From patchwork fields where windmills, ancient ruins and sleepy villages nestle into the landscape, to golden beaches, wildlife-rich marshes and dramatic coastal cliffs; this iconic hike boasts some of the most treasured walking in England.
The National Trail this Collection covers combines two routes: Peddars Way and the Norfolk Coast Path. Starting at Knettishall Heath Country Park, in Suffolk, the Peddars Way follows a Roman road to Holme-next-the-Sea, on the north Norfolk coast, where it meets the Norfolk Coast Path and runs along cliff-tops and beaches to Hopton-on-Sea.
Famed for its remoteness, wildlife, heritage and beauty, this diverse trail showcases the best of Norfolk. They say the people who live in this county have 'one foot on the land and one in the sea'. The truth is, you are never far from water here, whether it is beside the peaceful windmill-framed rivers inland or the birdlife-rich sands of the coast.
The entire trail is very clearly way-marked and the landscape is relatively flat, so this is a perfect choice for people who have not attempted a long-distance walk before. If you are a long-distance veteran, though, do not be put off. At 167 miles long—the official route is 129.5 miles (208 kilometers) but this Collection makes a few worthy detours—this trail can be as challenging, or as lesirely, as you want to make it.
In the Collection, we are opting for medium-challenging. If you do fancy going at a more leisurely pace, many people opt for 14-16 days to complete this trail. Or, if you are feeling fit, see if you can complete it in seven days.
If you plan to arrive in Norfolk by car, your best option is to park in Thetford and catch a taxi to Knettishall Heath for around £15. Once you have completed the route, you will need to catch the X1 or X11 bus service from Hopton-on-Sea to Norwich and then catch a direct train from Norwich to Thetford. Services run regularly and it costs around £10-£15 for the journey, which takes roughly 30 minutes.
If you plan to arrive by public transport, you are best catching the train to Thetford. There are direct services from London and it can be reached from most places with a transfer. From Thetford, you need to catch a taxi to Knettishall Heath for around £15. Once you have completed the route, you will need to catch the X1 or X11 bus service from Hopton-on-Sea to Norwich Railway Station, which runs direct and regular services to London.
For information on parking in Thetford, visit: justpark.com.
For X1 and X11 bus times, visit: firstgroup.com/norfolk-suffolk/routes-and-maps/x1-x11-lowestoft-or-belton-gt-yarmouth-norwich.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.
For more information on Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path National Trail, visit: nationaltrail.co.uk/peddars-way-and-norfolk-coast-path.
The Peddars Way begins in the Brecks, an area of peaceful river valleys and breathtaking beauty.
Rich in wildlife and steeped in history dating back to the Stone Age, the trail follows an old Roman road—traversed by legionnaires 2,000 years ago—through the Norfolk countryside, all the way to the coast.
Along this gently undulating stretch of the trail, you will see the pingo ponds of Thompson Common, left behind from the last ice age more than 12,000 years ago.
You might also spot a few Songline sculptures that tell the tales of how people interacted with the landscape in times gone by.
You finish for the day in Little Cressingham, a quaint village with a unique wind and water mill, as well as a library in a red telephone box.
Phoenix House Bed and Breakfast
Built around 1850, this B&B aims to be a firm favourite for hikers on the Peddars Way. Twin rooms start from £85 per night. For more information, visit bed-and-breakfast-in-norfolk.co.uk.
Church Farm Campsite
This eco-friendly and peaceful campsite is close to the Peddars Way. Facilities include toilets, showers and electric hook-ups. A pitch costs around £15 per night. For more information, visit campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/campsites/uk/norfolk/nrwattonthetford/churchfarm.
As you leave Little Cressingham, you will find that history and intrigue is never far away.
Fewer than four miles (6.4 kilometers) in, you reach the church of St Mary’s, in Houghton-on-the-Hill. Saved from demolition in the nineties, the church boasts awe-inspiring wall-paintings that date to the 11th century.
After a leisurely stroll through patchwork farm fields, you reach Castle Acre. This historic village boasts an extraordinarily intact example of a motte-and-bailey castle, as well as Castle Acre Priory, one of the best-preserved monastic sites in England.
