The village green in Castle Acre
The village green in Castle Acre

A lovely historic village in north Norfolk, Castle Acre stands on a hill above the River Nar, where the ancient Peddars Way crosses the river. At opposite ends of the village stand the ruins of a Norman castle and the equally impressive remains of an 11th-century priory.

Castle Acre Castle is a Norman fortress on a site first used by the Romans. The Normans established a planned town outside the castle walls, and the 13th-century Bailey Gate entrance to the town still stands, astride the modern road into the village.

A teashop on the village green
A picturesque teashop on the village green

At the other end of the village is Castle Acre Priory, an 11th-century Cluniac monastery that is one of the best-preserved and largest monastic sites in the UK. Founded by the powerful Norman noble William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, and his wife Gundrada, around AD 1090, the most impressive part of the abbey is the Prior's Lodging, decorated with flint and chequerwork, and boasting its own chapel and accommodation.

The impressive parish church of St James is 13th century, with a Perpendicular tower, and boasts a richly painted wine-glass pulpit and an ornately decorated 15th-century font cover. There are also medieval misericords set into pews in the chancel.

As of this writing, there is one village pub, the Ostrich Inn, and a pair of tea shops. The Ostrich began as a coaching inn in the 16th century and has stood beside the long village green for over 4 centuries. Perhaps the most famous patron of The Ostrich was Oliver Cromwell's grandmother, who visited in the late 16th century.

Taken as a whole, Castle Acre makes a wonderfully satisfying place to visit. I've been several times and really enjoyed the traditional beauty of the village and the sense of heritage that pervades the area.