Ten great reasons to visit Diss, Norfolk

Its markets, Mere and museum- Diss has a heritage to be proud of, plus a lot to offer for the future too, says Matthew Sparkes.

Ten great reasons to visit Diss

Its markets, Mere and museum – Diss has a heritage to be proud of, plus a lot to offer for the future too, says Matthew Sparkes.

1 Diss Mere

Many residents believe that Diss actually owes its name to the six-acre lake that sits prominently at its centre. The Saxon word “Disce”, meaning lake, is thought to have gradually mutated over the years to become Diss. It’s quite believable, as the Mere is at the very heart of the town. Its beautiful fountain runs all day, and the flocks of ducks and neighbouring park make this a perfect place to stop.

2 Twelfth century market

Every Friday (or Thursday if a holiday falls then) the high street in Diss is closed to traffic and taken over by traders of all descriptions. Fresh fruit and vegetables are sold alongside cheeses, meats and fish. Clothes, tools and household supplies can also be found in abundance. There’s an extremely long tradition to the event, as the market was first granted its charter in the 12th century by Richard the Lionheart.

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3 Delis aplenty

If eating in, rather than out, Diss can still cater for your every need. Fredricks Fine Foods at Norfolk House Yard gives Norwich and London’s delicatessens a run for their money. A great range of smoked meats and cheeses is on offer, along with fresh fruit and vegetables.

4 Farmers and fleas

As well as the weekly market, each second Saturday brings the local farmers’ market, while the first and third Saturdays of the month are reserved for a flea market. Whether you’re searching for something in particular or just browsing, both are vibrant and fascinating places to trawl through.

5 Food and drink

Despite its relatively small size, there are restaurants in Diss to suit all tastes and all pockets. From the Orient there is Sing Tong Thai, the subcontinent is represented by Diss Tandoori and for traditional English fare there’s CK Steakhouse. Unusually, the latter is based in an industrial unit on the outskirts of town, but don’t let that put you off. The restaurant is owned by the same people behind a fine butchers on Mere Street, so has some of the best cuts of meat in town. Weavers Wine Bar and Eating House on Market Hill is also not to be missed.

6 Diss Museum

For anyone visiting the town for the first time, Diss Museum is an obvious place to start a tour. Based in a converted pair of butchers’ shops, the museum covers the long and fascinating history of the market town throughout the centuries. The frequently changed exhibits give a real sense of the tradition and heritage that have shaped the place and its residents, and volunteer staff also run a grizzly Murder Tour of the town. For more details call the museum on 01379 650618.

7 Historical tour

The Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman once described Diss as the perfect English market town. Coincidentally, another poet who held that position, John Skelton, was a rector here 500 years ago. The Diss and District Society was formed to protect and highlight such historical connections to the town, and has put together a tourist trail called A Stroll around Diss on the Town Trail. The guide can be bought from the museum.

8 Shopping

A casual stroll along Mere Street will take you past many of Diss’ shops, but there is even more to be found if you look closer. Four well-hidden courtyards – Cobbs, Norfolk House, Hales and Wills – are home to numerous boutiques and caf�s. Keep a watchful eye out as you wander and you will find them and their hidden treasures.

9 Weekly auction

If you visit on a Friday or a Saturday, there’s a good chance that there will be an auction on at the TW Gaze auction house. These can vary from jewellery to book auctions, as well as more general sales, but there is always a bargain to be had. Browse the catalogues ahead of time to make your visit coincide with something of interest, as they are all available online at www.twgaze.com

10 Sports and leisure

Diss has been home to a par 70 golf course since 1903, just a short drive from the town centre. Originally it was a nine-hole course but has now been extended to a full 18. It can be an ideal retreat for those who don’t want to join their partners exploring Diss’ extensive shops. Those looking for something slightly more strenuous could head to the Fit Club Diss gym or Diss Swim and Fitness Centre, which also boasts a pool, sauna and steam room.