I am very excited to finally share my wonderful weekend away in Norfolk, back in September. We spent two days exploring the North Norfolk coast and then one day exploring the Norfolk Broads. We were inspired by a trip to Norfolk because our neighbours have a second home there and frequently spent their time there in the summer. As Covid was very much on the rise again, we made sure to take extra precautions and plan the safest weekend away by renting our own car to avoid public transport, staying in a self-check-in motel with no shared areas and only eating in outdoor areas with plenty of space and social distancing.
To Market, to Market
We woke up bright and early so we could get a good start on the two and a half-hour drive. Starting in London, we made it to Creake Abbey Cafe and Food Hall for an early lunch. As the name suggests, it’s a deli and grocery store offering fresh, local produce as well as some interesting artisan goods. There’s also a cafe alongside side the food hall. Due to Covid, the cafe was not serving food inside but they were offering a limited takeaway/outdoor menu. We found just what we wanted: a picnic box! It was the perfect lunch, consisting of a salad, deli meats and cheeses, sausage and veggies rolls, olives, and some sauces. Even better was the scenery, being a lovely farm stock full of sheep.
After lunch, we drove to the small village of Burnham Market. It’s a beautiful, traditional Georgian village full of that typical English charm. You don’t need to take my word for it though because Burnham Market was voted as one of the “20 most beautiful villages in the UK and Ireland” by Condé Nast Traveler in 2020. It’s really easy to see why.
Walking around the town, you’ll find plenty of small, local treasures like The Hat Shop. They have been in business for over 30 years and offer thousands of hats at any one time. There are a handful of lovely pubs, restaurants, cafes and other shops too.
Hiking Through a Nature Reserve
We left the charming streets of Burnham Market and moved on to Holkham National Nature Reserve. It’s a beautiful area with several types of landscapes. We started off our walk by going through the pinewoods.
Emerging from the pinewoods, we emerge onto a vast, glorious beach. One thing I didn’t quite expect was how windy it was going to be! Wow, that wind is impressive and made for quite a difficult hike along the shore.
After walking along the beach, we hopped back up onto the sand dunes to get a view of both the sand dunes and the salt marshes. And what a spectacular view it was!
Finding My Lobster
We had a very active day and so were extremely tired by the time 5 pm came around. The temperatures really start to cool off in the evening, so we quickly drove to the town of Cromer to get dinner from Rocky Bottoms. Cromer is famous for its crabs (Cromer Crabs), but unfortunately, they had none so we opted for some other gems: oysters and lobster! The lobster was my favourite as it was garlic-grilled (yum!).
Let me take a moment to talk about our accommodation. Keeping in mind that we wanted a Covid-safe environment, we chose The Pig Shed Motel. There is no reception or front desk and you check in using a virtual key enabled on your smartphone. I loved the no-contact check-in and felt very safe here.
Not only was it Covid-safe, but it’s an eco-friendly motel. What makes it eco-friendly? The motel uses a water recovery system, providing water for flushing toilets. In addition, they have solar panels which provide hot water and some electricity to the rooms. Finally, an air-sourced heat pump is used for underfloor heating.
We woke up bright early the next day because we had a special trip that morning. We drove to Morston to take a boat from the quay to Blakeney Point Nature Reserve. Why would we do such a thing? Well, Blakeney Point is home to England’s largest Grey Seal colony! The best way to get a closer look is to book a trip on one of the locally operated ferry trips departing from Morston Quay. We chose Beans Boats and had a great experience.
We arrived bright and early to check-in and were told to wait along the quay. It turned out that the tide was not low enough so we were not going to be able to board the boat yet! It was rather amusing to watch the boat staff wander around and yelling at the sea to lower. Of course, the tide did eventually go down and we boarded with no problems.
Once out on the water, our tour guide gave us a very thorough overview of the area including facts about the industry, the fisherman and of course, the seals! As I mentioned, this is home to grey seals, but there are also common seals as well. Common seals give birth between June and August, and grey seals between November and January. We went in September, so just between birth seasons, however, we did see some still fuzzy teenager seals.
After returning to shore, we walked along the sea wall from Morston to Blakeney (the town). It was a great walk and what we even more neat was seeing the tide get very low. We got to see the vast landscapes of green emerge from the water.
At this point, we were famished. There is something about being by the water that always makes me so hungry! We walked back to the Morston Quay parking lot (and snuck in a cheese pasty purchase) and drove past Blakeney to Wiveton Hall Cafe for lunch. The Hall is a large Jacobian building set beside a farm. There is a vast field with chairs and tables set up for the perfect al fresco dining experience. It’s incredibly casual and is welcome to all sorts of people. Food-wise the menu changes rather frequently but while we were there they had various salads that you could mix on a plate. Once we finished our refreshing lunch we also ran into a mama pig with all her adorable piglets!
From the Hall, we drove to the village of Cley next the Sea, still within the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Historically, it was an important trading port in medieval times but these days it’s the gateway to a beautiful nature reserve.
The most famous and worthwhile attraction in Cley is without a doubt the Cley Marshes. The Marshes are recognised internationally for their importance to rare breeding and visiting birds. Equipped with my windbreakers and binoculars, we went out on the Marshes to locate as many birds as possible.
And we were certainly not the only ones. They were some super prepared and intense birders out here with all their fancy gadgets. I knew we were in for a treat. In fact, there are so many great birds to look out for. I only just got my first pair of “real” binoculars this past year, so I still have a lot to learn about birding and I’m really looking forward to it!
For dinner, I treated Victor to a belated birthday, seafood dinner at The White Horse. We did not want to eat indoors, but we also did not want to be cold, so it was difficult finding the perfect setting. This restaurant fit the bill as they had an outdoor tent with plenty of ventilation and social distancing. In addition, the restaurant is situated on the marshland coastline so we had some lovely views too.
As for the food, we went for the giant seafood platter complete with a half chilled ‘North Sea’ lobster, crayfish & prawn cocktail, smoked salmon, shell-on prawns, Brancaster oysters with shallot vinegar and saffron pickled cockles. We also got some fried calamari and white wine because, why not?
For our third and final day in Norfolk, we left the north coast and went to the Norfolk Broads. The Broads is a national park made up of 125 miles of man-made, navigable lock-free waterways.
The best way to experience the Broads is to go on a boat tour. While there are a couple of companies, we went with the aptly named Broads Tours. They have a few different vessels to choose from and you can also choose the length of the trip.
Needless to say, the Broads are fascinating! There are so many lovely houses along the rivers and lakes, complete with boathouses and all sorts of interesting features. I loved seeing the range of styles. Some parts of the Broads are just forest so it was also so nice to sit back and relax as we cruised smoothly through the brush.
We thoroughly enjoyed our tour. It was extremely relaxing and we also learned about the completely different world of the people living in the Broads. It was then time to start making our way back to London. But before hitting the highway we stopped at The Fur & Feather Inn for some lunch. The Inn is the taproom for Woodforde’s Brewery. It was a gorgeous day so we had no problem sitting outside with a couple of pints (well, half pints because we were about to drive).
And even still, we made one final, final stop at a beach to see if we could catch a glimpse at some seals. I wasn’t able to snap a photo, but indeed we saw seals zooming back and forth along the horizon.
What a beautiful way to end an amazing road trip in Norfolk. This area of England is truly a special place, especially for nature and animal lovers (like me!).
Have you been to Norfolk? Would you visit it?