I recently got back from an idyllic few days in North Norfolk, somewhere I hadn’t been for years.
My interpretation of the North Norfolk coast stretches for over 70 miles from Winterton-on-Sea in the east to King’s Lynn which lies on the Wash, in the west.
The coastline, part of which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, consists of long and deep sandy beaches, traditional seaside towns, soft glacial cliffs, salt marshes, shingle ridges and sand dunes, which, in places, are all that separates the North Sea from the Norfolk Broads.
Along parts of the Norfolk coast fossils have been found which date back over one million years, and in other places, the flora and fauna are the most diverse of anywhere in England.
The drama here is understated, but I find this coast starkly beautiful and whenever I’m amongst the grasses of the dunes, walking along the vast beaches or exploring one of the pretty market towns, I am filled with a deep sense of well-being.
Where to Stay
I like to seek out delightful self-catering cottages when on my travels, where you can do what you want, just like being at home but more luxurious. I must congratulate myself on finding some of the best in the UK and Europe!!
This laid-back single-storey semi-detached coastal retreat was perfect for a quiet seaside escape.
With luxury touches throughout and beautifully simple and stylish natural interiors that echoed the local landscape, this little abode was in easy walking distance of the harbour and a short walk to the beach.
The welcome pack found in the designer kitchen included Norfolk treats galore. This is one of the best equipped cottages with the highest of standards that I have stayed in.
Where to Visit – in just a few days
The Burnham villages, including the popular Georgian Burnham Market, are situated around the River Burn on the North Norfolk Coast. The ‘seven Burnhams by the sea’ are picture-perfect, unspoilt coastal villages with access to a stunning coastline made up of nature reserves, spectacular beaches and big skies.
Steeped in history connected to the sea and the legacy of Admiral Lord Nelson, there’s lots of interest in and around the Burnhams, with walks between the villages to take you to all the best historical spots.
If you prefer modern-day life, then head for Burnham Market, where we found quirky boutiques, antique shops, galleries, coffee shops, delicatessens and eateries around the village green, a favourite haunt of celebrities taking a short break in Norfolk. There’s even a red phone box that has been converted into a lending library. Everything here is lovely, from the pink shops to the restored cottages.
The other Burnhams are less visited. From the tidal creeks at Burnham Overy Staithe to Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve to Burnham Deepdale, with its round tower church, market with pop-up shops, there’s always something interesting going on.
Holkham Estate with its beach, parkland and stately home are just a five-minute drive away. We spent an hour or so walking along the dunes and taking the fresh air and spotting birdlife around the wetlands. There is a super café, The Lookout, for a rest (and cake).
Holkham Beach is one of the most famous in the area and featured in the closing scenes of the film Shakespeare in Love.
Between the fabulous Holkham beach and the bird sanctuary at Blakeney Point, lies the pretty harbour town of Wells-next-the-Sea.
With a harbour sheltered from the open sea by salt marshes, Wells was once one of the great Tudor ports of East Anglia. Now, the harbour is still used by sailing and crabbing boats and is watched over by a distinctive granary dating from 1904.
Wells town has a Georgian square and a good mix of traditional and contemporary shops.
Wells is also famous for its colourful wooden beach huts, which we found after walking through the pinewoods to beautiful Wells Beach. There were 150 beach huts along the beach, and it was fun to walk along them and pick out a favourite. I couldn’t decide between a raspberry one and a blue and white striped one.
Blakeney, again within the Norfolk Coast AONB, is a charming coastal village with bags of history, its very own nature reserve and an otherworldly watery landscape. Along with Blakeney Point, the nature reserve is home to England’s largest colony of Atlantic Grey seals, one of the most popular North Norfolk and Blakeney attractions.
Blakeney can be busy in summer as it’s a perfect crabbing destination and boat trips take visitors out to Blakeney Point on seal watching tours. For a quieter experience, walk the sea wall between Blakeney and Morston Quay and be blown away by sweeping views of muddy creeks, moored boats and a rich variety of seabirds.
This must be my favourite peaceful discovery along the coast.
Amongst the atmospheric salt marshes there is the remains of an ancient port, which was used - among other things - to unload coal brought down the coast from Newcastle.
The Coal Barn is one of the most photographed landmarks on the North Norfolk coast.
Norfolk is a wonderful year-round hiking destination, especially if, like me, you don’t like hills! There are several national trails throughout Norfolk including:
The Norfolk Coast Path which runs through 84 miles of the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Nature Beauty; you will be thoroughly spoilt with fantastic views and an abundance of wildlife from the cliffs at Hunstanton to the sandy beaches of Hopton-on-Sea.
Peddars Way a 46-mile trail following an ancient road that was refashioned by the Romans, and runs through forests, heaths and low river valleys.
Paston Way is a 22-mile trail that has everything from poppy fields, medieval churches, rolling farmland, quaint villages and glorious beaches. It stretches from Cromer to North Walsham and joins onto Weavers Way walk (for the long-distance walkers!)
The loveliest walk was at Burnham Overy Staithe, taking the footpath that follows the creek along the bank for a mile all the way to truly golden sand.
Where to Eat…just a few recommendations
The Hoste Arms, in Burnham Market – perfect for Sunday lunch showcasing meat and fish from local suppliers and locally brewed beer.
Thornham Deli, in Thornham – stylish, quirky with fresh and tasty food in the café. The busy deli and shop are part of this contemporary roadside development.
Stiffkey Stores, on the Wells road is an inspiring blend of café, general store and interiors shop. Cakes are baked in an oven behind the counter, and you can sit outside in the courtyard or in a couple of cosy beach huts.
The Crab Hut in Brancaster Staithe, only open in the summer months.
The Hero Pub is a laid back, lively and dog-friendly pub set in the beautiful village of Burnham Overy Staithe, just five minutes from Burnham Market.
The White Horse at Brancaster Staithe must be the best place to eat and watch sunsets. They serve the best local fish and shellfish from fishermen whose oysters and mussel beds are situated at the bottom of the garden.
Now, where shall I go on my next little road trip????