castle road trips in England
Norfolk’s stunning coastline, charming market towns and world-famous Broads make for a relaxing rural getaway. It’s also brimming with beautiful castles! Embark on a three-day castle road trip around Norfolk and begin exploring some of the UK’s most historic fortresses.
What better way to start a three-day road trip than in the market town of King’s Lynn? Nestled into the River Great Ouse, this picturesque sea port was an important trading point during the Middle Ages. You could spend three days just exploring King Lynn’s cobbled back streets and charming period buildings, but one architectural masterpiece in particular is deserving of your attention: Castle Rising.
One of the most famous 12th century fortresses in England, Castle Rising is set in beautiful grounds. Surrounded by 13 acres of verdant fields, wildlife-rich woodlands and picture-postcard views of the countryside, Castle Rising offers a bucolic trip into the past. Once the home of Queen Isabella, the mother of Edward III, this imposing stronghold consists of an inner bailey, two outworks and the remains of an early Norman Church. There is also an audio guide available to help you navigate and discover the castle’s hidden treasures. Look into the distance and you may also see a decadent structure dominating the horizon: Sandringham House. Famous for being the country retreat of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, this 20,000-acre property is open year-round and is a must-see for visitors in the area.
For budding historians who want to take in even more of the local culture, you will find Lynn Museum a short drive from Castle Rising. Home to a life-size replica of Seahenge, the prehistoric monument excavated on the beach near Old Hunstanton in the 1990s, this interactive museum brings the history of West Norfolk alive and will delight visitors young and old.
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Head east on the A47 and amble through the sleepy market towns of Swaffham and Dereham. This is the northern point of the Brecks: one of the driest areas in the UK, and home to important wildlife. It is also home to some of the finest Georgian houses in the UK, is pleasantly tranquil and is a staging post on the way to your next castle: Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.
A 50-mile journey from Castle Rising, Norwich Castle Museum is one of the most enjoyable attractions in the region. Built by the Normans as a royal palace 900 years ago, Norwich Castle Museum is now home to an extensive collection of artefacts, fine art and archaeology. Explore its evolution from royal palace to county prison, immerse yourself in soldiers’ stories and get hands-on with natural history. If you are travelling with children, your younger ones will also enjoy the family activities, which are scheduled throughout the year. Why not join the castle’s Costume and Textiles Team for a day of dressing up, or help them recount the life of a First World War veteran?
With Norwich city centre packed with good-quality accommodation, you can break up your three-day road trip by booking into a cosy B&B or a five-star luxury hotel. Alternatively, travel twenty miles east to Norfolk’s distinctive coastline and continue your journey.
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Winding through the village of Blofield and up to Acle, take in distant views of the Mid-Yare National Nature Reserve and the world-famous Norfolk Broads: a series of rivers and lakes forming one of the UK's most beautiful wetland areas. Carry on towards the coast and you’ll be within range of our next stop, Caister Castle. Just three miles north of Great Yarmouth, this 15th century castle was one of the first buildings in England to be constructed from brick. Today, the 90-foot tower looms over a leafy and rustic landscape, offering visitors an impressive view of the castle ruins and surrounding area. It is also home to a motor museum, boasting an extensive private collection of rare veteran, vintage, classic, sports and touring automobiles – perfect for petrol heads. If travelling companions don’t share your enthusiasm for cars, you will also find Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens just three-and-a-half miles away. Alternatively, Hemsby Beach is only a five-minute drive away, with its awe-inspiring views of the North Sea and vast stretches of soft sand.
If you have time, consider making Burgh Castle the final stop on your itinerary. Heading south from Caister Castle, enjoy your drive through the rich vegetation of the Broads on the A149 and A12, curling round the River Yare. Travel for nine miles and you will find Burgh Castle. Nestled on a stretch of coast extending between the Solent and the Wash, also known as the Saxon Shore, Burgh Castle is one of the best-preserved Roman monuments in the country. Built in the third century on a low cliff above the Waveney Estuary, its gigantic walls once enclosed an area of around six acres. While the remains of the castle are a shadow of its former grandeur, the site offers panoramic views across Breydon Water. There are also pedestrian paths leading to the nearby village, making Burgh Castle the perfect place to stop off for a pub lunch after three days of sightseeing.