The best things to do on a short break to North Norfolk
Written by Emma Kemsley
Warning! You’re going to want to book a trip to Norfolk by the end of this article. Discover the very best of this fine county…
As the end of year tourism stats filled my inbox in December, something became clear, Norfolk is no longer a well kept secret. Everybody wants a part of this little corner of the UK, and why not? It’s bold, beautiful and offers everything you could want from a short break.
A study by Virgin Holidays recently revealed that it takes us until the age of 31 to really get the most from a holiday, with foodie experiences, whale watching, museums and art galleries and wine tasting being the top five things we most want to do on holiday. Swap whales for seals (though you may spot one if you’re lucky), and Norfolk ticks all of the boxes.
No longer considered a destination for retirees and families with their buckets and spades, Norfolk is having a moment; its tourism economy is now estimated at more than £3billion. With its Instagram worthy locations, farm to fork initiatives and luxury accommodation, it’s clear to see why it’s fast becoming the go-to destination for thirty-something couples, city dwelling families and millennials.
Thanks to this new flourish of tourism, Norfolk’s property market has gone from strength to strength with a demand for second homes and holiday rentals. No stranger to Norfolk’s charm, I wanted to see what was captivating the rest of the UK so I packed my bags and headed to the North Norfolk coast to explore with my tourist hat firmly on – a woolly hat at that, it was freezing!
The best places to stay in Norfolk
There’s no shortage of accommodation in Norfolk, perhaps that’s one of its main appeals. Whether you’re travelling on your own, as a couple, family or group of friends, there’s something to suit all requirements and budgets. For my base on the coast I chose David’s Barn, a luxury two bed barn in Langham, a short distance from Blakeney.
Full of character and charm, the spacious home was ideal for my husband and I and our two friends who joined us, plus our dogs who needless to say enjoyed the lovely beach walks. The open plan kitchen and living area made cooking and socialising enjoyable, cold evenings were spent sipping wine in front of the fire and laughing with friends. The added bonus of a log burner and underfloor heating was just what we needed after exploring the nearby coastal towns of Blakeney and Cley-next-the-Sea. A good local welcoming pub was just two minutes walk away.
With its cobbled exterior, high ceiling, beams and modern features, the property delivered everything I wanted for the idyllic Norfolk getaway I had envisioned – I really didn’t want to leave! This is just one of the many properties available at one the country’s newest luxury holiday rental agencies; SALT, which specialises in boutique retreats along the coast and up to five miles inland.
However, it’s not just beautiful converted barns which makes Norfolk top of the accommodation list. Dotted along the coastline you can find yourself living like a Lord or Lady with a night in a manor house or detoxing at a yoga retreat. There’s plenty of quirky rentals with a story to tell such as the Hippisely Hut in Old Hunstanton, the birthplace of wireless interception during World War I or The Control Tower; a former RAF tower but now a quirky art décor inspired vegetarian bed and breakfast just three miles from Wells-next-the-Sea. We’re offering 25% off a 2 night stay from 1 Jan-23 Mar 2018 at The Control Tower, simply quote ELCTHQ18 at booking!
Things to do in Cley-next-the-Sea, North Norfolk
Make the most of a weekend in North Norfolk with a duel stay along the coast. After a two night stay in Langham, I swapped my luxury barn for the heights of Cley Windmill. A non-profit organisation, the windmill features eight bed and breakfast rooms, six inside the mill and two outside. I stayed in the cosy dog-friendly self-catering Dovecote Cottage, opposite the mill. For something a little different choose the Wheel Room which has a ladder entrance – warning though, it gets booked up fast!
Cley Windmill is the perfect base for those looking to enjoy long walks along the waters edge or experience the classic charms of a true Norfolk coastal village. From the windmill wander through the cobbled alleyways to the village centre where you’ll find an antique store, bookshop, the Pinkfoot Gallery, pottery shop Made in Cley and of course the famous Cley Smokehouse.
When hunger strikes head back to the windmill for a feast at its restaurant. The evening set menu (priced £32.50) changes daily using the best of local produce where possible. Highlights this month include a Cley Smokehouse peppered mackerel salad and Norfolk venison. Reservations are also open to non-guests.
The best restaurants in Norfolk
Its Norfolk’s fine produce that makes the county a foodie’s paradise. In a time where we are becoming more inquisitive about where our food comes from we praise restaurants that focus on using fresh local ingredients. And it comes no fresher than in Norfolk. The coastal and country location means you won’t have to travel far to find seasonal seafood or produce. During our visit we tucked into oysters, mussels and a seafood platter at Season’s in Wells-next-the-Sea; a rustic style sea front restaurant.
It was quite easy to eat and drink my way along the coastline. I sampled local gins (Black Shuck Gin being my favourite) at a number of pub stops. Make sure a visit to the King’s Head in Letheringsett is on your list. Cosy corners, soft buttery leather arm chairs and an impressive selection of local alcohol made it the perfect pub! The Vogue covered wallpaper in the toilets was a nice touch too!
Burnham Market served up tea and cake and I spied the new opening of No. Twenty 9 Bar and Restaurant, on the main green. New to the village’s food scene this spring, opening at the end of February is Socius. The restaurant will open its doors at one of the Foundry Place retail units.
Co-owners Dan Lawrence and Natalie Stuhler have taken their years of catering experience to create a restaurant which will be a foodie experience. The open kitchen will allow diners to watch preparation, before tucking into locally sourced produce which will change with the seasons. Socius will offer both main meals as well as a modern version of British tapas allowing diners to be able to sample the very best of Norfolk’s specialties.
Operations director Natalie said: “People are happy to travel for food. Norfolk has become a foodie hub.”
I couldn’t agree more. Norfolk has something to suit all tastes. From Sunday lunches at a country pub and Cromer’s crab (try cooking your own on a hot stone at Hot Rocks) to fancy coffee at stylish bistros and fine dining options – what’s not to love! For those self-catering or looking to take a piece of Norfolk home, stop by Gurneys Fish Shop in Burnham Market or Back to the Garden in Holt.
Places to visit in North Norfolk
It’s not just the five-star accommodation and some of the best food in the UK that makes this part of East Anglia a tourist hotspot. Throw into the mix the option of water sports such as paddle boarding and surfing, wildlife tours, art galleries and wine tasting and you can see why there’s no need to jet off to European shores. That’s the beauty of this fine county, it appeals to all. Whether you’re seeking adventure, have a family to entertain or want to enjoy a Champagne and oyster lifestyle, it’s waiting in Norfolk!
“North Norfolk is a stunning area of the UK, and it’s easy to see why the region is fast becoming one of the most sought-after holiday destinations,” says Victoria Schofield, area manager for Norfolk at cottages.com.
“Over the past couple of years, the region has seen a constant growth in tourism, with average bookings per property increasing by over 25 per cent in Fakenham, Horning and Dereham, between 2015 and 2017.”
With the possibility of bumping into the famous faces and maybe even royalty (I celeb spotted a very well-known radio and television presenter), there’s never been a better time for a spontaneous trip!
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Cley Windmill, Cley-next-the-Sea, Holt, Norfolk NR25 7RP Price: prices from £159 per night www.cleywindmill.co.uk | T: 01263 740209
The Control Tower, Bunkers Hill, Egmere, Walsingham NR22 6AZ Price: £110-£130 per room per night based on two people sharing including breakfast. Quote: ELCTHQ18 for 25% off a 2 night stay from 1 Jan-23 Mar 2018 www.controltowerstays.com | Tel:01328 821 574