DISTANCE: 3.5 miles
MAP: OS Landranger 132 (GR 816152)
PARKING: In the pub car park, through the
archway to the left of the building.
In its ancient hilltop setting above the gently
flowing River Nar, Castle Acre is one of Norfolk's most attractive
villages whose centre still has a timeless quality to it.
Its key position as a river crossing point on
the Peddars Way dates back to Roman times, and the picturesque ruins
of its Cluniac priory and castle who its later importance as both
an ecclesiastical and military stronghold.
The walk starts in the village centre, which has
several specialist shops, and then takes in green lanes and paths
on both sides of the river.
It also touches on a large area of pleasant sheep
meadow opened up to the public under a countryside access scheme.
A distant view of the recently-built wind turbine
at Swaffham - the tallest in the country -seems appropriate as a
new slant on ancient technology.
Turn left out of the pub and right through the
13th century Bailey Gate.
Turn left just before the Methodist church to the
castle, founded soon after the Norman conquest of 1066. It now stands
in ruins but the earthworks are among Britain's most impressive.
There is a fine view over the Nar to Swaffham,
with its wind turbine on the skyline.
Skirt the castle, crossing a wooden bridge, up
steps and turning right down steps. Just before a road, climb a
stile to the right following a footpath fingerpost.
Pass a row of cottages on the left, go over a stile
and follow the path round to the left and another stile.
At the road turn right and after 200 yards left
into a lane, following byroad and Nar Valley Way signs.
The road becomes a track heading straight uphill;
at a fork, bear right, over a stile and between overhanging hedges.
Turn right when the path meets a lane, and shortly,
at Newton Mill, go over the bridge and immediately left on a track
to the main road.
Cross the busy A1065 and turn sharp right on the
"dead" bed of the old road. Earth has been piled in a gateway to
keep out cars, but walk round it and ahead for 200 yards.
Turn left on a track which soon bends left and
right then ahead through a gate following a yellow arrow. After
300 yards pass through a gap in a tall hedge. Turn right, still
following a footpath sign, up Winchester Hill with pleasant views
over the valley.
Follow the track downhill, passing Manor House
on the right, and turn right at a lane to the main road.
Turn left past the George and Dragon and right
after 100 yards down a lane signed Castle Acre. Cross the Nar and
where the byroad turns right, go left over a stile into open access
land, there is no clearly-defined path but head diagonally uphill
across the meadow and then retrace your steps back to the castle
From Pub Strolls in Norfolk by Will Martin,
published by Countryside Books, price £7.95.