To me, Castle Acre village is all about the Castle and The Priory. The Castle is tucked away down a tiny lane, this magnificent historic ruin is a place to ponder, relax and to enjoy the views in the peaceful surroundings.
Even Norfolk’s very own Baroness, Gillian Shephard, (Norfolk’s most prominent politician) testifies that it’s her favourite place too). I totally agree with her.
There is so much to see and do here, you'll easily fill your day!
This impressive medieval ruin in the middle of Norfolk is what remains of a motte and bailey castle, now classed as a Grade 1 listed building.
It was founded by William de Warrene, the 1st Earl of Surrey, in 1070, and within three generations, this family had created the castle, the priory and the ramparts which surround the pretty village of Castle Acre. Not bad for one family!
There was already a settlement here before he arrived, but he chose this site as his Norfolk residence, having already acquired land in Sussex and Yorkshire after fighting at the Battle of Hastings.
His son, William II, inherited the site in 1088 and it was he who enabled the building work to then begin at the Priory.
William III then increased the heights of the ramparts and built the stone walls surrounding the castle.
William III's daughter then became heir and eventually in around 1387 the castle had little use and became derelict.
In 1558 the castle was sold to the 4th Duke of Norfolk and in 1615 it was bought by Sir Edward Coke, whose descendants still own it today, although it is now managed by English Heritage.
As the village sits on both the Peddars Way (the Roman track, and now an important Norfolk Trail) and the River Nar, the Castle and The Priory were strategically placed here as it made life much easier for defence, transportation and travel.
And as you'll notice when you visit, the Castle is in a far greater state of disrepair than Castle Acre Priory, but both are within walking distance of each other, passing the village pubs and tea rooms as you go.
The castle ruin is a wonderful example of a yet another impressive Norfolk 11th century castle in which you are free to just wander around, soaking up the history of this great county, as well taking in the views of the rolling countryside (fairly unusual to see “rolling” countryside in Norfolk).
Visiting here is a fantastic day out, not only because you can spend time at the castle ruins, but you can also go and visit the Priory, a short walk away on the other side of the village.
Fun with the kids? You bet. If you’re here with children, you can let them run loose over the massive ramparts, amongst the deep ditches, around the humps and bumps that were once the castle bailey and up into the main keep. You can easily while away a morning or afternoon here.
And if you're located nearby, a sunny evening amongst the grass humps of the castle bailey is a magical time. As the sun sets over the castle, relaxation sets in and you can find yourself just enjoying the peace and quiet of the English countryside.
Why not make a day of it and visit both the Castle and the Priory at the same time, you won't be disappointed.
But if you're looking for a "real" castle, (just as you'd imagined when a child - 4 square walls and dingy passages), then, as an alternative, I would strongly recommend Castle Rising near Kings Lynn for a spectacular treat. There is also Baconsthorpe Castle in North Norfolk, a fortified building, again set it tranquil surroundings.
The medieval village of Castle Acre has so much to offer. It's a wonderfully pretty, attractive village with an impressive bailey
gate, making you feel as if you are entering an enclosed world, opening
up onto a lovely small village green surrounded by typical Norfolk flint
houses, the church, lovely tea shops and a pub with a Castle and Priory on the side! And it always
seems so unspoilt.
The iconic Bailey Gate forms the entrance to the village and used to be the North gateway into the village.
It's also about 5 minutes away from the lovely Georgian market town of Swaffham.
And it's not far from splendid Palladian stately home of Houghton Hall either.
The circular walks vary in length but all have beautiful scenery. So if you don't want to walk the Peddars Way, then this is an excellent alternative.
Summarising, I would say it's one of the prettiest and most relaxed villages in rural Norfolk, an excellent stopping off point if you're travelling the Peddars Way, and a delightful place full of fascinating history and charm for those wanting to explore Norfolk.