Castle Acre
A Fine Example of a Norman Castle

When William the Conqueror won England, Norfolk was the richest and most densely populated area of his new realm and bringing it under his control was of utmost importance.

There was considerable resistance to Norman rule in East Anglia - not least through the lengthy rebellion led by Hereward the Wake - so William installed one of his most loyal barons, William de Warenne, in the area to enforce the Conqueror's peace.

And de Warenne selected Acre, controlling a major route of trade and pilgrimage from the south to Thetford, Bromholm Priory and Walsingham, to build his castle.

But not only that. With rare foresight he included a town, parish church and a monastery in his plans. And while many changes were made over the centuries, much of what was once built can still be seen today.

The motte and bailey castle, built soon after 1066, started life as more of a fortified manor house, protected by earthworks. But during the wars of King Stephen's reign, stronger fortifications were needed and thick walls and towers were added and the earthworks expanded. Huddling in the shadow of the castle, the town was surrounded by more earthworks into which stone gates were set.

The Bailey Gate - built around 1200 - has survived to give us an idea what the Norman town may have looked like. Even today, 800 years later, it still dominates Castle Acre.

After the turbulences of England's first civil war some semblance of peace returned during the reigns of King Henry II and his sons Richard the Lionheart and King John and Castle Acre prospered. When John died in 1216, the town had outgrown its earthwork defences. The medieval Parish Church of St James was built halfway between the castle and the Cluniac priory William de Warenne had established near the town.

Bailey Gate at Castle AcreBailey Gate at Castle Acre

Castle Acre Priory and Castle Guidebook |

Castle Acre Priory & Castle Guidebook

Now the church overlooks the town's main square, which is lined by a pub, restaurant, tea shops and a couple of small stores. And you can spend a pleasant afternoon exploring the ruins of the priory and the remains of William de Warenne's castle after a tasty pub lunch and before enjoying a traditional afternoon tea.

Castle Acre and the Priory are looked after by English Heritage, an organisation that protects, conserves, studies and promotes many of England's most famous historical monuments. Check out this page for opening times and special events in and around Castle Acre.

And if you'd like to find out more about English Castles, then this short guide by Ann Lockhart has lots of useful information and some truly marvellous photos.

castle acre baileyCastle Acre Bailey

Are You Planning a Holiday in Norfolk?

Where You Could Stay

Norfolk has no shortage of fabulous holiday accommodation whether you want to spend time on the beach, love boating or want to explore inland. You may covet a tiny fisherman's cottage like the one in Blakeney we kept returning to. You may like something larger and more modern like a loft overlooking the Norfolk Broads, or the right place for you may be a chic city apartment perfectly placed to explore Norwich...

Holiday Cottages in Norfolk: The Granary, Hingham |

The Granary
Sleeps 4

Holiday Cottages in Norfolk: The Dingle, Cromer  |

The Dingle
Sleeps 9

Holiday Cottages in Norfolk: The Old Stables, Mileham |

The Old Stables
Sleeps 2

To see other holiday cottages in Norfolk click here. Or check out holiday cottages in other parts of England by clicking here.

However, if you fancy a hotel how about some of these...

Hotels Norfolk: The Goldern Lion Hotel, Hunstanton |

The Goldern Lion Hotel

Hotels Norfolk: Blakeney House, Blakeney |

Blakeney House

Hotels Norfolk: Chalk & Cheese, Shouldham |

Chalk & Cheese

To view more hotels in Norfolk click here.

What You Could See and Do

It's next to impossible to be bored in Norfolk, there's just so much to do and see. The list below includes some of our favourite places

  • Explore Norwich with its shops and two cathedrals and pay a visit to Norwich Castle and its teapot museum.
  • Visit Admiral Lord Nelson's birthplace at Burham Thorpe and read the report of the Battle of Trafalgar in a copy of The Times from 1805
  • Spend a day at Sandringham and Castle Rising Castle
  • Take a ride on the Holt to Sheringham Railway and explore the beautiful little town of Holt and the seaside town of Sheringham
  • Explore the ruins of Castle Acre  and Castle Acre Priory
  • Shop in Burnham Market
  • Wander around the small town of Blakeney, explore the church and harbour before making an attempt to reach the seals at Blakeney Point
  • Admire the famous windmill and go birdwatching in Cley-next-the-Sea
  • Be wowed by the rhododendrons in Sheringham Park
  • Visit Anne Boleyn's family home, Blickling Hall, or explore Oxburgh Hall, a fabulous manor house with a moat.
  • Go wildlife spotting while walking through the Cley marshes from Blakeney
  • Or even fish for crabs and wander along the famous pier at Cromer.

For more things to do and see in this beautiful county return from Castle Acre to the Norfolk page.