We have just enjoyed a weekend in North Norfolk, staying in the most picturesque flint cottage – one of Norfolk Country Cottage’s 400 independent holiday cottages dotted across the county. We chose the gorgeous Blacksmith’s Cottage in Great Bircham as our base – it was full of character with its beamed ceilings and woodburner, and was so comfortable, immaculate and well-appointed that we wanted to move in for good! It was just a short stroll to the local pub and village shop/deli, and there was a fantastic view out over farmland at the back. Having never visited North Norfolk before, we were keen to pack as much into our weekend as we could, and luckily the weather cooperated and we could hunt out the best kid-friendly activities on offer.
Here’s our pick of our nine favourite family-friendly things to do in North Norfolk in just one weekend…
1 SEAL WATCHING
This was recommended to us by friends who know Norfolk well, and we booked our seal trip with Beans Boat Trips ahead of our holiday. The trips set off from Morston, and after a short boat ride you arrive off the coast of Blakeney Point where you can see the seals basking on the sandbanks. The crew gave us a great commentary throughout the trip – pointing out things of interest, such as the birds we could see, and an insight into the seals’ behaviour. We were taken past the seals a good few times (the crew reassured us that they’re not disturbed by the boats, rather they’re inquisitive and come out to say hello) and it was incredible to see them so close. All of us loved it – I think I was just as excited and delighted as the twins, age six.
2 BLAKENEY POINT
Our seal trip included an optional stop off at Blakeney Point, a 3 mile sand and shingle spit right at the top of the North Norfolk coast. We only had half an hour there – just enough time for a picnic lunch – before our boat picked us up, but we’d love to go back and explore it more as it’s breathtakingly beautiful. You can walk across from the mainland, or grab a ferry boat to take you. The National Trust has a number of walking routes you can do while you’re there, and the striking lifeboat station is open to visit during the summer months.
The twins are big fans of crabbing (or ‘gillying’ as it’s known in Norfolk) and North Norfolk has a whole host of places to do it, including off the quay at Blakeney or Wells-Next-The-Sea (where we went), at Stiffkey Marshes and at Cromer. We had our crabbing gear (reel, bait and bucket) with us, but there are plenty of places you can pick up what you need. It’s a great way to fill a half hour or so, and we found it’s especially popular when followed by an ice cream.
4 BIRCHAM WINDMILL
This working mill was just down the road from where we were staying, so we couldn’t miss it. It’s been kept as it would have been around 100 years ago, and you can climb the (very steep!) ladders up all five floors to the fans at the top. Not only is there the windmill itself to explore, we also got to watch the sheep being milked (I can highly recommend the sheep’s milk cheese available from the shop), and there’s delicious baked goods to enjoy from the bakery adjoining the mill (where you can pay extra to bake bread yourself). Entry to the bakery, tearoom and gift shop is free, admission charges apply to see the mill, farm animals and play area.
5 BURNHAM MARKET
We didn’t time our trip to Burnham Market brilliantly, and many of the shops and cafes were closed when we got there on Sunday morning, but it was still a lovely place to wander around (plenty of gorgeous front doors to take pics of if you’re as door-obsessed as I am), plus it was great to boggle at the house prices in the estate agent’s window. The kids found a shop with a good selection of pocket-money toys for sale, and we enjoyed a decent Italian coffee at the Tuscan Farm Shop (the only cafe open when we visited). The twins are desperate to go back when the traditional sweet shop (a short walk out of the centre) is open.
6 BTOI SHOP AT HOLKHAM
Ok, this might be more one for me than the kids, but we happened upon the BTOI (Bringing the Outside In) shop in Holkham by chance, and it was full of such a wonderful selection of gorgeous things, from coastal artefacts to handmade pottery, that I can’t resist including it in my list. And actually the twins did quite enjoy looking around, too (honest).
7 HOLKHAM BEACH
It’s got to be one of the most stunning beaches I’ve visited, and it had it all for the kids – sand perfect for sand castles, a shallow river they could play in, the sea itself, sand dunes to run down and explore, and horses to watch galloping up and down the beach. It’s a bit of a trek from the car park, but the walk is flat and easy.
8 FLY A KITE
The wide expanse of sand on Holkham Beach is perfect for kite flying, as there’s so much open space (and less danger of injuring innocent passersby when the kite takes a sudden nose-dive), and we had plenty of breeze to get the kite up. I’ve heard that Brancaster Beach is another great spot for flying a kite.
9 FISH & CHIPS
We went to French’s, on the seafront in Wells-Next-The-Sea and the twins declared it the best fish and chips they’d ever tasted. The rest of us agreed. Even eaten in drizzly rain (ok, heavy rain, then drizzle) they tasted all kinds of awesome.
Fancy your own trip to North Norfolk? The lovely folk at Norfolk Country Cottages have a special offer for Growing Spaces readers…