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The Norfolk Broads

A haunting, sometimes eerie wilderness of lake and river, reedbed and marsh, huge skies and distant horizons, the Norfolk Broads is the stuff of childhood boating holidays and raucous watery pub crawls, a venue for fishermen and canoeists, hard-bitten sailors and boat-loving folk of all stripes. It's one of the UK's most unique and unusual landscapes, the largest wetland area in the UK and a fabulous breeding-ground for birds and wildlife, but it's been a major tourist destination for the almost a century and is home to some beautifully sited boutique hotels, some great pubs, many of which have accommodation, and the odd country house hotel – though to be honest many people go self-catering, in particular touring the region by boat.

Three main rivers – the Yare, Waveney and Bure and their various tributaries, notably the Thurne and Ant in the north, and the Chet in the south – make up the Broads. They meander across the flatlands and in places swell into wide expanses of water called “broads”, well-established lakes that are in fact man-made – the result of extensive peat-cutting over a thousand years ago. The pits flooded when sea levels rose to create the Broads. National Park status was granted in 1988 and all aspects off the Broads are tightly regulated by the Broads Authority, which has jurisdiction over much of the riverside and marsh and maintains a series of information centres throughout the region, promoting the area but also holding tourism in careful check. It's a delicate balance, and one that's hard to maintain. But this is such a special area, not only for wildlife enthusiasts but for ordinary folk who just love to mess about on boats and spend time on the river, that there's no doubt it will continue to prosper.

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The Norfolk Broads

Lake and river wilderness, huge skies and distant horizons – welcome to one of the UK's most unusual landscapes
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