Enjoy a wander around the cobbled medieval quarters of Norwich exploring the architectural and historical legacies of the Paston family, including visiting the site where the world's earliest Valentine letter was delivered.
With the audio tour let Margery Brews Paston entertain you with family dramas, tell you what plants to use to avoid the plague and all about the Queen's visit. Her husband, John Paston III, will also accompany you on the walk and share insights into the Pastons' enterprising life in the city during the Wars of the Roses.
FAMILIES: a buggy friendly walk with a 'Explorer Hunt' activity and family friendly things to do nearby (NB: some need to be pre-booked)
PHOTOGRAPHY: with picturesque cobbled streets, medieval buildings and independent shops there is a photo opportunity around ever corner.
CREATIVITY: as a UNESCO City of Literature, creative expression is the thriving pulse of Norwich and the Paston story offers ways in for those using self expression for wellbeing purposes through to budding writers.
LENGTH: full walk 2.5 miles (4km).
Short route: Elm Hill to Bishopgate.
Medium route: to King Street, ending at the Castle.
Long route: continue through the markets and return to Hungate.
Download a walk map or follow the walk overview on your phone.
TERRAIN: mostly pavements: some uneven or cobbled.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: the start of the walk is a 15 min walk from Norwich station and many buses stop at Tombland,
FACILITIES: City toilets.
Download a page with map and directions. Click arrow above for Word version, button below for pdf.
While you walk listen to the audio guide; access activities for children, see a 3D overview of medieval Norwich and discover more historical context.
Enhance your walk experience
Photography competition: can you capture the spirit of Paston country?
Norwich heritage walk overview
Start at St Peter Hungate Church at the top of Elm Hill.
St Peter Hungate Church was the Norwich parish church of the Pastons, who paid for substantial repairs around 1460. Inside the church are corbels reputed to be of Margaret and John Paston.
Walk down Elm Hill to Strangers' Club, which is about half way down the cobbled hill.
As you will see from the blue plaque on the wall, this was the site of the Pastons' house. It is from here that Margaret Paston wrote many of her letters. Also at this site is where John Paston III received the first Valentine letter written in the English language, from Margery Brews. Elm Hill was the centre of the Pastons' activities in Norwich.
At the bottom of Elm Hill, turn right toward the Cathedral and pass the Maid’s Head Hotel on the corner on the left.
The Maid's Head hotel has stood here since the 13th century. It is mentioned in the Paston Letters and would have been well known to generations of the family.
Walk towards the Cathedral and walk under the main Erpingham Gate into the Cathedral Close.
Note: from 13 July - Oct '21 access into the Cathedral and grounds will be restricted, due to the Dippy exhibition.
The first prominent Paston - Good Judge William Paston - was buried in the cathedral, although no tomb remains to be seen as the chapel was destroyed during the reign of Elizabeth 1st. You will see the remains of the chapel a little later on.
Bear right across the cathedral close and take the path past the statue of Nelson.
Walk past the flint houses until you reach the far side of the close. Take a left and walk down past the herb garden to the square with a green.
At the green take a left towards the cathedral.
To the left through the archway enter the cathedral cloisters (free entry). Here you will also find the cathedral cafe where you can stop for refreshments.
Leave the cloisters and return to the south gate of the cathedral.
Look up at the cathedral spire and see if you can spot any peregrine falcons who like to roost here.
With the south gate in front of you, turn right and continue round the side of the cathedral. Just past the grave of Edith Cavell you will come to the ruined chapel where Judge William Paston was buried.
Keep following the path and leave the Cathedral Close at the bottom exit by the flint wall.
Turn left as you come through the gates and follow Bishopgate round to the left and past the Adam & Eve pub, one of the oldest (and smallest) in the city. Reference is made to it in the 1240s; so it would have been known to the Pastons. Continue down Bishopgate, passing St Martin at Palace Plain Church on your right. At the T-junction you have the option to take a short detour to Whitefrairs Bridge.
Optional detour: walk to Whitefriars Bridge.
The area now in front of you and to your right on the opposite side of the river where the mill now stands is the site of the Whitefriars Priory where Agnes, wife of the first William Paston, and her son Clement were buried.
Turn back and retrace your steps to the junction with Bishopgate.
Continue down Palace Street and back to Tombland, bearing left at the Maid's Head.
Walk past the main cathedral gate you entered before and stop a few hundred yards further in front of the south gate of the Cathedral pictured here. This gate is over 1000 years old. See if you can spot the dragons. Dragons feature strongly in the city's history. The Guild of St George was a powerful institution in medieval Norwich, with members including Judge William Paston and son John Paston.
This is the end of the SHORT route. Continue for the MEDIUM and LONG routes.
Continue onto upper King Street and cross over using the traffic lights on Prince of Wales road into King Street.
Cross over across another junction and continue along King Street. There are some community and independent cafes along King Street where you can get a coffee or lunch.
After walking around 200 yards on King Street you will reach Mountergate on the left. The white house on the corner here was the Tudor house formerly owned by the Heydons, once enemies of the Pastons until Bridget Heydon married William Paston in 1502.
Continue along King Street to Dragon Hall
Dragon Hall is on the site of an impressive merchants' hall owned by Robert Toppes, a friend of the Pastons in the 15th century. The Pastons traded from this part of the river (behind Dragon Hall).
Continue along King Street until you reach the Music House
The Music House was owned by John Paston III and later by William Paston, who put in the windows on the first floor.
Retrace your steps past Music House Lane and take St Julian’s Alley on your left.
You pass St Julian’s Shrine on your left (pictured) before emerging on to Rouen Road. Turn right and walk to the end of the road. Cross the road and continue along Farmers Avenue opposite for a short while, then turn right into the Castle Green gardens. From here you can visit the Castle Museum (pay to enter NB: you currently have to pre-book) or have a picnic in the gardens. For families with children there is a slide and seesaw.
This is the end of the MEDIUM route. Continue for the LONG route and to come full circle.
From the Castle make your way down to Castle Meadow by taking the lift or retracing your steps and continuing down Farmers' Avenue.
Cross over the road and take the passageway with the City of Stories mural (pictured) towards the Royal Arcade. Walk through the Royal Arcade and merge on to Gentleman’s Walk, where you will experience Norwich market, which has been here since medieval times.
Turn right and follow the market until you can see the Guildhall on your left.
This impressive flint fronted building next to the more modern city hall was built in the first half of the 15th century and housed the law courts. The Pastons would have been very familiar with it.
Turn right at Jarrolds, bear left at the junction and keep walking up London Street until you reach St Andrew’s Hill by the Hive bookshop.
Turn left down the hill and at the bottom you will find an open space and a large hall. This is St Andrew’s Hall adjoining Blackfriars Hall. The Pastons paid for roof repairs in both halls, and provided the oak door to St Andrew’s Hall, which carry the crests of the Pastons and the Mautbys (Margaret Paston’s family). As you come away from St Andrew’s Hall, turn left up Princes Street until you reach the junction with Elm Hill, and St Peter Hungate Church – your starting point.
Explore the Paston story further
Things to do nearby
Norwich Cathedral (free)
St Peter's Hungate
Medieval exhibitions, lectures and events.
Norwich Castle (£)
Norman castle with museum, art and activities for children
Iconic covered market selling all sorts including local food and street food stalls.