If you’re looking for a relaxing mini-break then you couldn’t ask for a more laidback destination than Aylsham.

Packed with charm, the pretty town enjoys the best of both worlds and is within easy reach of vibrant Norwich and the gorgeous north Norfolk coast.

Aylsham is actually one of just a handful of Cittaslow towns in the UK.

Italian for slow city, it’s a movement which emerged in the 1990s, encouraging people to embrace a more mindful, less frenetic pace of life.

As part of that, priorities are caring for the environment, promoting a healthy lifestyle and celebrating the unique character of the local area and its producers and businesses.

It’s little wonder, then, with a focus on quality of life, that last year the Sunday Times once again named Aylsham as one of its best places to live.

And for a taste of that, it makes an excellent destination for a day out or a short break.


Where to stay in Aylsham

If you like your accommodation to have character, how does your very own Rapunzel Tower sound?

Formerly the Earl of Buckinghamshire’s race stand, Blickling Tower, on the nearby National Trust Blickling Estate, makes for a special and luxurious escape.

There’s also a roof terrace, with original features including large arched windows and a quirky spiral staircase.

Set in the Blickling parklands, there are walking and cycling trails to explore – or you could just sit back and drink in the beautiful views.

Other properties nearby are also available as holiday lets through the National Trust, including the grand, 18th century, five bedroom Itteringham Manor and Mill Farm Barn, a rural retreat on the outskirts of the Blickling Estate.

See nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays for details.

Alternatively, right in the heart of Aylsham, in the Market Place, the Ironmongers has eight gorgeous boutique rooms, each named after one of the town's old trades, such as Cobblers and Biscuiteers. See ironmongers-aylsham.co.uk


Where to eat and drink in Aylsham

The town is fast becoming one of Norfolk's food and drink hotspots.

Presiding over the Market Place, the Grade II listed Black Boys Hotel’s illustrious former guests reputedly include Daniel Defoe, Horatio Nelson and Princess Victoria.

Its history can be traced back to the 1470s and it was turned into an inn in the 1650s – although it has also been used as a magistrates court.

As befits its location a short drive from the coast, seafood features prominently on the menu, including Lowestoft skate and Brancaster mussels, but there is something for everyone, including stacked and loaded burgers and inventive veggie options - and its famous Sunday roast with all the trimmings.

Great British Life: Buckinghamshire Arms in Aylsham. Buckinghamshire Arms in Aylsham. (Image: Danielle Booden)Great British Life: Bread Source in Aylsham. Bread Source in Aylsham. (Image: Newsquest Library/Rosie Mills-Smith)

Speaking of Sunday roasts, the ones at nearby sister pub the Bucks Arms at Blickling and also the Saracen's Head at Wolterton are recommended.

Award-winning Norfolk artisan bakery Bread Source’s cinnamon buns are possibly the ultimate breakfast treat – and the residents of Aylsham are lucky enough to have a branch right on their doorstep. And the Old Tea Rooms is loved for its traditional charm.

If you're a fan of wood fired pizza, then you're in the right place: choose from the Proper Pizza Company, Stamp (in, you've guessed it, the former post office) and Lawless Pizza, which pops up in the Market Place every Friday evening from 5pm.

The trio behind the micropub Malt and Mardle in Norwich have recently opened a new place, The Porters Arms, in which was once a telescope shop in Red Lion Street, and you can head to M's for cocktails and tapas.

Great British Life: Matthew Batterbee at his shop Lavenders Blue in Aylsham. Matthew Batterbee at his shop Lavenders Blue in Aylsham. (Image: Denise Bradley)

Where to shop in Aylsham

Aylsham has some gorgeous independent shops, ranging from fashion boutique Amika, to Mana Art which showcases the talents of local artists and The Book Hive, a sister shop to the Norwich branch.

And you never know what treasures might turn up at Keys Auctioneers and Valuers, which marked its 70th anniversary in 2023.

Stock up on provisions at GF White butchers and the gorgeous greengrocers Harvest, which also sells a fabulous range of Norfolk produce from Mrs Temple's cheeses to Oichi kombucha - and stop off at Bon Bon's and Carousel Chocolates for some sweet treats.

Great British Life: Henry Layte at The Book Hive in Aylsham. Henry Layte at The Book Hive in Aylsham. (Image: Sonya Duncan)What to do in (and around) Aylsham

Grab your walking boots, because there is some lovely countryside to explore.

The Weaver’s Way trail – named for the area’s rich textile history – follows a disused railway line from Aylsham to North Walsham.

And because it’s off road, it’s great for cyclists and horse riders too.

Or you can also follow the Bure Valley Walk, a nine-mile path between Aylsham and Wroxham, capital of the Norfolk Broads.

The walking and cycling route runs alongside the Bure Valley Railway line, so you could always let a narrow gauge steam train take the strain if you’d prefer. Aylsham is also a stopping off point on the round-Norfolk Rebellion Way.

Of course, one of Norfolk’s most magnificent houses, Blickling Hall, is a stone's throw away.

The Jacobean house was home to the Boleyn family from 1499 to 1505 and it’s believed that Anne Boleyn’s ghost still roams the corridors.

If you’ve got green fingers, then the gardens are a must-see and don’t miss the beautiful 14th century church of St Michael and All Angels.

There’s also a brilliant secondhand bookshop – and, as this is a National Trust property, cake and scones are mandatory.

Next month we're sending a love letter to Hoveton and Wroxham. Tell us your favourite things about the capital of the Broads - email emma.lee@newsquest.co.uk