Ants Bollingbroke-Kent was born and bred in North Norfolk. She lets you in on East Anglia's best kept secrets
North Norfolk, perched on the shoulder of East Anglia, is most famous for its miles of sandy beaches. But this remote corner of England has a cornucopia of other delightful things to see and do. Here’s a potted guide to some of the best.
Run by local artist Mary McCarthy, this 16th century farmhouse is a flower-filled oasis which you won’t want to leave. Gorgeous gardens, fabulous hosts, delicious breakfasts, and staggering distance from the coast and the local watering holes. Rooms are £85 per night (two sharing), or £80 for two nights or more.
What better way to live out your glamping fantasies than in a splendid treehouse secreted on a North Norfolk estate? This is tree-dwelling in luxury: you even get a copper bathtub. Like Glebe, this sylvan spot is right on the coast, near the popular town of Burnham Market. Prices are from £215 (sleeps four) per night.
Locally grown food, an ebullient owner, resplendent views and classy but simple decor make the cafe a favourite North Norfolk eatery of mine. Walk off your lunch by picking some of the farm’s home grown fruit and veg, including raspberries, artichokes and asparagus. Find out about opening times here.
Opened recently to a fanfare of puff and publicity, I have to say that the Gunton Arms does live up to its lofty reputation. It's classy without being snotty, welcoming to locals and ‘foreigners’ alike and stuffed with eye-wateringly valuable artwork. Plus the location, in Gunton Deer Park, is sublime. The head chef’s previous posts include Selfridges and Hix Oyster and Chop. A pedigree place indeed.
An old fashioned pub ideal for a bowl of local mussels after a blustery walk on the marshes. Make sure you get a seat in the bar though, as it’s much cosier than the restaurant. The seafood chowder, oysters and mussels are not to be missed.
If Constable, Miss Marple and Britain in Bloom all collaborated to create the quintessential English village, they’d come up with Heydon. And the Earl Arms, on the edge of the perfect village green, is the quintessential English pub. Old-fashioned, filled with locals and refreshingly devoid of the Farrow & Ball treatment that seems to have beset most English pubs, this is a superb spot to while away a summer’s evening.
The Albatross, Wells-next-the-sea
Moored at Wells Quay, this 113-year-old Dutch cargo ketch was the last sail driven cargo ship in Europe, only retiring from duty in 2000. Now this beautiful old girl serves as a bar, restaurant, live music venue and B&B. There’s an excellent selection of local ales and live music every weekend. If you’ve drunk too much Wherry to walk the gangplank, you can even stay in one of the old cabins.
The Blue Jacket is the sort of place you go in for a nose around, and come out with an empty bank account. Among the locally made artistry there’s wonderful woodwork by Nick Hammond, tantalising textiles by Saffron Paffron and stunning mosaics by Nick’s wife Helen. An empty handed escape isn’t an option. Conveniently, the Blue Jacket has its own B&B and campsite, and is just over the road from The Anchor pub (see above).
Big Blue Sky, situated right on the coast road in Wells, is stuffed with everything imaginable that’s made in Norfolk: soaps, tea-pots, knitwear, doggy treats, books, honey.... all in a beautiful airy space. A great many cuts above your usual souvenir shop.
You couldn’t possibly spend time in North Norfolk and not go to one of its many beaches. My personal favourite is Wells, where you walk out past the row of brightly-painted beach huts, turn left and stroll for miles along a vast swathe of golden sand. Much quieter than neighbouring Holkham beach.
On a summer’s day, at low tide, a walk out to Blakeney Point is pure magic. Start at either Morston or Stiffkey, make sure you’ve studied the tide table and walk across the marshes and out to the point, home to a colony of common and grey seals. You rarely see another soul out here, and on a sunny day, with nothing but sand and sea for miles, there are few places on earth that beat it.
Norfolk is awash with staggeringly grand stately piles: Holkham, Blickling, Heydon, Felbrigg and Houghton being a few. Houghton – seat of the first PM Sir Robert Walpole – as well as being a beautiful house, also has arguably the best walled garden in England. In a state of ruin until 1991, the gardens have since been restored to their former glory. See here for opening times and prices.
Ants Bollingbroke-Kent was born and brought up near Blakeney, on the North Norfolk coast. All her family still live there and she visits regularly.To read more about Ants’ travels see www.theitinerant.co.uk and follow her on Twitter at @AntsBK
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