Things to do
We are still learning about new activities in North Norfolk but here are a few we would recommend.
Wells itself is a great place to while away some time. Enjoy browsing the shops, playing on the Buttlands green, gillying for crabs on the Quay or sampling fish and chips in one of the award winning restaurants. From the Quay stroll the mile along the sea wall to the beach or take the small railway. Once on the beach, experience the beautiful sands, dunes and colourful beach huts fringing the pine woods. Even on winter days you can enjoy the beach by walking along to Holkham only a mile and a half along the coast and having lunch there before returning.
2. Seal trips
Colonies of grey and common seals are found off the North Norfolk coast and subject to sea conditions and tides there are regular trips departing from Morston Quay near Blakeney. We were amazed at the number of seals we found and how close we could get to them. You may also see the birdlife that the area is famous for.
The Holkham estate is found a mile and a half along the coast from Wells and at the heart of its 25,000 acres is the Palladian Hall itself. It is surrounded by a deer park which you can explore by foot or bike (it is possible to hire bikes suitable for all). At the foot of the main approach to the Hall you will find the Victoria – a very well regarded eatery – and if you turn towards the coast here you will find the approach to Holkham beach, a vast expanse of sand and ‘big skies’. There are several shops to browse opposite the Victoria (including an Adnams shop recommended for wine, beer and kitchen paraphernalia) and at Holkham Hall itself. You can also take a boat trip on the lake at the front of the Hall or visit the Walled Garden – a 6 ½ acre revival garden originally laid out in the 1700’s. Numerous events are also staged at the Hall so it’s well worth checking what’s on.
Sandringham is HM the Queen’s Norfolk retreat and is found approximately 20 miles from Wells. You will travel through a number of pretty villages to reach it – we usually pass through Anmer (where if you believe the press the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge now have a home) and on past the royal stud. Needless to say the area is breathtakingly beautiful. Sandringham house is open for you to view a number of rooms and you can walk around the grounds, taking in Sandringham church. There is a large visitor centre where you buy estate produce and we also enjoyed a tractor ride guided tour.
5. Stately homes
North Norfolk has an extraordinary number of stately homes which are well worth a visit. Blickling Hall, Houghton Hall and Somerleyton Hall are all within driving distance. The National Trust’s Blickling Hall hosts the annual Aylsham agricultural show on the August bank holiday which is jam packed with entertainment. The year we went the attractions included the World War II memorial flight which was an added bonus.
Walsingham has been known as a place of pilgrimage since medieval times. It is a picturesque village 4 miles inland from Wells where you will find Roman Catholic and Anglican shrines, the ruins of Walsingham abbey and a number of tea shops. As a family we found it a great day out on the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway, the longest 10 ¼” narrow gauge steam railway in the world. The journey takes about half an hour and from the station and you can walk into Walsingham past Walsingham Farms shop, another good food place. We think the lemon drizzle cake there is one of the best we’ve found!
7. Walking, cycling and birdwatching
There are ample opportunities for enjoying the great outdoors in Norfolk. The Norfolk coastal path passes within a mile of the cottage and runs 42 miles from Hunstanton to Cromer though beautiful countryside. This is only one of several walking routes which combine to make up the Norfolk Trails network for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
Birdwatchers are spoilt for choice with numerous reserves along the coast line such as NWT Cley Marshes, NWT Hickling Broad National Nature Reserve, Holkham Nature Reserve, RSPB Snettisham, RSPB Titchwell Marsh and RSPB Strumpshaw Fen all within driving distance. Wading birds are common, and the Broads are home to the ‘Booming Bittern’.
In addition to the Wells & Walsingham railway, train enthusiasts should also experience the Poppy Line railway running from Sheringham along the coast to Weybourne and through the heathland to Holt. It’s a 10 and ½ mile trip under steam or vintage diesel power and it lives up to its reputation for being known as one of the UK's most scenic heritage railways.
Stop for a while in Holt, an attractive Georgian market town with some lovely independent shops and eateries. We enjoy browsing at Bakers and Larners, a department store packed full of interesting things.
9. The Muckleburgh Collection
If you enjoy military memorabilia you will enjoy a visit to this museum. The main attraction has got to be tank driving but there are a multitude of static exhibits.
Norfolk has a range of attractive open gardens ranging in style from the wildlife rich Pensthorpe, to the formality at a number of stately homes such as Hindringham Hall and Oxburgh hall. If you are interested in more relaxed styling with a water focus try Gooderstone Water Gardens.