As you continue to meander through the flat arable landscape, let the tranquillity fill your senses. Norfolk is renowned for peace and quiet and you will find the entire Peddars Way to be exactly that.
At almost 20 miles (32 kilometers) long, day two is a challenge. When you arrive in the picturesque village of Great Massingham, a relaxing drink in the Dabbling Duck pub is definitely called for.
Hill Farm Bed and Breakfast
Offering two luxurious bedrooms, plus a third room available by prior arrangement, this B&B is right on the Peddars Way. A double room costs around £150 per night. For more information, visit hillfarmmassingham.com.
The Old Red Lion
This hostel offers excellent facilities in a peaceful atmosphere and is walker friendly. A dormitory bed costs £22.50 per night. For more information, visit oldredlion.org.uk.
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For day three, it is definitely worth following the detour shown here. Who knows, you might see The Queen!
While the Peddars Way continues straight along the Roman road, this extension veers east, briefly, so you can see Bircham Windmill—the only working windmill in the area that is open to the public—before a sharp detour west to visit the Sandringham Estate.
Royal home to four generations of monarchs since 1862 and much-loved country retreat of Her Majesty The Queen, this picturesque estate is steeped in history and is well-worth exploring.
Logistically, it is perhaps advisable to hike straight onto Dersingham, relax for the night and then spend a full day exploring the house, museum and gardens the following day. However, you can walk through parts of the estate free-of-charge, 365 days of the year.
If you do not fancy the Royal extension to the route, though, simply follow the way-marked trail to Sedgeford, stay there for the night, and follow the Peddars Way to Hunstanton the following day.
As this route passes so tantalizingly close to Sandringham anyway, though, it does seem a shame not to visit, what is arguably, the most famous stately home in England. So, go for it!
Ashdene House Bed and Breakfast
Providing a warm welcome to walkers, this B&B is perfectly positioned to explore Sandringham. Twin room prices start from £78 per night. For more information, visit ashdene-house.co.uk.
Pine Cones Caravan and Camping
Offering tent pitches, pods and static homes, this campsite is ideal for those looking for an affordable night near the Royal estate. Facilities include toilets, showers, launderette, shop and WiFi. It costs around £10 per night for a tent pitch. For more information, visit pineconescc.co.uk/home/4587708774.
After leaving Dersingham, you head east to pick up the Peddars Way once again.
After three days sauntering through the peaceful patchwork Norfolk countryside this trail traverses, today is the day you part ways with the iconic Roman road.
As you walk down to Ringstead, the chalk base rock becomes evident. Keep your eyes peeled for a first glimpse of the sea here—always guaranteed to alight that inner-child excitement.
When you reach Hunstanton, the end of the Peddars Way, you will not be disappointed. The elegant resort is renowned for its unique striped cliffs and magnificent sunsets, made special by its position as the only west-facing resort on the East coast.
The seaside town was purpose-built in 1846 for Victorian tourists and retains much of its charm and character to this day.
Hunstanton’s beautiful beach is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the sea, too.
Close to the town centre and only 150 meters from the seafront, this award-winning guesthouse offers a range of well-equipped rooms. Twin room prices start from £74 per night. For more information, visit theburleigh.com.
The Golden Lion
Built in 1846, this hotel is the oldest building in New Hunstanton and boasts panoramic views over the coastline. Prices for a twin room start from £50 per night. For more information, visit coastandcountryhotels.com/hotels/the-golden-lion.
After completing the Peddars Way, the landscape changes as you begin the Norfolk Coast Path.
In contrast to the remote arable landscape and sleepy rural villages, you will find the next leg boasts a heady mix of charming coastline, golden beaches wildlife-rich marshes, immense skies, small harbours and flint villages.
The Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is internationally renowned for its wildlife. Keep a look-out for flights of pink-footed geese and even breeding seals.
From this stretch of trail you are afforded terrific views that stretch over the Lincolnshire coast and the Wolds AONB beyond.
First recorded as a pub in 1685, this hotel, bar and restaurant is in a great spot for those walking the Norfolk Coast Path. Twin room prices start from £45 per night. For more information, visit the-nelson.com.
