At first we were disappointed to see that this Norfolk-Suffolk travel guide also covers Cambridge. It isn't in Norfolk or Suffolk, so why does it get a chapter to itself?
We later realised it was probably sensible of the publishers, Insight Guides, to include Cambridge in this guide in their new(ish) Great Breaks series. There's so much to see there and overseas visitors especially will probably want to take in Cambridge if they're visiting Suffolk or Norfolk, so why not?
We can claim to know the area as we live in Cambridgeshire but a few streets away is the Norfolk border. We have to drive through Norfolk and back into Cambridgeshire when we go to the shops! The guide is written by experienced travel and guidebook writer Susie Boulton, who lives in Cambridge, so it's a good choice of author.
The pocket-sized Great Breaks series take a similar approach to the excellent Explore series, also from Insight. They take a destination and break it down into routes. Some of these are walks and some of them tours, which could be done by car or in some cases by bike. In some cases, such as the chapter on Colchester and Constable Country, a route combines a drive with a walk.
It means you don't get the thoroughness of a guidebook when you're dealing with a destination as big as Norfolk and Suffolk (plus Cambridge!) Look in the index, for example, for Stowmarket, which is quite a sizable town that also has the Museum of East Anglian Life nearby – and you won't find it because none of the routes goes near it.
The positive side of this, though, is that if you want to explore a particular town or area, you've a ready-made route suggestion that takes in all the main attractions, without you having to work it all out for yourself. And of course if you want to veer off on a detour you're free to do it.
The book contains 12 routes, including walking tours of both Norwich and Cambridge. Some of the other routes cover Great Yarmouth, Southwold and Around, Bury St Edmunds and Around, Aldeburgh and Around, and The Norfolk Broads. All the most popular places are included, then.
The walking tour of Norwich (below) spreads across seven pages, followed by almost a page of restaurant recommendations. It's a very thorough tour and covers a distance of 2 miles (3 km) and the guide suggests it will take you all day. If you don't have all day then a box picks out six of the highlights that you might want to concentrate on. Another box tells you how to get to Norwich, even mentioning which car park is cheaper near the start of the walk, and recommending an app with an interactive map. It's typical of the thoroughness of these guides.
The book has several other sections, in addition to the main section of the routes. At the front is the inevitable Top Ten list, followed by an Overview (including When to Go), and then a spread on the area's Food and Drink. We were pleased to see a mention for The Nutshell in Bury St Edmunds, which has the distinction of being the smallest pub in the country.
Interspersed throughout the Routes section are other features, covering Birdwatching, the Aldeburgh Festival, and Art and Artists. At the back of the book are other sections covering Active Pursuits (it's a very good part of England for those), Themed Holidays such as Music or Conservation, Practical Information and a list of recommended Accommodation. And all this, including some lovely colour photos, is packed into 128 pages.
Along with Insight's Explore guides, and Frommer's Day by Day guides, we were very impressed by this Great Breaks series, if Norfolk and Suffolk is typical. It's concise, nicely laid-out, has an author who knows the region, and a pleasant guidebook to use. I know because we used it recently when we had some friends visiting, who had never been to Norfolk, so we used it to help plan our visit along the gorgeous North Norfolk Coast. Very highly recommended.
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