Walsingham Abbey, Norfolk

Wander the quiet lanes of some of Norfolk’s prettiest villages and enjoy the snowdrops at Walsingham Abbey

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Once you spot Little Snoring and Great Snoring on a road atlas, it is hard to resist taking the slow road to the coast via these sleepy-sounding villages. Intrigued, I turned off the busy A148 after Fakenham and headed north. It occurred to me that the Snorings may actually be vibrant places that are striving to counter the assumption that nothing much happens here. However, I found that indeed nothing much happens.

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Picture-postcard villages

Like many villages in this area, including Binham, Houghton St Giles and Great Walsingham, the Snorings (particularly Great Snoring) are largely untouched by modern developments. Terraced cottages made of flint and brick, a church and a village green with a red telephone box and charming pictorial village sign come as standard. There’s not an awful lot to do and you won’t find souvenir shops or tearooms, but that is their appeal. Wandering to a church (make sure you visit the church of St Andrew near Little Snoring with its peculiar detached tower) followed by a stroll along a lane and a pint is a very pleasant way to while away an afternoon.

To be a pilgrim

Little Walsingham, on the other hand, is quite different. Here you will find cafés and trinket shops galore along its medieval streets. The village, referred to as England’s Nazareth in tourist literature, became an important pilgrimage destination for Christians across Europe after a local Anglo-Saxon noblewoman had a vision of the house in Nazareth where the Annunciation took place. A replica of the ‘Holy House’ was built in Walsingham, followed by a priory in the 12th century.

Snowdrop walk

In February, Walsingham Abbey’s woodlands are brightened by thousands of snowdrops. The short walk through sycamore woods and across a frosty meadow with views of an 18th-century country house is a peaceful way to start the day. The highlight is undoubtedly the ruins of the Augustinian Priory.

For a longer walk, take a round trip from Walsingham to Houghton St Giles via Great Snoring (about five miles). Traditionally, pilgrims bound for Walsingham walk the final mile from the Slipper Chapel near Houghton St Giles without shoes (hence how the chapel got its name). As a cultural pilgrim, I didn’t feel the need to go barefoot. And I was certainly very grateful for my boots for the stretch on the dismantled railway line, which has been surfaced with gravel. Slipper-less pilgrims beware.

Useful Information

How to get there

Little Walsingham is seven miles north of Fakenham (via Great Snoring). Nearest train stations: Kings Lynn and Sheringham.

Find out more

Walsingham Tourist Information Centre
Shire Hall Museum, Common Place, Walsingham NR27 1YQ
01328 820510

Eat

The Norfolk Riddle
2 Wells Road, Walsingham NR22 6DJ
01328 821903
www.walsinghamfarmsshop.co.uk/NorfolkRiddle.asp
Restaurant set up to support local farmers.

Walsingham Farm Shop
Guild Street, Walsingham NR22 6BU
01328 821877
www.walsinghamfarmshop.co.uk
Offers a superb selection
of local produce.

Stay

St Felix
Knight Street, Walsingham NR22 6DA
01328 820117
Newly decorated cottage/B&B opposite the Shrine of Our Lady.

Nearby

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Binham Priory
0870 3331181
www.english-heritage.org.uk