Deepdale Backpackers and Camping
This award-winning, eco-friendly backpackers hostel and campsite offers budget beds and tent pitches. Prices for dormitory beds and electric hook-up tent pitches start from £13 per night. For more information, visit vinehouseboutiquehotel.co.uk.
From Burnham Overy, the remote beauty of the Norfolk coastline never leaves you—and neither does the spellbinding sea, sand and salt-marsh.
Along this stretch, you take a detour inland to visit the magnificent Holkham Hall; a thriving 25,000-acre country estate that is rich in history, architecture and wildlife.
A few miles later, you arrive in Wells-next-the-Sea, one of the most attractive towns on the North Norfolk Coast.
With a glorious sweeping beach, bordered by pine woodland, and a gentle harbor with small fishing boats, there is not a chain store in sight here. Bliss.
The final leg of the day crosses the peculiarly-named Cabbage Creek; an expanse of salt-marsh that provides a perfect habitat for an array wildlife.
The Stiffkey Red Lion
All bedrooms in this eco-friendly hotel are south-facing with balconies or terraced gardens. There is also a bar and restaurant on-site. Twin rooms start from £109 per night. For more information, visit stiffkey.com.
Highsand Creek Campsite
Overlooking the wildlife-rich salt-marshes, this campsite boasts a picturesque location. Facilities include toilets, showers, launderette and electric hook-ups. Prices for a pitch start from £10 per night. For more information, visit highsandcreekcampsitestiffkey.co.uk.
As you leave Stiffkey, the trail overlooks one of the most important salt-marshes in Europe.
This area is something of a marshy-bird-watching-Mecca and is home to many species, including avocet, marsh harrier, redshank, oystercatcher, lapwing, sandwich tern, pink-footed goose, and many more.
Around the four mile (6.4 kilometer) mark, you reach the charming coastal village of Blakeney. Once a medieval port for spices and oriental cloths—as well as a smugglers stronghold—the now AONB boasts an amazing landscape of marshes, mud banks and sand hills.
After a slight detour inland to see the wonderful 18th-century Cley Windmill, now a hotel and restaurant, the trail continues to the village of Weybourne, where you finish for the day.
If you time it right, be sure to check-out the vintage steam railway station here. Also, it is worth exploring the impressive ruins of 13th-century Weybourne Priory and All Saints Parish Church.
Millstream House Bed and Breakfast
Just a short stroll away from the beach, this B&B boasts wonderful views. Double rooms start from £75 per night. For more information, visit millstreamhousenorfolk.co.uk.
Breck Farm Campsite
This tranquil campsite is set on a working farm producing free-range eggs, barley, potatoes and sugar beet. Facilities include toilets, showers and an onsite shop. Certain pitches do allow campfires, too. It costs £12 per tent, plus £2 per person, for each night.
Leaving Weybourne, the route rises and follows clifftops to the seaside town of Sheringham.
From there, you ascend Beeston Hill—known locally as ‘the bump’—where you are afforded magnificent views over the sea and countryside.
As you approach Cromer (where some guides incorrectly say the trail ends) you will notice the impressive Grade II-listed pier. From Cromer, the path climbs towards the lighthouse before dropping down onto the beach.
This stretch is passable in all but the highest seasonal tides. However, it is best attempted during mid and low tide, when the sand is hard underfoot. For information on tide times, visit: tidetimes.org.uk/cromer-tide-times.
At the village of Overstrand, the route returns to the clifftops and meanders through patchwork fields and peaceful woodland. From the top of the hill outside Sidestrand, the coast falls away from you, revealing much of the trail ahead.
The landslides along this stretch of coast a usually-hidden geology. Take care to keep back from the crumbling cliff-edges, though!
After a delightful stroll along the clifftops, you descend into Mundesley where you finish for the day.
The Durdans Bed and Breakfast
This Edwardian house is set among two acres of peaceful grounds and boasts exceptional breakfasts using locally-sourced ingredients. Twin rooms start from £75 per night. For more information, visit thedurdans.co.uk.
