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An Introduction to Walsingham, Norfolk
Walsingham sits in the midst of lush and fertile Norfolk countryside, just four miles in from the glorious North Norfolk coast, directly south of Wells-next-the-Sea. The same distance south is the market town of Fakenham from where good roads fan out to Norwich, the south, and King’s Lynn.
Historical records of the village go back to Saxon times when the village was first established on the banks of the River Stiffkey — it is listed in the Domesday Book under the name of Walsingham Parva. Today’s village incorporates both Little and Great Walsingham, together representing a population of about 800 people.
This is very much a rural village, in touch with the natural rhythms of the seasons. The rich farmland produces corn and sugar beet, wheat and barley, fruit and vegetables — and good grazing for livestock. Many of the farms round here have been in the same families for generations.
It’s a delightful place to visit —so maybe it’s not so surprising that Walsingham has been welcoming visitors from far afield since 1061.
Walsingham holds a unique place in history as the premier place for pilgrimage in England. At its height in medieval times, Walsingham rivalled Canterbury and the great shrines of Europe. Most kings and queens of England made pilgrimages here, from Henry III to Henry VIII. Today, more than 300,000 visitors flock to the village each year to visit the two shrines and experience the deep sense of peace and tranquillity.
But though its fame lies in its religious significance, Walsingham offers many other very good reasons for a visit. The architecture alone is worth the detour. A stunning collection of rare medieval half-timbered jettied buildings, Georgian facades, an 18th century model prison, a Russian Orthodox church in an old railway station, all the way up to East Anglia’s first new-build carbon-neutral church. Take a guided tour to learn more about it. We even have the only Grade I listed loos in England (listed for their ancient walls!).
Loads to do…
There are some excellent independent shops and the award-winning Walsingham Farms Shop. With two pubs, The Norfolk Riddle restaurant, plus several cafés, there are plenty of places to stop for refreshments.
You can go horse riding, walk the Holy Mile, or wade through the snowdrops in the Abbey grounds in early Spring.
Or ride on the Wells & Walsingham Light Railway to visit the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea.
It’s the longest 10 ¼” narrow gauge steam railway in the world.