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Norfolk Countryside and Villages things to do

Tiger at Banham Zoo

Contrary to popular opinion, Norfolk is not completely flat, as you'll discover when you choose one of our country and village cottages for your get-away-from-it-all break. Granted, there are no mountains but wooded slopes and lovely rolling meadows bask under the famous wide skies.

Our Norfolk self catering cottages are scattered throughout the county in some of the loveliest spots - and wherever you choose to stay, you'll find plenty to see and do and a tranquil and welcoming base to come home to after a day exploring.

Norfolk is famous for its many ancient churches whose towers and steeples dot the landscape everywhere. Windmills, too, are a common feature, particularly in the flatter eastern areas. There are beautiful stately homes and manor houses and family-friendly visitor attractions abound, including a first-class conservation-focused zoo at Banham which makes a wonderful day out. There are over 2000 animals here, in almost 50 acres of immaculately kept parks and gardens.

If it's peace and quiet you're craving, it's easy to get off the beaten track and walk or cycle on the network of picturesque footpaths and cycleways; or take a picnic and find a cool spot beside a river or in a meadow to kick back and relax.

Lovely market towns such as Wymondham, Diss, Fakenham, Dereham, Aylsham, Reepham and North Walsham reward exploration for their beautiful historic buildings and offer the chance for a spot of gentle shopping — Norfolk is prime agricultural country so why not pick up some delicious fresh local produce to take home?

There's so much for all the family to enjoy on holiday in the Norfolk countryside. Many of the atttractions, of course, centre on the wonderful countryside, and waymarked walks and nature reserves abound, including several long-distance walks such as Weavers Way, Tas Valley Way, Nar Way and Ketts Country.

One of the top attractions for a more organised day trip is Pensthorpe Bird and Wildlife Reserve, which you may well know from its role in the popular BBC Springwatch programme. Set in the peaceful Wensum Valley, this award-winning reserve showcases British wildlife and conservation at its very best. You can wander round varied nature trails, do some pond-dipping and investigate amazing conservation projects here and there's also a great gift shop and restaurant.

Also in the Wensum Valley is Sculthorpe Owl Sanctuary. This 45-acre, internationally-recognised nature reserve has a rich variety of wildlife in its woodland, fen and reed bed habitats and provides a real opportunity to get involved with the natural environment. Families and wildlife watchers will particularly enjoy a stroll here, with boardwalks and bridges providing easy access. There are bird feeders and nest boxes, viewing platforms and four hides.

Lovely woodland walks are found in the 50,000 acres of Thetford Forest - Britain's largest lowland forest. Head for the Visitor Centre at High Lodge to find out what's happening and pick up information on the wonderful walking and cycling trails, adventure playground, maze and other activities. There's also a great cafe and shop here and top-name, large-scale music events take place in the evenings during the summer. The very popular Go Ape! is based here, too. The exciting tree-top adventure features a Tarzan swing, back-to-back black crossings and an Alpine zip that goes from tree to tree - very exciting!

If the nostalgia of steam hits a button, don't miss the Bure Valley Railway. This fifteen-inch gauge line provides an 18-mile round trip following the river Bure through meadows and pastures between the historic market town of Aylsham and Wroxham, capital of the Broads, with stops at country stations in Brampton, Coltishall and Buxton. If you're in Aylsham on a Monday, you could also pick up some bargains at Keys famous auction salerooms. For over 50 years there's been a traditional country sale here every Monday (Tuesdays after a Bank Holiday).

For an entertaining and educational day out, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum is a treat all the family will enjoy. History comes to life on this 50-acre site with historic workhouse, museum of life on the land and a traditional farm with rare breed animals.

Creatures of a more ancient kind are found at the Dinosaur Adventure Park at Lenwade. This award-winning themed adventure park is set in 100 acres of woods and parkland and is hugely popular with children of all ages.