Blickling Hall

Enjoy some of the loveliest scenery in Norfolk as you stroll through the grounds of Blickling Hall




6.5 miles (10.4kms)

98ft (30m)

About the walk

For the walker, Blickling Hall is probably the best of the many National Trust properties found in Norfolk. The River Bure meanders pleasantly to the north of its grounds, which are full of shady, mature trees; there is a quiet lake to stroll around and the grounds are full of fascinating buildings and monuments.


A chequered history

The ancient manor of Blickling once belonged to King Harold, who built the first house here. He was defeated at Hastings by William the Conqueror in 1066, who seized Blickling for himself, then passed it to a man who later became Bishop of Thetford. The manor remained in the hands of successive bishops until it passed to a line of soldiers. One of these, Nicholas Dagworth, built a moated house here in the 1390s. Eventually, Blickling came into the possession of Sir John Fastolf, widely believed to be the inspiration for Shakespeare's Falstaff, and then passed to the Boleyn family, where it remained until Anne Boleyn's execution by Henry VIII. The Boleyns lost a good deal of property after Anne's dramatic fall from grace and Blickling eventually came into the hands of the Hobart family in 1616.

The Hobarts made drastic changes, almost completely rebuilding the house between 1618 and 1629. Instead of following the contemporary craze for new Classical architecture, the Hobarts remained firmly traditional, and as a result the house is one of the finest examples of Jacobean architecture in the country. It was designed by Robert Lyminge, who also built Hatfield House, in Essex. The building is constructed of brick with stone dressings, and has a pair of handsome corner towers.

From Russia with love

Blickling is a veritable treasure house. Perhaps its most famous acquisition is the magnificent tapestry that hangs in the Peter-the-Great Room. This belonged to John Hobart, who was described by Horace Walpole as 'painfully transparent'. He therefore appears an odd choice to appoint as Ambassador to Catherine of Russia, but to Russia he went and he seems to have made a success of his posting. It was during this sojourn that he bought the remarkable tapestry depicting the Tsar prancing along on his horse with the carnage of Poltava in the background. The park has its origins in the 18th century and was once much bigger, before financial considerations forced its owners to sell off parcels of it. There was already a lake on the land, but the Hobarts had it enlarged in 1762. They built themselves a racecourse in 1773. It still stands on the Aylsham Road and is known as the Tower House (privately owned). Enjoy the lake and the 4,777 acres (1,935ha) of beautiful woods and gardens, as this walk takes you on a pleasant amble up to the north of the hall.

Walk directions

Go towards the National Trust visitor centre and take the gravel path to its left, past the Buckinghamshire Arms. Continue up the drive, forking right at the tree with a bench around its trunk, and go through the revolving gates into Blickling Park. Keep ahead at a fork and follow the Weavers' Way, eventually to go through a gate into The Beeches. Continue ahead at a crossing of paths along the right-hand field edge. On nearing a house, follow the path right, then left to a lane.

Turn left at the lane, following its winding path until you pass Mill Cottage, complete with mill pond, on your right and Mill Farm on your left. The mixed deciduous Great Wood on your left belongs to the National Trust. Leave the woods and walk through the pretty Bure Valley for about 700yds (640m) until you see a footpath on your left (although the 'Restricted Byway' sign is on the right).

Turn left down this track, with trees and hedgerows on either side. Go up a slope to Bunker's Hill Plantation (also protected by the National Trust), skirting around the edge of this before the footpath merges with a farm track. It eventually comes out onto a road.

Turn left and then right, onto New Road, which is signposted for Cawston and Oulton Street. This wide lane runs as straight as an arrow for about 0.75 miles (1.2km), before reaching a crossroads at the village sign for Oulton Street.

Turn left by the RAF Oulton memorial and its bench on the opposite verge. The lane starts off wide, but soon narrows to a peaceful rural track. Continue along this for 1.5 miles (2.4km), passing through the thin line of trees known as the Oulton Belt and eventually arriving at Abel Heath, a small conservation area owned by the National Trust.

Turn left by the oak tree, then left at the T-junction towards Abel Heath Farm. The lane winds downhill until you reach the red-brick cottages of the little hamlet of Silvergate. You are now on the Weavers' Way long distance footpath. Pass a cemetery on your right and continue until you see St Andrew's Church (partly 14th century, but mostly Victorian). Continue on until you reach the main road.

Turn left, passing the Buckinghamshire Arms and the pretty 18th- and 19th-century estate cottages at the park gates on your right. Continue walking until you see signs for the car park, where you turn right.

Additional information

Paved lanes and some footpaths

Stately house grounds and pretty agricultural land

Dogs must be on lead in grounds of hall

AA Walker's Map 21 North Norfolk Coast

Blickling Hall car park on Aylsham Road (free for NT members)

Visitor centre at Blickling Hall; also in Aylsham town centre

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About the area

Discover Norfolk

The North Norfolk Coast is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and probably the finest of its kind in Europe. Here you’ll find a string of quaint villages and small towns – Holkham, Wells-next-the-Sea and Cley next the Sea are 21st-century favourites, while Sheringham and Cromer are classic examples of a good old-fashioned seaside resort where grand Victorian hotels look out to sea. Further round the coast you'll find Great Yarmouth, one of the most popular resorts in the UK and packed full of amusements, shops and seashore entertainment. And let's not forget Norwich, the region's only city.

Norfolk prides itself on its wealth of historic houses, the most famous being Sandringham, where Her Majesty the Queen and her family spend Christmas. Many of Norfolk’s towns have a particular charm and a strong sense of community. The quiet market towns of Fakenham and Swaffham are prime examples, as well as Thetford, with its popular museum focusing on the TV comedy series Dad’s Army which was filmed in the area.

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