Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path

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Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path
England, UK

This is one of 15 National Trails in England and Wales and, as the name suggests, it combines two long-distance trails – Peddars Way and the Norfolk Coast Path.

The route starts in Suffolk at Knettishall Heath Country Park and follows the route of a Roman road to Holme-next-the-Sea on the north Norfolk coast. Here the Peddars Way meets the Norfolk Coast Path and runs onwards from Hunstanton to Hopton-on-Sea

The two became joined as a ‘Long Distance Path’ in 1986 in a ceremony performed by the Prince of Wales. In 1991 the name ‘Long Distance Path’ changed to National Trail, and became the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path National Trail.

National Trails are renowned for passing through some of the best landscapes and are managed to a very high standard. This trail is no different and the fantastic scenery over the 150-kilometre trail is some of the best in England.

The majority of the Trail runs through the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Brecks, a unique area of forest, heath and low river valleys.

Much of the Peddars Way has existed since Roman times and was built shortly after AD61 to enable troops to move through East Anglia for policing purposes. The route was traditionally supposed to be a haunt of the ghostly East Anglian hound, Black Shuck – however this doesn’t seem to stop plenty of people flocking to its paths year-on-year.

The Norfolk Coast Path, by comparison, is a modern route and was deliberately put together using a network of existing footpaths and newly created ones to link the coastal end of the Peddars Way with Cromer.

The name Peddars Way is actually derived from the Latin “pedester”, which means “on foot”. In spite of this, much of the Peddars Way can be used by cyclists and there is a special route available to horseriders.

Highlights
  • The trail has a mixed history of the old and ancient combined with the new and purposely created to create a unique route
  • One of the more gentle National Trails
  • Traverse one of the most scenic paths in England as you cross from one county to another
Walk Map
About the route
  • Travel

The start of the Peddars Way at Knettishall Heath Country Park can be reached by the Brecks Bus (this service must be booked in advance, up to a week before travelling), or a short taxi ride from Thetford rail station.

This station is the official starting point for anyone undertaking the route by bicycle and can be reached from Norwich bus or rail station.

For anyone looking to take on only part of the route, the Coasthopper bus service runs between Kings Lynn and Cromer and is an excellent aide that calls at almost all of the access points along the Norfolk Coast Path.

To get home after the path, trains run frequently between Cromer/Sheringham (both stations on the trail) and Norwich to serve the Norfolk Coast Path.

If you’re finishing at Hopton-on-Sea, take a short bus ride back to one of these larger stations and then head to Norwich, where there are country-wide connections.

  • Length

In July 2007, pub landlord Graeme McFarquhar completed the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path in an impressive 23.5 hours.

Most long-distance walkers take around seven days to complete the combined route, but we recommend taking a little longer to enjoy all that the route has to offer.

The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path

If you want to extend it even further, the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path is one of four long distance footpaths which, when combined, run all the way from Lyme Regis to Hunstanton and are referred to as the Greater Ridgeway.

At Knettishall Heath the Peddars Way links with the Icknield Way Path to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire.

  • Grade and difficulty of the walk

This combined route is one of the more gentle National Trails, with varied terrain under foot but manageable gradients throughout. The most tiring section is the shingle bank from Cley to Weybourne.

  • Experience

As mentioned, the route is generally level with gentle gradients. Splitting it out over 10 days is recommended for anyone who has not done much long-distance walking and wants to take it slower.

  • Permits

As they are National Trails, there are no permits needed or fees to pay to walk the The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path or any subsections of them.

  • Guided or Self-Guided

There are various companies that provide guided holidays along the Trail. Although it is easy enough to self-navigate, they typically include accommodation booking and baggage transfer services – taking the hassle out of your trip.

That said, most people do choose to go self-guided for more flexibility.  A new baggage handling company – HikeHelp – now offers luggage transfer to individuals hiking the Trail.

National Trails must meet high quality standards and so are all waymarked with the distinctive “acorn” symbol, meaning you can’t go too far wrong. The entire Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path follows a series of defined Rights of Way along which you have a legal right of access.

