Castle Acre is a fine Norfolk village of flint and cobble houses, topped with red-tiled roofs. The ancient village stands on a hill beside a massive ruined Norman castle and the remains of a Cluniac Priory. The castle was founded soon after the Norman conquest by the baronial Warrenes family. The Priory has a beautifully carved west front with magnificent arcading from the 12th century.
Castle Acre Village Green © Travel About Britain
Located along the prehistoric Peddars Way trail, just a few mile's from Swaffham, the area contains a wealth of historic sites and monuments. Today all that remains of the great Norman castle is a 13th-c gateway, with two round towers, spanning Bailey Street and a large earthworks to the east covering about 15 acres. Remnants of materials from the old town walls and ruined castle fortifications can be seen in the walls of several village houses.
Church of St James, Castle Acre © Travel About Britain
On the edge of the village, near the priory is the Perpendicular Church of St James, which is mainly 13th to 15th century. Within there is a noble 26 ft high font cover and a 15th-c hexagonal pulpit, with painted panels showing the four Latin Fathers of the Church.
13th-century Stone Gateway © TAB
The delightful enclosed village green was once part of the castle's bailey and is dramatically entered via the remains of a rubble-stone gateway.
The village has several traditional old pubs and excellent eating places.
Pleasant countryside walks can be found around the village and neighbouring West Acre. Especially along the banks of the River Nar, which is long celebrated for its trout fishing.
To the west of the village is a 5th-c Saxon cemetery.
A stone castle was built here by William de Warenne, son-in-law of William the Conqueror, although the earthworks actually predate this. The castle mound, among the finest in Britain, has been successively occupied by Ancient Britons, Romans, Saxons and Normans.
The Norman stone structure fell into decay in the 14th-c, when it was pillaged by local builders. The crumbling remains are now preserved in well-kept lawns. Run by English Heritage.
Opening times: any reasonable time during daylight hours - Free Entry (Parking charges apply)
Location: Pye's Ln, Castle Acre, King's Lynn PE32 2XB
Castle Acre Priory was established by the de Warenne family, as a Cluniac order in England. It is one of the largest and best preserved monastic sites in England and benefited from its proximity to a major pilgrimage centre at Little Walsingham.
The Cluniac priory was founded by William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey, around 1090, who had been greatly impressed during his visit to the great abbey at Cluny in Burgundy.
Although the number of monks were less than 25, the size of the building is remarkable and the ruins are still extremely impressive. Parts of the cloisters remain and the outlines of the chapter house and church can be traced. The most impressive section is the arcaded west front of the priory church, built of ornately carved stone. The sacristy, lodgings, chapel and the Tudor gate-house are also still visible.
A recreated herb garden contains plants once grown by the monks for medicinal and culinary purposes. Near the entrance is an exhibition with displays of artefacts and an audio tour.
Opening times: See website for details - Admission Charge
Location: Priory Rd, Castle Acre, King's Lynn PE32 2XD
Tel: 0370 333 1181 - Run by English Heritage.