If you want to see this marvel for yourself, the tree stump and some of the original timbers are now on display at Lynn Museum in King’s Lynn, alongside a life-size replica of the circle itself. And while no traces remain of Seahenge at Holme Beach, it’s still a lovely place for a seaside walk.


Grime’s Graves

Grime’s Graves

What is it about Thetford Forest? Not only is it home to the Devil’s Punchbowl but also Grime’s Graves, a series of 400 flint mines dating back more than 5,000 years. Now owned by English Heritage, the Neolithic pits are open to visitors brave enough to descend the 9 metres to see them.

On a visit, you can also learn about the history of this unusual site, as well as spot native plants in this Site of Special Scientific Interest in beautiful Breckland.  


Nelson’s Monument, Great Yarmouth

Nelson’s Monument, Great Yarmouth

Many famous people have ties to Norfolk, including Stephen Fry, Delia Smith and Ed Balls. But Norfolk’s most famous son is, arguably, Horatio Nelson, who was born in Burnham Thorpe in the 18th century. Nelson’s Monument, or the Britannia Monument, was erected in the early 19th century as a memorial to Nelson who had died around 10 years previous.

While the edifice is not quite as tall as Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, it’s no less impressive. Nelson’s Monument stands proud on Yarmouth seafront, with Britannia atop a column inscribed with the motto from Nelson’s coat of arms. It’s said that Britannia is looking towards Nelson’s birthplace, some 50 miles inland.


Plantation Garden, Norwich

Plantation Garden, Norwich

One of the most unusual things to do in Norwich, Plantation Garden is a 3-acre, Grade II-listed garden tucked away behind the city’s imposing Roman Catholic cathedral. Built over 100 years ago from a former chalk quarry, the garden is now a peaceful haven just 500 metres from the thriving city centre, bursting with a huge variety of flora and fauna, and boosting the city’s biodiversity.

Visit on Sundays and enjoy tea and cake on the lawn, before exploring the medieval walls, gothic fountain and Victorian-style greenhouse – a tour of Norwich through the ages, but in garden form!


Reedham Ferry

Reedham Ferry

No stay in Norfolk is complete without a visit to the Norfolk Broads, and Reedham is right in the centre of this captivating national park. Straddling the River Yare, the Broads can be tricky to get around if you’re in a car, which is where the Reedham Ferry comes in.

There has been a river crossing at Reedham since the 17th century, but this chain ferry has been in operation since 1984 and is now the only working chain ferry in East Anglia. Three cars at a time can drive onto the ferry which is then pulled across the Yare by a motor-powered chain. Grab a pint (if you’re not the designated driver) at the Reedham Ferry Inn to soak up the Broads views and watch the ferry in action, before taking a trip yourself.


Wroxham Miniature Worlds

Wroxham Miniature Worlds

While we’re on the subject of small things, Norfolk is also home to some miniature scenes which combine to form the UK’s largest indoor modelling attraction. Wroxham Miniature Worlds fills the 10,000-square-foot site with model railways, with themed settings including countries, toys and cartoons. Also contained within the miniature worlds are 10,000 trees, 5,000 model people and 70 scale miles of railway.

Whether you’re a child or just young at heart, it’s a delightful way to indulge in some nostalgia, and a fantastic rainy-day activity too as the entire site is undercover.  


The West Runton Mammoth

The West Runton Mammoth

From very small to very big – another unusual thing to do in Norfolk is to come face to face with the famous West Runton Mammoth. The oldest of its kind in the UK, this almost complete mammoth skeleton was discovered by local residents in 1990 when they saw a giant bone sticking out of the cliffs at West Runton.

The bone was excavated over a period of months and was revealed to belong to a steppe mammoth that roamed Norfolk up to 866,000 years ago. When it was alive, the mammoth would have been 4 metres high and 10 tonnes in weight. Due to the size of the skeleton, the bones are divided between three Norfolk museums: Norwich Castle Museum, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, and Cromer Museum, so no matter where you’re staying in Norfolk, you can see this incredible discovery for yourself.  


Kett’s Oak

Kett’s Oak

Kett’s Oak is an oak tree in Hethersett which is linked to the famous Kett’s Rebellion in 1549. It’s said that the tree is where Robert Kett gathered troops to protest land enclosures, before setting up camp at Mousehold Heath in Norwich and subsequently storming the city.

While the rebels, which then numbered 16,000, were successful in taking Norwich, they were eventually defeated and Kett was captured. He was then hanged from Norwich Castle walls, while nine of the rebels were hanged at Kett’s Oak. The tree was named in the top 50 Great British Trees in honour of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and can be seen today at the side of the road between Wymondham and Hethersett, 8 miles south-west of Norwich.


Docwras Rock Factory, Great Yarmouth

Docwras Rock Factory, Great Yarmouth

Have you ever wondered how they get the tiny letters inside the stick of rock? Now’s your chance to find out! Docwra’s Rock Factory and Shop has been a Great Yarmouth institution for over a century and sells all the sweet treats you would expect on your bucket and spade holiday. Not only this, but they still make the rock themselves on site; you can see it created in front of your very eyes before taking a stick home to try for yourself.


Norfolk Tulips, King’s Lynn

Norfolk Tulips, King’s Lynn

Time your visit to Norfolk for April and you can enjoy the sight of thousands of brightly coloured blooms bursting below the giant East Anglian sky. Norfolk Tulips, run by Belmont Nurseries, grows 37 varieties of the flower and is the largest grower of outdoor tulips in the UK.

Every year, in April, they open the gates to paying members of the public in order to raise funds for a local charity, Norfolk Hospice – in 2021, the amount totalled £21,500. Be quick though, as tickets are limited and often sell out quickly!  


Enjoy a fun-filled break in Norfolk

You could easily spend a week ticking these unusual sites off your Norfolk bucket list, so why not make a holiday of it? We’ve got a wide range of Norfolk cottages to suit every party; simply click the button below to find your perfect base.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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