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  • Writer's pictureGabriella Walker

The Ultimate Norfolk Day Trip Adventure - Oxburgh Hall, Gooderstone Water Gardens & Castle Acre

I love whole days out of the house. When we have one planned I end up waking up really early like a kid at Christmas. There's just something about being able to pack so many amazing things into one day that makes my heart happy.

We get asked a lot about how we plan our Norfolk day trips and the honest answer is that the planning always start with food. We've got a long list of places we're dying to try food wise, either from recommendations or from the amazing Dog Friendly Norfolk website (this site really is a game changer for knowing where is dog friendly without having to call in advance).

We'd heard amazing things about The George & Dragon in Newton near Castle Acre. Fanny Adams Catering took over their kitchen a while ago and we'd been dying to go ever since. So, after bagging a table for 1pm on a Sunday, I set about working out the best places to visit in the local area for before and after, and oh my goodness I struck gold.

We started the morning at Oxburgh Hall, literally arriving for 9.30am as the gates opened. We were the first ones in and had the place to ourselves for a good 20 minutes or so before everyone else arrived. Perfect for taking in the beauty of the hall from the outside and exploring the grounds (the view of the moated hall as you walk through the entrance gate and round the corner will literally take your breath away).

We're both National Trust Members but it's actually rare that we explore more than the grounds as normally (and understandably) inside the properties themselves don't allow dogs. Something was telling us we needed to explore inside here more though so we took turns looking after Luna and enjoying a coffee outside the tearoom while the other went inside...and I'm so glad we did. There's so much history to be discovered, from handwritten letters from Henry VIII to the prison tapestries of Mary Queen of Scots (literally stitched with her own hand while imprisoned by her cousin, Elizabeth I).

On Sundays, inside the Hall doesn't actually open until 11am. After wandering the grounds for about 45 minutes, the crowds started to arrive and we'd been selfishly enjoying having the place to ourselves too much, so decided it was actually the perfect opportunity to leave Oxburgh and come back again later once the Hall itself had opened.

So, we hopped in the car and headed for Gooderstone Water Gardens which is only a 4 minute drive away. We got there for 10.30am when it opens and for the whole time we were there we didn't see another soul.

There's six acres of garden here that sits on a network of waterways (four ponds and a natural trout stream), with 13 bridges creating the most tranquil walking route around the grounds. It's instantly calming being at Gooderstone and from speaking to others who have been, it seems to be a regular occurrence that you get it all to yourself.

There's a nature trail, a Bird Hide, flat grassy paths, lots of seating, mature trees and shrubs with colourful borders - I can imagine that every time you go the garden looks different though as it shimmers in different lighting or ebbs and flows with the seasons. There's even a cafe and a toilet so you absolutely could make a day of it.

We stayed for just under an hour though. Wandering, watching and pondering. Being grounded by the beauty and the calm. We then thought it was best to go back to Oxburgh and brave the crowds inside the Hall. Turns out we hadn't needed to have worried about the busyness though as everyone else had been waiting to go inside the Hall bang on 11am and when we arrived at 11.30, people were already quite far through the network of rooms and corridors, so again, it felt like we got out own little private tour (I'd 100% recommend going on a Sunday and using the timings of our trip as they were accidentally a little bit genius).

It was then time to drive the 20 minutes to The George & Dragon in Newton near Castle Acre for the lunch we'd so excitedly planned this whole day around...and we weren't disappointed.

As soon as we walked into the pub itself we were in love. Low ceilings, dark sumptuous wood, shelves of beautiful old books, open fires and the warmest welcome. We had really high expectations of the food and it most certainly delivered. By far the best Sunday Roast we've had in years. Beautifully cooked meat, loads of delicious veg, crispy roast potatoes and yorkshire pudding, and thick, incredible gravy. The portions are seriously generous and we were stuffed after the mains but we had to order dessert to get the full experience...and they were just as incredible. The service was also amazing. This pub knows what it's doing and my goodness it does it well.

Castle Acre is literally a few minute’s drive from The George & Dragon so we decided to walk off our food coma and do some more exploring. We've been to Castle Acre before and it can absolutely just be a day trip in itself, with two English Heritage sites there and the most gorgeous cafe (Wittles) in the main part of the village.

We'd recommend getting a coffee from Wittles and then wandering the castle ruins (it's an incredible view from the top and so interesting) and then meandering your way to the other side of the village to see the Priory ruins too.

Even with an hour’s drive home, we were still home by 5pm snuggled up by the warmth of the fire with full hearts and big smiling faces from the most amazing day of adventures (all with our gorgeous dog Luna too as absolutely everywhere was dog friendly).

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