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Norfolk offers a wide variety of places to visit when you are on your family short breaks UK, such as the stately homes, steam railways, gardens and, of course, the beautiful Norfolk Broads. These places become packed out in the summer, so if you are looking for somewhere a little quieter and a little less busy, why not head to these alternative Norfolk attractions?

Bure Valley Railway

The Bure Valley Railway covers nine miles between Aylsham and Wroxham in the Broads, by a 15-inch narrow-gauge steam railway. The attraction sees 100,000 visitors every year, but as you travel along the railway, looking out over gorgeous Norfolk scenery, you will feel like the only people on the train. The railway is built on the trackbed of the former Great Eastern Railway, which has been in use since 1880, though closed to passengers in 1952. Norfolk County Council turned several disused railway lines into long distance, traffic free footpaths, and the Bure Valley Railway has now been open since 1990.

Castle Acre Priory

At Castle Acre Priory, you can explore the well-preserved remains of the cloister, refectory and chapter house. The English Heritage site in Norfolk is an important historical place, being one of the largest and best-preserved monastic sites in England and dates back to 1090. It was the home of the Cluniac order of monks, and the Cluniac love decoration can be seen throughout the ruins. There is a lot to see at the Priory, such as the church gable, lodgings, as well as the recreated herb garden, which the monks would have used for medicinal and culinary purposes.

Banham Zoo

The award-winning Banham Zoo is a popular family attraction, though even in peak times you can still avoid a lot of the crowds. It is one of the most exciting attractions in the county, with over 2000 animals from around the world set amongst 50 acres of parkland. There are birds, reptiles, and domestic livestock such as llamas and pigs. You can book animal experiences in advance, where you get the chance to feed some of the animals! The zoo also houses more exotic mammals like tigers, monkeys, and sloths.

Felbrigg Hall

Sitting amongst beautiful parkland, Felbrigg Hall is a lovely place at which to spend the day. There are walking trails around the extensive grounds, walled gardens and also the house to explore. The walled garden is considered to be one of the best in East Anglia, and there are many smells in the garden like lavender and mint. There are also some more unusual plants to seek out – just ask the gardeners! The house itself is one of the most elegant in the area, and full of surprises. The stained glass windows date back to the 15th century, and you can make it a challenge to see how many lion motifs you can see in the decoration throughout the house!

Sheringham Park

The landscaped garden of Sheringham Park has woods and stunning coastal views, allowing you to escape there for a few hours. One of the best times to visit is in the summer, as you will have better luck with the weather, but there is also a lot more wildlife to see and hear. Keep an ear out, or woodpeckers in the woodland, skylarks along the clifftop and even snakes basking in the wild garden. The garden is also dog-friendly if they are well behaved, so you enjoy the views of the Norfolk coastline while letting your dog have some exercise!

Image credit: David Prior