Kings Lynn, Norfolk is known locally as Lynn, but before this it was known as Bishop’s Lynn until 1537. This seaport and market town is brimming with history, originating as a settlement as far back as the 10th century. There are many fascinating things to do in Kings Lynn to discover the town’s heritage.
A Maritime History of Kings Lynn
Located on the banks of the River Great Ouse, it makes sense that Kings Lynn would have an important maritime history. During the 14th century, the town became England’s most important port. In the Middle Ages, sea trade with Europe was led by the Hanseatic League of ports which played a large role in the development of Kings Lynn. The town still has two former Hanseatic League warehouses which are the only remaining ones in England. Kings Lynn is notable for having been home to Captain George Vancouver who journeyed the north-west coast of America and founded British Columbia, and the city of Vancouver was named after him.
To discover more about the town’s seafaring past, you can take the Maritime Trail on foot past an array of historic buildings, including old merchants houses and Greyfriars Tower which helped guide sailors navigate their way through The Wash. Make sure to visit the True’s Yard Fisherfolk Museum, housed in the last remaining cottages of Kings Lynn’s North End fishing community.
Things To Do in Kings Lynn
Stories of Lynn
This is a great museum that lets you discover 800 years of Kings Lynn through immersive exhibitions. Visit The Treasury, a dramatic space which displays some of the town’s most treasured artefacts, like the King John Cup, an ornate 14th century drinking vessel. Head to the Old Gaol House where for 400 years, some of the most notorious prisoners were held. Hear the sound of a prisoner being called up to the court, or see the skull of schoolteacher convicted of murder. There is an exciting game where you can learn more about the Hanseatic League, and characters that come to life to tell their stories.
It would be a shame to visit Kings Lynn and not head to Sandringham Estate, the private residence of Queen Elizabeth II. A 15 minute drive from Kings Lynn, the estate is open to the public. You can visit the main ground floor rooms which are regularly used by the Royal Family, or head outside and enjoy the beautiful gardens. Browse the collection of Royal Cars in the Exhibition and Transport Museum, or pick up some fresh homemade produce in the gift shop. Younger visitors will love the woodland play area and sculpture trail.
This late 15th century moated house was built by Sir Edmund Bedingfield and has remained in the same family for over 500 years. It stands within a square moat and the entrance to the building is through the prominent Gatehouse. Make your way around the different rooms and admire the fine decorations that the Bedingfield family have accumulated over the hundreds of years, including Flemish tapestries, neo-Gothic wallpapers, heraldic motifs and heavy oak furniture. Gaze at the beautiful embroideries made by Mary, Queen of Scots during her time in exile. Explore the dining room, library, west drawing room and saloon, or step outside into the walled garden where you’ll find the orchard and kitchen garden.
A trip to this 329 acre working farm is a fun day out for all ages. One of the most popular activities is taking a deer safari where you can get up close and personal with red deer who are more than happy to be fed from your hands. Meet the lambs and bottle feed them, help groom the ponies, or collect fresh eggs that you can take home with you. There are three walking trails around the farm where you can spot an abundance of wildlife and even some historical sites, including a Roman Villa, a Saxon Settlement and St Thomas’ Chapel.
One of the most famous 12th century castles in England, Castle Rising was built around 1140AD. It has served as a hunting lodge and royal residence, and is one the largest and best kept keeps in the country. Climb up to the gatehouse, or explore the lavishly decorated Great Hall. Make sure to visit the remains of the apartments of Queen Isabella, who lived in the castle after the murder of her husband Edward II. Throughout the year there are tons of exciting events at the castle, like historical reenactments, Medieval swordsmanship displays and archery.
Places to Stay in Kings Lynn
The Dukes Head Hotel
Overlooking the historic market square, The Dukes Head Hotel is a characterful yet contemporary hotel, with each room individually designed. Facilities include access to the fitness studio, as well as a choice between relaxed dining or a lively bar and lounge.
Stuart House Hotel
Stuart House Hotel is perfect if you’re looking for somewhere secluded, but still close to the centre of town. The rooms are comfortable and individually styled. You don’t have to travel far for good food either, as there is a lively bar and restaurant serving a varied international menu.
Fairlight Lodge B&B
This B&B is set in a Victorian building with all the comforts of a modern home. Rooms range from doubles and singles, to twins and family suites. The breakfast here is particularly popular and is served fresh to order. Fairlight Lodge is within walking distance to the centre of town.
Places to Eat & Drink in Kings Lynn
Located in a 15th century warehouse overlooking the River Great Ouse, the Riverside Restaurant cooks up locally produced British food with European touches. The restaurant also has a terrace and garden dining area for sunny days.
Soul Cafe and Restaurant
For something a little different, look no further than Soul Cafe and Restaurant which serves authentic, freshly made Carribean food. If you visit on a Friday and Saturday night, the space turns into a dance floor with DJs and live music nights.
This wine bar and bistro is located on the South Quay in Kings Lynn and is a great spot for a relaxed lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Serving homemade dishes made with Norfolk produce, The Rathskeller has a regularly changing menu depending on what’s in season. The bistro also frequently hosts live music and quiz nights.