Bungay is an attractive, historic market town in the heart of the Waveney Valley, situated on the lower reaches of the Broads’ southern rivers.
This quaint part of the Broads is accessible for a range of visitors, being just a short 30-minute drive from Norwich, well-connected by public transport and visitable by boat up to the Geldeston Locks. Read on to learn more about why you should visit and what to see, do and eat during your trip.
Bungay is one of those small East Anglian towns that seem to have an endless amount of history and natural beauty to admire. Walking through the centre of the town and meandering through the colourful streets to browse the abundance of independent shops, cafes, bakeries and delis is a morning’s activity in itself.
Bridge Street and Earsham Street are of particular interest, the latter of which leads to the unexpected ruins of Bigod Castle (NR35 1AW) tucked away behind a promenade of shops and houses.
The castle itself is unfortunately ruined, but nevertheless impressive. It was built by the aristocratic Bigod family in Norman times (1165) and passed through various hands over the following centuries. Today, the derelict keep walls are still worth a visit and there are various interpretation panels to read during your visit. You can also visit the nearby ‘castle hills’ area of the town (the footpath is signposted in the far corner of the castle green) to take in the views and enjoy a picnic.
Another pretty green space to visit is Falcon Meadow (NR35 1EU), an expansive water meadow owned by the community and located near Bridge Street between Bungay and Ditchingham. It offers a quaint riverside area with plenty of benches to sit on and admire the view, and is a popular place for paddlers, anglers, walkers and wildlife watchers to enjoy the landscape. Outney Common (NR35 1DS) is also just outside of the town centre, with roughly 400 acres of common land to explore and a golf course too which accepts guest visitors.
For culture-lovers, there’s the independent Fisher Theatre in the centre of the town which hosts music gigs, plays, talks and film screenings. Visit their website to see full event listings.
For local walks you are spoilt for choice. You can stay in the town and complete a loop around to see the Castle, river and shops, or wander over the road footbridge to the leafy green surroundings of Outney Common which stretches alongside the golf course. For a longer route, the 10km Bigod's Way loop is highly recommended, heading out from the centre of the town alongside quaint streams, across grazing marshes, through dense woodland and even up some steep hills before returning to where you began. There's more walks available on AllTrails and you can read reviews and see images from other explorers on there too.
If you're arriving by boat, the navigable section of the Broads rivers ends at Geldeston where there's a 24-hour free mooring and the fantastic Locks Inn pub (more information below) to enjoy. There aren't currently any yards nearby to hire motor boats from, other than Hipperson's Boatyard in Beccles which offers dayboats (it is roughly a 45 minute journey from Beccles to Geldeston on the River Waveney although if you stop to admire the views it can take longer!)
One of the best ways to make the most of the quieter, wildlife-rich waters of the Waveney near Bungay and Geldeston is to take to the water by canoe, kayak or paddleboard.
If you have your own craft there are a number of locations you can launch from including the Geldeston 24-hour mooring paddle pontoon, Outney Meadow Caravan Park or Falcon Meadow launch point (near the weir/Bungay Sea Scout building).
Depending on where you start from and how long you’ve got, you can enjoy exploring the backwaters of the Waveney at your own pace or you can aim to complete the 3-hour, 6.8km Bungay Paddle Loop (which can be made shorter if starting from Outney Meadow Caravan Park, or shortened to any length at any point if you turn back on yourself).
You can also launch from Three Rivers at Geldeston and head to the pub after exploring the waterways (it is roughly 25 minutes from their launch point to pub if you go direct).
Luckily if you don’t have your own craft you can still take to the water. For an affordable price, Outney Meadow Caravan and Camping hire out Canadian canoes and Three Rivers have rowing boats, canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to hire too. The Bungay visitor website has more ideas if you need further inspiration.
There’s a lot of choice for eating and drinking in Bungay, from Suffolk Stonehouse and their wood-fired pizzas, to the well-loved Green Dragon pub which is popular with locals and visitors alike. The centre of town also has a selection of places to head for coffee or lunch, including many choices on quaint and colourful Earsham Street.
Venturing outside of Bungay and heading to Geldeston, if you’re someone who appreciates unique and historic pubs, preferring them over the identikit chains cropping up all over the country, then you will fall in love with the Locks Inn.
This community-owned pub is equal parts charming and rugged in its remoteness, only accessible by boat or down a long gravel track from the village. The pub has a fully-equipped kitchen and offers a comprehensive menu of light-bites and main meals, as well as ales and cider sourced from local breweries and cider makers. The location on the water makes it an ideal place to stop off at if you’ve hired a kayak or canoe from Three Rivers after a short paddle.
If you want to sample some of the Waveney valley’s best artisanal produce you should try the award-winning cheeses of Fen Farm Dairy (who produce some of the most highly regarded brie in the whole country), English wine from Flint Vineyard and beer from St Peter’s Brewery in South Elmham.
In addition to a variety of independent places to stay found on Airbnb, plus the rooms found at The Castle Inn pub, one of the most popular ways to stay in the area is to grab your gear and go camping.
Three Rivers Pitch and Paddle, based just outside of Bungay in Geldeston, is a quaint and tranquil site which focuses on offering a varied camping experience. They have pitches which cater to both those who prefer the ‘wilder’ end of the camping spectrum and those who need electric hook-ups too. Three Rivers also welcome caravans and campers, plus there are now new lodges on-site if you want a more luxurious experience. There’s a shop on-site, paddle equipment to hire, areas to launch your own craft from and the full range of amenities that you’d expect from a well-established campsite.
To the north-east of Bungay in neighbouring Kirby Cane you can also find Wardley Hill campsite, whose stunning and wild campsite has a real desire to be as un-manicured and natural as possible. Wildflowers are allowed to grow tall and animals encouraged to thrive, creating a mosaic of back-to-basics camping pitches over a six-acre site in the Waveney Valley. They also offer glamping options too, including bell tents, yurts and a shepherd’s hut.
Another well-known campsite is Outney Meadow which is within walking distance of Bungay town centre plus the attractive green area of Outney Common. They welcome campers (with 45 pitches), campervans and caravans with electric hook-up available plus the regular campsite facilities including toilets and showers. The site nudges up to an attractive and quiet stretch of the River Waveney, perfect to explore by paddle.
One of the main reasons that Bungay is a popular destination to visit is its excellent transport links. If you are travelling by car, the town is just a short 30-minute drive along the B1332 from Norwich. It’s also a very short drive from Beccles, and well-linked to Lowestoft and the coast too. There are paid public car parks in the town at Scales Street, Nethergate Street and Priory Lane, as well as on-street spaces.
It’s also very easy to take public transportation to the town centre, with Bungay conveniently located on the First Bus Charcoal Line (40, 41 and X41) linking Norwich, Stoke Holy Cross, Poringland and Bungay to Halesworth, with ongoing connections available to Southwold and the Suffolk Coast.