Make the most of Summer in Norfolk!
For those seeking something different from a seaside holiday, the Norfolk Coast has much to offer. Let Rhiannon Batten be your guide
Sunday 28 August 2011
Why go here?
When summer hits the UK it's the south or south-west coast we tend to flock to, but don't ignore the east.
Along Norfolk's coastline are huge swathes of pale sandy beaches, grassy dunes, and bird-friendly nature reserves. For those who want fairground rides and candyfloss there are traditional seaside resorts too. But the real attraction of Norfolk's coastline is the meeting of sky and sea in a relatively untamed way. If you're a foodie, get your skates on; the Norfolk Food Festival takes place throughout the county from 4 September to 2 October (norfolkfoodfestival.co.uk). One of the highlights is the food-festival-within-a-festival taking place at Holkham Hall on 3 and 4 September (holkham.co.uk). After shopping and snacking your way around stalls of local produce, you can walk off any excess with a stroll along Holkham beach (holkham.co.uk/html/beach).
The great outdoors
With Norfolk's coast designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as far back as 1968 (norfolkcoastaonb.org.uk) it's little surprise that the area is popular with nature lovers. If it's twitching you are after, Titchwell Marsh RSPB Reserve, between Thornham and Brancaster, is one of the most impressive reserves in the country, with marsh harriers and bitterns the star species (rspb.org). Walkers can stride out along the Norfolk Coast Path (nationaltrail.co.uk/peddarsway). Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, it was recently voted the Best Coastal Path Trail in Britain by readers of Coast magazine.
The history trail
The 17th-century Felbrigg Hall, near Cromer (nationaltrust.co.uk) has all the opulent drawing rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms that you would expect of a stately home, but the lovely copperware-filled kitchen and walled garden are the two of the main draws. The Queen's Norfolk retreat, Sandringham House, just outside King's Lynn, is another big attraction, not least in late summer and early autumn when visitors can also take time out to pick their own heritage apple varieties (sandringhamestate.co.uk). For history of a more spiritual kind, make your way to Binham Priory, just inland from Stiffkey (english-heritage.co.uk). It was built as a Benedictine priory, and the nave with its 13th-century west front, now serves as the parish church.
The retail therapy
Not for nothing is Burnham Market, in North Norfolk, known as Chelsea-on-Sea (burnhammarket.co.uk). The village is home to gastropubs, galleries and all manner of shops. Just to the east, in Holkham, is Bringing the Outside In, which sells everything from driftwood hearts to the owner's landscape photographs (bringingtheoutsidein.co.uk). Further east still is Stiffkey Stores, in Stiffkey, a favourite for its mix of homewares and coffee shop treats (stiffkeystores.com). Detour inland for Old Town classic British workwear, in Holt (old-town.co.uk), and St Jude's Prints for prints, stationery and fabrics at Itteringham (stjudesprints. co.uk). Finally, if you've found all the shopping thirsty work, make your way to the Real Ale Shop outside Wells-next-the-Sea to stock up on local beers (therealaleshop.co.uk).
The inside attractions
The Mo Museum reopened in Sheringham last year and tells the story of the town's boat-building history and more in an imaginative and accessible way (sheringhammuseum.co.uk). Also worth a detour is Cromer Museum which, alongside local history displays, has a gallery dedicated to the early 20th-century photographs of pioneering local Olive Edis (museums.norfolk.co.uk). If you've got family in tow, you've just got time to catch one of the Schools Out Summer Seaside Special variety shows at Cromer Pier's Pavilion Theatre. The last one takes place on 2 September (cromer-pier.com). For more family entertainment, head to Bircham Windmill, one of very few remaining working mills in the region. As well as a museum, it's home to sheep milking demos, a bike hire centre and a tearoom (birchamwindmill.co.uk).
The places to eat and drink
Fish and chips might be an obvious coastal culinary highlight in these parts but, for something a bit above and beyond the standard chippie, opt for prawn bisque, a crab sandwich or a lobster salad at Cookies Crab Shop (salthouse.org.uk). Be warned: it closes early – 7pm in summer. For more formal eating there's the White Horse at Brancaster Staithe (whitehorsebrancaster.co.uk), the Neptune at Hunstanton (theneptune.co.uk) or Titchwell Manor hotel, near Brancaster, which has recently undergone a revamp and now offers the smart but relaxed Eating Rooms restaurant alongside its more formal Conservatory restaurant (titchwellmanor.com).
How to get there
Trains take about 1hr 40mins, London to King's Lynn (firstcapitalconnect.co.uk), from where you can pick up the Coasthopper bus service to Cromer (coasthopper.co.uk). To get further east, services from London to Norwich take about two hours (national expresseastanglia.com), with connections to Great Yarmouth, Cromer and Sheringham.
Where to stay
Flying Kiwi Inns (flyingkiwiinns.co.uk) has gastropubs with rooms throughout Norfolk. Deepdale Farm (deepdalefarm.co.uk) for hostels and posh campsite accommodation.
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