One of the things that Norfolk is most known for is its windmills and you’ll find many of these iconic structures dotted around the county.
Some were built to drain water from marshes so that the land could be used for farmers, others ground corn into flour to make bread – and at one point there were more than 300 water and windmills in Norfolk!
Although some have now fallen into disrepair or have disappeared completely, many have been restored and can be visited as one of the many things to do in Norfolk during your next short break or holiday.
Horsey Windpump is a Norfolk National Trust site that was built in 1912 and recently restored so that after more than 75 years its famous sails are turning once more. Visitors can climb to the top of the circular building for panoramic views of the surrounding landscape before returning to ground level for a look around the wonderful wildlife gardens where you may well spot a swallowtail butterfly which is unique to this area.
There are a selection of walking trails around Horsey Windpump and dogs on leads can join you in exploring this remote part of Norfolk where the Broads National Park meets the coast. The unique landscape here includes grazing marshes, sand dunes and a beach which is home to a number of grey seals. On your return to Horsey Windpump, there’s a tea room where you can sit and enjoy some refreshments while watching the sails of this famous Norfolk windmill go round.
Address: Horsey, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR29 4EE
Admission cost: £7.15 for adults and £3.85 for children
Stay nearby: Low Farm Barn | Sleeps: 4 guests + 2 dogs
Hardley Windmill is one of many Norfolk windmills that were built during the 19th century to help drain the area’s many marshes and is today the most active mill in operation on the Broads. It sits alongside the River Yare near Reedham and has been restored and renovated to work how it would have done originally with the mill pumping water using sail power.
Hardley Windmill is open to visitors on Mondays and Fridays between April and September when you can climb right to the top of the mill and step out by the sails to admire the view. At other times of the year, you can take a scenic Norfolk walk along the Wherryman’s Way footpath to catch sight of this impressive windmill and it can also be accessed by boat with moorings available. Along with the mill itself, there is a Visitor Centre where you can look around a range of exhibitions that tell the history of Hardley Windmill, discover information on some of the local wildlife that lives in the surrounding marshes and sit down to some coffee and homemade cake.
Address: Hardley, Norwich, Norfolk, NR14 6BU
Admission cost: £3 for adults and £1 for children
Stay nearby: Reedham Riverside | Sleeps: 4 guests + 2 dogs
Located in the small waterside village of the same name, Thurne Mill was originally built in 1820 before falling into disrepair during the 1930s and being restored to its former glory by Bob and Albert Smith in 1950.
Today Thurne Mill is only open on selected dates each year and relies on public support to help keep the sails turning. You can become a friend of Thurne Mill for £10 a year which gives free entry to the nearby Wind Energy Museum at Repps with Bastwick. The museum features a selection of historic wind-powered machines with working demonstrations and a range of hands-on activities for children. On days when the windmill isn’t open, you can look out to it from The Lion pub which is located opposite Thurne Mill with boat moorings available or enjoy the view of it as you sail along the River Thurne.
Address: Marsh Road Repps With Bastwick Great Yarmouth NR29 5JU
Admission cost: Free
Stay nearby: Nutshell | Sleeps: 4 + 1 dog
This brick-built tower drainage mill near Hickling was originally built during the early 19th-century and is now owned and managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Hickling Broad where the windmill is located is now a nature reserve and Marsh Harriers can often be spotted from a specially raised viewing platform at Stubb Mill.
Entrance to the windmill is via the NWT Hickling Broad Visitor Centre and there are a number of walking trails to follow around the nature reserve during your visit to Stubb Mill. You can also take a wildlife watching boat trip from Hickling Broad to spot birds including bitterns and great crested grebes which are native to the area.
Address: NWT Hickling Broad, NR12 0BW
Admission cost: £4.50 (to enter the NWT Hickling Broad Visitor Centre
Stay nearby: Cobble Barn | Sleeps: 6 guests + 2 dogs
Instead of draining water from marshland in the Broads, Bircham Windmill is located in acres of rolling North Norfolk countryside and uses wind power from the nearby coast to mill corn into flour for making bread.
It’s one of only a few remaining windmills of its type in Norfolk and visitors can climb up five circular floors to access the fan deck. There’s lots of interesting information boards and audio commentary to take in as you climb up the winding steps to the top. When the wind allows you can even watch the sails turn and the milling machinery spring to life.
There’s a selection of films showing the restoration of the mill and other things to do here include bread making and visiting the on-site bakery to pick up a range of tasty treats that are all made using the windmill’s flour.
Address: Snettisham Rd, Great Bircham, King's Lynn, PE31 6SJ
Admission cost: £6 for adults and £4 for children
Stay nearby: Great Bircham Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests + 2 dogs
This windmill is located in a peaceful Norfolk village near Downham Market. Denver Windmill was originally built in 1835 and stopped working in 1941 when its sails were struck by lightning. Although it was restored in the 1990s, further damage means that it’s sadly no longer grinding flour but there are plans to get this started once more.
You can still visit the grounds of Denver Windmill where there’s a micropub and cafe serving a range of refreshments including on-tap cider and beer, and homemade cakes and quiche.
Address: 95 Sluice Rd, Downham Market PE38 0DZ
Admission cost: N/A
Stay nearby: Thorpland House | Sleeps: 8 guests + 2 dogs
Norfolk Windmill Trust
There are 21 windmills that are managed by the Norfolk Windmill Trust. All of these buildings can be easily seen from a road or footpath and most of the windmills are open to the public on at least some dates each year. Here are details of a few of the Norfolk windmills that are looked after by the trust:
This Grade II-listed brick tower mill from 1860 is located close to the River Waveney near Diss and was renovated with new working sails in 2010. Billingford Cornmill is open for guided tours on selected dates during the year.
Stracey Arms Drainage Mill
Located on the banks of the River Bure, the Stracey Arms Mill is currently being renovated but guided tours are still available on specific times and dates. A shop and tea rooms are open throughout the year and there is also a paddock of friendly farm animals that kids will love to meet. It’s located just off the main road to Great Yarmouth so is a good choice to stop at if you’re visiting this Norfolk seaside town.
Little Cressingham Mill
This rare, combined water and windmill is located near the River Wissey close to Thetford Forest. Even when the mill itself isn’t open you can enjoy a scenic walk around the local area before calling for refreshments at The Olde Windmill Inn, a characterful 17th-century pub in the pretty village of Great Cressingham.
Stay in an original Norfolk windmill
As well as being able to visit many Norfolk windmills, several have also been renovated into charming holiday homes that you can stay in for a short break or holiday.
Bond Island Windmill
Located on the water near Repps with Bastwick, Bond Island Windmill comes with its own private mooring, dates back around 300 years and has been converted into a 5-star James Bond-themed holiday home with spectacular circular rooms, quirky features and lots of outdoor space where you can relax and enjoy your unique location.
The Old Mill Mattishall
Originally a five-storey cornmill dating back to the middle of the 19th-century, today The Old Mill Mattishall is a rural retreat in the Norfolk countryside with a cosy living room and romantic circular bedroom. There’s a private patio too where you can enjoy unspoilt views over the rolling fields surrounding the property.
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