Summer is almost over but there is still a little haven where to enjoy an enchanting long weekend and recharge your battery after a long difficult year. For those midlifers based in the UK looking for a perfect staycation, the North Norfolk Coast in East Anglia has much to offer: it’s largely rural with an extensive network of rivers and lakes, national parks, some gorgeous beaches and wild bird sanctuaries.
The lovely village of Blakeney, in particular, is a perfect setting to explore the area. Situated on a small hill leading down to the harbour, it has pretty flint cottages (many for holiday rent), shops, cafe’s, restaurants, hotels, pubs and inns.
Crabbing along the Quay
Starting the day with an early morning stroll down by the Quay, it’s an experience visitors will hardly forget. A low mist hovers over the ‘Blakeney Freshes’ – the soulful waterlogged National Trust landscape that characterises the area, made up of about 160 hectares of freshwater grazing marsh.
Dotted with a network of walking trails as far as the eye can see, you can take your pick as to how far you want to venture on any given day. The trails are flat and are easily accessible even for wheelchair users. Here, dog walkers are out in full force and birds are busy nesting during these summer months. Some paddleboarders enjoy a peaceful ride at high tide whilst children wrestle in the silt during low tide.
Getting familiar with the seals
No trip to Blakeney is complete without a boat trip to Blakeney Point to visit the largest grey seal colony in England. Prices and providers are all pretty much the same and well-established (book ahead as they are popular and tide-dependent).
You’ll need to get to Morston Quay – about a mile away – to catch the boat. The trips last about an hour and the boats are open so do bear in mind the weather and bring your binoculars. You’ll definitely see the chubby seals who spend time lying around the pebbly spit eyeing up visitors with curiosity. Over 3000 pups were born last winter.
Other places of interest
From secluded courtyards and neverending beaches to little market towns, there is a place for anyone. in the North Norfolk Coast. Here are a couple of gems not to be missed.
Holkham and Holkham Hall
This is definitely a highlight. Holkham Hall has a significant family history and has been a working farm for centuries. The 18th century home and its grounds are glorious and the one-hour guided tour of the house itself kept us all engaged with its stories past and present. It is still very much lived in and used for entertaining by the family. The Marble Hall is quite spectacular and the house celebrates a rich 400-year heritage which you learn about on the tour.
The Walled Garden is magnificent too. You can spend a day here if you want to make the most of the Hall and Garden. The Holkham National Nature Reserve is a stone’s throw away as is Holkham Bay and a beautiful unspoilt stretch of beach. It’s known for its habitats including marshes, sand dunes, pines and the varied. Don’t be put off if the car park is full as the beach stretches for miles and absorbs all the hoards by the time you find your spot.
Nearby Cley is super lovely, with its flint pebbled cottages tucked away in a maze of little courtyards decorated with hollyhocks. Stumble across the Artemis café and gift shop and enjoy a slice of cake and coffee as you take a break from your walk. Pop into Crabpot Books for a browse, or buy some delicious smoked fish at the Cley Smokehouse. The herring and mackerel are sublime. Just nearby is a gorgeous pottery and jewellery shop all locally produced. Don’t forget to wander over to the Cley Windmill. It’s certainly a beautiful location for a special occasion.
Holt and Sheringham
The little market town of Holt is definitely worth a visit especially if you enjoy perusing antique shops and art galleries. Put aside your map and discover little alleyways where you’ll find hidden courtyards full of independent shops, bakeries and vintage collections housed in higgledy-piggledy rooms. If you’re in search of something a little different, Holt is the place to visit.
Sheringham is a more traditional seaside town and also boasts a heritage steam railway and a family-friendly beach. Colourful beach huts adorn the scenic walk and there is an endless choice of pubs, tea rooms and cafes to choose from. The Sheringham Museum at the Mo houses a fine collection of lifeboats and the displays are informative and interesting. It’s right on the seafront and has great views too.
Where to Eat
This family-run bistro in Blakeney offers a relaxed and delicious evening dining experience. Enjoy seafood or steak, lovely local produce and friendly staff. Don’t miss Angela’s sticky toffee pudding.
Wiveton Hall Outdoor Café
With tables, chairs and cosy huts set out in an idyllic meadow overlooking bales of hay and marshes. this café in Wiveton (a 15-minute gorgeous walk from Blakeney) is a must-see, providing a beautiful setting for breakfast (vegetarian and vegan options available, too), lunch and dinner. A visit to the gardens surrounding the Hall is highly recommended. The Hall is private, but there is a pathway through these wild and wonderful gardens which include a walled kitchen garden and wooded areas. It’s ideal for sunset viewing. No need to book. Just turn up and enjoy yourselves.
The White Horse
Something for all the family and located just up from the Quay in Blakeney. It’s a modern and stylish pub with an impressive beer and wine menu providing accommodation, too (9 bedrooms, all ensuite).
Places to Stay
For somewhere really special, the listed Cley Windmill and its ‘outhouses’ is gorgeous. Each room has a unique character and it’s all super romantic. The ‘outhouses’ just across the courtyard are self-catering.
It’s ideally located just a short walk away from the gorgeous Holkham beach. The food is excellent and everything is local and seasonal. There are 20 bedrooms all individually (and beautifully) decorated to explore.
There are six Blue Flag beaches in North Norfolk: East Runton, West Runton, Cromer, Mundesley, Sea Palling and Sheringham are in the top tier of English beaches in the UK. This means they have the highest quality of water, facilities, environmental education and management, with superb levels of cleanliness and safety.
Check out also Holkham, Cley, Weybourne, Kelling and Wells Next the Sea.