How to make the most of the North Norfolk Coast this summer
Words: Laurie Cleland- Harris
Google “Crowded beach Brighton” and look at the images. Breathtaking, aren’t they?
Residents of London and the South East don’t need sat-nav to find a beach. Brighton is the default setting, and they are programmed like migrant swallows. I too have been pulled by that magnetism. Several hours of motorway staring at like-minded families then abandoning the car on the outskirts of the industrial estates before getting a bus to the seafront only to find that there’s nowhere to sit. Phew. The beach is pebbled. The sea is cold and angry. No dogs, not even yours.
Now, I was brought up on Ladybird Books and Cockleshell Bay. I have images burnt in my head of families sitting on a bus heading to the seaside with buckets and spades.
The Coast Hopper bus of North Norfolk is a grand way of touring the non-commercial coastline and coastal towns. It runs from Kings Lynn to Cromer and back at regular intervals along the coastal road and, with a day ticket, you can hop on and off as you please. It saves on parking, and the whole family can enjoy the views.
Here are some less obvious North Norfolk coastal places to check out from this July:
Old Hunstanton is my regular destination. It has an all summer long dog-friendly beach with a fantastic dog friendly café. My wife Deborah and I have swum there with our doodle Peggy in late September after the incoming tide has been warmed to Mediterranean temperatures over the hot sands. Old Hunstanton also boasts The Neptune, a Michelin starred 18th century coaching inn and is one of the best coastal restaurants in the UK.
Burnham Deepdale has this month and throughout the summer from Thursday to Tuesday, some fantastic shops that will be popping up in beach huts. Each week you’ll discover four new outlets selling everything from luxury toys for your beloved pets, to home décor, and fashion – all lovingly made by local creatives. The shops can be discovered just behind the popular Deepdale Café. Burnham Deepdale is in fact a shopping hub all year around with permanent fixtures such as Fat-Face etc.
Holkham. Here you will find one of the largest nature reserves in the country, which includes the un-spoilt and beautiful beach. But aside from that is Holkham Hall, where it is possible to spend an entire day exploring its wonderful grounds or simply follow the nature trail around the lake while finding out about the local wildlife on the informative boards. The Hall’s café is great for a pit stop, set within an attractive courtyard and next to the gift shop.
Cley. From Thursday 6 July to Sunday 6 August is ‘Cley 17’, where artists and craftsmen and women exhibit work that is site specific to the area. It is held at St Margaret’s Church. After, head to Artemis Homes Antiques and Coffee Shop, where aside from the lovely antiques, you’ll discover a terrace overlooking the marshland. Cley marshes is Norfolk’s Wildlife Trust’s oldest nature reserve and is simply breathtaking. The birds like it here too. Take in the view and take the weight off your feet with some freshly ground coffee, home-baked scones and sausage rolls. Not much beats this café and its location on a hot, sunny day.
Sheringham has its annual carnival running from 29 July starting with hundreds of Harley Davidson motorcycles descending on the town. Visit Ellie’s Ice Cream parlour for a Christmas pudding cone. Make mine extra-large! The Poppy Line North Norfolk Railway steam trains run to Holt, giving a nostalgic experience with panoramic views of the countryside and the sea.
West Runton provided me with my first fix of the North Norfolk seaside. The Beach Café serves fine snacks at reasonable prices. Children can deposit their rock pool critters in the cafe tank. They are released into the wild by cafe staff at the end of the day. Sit outside, overlooking the coastline with coffee and ask yourself if this could be one of the best al-fresco tables in the world. It is what most people have in their heads when they think of the seaside, like the perfect Christmas or the perfect Summer wedding.
North Norfolk has six blue flag beaches including Cromer. No other district in the country has more. Whether it’s Michelin star dining or ice cream served from the back of a Land Rover, you will never be disappointed and you will have a bit of normal Norfolk to remember forever.