In 1862 revenues from the Duchy of Cornwall had raised such a large sum of money for its owner, the Prince of Wales – the future King Edward VII – that he was able to buy himself a fine house. He chose Sandringham, set in some 7,000 acres (2,835ha) of beautiful rolling countryside. The house, however, was not at all to his liking, so he set about rebuilding it in a style he felt reflected his status. The result was the rambling Jacobean-style palace in red brick and stone that you can visit today – providing that no member of the royal family is in residence, of course.
Today it is the private property of the Queen, along with much of the surrounding countryside. In 1968 she expressed the wish that the general public should also enjoy the estate and some 600 acres (243ha) of woodland and open heath were set aside as the Sandringham Country Park. Access to the park is free (there is a charge to enter Sandringham Gardens) and visitors can enjoy the peaceful waymarked nature trails, as well as the observation hide to watch the wildlife around Jocelyn’s Wood nature reserve. Visitors to the house and its gardens can also see some of the most spectacular parkland in the country, with an intriguing mixture of formal arrangements and ancient rambling woodland.
When Sandringham was owned by the fun-loving Prince of Wales, the unassuming little railway station at nearby Wolferton saw some of the world’s most powerful monarchs and statesmen pass through the station. In 1898 the track from King’s Lynn was upgraded and two staterooms were added to the station, so that visiting dignitaries could arrive in style. When the railways came under the axe in the 1960s, Wolferton looked set to follow the fate of many other small stations, but one British Rail inspector was so impressed by what he saw that he decided to buy it. Painstaking restoration took place and the waiting rooms were converted into a museum. Unfortunately, the Sandringham estate refused permission for the museum to put up new advertising signs, so in 2001 the owner decided to sell it. It’s now a private house, but the fabric remains and the pretty rust-red ironstone station, easily seen from the road, is close to how it might have looked in the 19th century. There are no rail tracks, and flowers enjoy the place where grunting, hissing steam engines would once have stood.
Cross the road from the car park and bear right on the lane towards Wolferton. The walled gardens of the Old Rectory mark the end of the mixed woodland. Continue straight ahead at the junction, past St Peter's Church. The road bends to the right, passing the old railway gatehouse and cottages (1881) bearing the fleur-de-lis emblem. Stay on this road to make a complete circuit of the village, eventually arriving at Wolferton Station.
After the station, follow the road to the left and go up a hill until you reach the car park for the Dersingham nature reserve and a gate beyond it.
Go through the gate and take the track to your left, signed 'Clifftop Stroll'. The path climbs to a cliff top looking out over a forest, which 6,000 years ago was the seabed (now 1.5miles/2.4km distant). Follow the track until you see the 330yd (302m) circular boardwalk around the bog below you. Walk down the steps to explore the bog walk. Emerging from the boardwalk, take the sandy track to your left until you can bear right onto a path signposted back to Scissors Cross car park. Take the left fork out of the car park and walk along this road to the A149.
Cross the A149 and take the lane opposite, passing a house named The Folly. After a few paces you will see a lane to your left marked 'scenic drive'. Turn left to walk through the gates.
Walk along the drive or take the footpath on the right through Sandringham Country Park. When you see a processional avenue leading to Sandringham House on your right, leave the drive and look for a gap in the trees to your left. Follow the trail past a bench and down some steps, then stay on the yellow trail (waymarked in the opposite direction) as it winds through Jocelyn's Wood before returning to the main drive. Turn left and walk along the drive to the car park and visitor centre.
From the visitor centre, head for the lower car park and pick up the yellow trail again, which follows the main road, but is tucked away behind the trees of Scotch Belt. Cross a lane, then take the road ahead to your left for 200yds (183m) before picking up the path on your right as it passes through Brickkiln Covert.
At the crossroads, where the footpath comes to an end, turn right down a quiet lane with wide verges. You are still in woodland, although the trees here tend to be silver birch rather than the oaks and pines seen earlier. Cross the A149 to reach Scissors Cross.
Marked forest trails and country lanes, some steps
Country park and woodland nature reserve
Dogs should be kept on lead in nature reserves
AA Walker's Map 21 North Norfolk Coast
Scissors Cross car park on road to Wolferton
At Sandringham visitor centre
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
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.