You can purchase the National Trails official guide book for the route, which includes sections of Ordnance Survey maps and offers information about the walk.

best time to walk

There is no best time to walk the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path, and some people opt to walk in winter, but during the summer the weather will generally be better.

On top of this, the hedgerows are in full blossom and you’ll have longer walking hours. Spring and autumn are the main bird migration periods and also allow you to dodge some of the holiday crowds.

Most long distance walkers walk north along the Peddars Way and then east along the Norfolk Coast path and the guidebook is written as such. However, you can walk it either way as it is signed for both directions.

Although it can be walked in a week, we recommend using the below 10-day itinerary to get the most out of your walk:

Day 1:
Knettishall Heath to Little Cressingham (14.5 miles / 23.5 km)

Day 2:
Little Cressingham to Castle Acre (12.5 miles / 20 km)

Day 3:
Castle Acre to Sedgeford (13.5 miles / 21.5 km)

Day 4:
Sedgeford to Hunstanton (7.5 miles / 12 km)

Day 5:
Hunstanton to Brancaster (10.5 miles / 16.5 km)

Peddars Way at Knettishall Heath

Day 6:
Brancaster to Wells-next-the-Sea (12 miles / 19 km)

Day 7:
Wells-next-the-Sea to Cley-next-the-Sea (10.5 miles / 16.5 km)

Day 8:
Cley-next-the-Sea to Cromer (13 miles / 21 km)

Day 9:
Cromer to Sea Palling(T). 18 miles (29km)

Day 10:
Sea Palling(T) to Hopton-on-Sea(T). 20.5 miles (33km)

10 days to complete the 105 kilometres allows time to stop off in some of the countryside towns or add in a couple of rest days.

There is also no need to complete the trail in one trip, and you can enjoy day walks or one of the many circular walks based on the Trail.

Accommodation

There is plenty of accommodation close to or on the Trail. In the summer season they do tend to fill up, particularly along the coastal section, so it is worth booking ahead.

Previously, many hotels and B&Bs along the coast only offered multi-night stays, and whilst this is still true in places, the introduction of the Coasthopper bus service makes it feasible to stay more than one night in one place using the service to get back to where you left the route.

For those on a budget, the Norfolk Coast Path section has numerous campsites to suit all types of tastes and budgets. Just remember that legally you are not allowed to wild camp on any land without permission, and so you must ask permission of the local landowner or farmer first.

What to do

Whether you want to tag on a few days at the beginning of your trip, along the route or at the end – you won’t be short of entertainment.

There is a huge variety of things to do in Suffolk. For free activities, you need look no further than the two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and 60 nature reserves, including RSPB Minsmere – the home of BBC Springwatch from 2014–16.

As such, Suffolk is the perfect place for outdoor activities such as walking, cycling, bird watching, nature photography, or unwinding on the beach – so why not extend your hike into a two-week holiday.

There are also plenty of attractions in Suffolk, from breathtaking castles and medieval towns, to stately homes and gardens.

Visit the stunning Bury St Edmunds Cathedral, head to Southwold Pier, place your bets at Newmarket Racecourse or dine at one of the many restaurants and bars in Ipswich.

For those who have time to spare in Norfolk, its authentic coastal charm, natural beauty and wealth of local produce-serving pubs will be sure to win you over. You’ll find everything here: from an old-school pier and a traditional British circus to vast fields of purple heather and hidden sandy paths.

Cromer Pier theatre is the last in the world, whilst Holkham Hall is a Palladian masterpiece and the various other castles and Oxburgh Hall are equally impressive. For another slice of history, head to Blickling Hall – the home of Anne Boleyn – or spend some time at Norwich’s ancient market.

At a glance
Skills RequiredHiking, Walking
Difficulty 2/5
Starts at Knettishall, Thetford IP22 2TQ, UK
Finishes at Hopton-on-Sea, Hopton, Great Yarmouth, UK
Length of route 105 Km
Average time to complete 7 - 10 Days
Possible to complete sub-sectionsYes
Highest point 63 metres
Permit requiredNo
Equipment neededPoles if preferred, Trekking gear, walking boots
Countries visited England, UK