Friday, May 16, 2008

Attraction Jackson: Bure Valley Railway / Broads Tours

Norfolk is one area of Great Britain well off the beaten track. This area north-east of London is a peaceful spot of unexplored rural solitude. Many people think the "separate" nature of Norfolk is what makes it special... uncrowded beaches, unspoiled fenlands, and small villages.

The Bure Valley Railway is a narrow gauge heritage railway that is run mainly by steam locomotives. It runs for 9 miles between Aylsham and Wroxham, with three intermediate stations. At Aylsham there is a small workshop and model museum, souvenir shop, and a surprisingly good restaurant that serves higher quality sandwiches and light meals. Wroxham, which is the self-proclaimed "Capital of the Norfolk Broads," also has a Souvenir Shop.

The railway has special days as well, which include days for kids with Thomas the Tank Engine, Santa specials, and steam engine driving courses. In the summer you can combine a train ride with a boat tour through the Norfolk Broads, a beautiful protected wild area of fenland and water.

Dave the Protester (my poor dragged-everywhere husband) and I took the combined tour over Easter weekend this year. To start with the train, will enjoy the ride, however, I think adults, unless they are train enthusiasts, will think it's just okay. The scenery isn't that great along the train route, in our opinion, but the seats were comfortable, and it might make a nice diversion to sit and watch the countryside go by if you've been on your feet all day. The trip lasts about 45 minutes.

Dave and I enjoyed the Broads Tour (90 minutes +) much more. From the train exit in Wroxham, you must take a short walk to the boat. One complaint I had is that there didn't seem to be a lot of time to get to the boat. The boat itself is a steam boat era type ride through the waters of the Broads. The scenery is lovely, and you take in some charming homes and wonderful waterscapes. Although we aren't fowl enthusiasts, even we were impressed by the numerous unique varieties of ducks and geese that were pointed out as we went along. There is a pub on board for coffee, a pint, and some light refreshments. All in all, it's an enjoyable diversion, however, we felt that an hour would have been long enough for the boat to see things.

Fares for the train one way are £4.00 for adults, £3.75 for seniors, and £2.75 for children aged 5-16. Return train fares are £6.90 for adults, £6.40 for seniors, and £3.75 for children. The combination train / cruise ticket is £11.00 for adults, £10.00 for seniors, and £7.50 for children. Dogs can go along for £2.00 no matter what ticket you buy.

Aylsham and Wroxham are just north of Norwich. You may phone and book tickets with the Bure Valley Railway on 44 1263 733 858 (in the UK, replace 44 with 0). Additionally, you can find them on the web at:

Marks out of 10 for the train ride: 5

Marks out of 10 for the boat ride: 6

Top Tip!

If you can, avoid taking the last train / boat combo tour. We would have really liked to explore Wroxham a bit, as it looked quite charming in itself, but had to hurry through town to catch the boat, and then back to make the last train to get to our car. There is a Tourist Information Centre in Wroxham along the way from the train to the boat, which would make an ideal place to stop for looking into other attractions and accommodation in the Broads.

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