Norwich's castles and hills

Explore a fine medieval city, discovering famous past residents.




4.5 miles (7.2kms)

0ft (0m)
2hrs 15min

About the walk

The only way to appreciate medieval Norwich fully is on foot. Bronze Age remains have been found here, and there was a Roman town at Caistor St Edmund to the south. But it was during the medieval period that the city enjoyed its golden age.

Building a city

When William the Conqueror arrived in 1066, Norwich was already an important borough and the largest provincial city in England, with its own mint, a thriving market and some light industry. The castle was started in 1067, and work on the stone keep commenced in the first half of the 12th century. The Church was not long in recognising the city's importance and Norwich became the religious centre of East Anglia in 1096, when work began on a cathedral and priory.

By the 14th century, the main part of the city was encased in thick walls, guarded by gates and towers, which meant that access to the city could be restricted – anyone who entered had to pay a toll. By the 15th century, Norwich was the largest walled city in Europe (its 2.5-mile/4km wall enclosed an area greater than that of the City of London) and the most important centre for worsted cloth in the country.

A 16th-century struggle

Rebellion came to Norwich in July 1549 after angry serfs in the county destroyed some of the fences that had been recently erected by Norfolk landowners to enclose common land. One who sympathised with the rebels’ plight was Robert Kett, a wealthy yeoman farmer who, despite his own privileged position, agreed to their demands and offered to lead them. Along with 16,000 rebel followers, Kett set up camp on Mousehold Heath, just to the northeast of Norwich. After negotiations between the rebels and the city authorities failed, Kett used this as a base from which to storm the city. The rebels successfully fought off the government troops, led by the Marquess of Northampton, who were initially sent to quell the uprising. However, they were defeated a month later by an army under the leadership of the Earl of Warwick. Around 3,000 rebels are believed to have died in the final battle at Dussindale, just north of the walled city, while Warwick’s army lost just 250 men. Robert Kett was captured the following day. Following imprisonment in the Tower of London, he was tried for treason and hanged from the walls of Norwich Castle on 7 December, 1549. Robert’s older brother William, who also sided with the rebels, was hanged at Wymondham Abbey the same day.

Walk directions

Start at the tourist information centre, housed in the Forum. This was completed in 2001, built on the site of the library which burned down in 1994. Cross Millennium Plain to visit St Peter Mancroft Church, dating from 1430, then leave by the south door and turn left down Hay Hill and left on to Gentleman's Walk, then right down the art nouveau fantasy of Royal Arcade, built in 1899. From the end of the arcade continue a few yards up Arcade Street to reach Castle Meadow.

Turn right at the castle and left along Farmers' Avenue by the Bell Hotel. Then turn right at the top onto Golden Ball Street, past medieval St John the Baptist Timberhill Church. Go left into Ber Street, left downhill along Thorn Lane. Turn right along Rouen Road, then left into St Julian's Alley and see the church dedicated to the 14th-century recluse.

At the bottom turn right into King Street, admiring Dragon Hall directly opposite, and continue past Wensum Lodge on the left, St Etheldreda’s Church on the right and then the Novi Sad Friendship Bridge on the left to reach Carrow Bridge just off to the left and the remains of ancient Boom Towers visible on both sides of the river. Continue uphill past the junction and turn right up Carrow Hill to climb to another tower and section of city wall.

Turn right into Bracondale and bear right again at Ber Street, then go left into Finkelgate, right on St Catherine's Plain, then right along Surrey Street across traffic lights and past the bus station to St Stephens Street. Turn right and continue along Red Lion Street, finally reaching Castle Meadow again to visit the Castle Museum. From Castle Meadow, opposite the castle entrance, walk down steps to Davey Place, then turn right along Castle Street to reach London Street. Go left down Swan Lane, then right and left at Bedford Street into Bridewell Alley, where houses date from the 17th century. The Bridewell Museum is to your right, and St Andrew's Church a little further on.

Turn right into St Andrew's Street to see St Andrew's Hall and Blackfriars, part of a Dominican friary. Veer left onto Princes Street, where Garsett House (1589) is said to have been built from timbers salvaged from the Spanish Armada. Turn left at the junction with Redwell Street, by St Peter Hungate, and walk down cobbled Elm Hill. This is Norwich at its best, highlighted by 15th-century Pettus House. Take a moment to walk down Towler's Court, to see plaques marking parish boundaries.Continue along Elm Hill to the Church of St Simon and St Jude, and then turn right into Wensum Street and Tombland and the memorial to First World War heroine Edith Cavell. Turn left to go through the Erpingham Gate and head for the cathedral. When you have finished exploring it and have seen Cavell's grave at the southeast side of the cathedral, walk through the cloisters and along Lower Close (the cathedral grounds’ main thoroughfare) to Pull's Ferry.

Return to Lower Close then turn right on Hook's Walk, by playing fields. When you reach Bishopgate turn right, with the Great Hospital and St Helen's Church on your left. At the end of Bishopgate is Bishop Bridge, built in 1340 and the oldest surviving in Norwich.

Retrace your steps over the bridge and turn right by the Red Lion, following the Riverside Walk to Cow Tower, built in 1380 as part of the city's defences. Follow the river path and where it forks just before the Jarrold footbridge, go left to the 13th-century Adam and Eve pub. Pass Bishop's Palace Gate and St Martin at Palace Plain, where the dead of Kett's rebellion of 1549 are buried. At the end of Palace Street, turn left into Tombland, and directly opposite Erpingham Gate turn right into Tombland Alley and right on to Princes Street. At St Andrew's Street, turn right and pass Bridewell Alley on the left before turning left into Exchange Street at the traffic lights, then right again at the Market and back to the Forum.

Additional information

Pavements and footpaths

City buildings

Dogs should be kept on lead

AA Leisure Map 30 Norwich & The Norfolk Broads

Chantry, Theatre Street; or Forum multi-storey, Bethel Street

Plenty around city, including within the Forum

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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.