Links Camping and Caravan Park
Five minutes walk from the village and ten minutes walk from the beach, this campsite offers a range of accommodation. Facilities include toilets, hot showers, use of washroom and free WiFi. Camping prices start from £7 per adult per night. For more information, visit linkscaravanpark.co.uk.
From Mundesley, the path returns to the beach. Unlike the section between Cromer and Overstrand yesterday, however, this section cannot be completed at high tide.
Be sure to check tidal information carefully before undertaking this section as tidal surges are common. For information, visit: magicseaweed.com/Mundesley-Surf-Report/1397/Tide.
The route then follows the sandy beach to Bacton and then to Walcott, where the path rises onto the cliffs.
When you reach Happisburgh, there are two points of interest. Firstly, Saint Mary the Virgin Church is a historic place of worship that was recorded in Domesday Book of 1086. Nearby is the red-and-white-striped Happisburgh Lighthouse. Built in 1790, it is the oldest working light in the region.
As you reach the village of Sea Palling, you are rewarded with one of Norfolk’s hidden gems: Sea Palling Beach. This beautiful Blue Flag beach is surprisingly little-visited and is the perfect place to unwind after a day’s walking.
Rowan Tree House Bed and Breakfast
This B&B is only 500 yards from Sea Palling Beach. Walker and dog-friendly, prices for a twin room start from £70 per night. For more information, visit rowan-tree-house.co.uk.
This campsite is totally inclusive with no extra charge for showers, use of the fridges and freezers, recharging your phone or for bringing pets. Tent pitches are £20 per night, based on one to four people sharing. For more information, visit seabreezecampsite.com.
From Sea Palling, the trail winds through grassland, scrub, woodland and blackthorn thickets.
After rising from the dunes at Poplar Farm, you are afforded wonderful views that stretch inland and along the coast.
You then descend and wind through tall sand dunes and grazing marsh. At this point, you pass the grey seal colony, where, each winter, hundreds of seals come ashore to breed.
If you are lucky enough to be in this location between November and February, you will not regret stopping to catch this spectacle.
At Winterton Ness, the path rises to offer magnificent panoramic views. As you hike onto the beaches of Hemsby, California and Scratby, sandstone cliffs replace the dunes. In the autumn and winter, you may have this whole stretch of beach to yourself.
At higher tides, an alternative route is way-marked. From California, it is brief stroll inland to finish for the day.
The Old Hall Hotel
This hotel boasts beautifully-decorated bedrooms, a fine dining restaurant and luxury facilities including swimming pool, gym, sauna and jacuzzi. Twin room prices start from £80 per night. For more information, visit oldhallhotelcaister.co.uk.
Hemsby Touring Park
Complete with its own stretch of beach, this campsite offers a range of accommodation. Facilities include toilets, hot showers, electricity hook-ups and WiFi. Prices for a two-person tent pitch start from £7 per night. For more information, visit long-beach.co.uk.
As you leave Caister-on-Sea, the route enters Great Yarmouth North Denes Site of Special Scientific Interest, which supports almost ten percent of all Britain’s breeding little tern colonies.
A short time later, you reach Great Yarmouth: a bustling seaside destination famous for its long and pristine beach. Beyond Yarmouth’s ‘Golden Mile,’ Gorleston Quay lets you see the workings of a modern port up close.
From this industrial giant, you arrive on the golden sands of Gorleston Beach; which will host the last stretch of your journey.
Looking into the horizon and with soft sand underfoot, it is time to soak in the magic of this route for the last time. In the case of high tides, however, there is a way-marked alternative route.
When you arrive in Hopton-on-Sea, you have reached the end of the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path National Trail and it is definitely time for a celebratory swim.
All rooms feature a king size bed with four plump pillows. The on-site restaurant and bar serves breakfast and evening meals, too. Twin rooms start from £48 per night. For more information, visit travelodge.co.uk.
This flat and grassy site has 108 pitches and a relaxing atmosphere. Facilities include toilets, showers, baby changing facilities and laundrette. Prices for a family tent pitch start from £20 per night. For more information, visit haven.com/touring-camping..