Holidaying beside the seaside has arguably become as important a part of English culture as the industrial revolution, the country’s rich maritime history and the humble full English breakfast. Indeed, for every person who is familiar with the great works of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickins, there are probably as many people who remember fondly the antics of Punch and Judy across beaches and piers throughout the UK.
As a holiday destination, Norfolk certainly has its share of golden coastlines and seaside attractions that make the region a fantastic place to visit, but its beaches are literally just the tip of what is waiting to be discovered. In fact, a brief investigation into what Norfolk has to offer will quickly yield a rich history of culture, some wonderful family attractions and a veritable smuggler’s treasure-trove of local distilleries and breweries.
The discovery of flint tools and prehistoric footprints inHappisburgh, Norfolk suggests that the first human visitors to the English Isles arrived some 800,000 years ago. Over the following years Norfolk has continued to develop as an incredibly vibrant region and amassed an impressive cast of notable characters including; the Romans, Boudicca and Iceni; the iconic Lord Horatio Nelson who was born in Burnham Thorpe; and the heroic Nurse Edith Cavell, who was born in Swardeston and braved a firing squad after saving allied troops from German captivity during the First World War. These impressive historical credentials have gifted Norfolk with a tapestry of fascinating castles, churches and museums for visitors to explore.Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery for example, is a fascinating venue situated at the heart of Norwich and the city’s great shopping and eclectic selection of restaurants.
Beyond the walls of Norwich’s impressive castle, the Norfolk countryside is dotted with several equally grand historic buildings and gardens. These include the tranquil Blickling Estate, Oxburgh Hall and Thetford Priory, which represents one of the most important East Anglian monasteries.
The Thick of It
With a heritage resplendent with early pioneers, brave heroes and notable entertainers including Stephen Fry and Only Fools and Horses’ ‘Trigger’, Roger Lloyd Pack, it is hardly surprising to learn that Norfolk boasts a great many attractions for visitors of all ages and interests. For those looking to take advantage of the region’s historical roots while putting their own imaginations to the test, History Mystery operates immersive history-based escape games at the medieval Guildhall in Norwich and the world’s first escape game in a working church at Blickling Church, where Anne Boleyn worshipped. Equally, for explorers looking for even more physically demanding adventures, Norfolk has several locations offering paintball, archery, extreme adventures centres and even air glider clubs that are guaranteed to get the adrenalin flowing.
Although Norfolk may not be the most obvious choice when considering city breaks, Norwich is actually home to some fantastic high-street and independent retail outlets, as well as several theatres and cinema venues, including the city’s Riverside development, the Maddermarket Theatre and the Norwich Theatre Royal to name but a few.
All of these attractions and more are available to visitors while staying in one of many unique holiday cottages situated directly within the city, as well as to guests that opt to stay in one of Norfolk’s many countryside retreats. These include Lilac Barn, situated in a quiet countryside location that is close to the Broads and some of the region’s sandy beaches.
The spirits industry is seeing a boom in craft and independent distilleries, especially south of the Scottish border.
A number of distilleries have popped up around England, with Norfolk being home to two of them, St. George’s Distillery and Adnam’s Copper House Distillery.
Both of these are leading the way in the English Whisky scene and offer a glimpse into a burgeoning industry.
Norfolk became home to the first English Whisky distillery in 120 years, when the St. George’s Distillery was founded in Norwich in 2005.
St. George’s is the home of The English Whisky Company, who was founded by Lincolnshire man James Nelstrop and his son Andrew. They created the first 29 casks of English Whisky in over a century in 2006 and have been striving ever since.
The exciting thing about The English Whisky Company is that all their ingredients are sourced from England, as close to the distillery as possible.
And since they bear the name of England’s patron Saint, it makes sense that they would be a truly English Whisky producer.
St. George’s offer several different tours with a range of prices and suitable to everyone, whether you’re a Whisky enthusiast or just curious.
Adnams may not have the title of the first distillery in England in 120, but it does hold the title of most energy efficient distillery in the UK.
Their Copper House Distillery is based in Southwold and they do everything – from malting to bottling – on site, and with sustainability at the forefront.
Like St. George’s, Adnams source all of their ingredients locally, from the same place that they source the ingredients for their beers. They only create small batch drams and have the newest technology installed to allow them to control every process to the finest details.
Adnams itself is a larger company, with pub chains and breweries across the UK, but their Copper House Distillery has a certain charm to it. It feels more like a family run craft distillery and is well worth a visit.
Tours are available at the distillery and give you a real sense of what Adnams are trying to capture. You’ll learn everything about their sustainability and energy efficiency, followed by a tutored tasting that will allow you to get to know their malt a lot better.