Culture and history

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History in the making

The Broads is a region with a rich and diverse culture. From historic landmarks with fascinating pasts, to the many arts and crafts today, The Broads continues to inspire.

Horsey Mill

One of the defining features of the Broads is the many windmills you’ll see dotted around the landscape. Once used to grind corn or flour, or to provide drainage, many of these have been restored to become popular visitor attractions.

The National Trust-owned, five storey Horsey Windpump is a must for anyone interested in the role these feats of engineering played in shaping the landscape of the Broads. Not to mention the fantastic views that will greet you from the top floor!

St Benet’s Abbey
St Benet's Abbey

While the origins of this now-ruined abbey remain a mystery, by the 12th century it played an important role in sustaining Norfolk’s nationwide power and influence.

Today, this impressive ruin evokes nearly 1000 years of history. Whether arriving by boat or on foot, St Benet’s Abbey offer visitors the opportunity to experience the Broads as the monks, pilgrims and traders of old would have done.

Holkham Beach and Hall

The beach at Holkham is possibly one of the most beautiful, unique and untouched stretches of sand in the country. The beach itself stretches farther than the eye can see. Soft golden sands meet tall dune systems formed on old shingle ridges and colourful salt marshes filled with shrubberies, while a solid belt of pine trees protects the mainland from the harsh winds of the North Norfolk coastline. A semi-circular basin tucked in behind the shoreline fills at high tide, creating a shallow lagoon, one of the many natural wonders that Norfolk has to offer. While the 18th century Holkham Hall with its 25,000 acre estate is close by. Both beach and hall have appeared in films for their dramatic backdrop, including Shakespeare in Love and The Duchess.

Somerleyton Hall

The Broads can also help you to step back in time by providing a gateway to some of the most striking stately homes in the country. Suffolk’s Somerleyton Hall not only boasts an immaculately-preserved, Grade II listed Victorian mansion and notable gardens, but also remains a fully working estate – ensuring that its history and grandeur are protected for future generations.

Bungay

An idyllic town on the river Waveney, Bungay is one of many smaller communities dotted throughout the area that offer a real taste of life on the Broads. Colourful past and thriving present combine, allowing visitors to spend a day exploring local history at the Bungay Museum and the ruins of Bigod’s Castle, or simply enjoying the hustle and bustle of a contemporary market town.

The Two Rivers Trail

The beauty of The Broads has long been an inspiration for artists – creating a thriving arts and crafts scene that’s still going strong today.

The Two Rivers Art trails follows the Ant and Bure rivers – inviting visitors to explore the work of ten artists across six studios. It’s a fantastic way to take in the art and culture of the area, while also offering much to see and do along the route.

Beccles Carnival

With a wide range of local events filling up the calendar, a visit to the Broads offers excitement all year round. As one of many similar events held across the region, Beccles Carnival has been turning this quaint market town into a popular festival spot for over one hundred years. Taking place on the third weekend of every August, it’s the ideal time to visit. Make sure you stay for the Sunday night parade.

University of East Anglia Literary Festival

The tranquillity and beauty of the Broads have also inspired many writers over the years – from the classic children’s books of Arthur Ransome to the crime novels of P.D. James. Norwich’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature reflects the way that the written word has been woven into the fabric of the area. The many literary festivals held throughout the year, in the city and elsewhere, offer a great chance to hear a range of authors reading from their work.