Winter birdwatching in North Norfolk

Norfolk is one of the UK’s most popular birding counties. And winter is one of the best times to visit. Large numbers of wildfowl, waders, birds of prey and owls come here to spend the winter. Some of the gatherings are truly spectacular. Daylight hours might be short, but there’s plenty to see.

Where to visit for winter birdwatching

One of the reasons North Norfolk is such perfect birding territory is the sheer range of environments in a relatively small space. Along the coast from The Wash to Salthouse, you’ll find sand dunes at Thornham, Holkham and Wells, shingle banks at Blakeney, Cley and Salthouse, fresh marshes at Cley and Salthouse and intertidal mud flats a bit further round at RSPB Snettisham. So, what can you see?

One of the most breath-taking sights is that of the flocks of pink-footed geese visiting from Iceland and Greenland. Estimates on numbers vary from 80,000 to 150,000. Either way, the flocks are vast. The driveway up to Holkham Beach is a great place to spot them. They roost here before flying inland to feed each morning. RSPB Snettisham is another fantastic spot to enjoy this spectacle, alongside flocks of wading birds on the mud flats. Dawn and dusk are the best times to spot them.

These flocks of pink-footed geese often host other species too. Watch out for white-fronted and Greenland white-fronted geese, barnacle geese and Brent geese too.

Pink footed goose in norfolk

The number of geese attracts predators to the same areas. You might spot hen and marsh harriers, peregrines and merlins, all escaping the cold weather further north.

RSPB Titchwell is another fantastic spot to see throngs of geese and waders. You may also be treated to the sight of a flock of snow bunting. These tiny birds can be hard to spot when they’re feeding on the ground as they blend in so well with the pebbles and vegetation. But keep your eye out and you might spot up to sixty in a flock.

Titchwell, and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Cley a short drive along the coast, are two sites which can produce a huge variety of wintering birds. Watch out for bearded tits, pied avocet, ruff, water pipit, water rail, spotted redshank and Cetti’s warbler, amongst others.

Cley Marshes is a must on the list of birdwatching stop offs. The shingle beach, saline lagoons and reed beds support large numbers of wintering waders and wildfowl. See if you can tick off a bittern, marsh harrier or short-eared owl. Large flocks of golden plover and lapwing come in to roost in the evening. Flocks of wigeon can be found grazing on the marshes.

Still need convincing? There are other lesser-known species that regularly visit North Norfolk at this time of year too. Look out for twite, shore larks, waxwings, black brant, great grey shrike, rough-legged buzzard and Arctic redpoll to name but a few.

A visit to Cley Spy

If you’re in the area for the birdlife, a visit to Cley Spy is a must. It’s the largest dedicated optics shop in the UK with binoculars and telescopes galore.

The perfect winter birding break

So, pack up your kit and a thermos of tea and enjoy the sites. What better way to relax after a day out spotting birdlife than to come back to one of our luxury holiday cottages and unwind in warm, comfortable surroundings? All of our cottages are within easy reach of prime birdwatching territory, so those early morning trips out to catch the pink-footed geese leaving their roost for the day will be a piece of cake.

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Winter stargazing in North Norfolk

Norfolk’s big skies can be the perfect canvas for stargazing at any time of the year. But winter’s longer nights bring even more opportunity for a spot of astronomy. Even the casual observer can’t help but be rather humbled by the breath-taking display.

Why is North Norfolk so great for seeing stars?

The North Norfolk coast boasts some of the darkest skies in the country. A 2016 report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) ranked Norfolk as the eighth darkest county in England. North Norfolk was among the top 4 percent of districts, coming 13th out of 320 areas.

The North Norfolk coast has some wonderful small towns and villages, but is still largely rural. This means there’s not much artificial light to pollute the night skies, making the stars easier to see.

If you’re really lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights!

Dark Sky Discovery Sites in Norfolk

We are very lucky that two sites within North Norfolk have been awarded Dark Sky Discovery Site status. This marks them out as amongst the very best places in the country for stargazing, away from local light pollution and with good sightlines of the sky.

The sites at Wiveton Downs and Kelling Heath Holiday Park are both within a short drive of all of our holiday cottages, making them the perfect base for exploring the night sky.

How to find the sites:

Kelling Heath Holiday Park is a set within 300 acres of woodland and heathland. The official Dark Sky Discovery Site is on the sports field. From the main car park by the Village Square, continue along the main road on foot to the left for around 200m. When you come to a track on your right, follow this until you reach the sports field.

Kelling Heath has two star parties each year which attract astronomers from around the UK. The autumn event is thought to be the biggest star party in Europe!

Wiveton Downs is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest running from Glandford to Blakeney. To reach it, travel 1200m south-west from Wiveton village. At the brown sign, turn left over a cattle grid and into the reserve car park. This is a heathland site with some steep slopes, so stay within the gorse perimeter of the carpark and plateau.

Both sites have the highest accolade of being designated ‘two star’ sites. That means you should be able to see all seven stars of the Orion constellation and the Milky Way. Both sites are freely accessible at all times.

Tips for winter stargazing:

  • Check out the weather forecast in advance. The clearer the night, the better the stargazing!
  • Wrap up – thick coat, hat, scarf, gloves. Layers are the answer. Take a blanket too and a thermos of something to keep you warm.
  • Bring a chair. You want to make sure you’re comfortable.
  • Take a torch. Great places for stargazing are very dark!
  • Watch out for uneven ground. It can be a good idea to visit the site in the daytime first to get the lay of the land.
  • Try to visit in a group. It’s safer and more fun. If you don’t have a group, make sure someone knows where you’re going.
  • Take along any stargazing equipment you may have – telescope, binoculars, maybe an app or map of the constellations. But don’t worry if you don’t have anything. The stars will still be stunning enough without.
  • Give your eyes a few minutes to adjust when you reach your viewing spot. Don’t be in too much of a rush.
  • Don’t forget to listen! Without sight as your primary aid, your other senses like hearing, become enhanced. What else will you notice?

So go on! Book a winter break, pack your thermals and a flask of tea and prepare to be inspired. Then head back to one of our cosy cottages and warm up in front of the wood burner. It’s good for the soul.

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Why choose a festive break in North Norfolk?

Who’s starting to get excited about Christmas? We are! We’ve had some beautifully crisp mornings here in Norfolk, and some stunning autumn sunsets to boot. It won’t be long until the mulled wine is flowing and the festive lights are twinkling!

But Christmas can be a bit stressful too. Lots of things to think about, gifts to buy and, sometimes, family politics to negotiate! The perfect antidote to relieve the stress and get your festive season back on track? A short break!

North Norfolk is a great place for a festive break. There’s lots going on in the run up to Christmas to get you in the spirit. Or closet yourselves away in front of a roaring fire in a beautiful holiday cottage on the big day for a cosy celebration to remember.

Need more convincing? Here are a few of our top reasons to book a festive break here in North Norfolk…

Christmas shopping in Norfolk

Forget about buying everything online, or a last-minute dash found the department store. Dedicate some time to enjoying the experience. Visit Burnham Market or Holt for a fantastic array of independent shops. There are some excellent local artisans so you’ll be able to find a really unique gift.

If you time your trip carefully, you’ll be able to take advantage of one of the fantastic pop-up Christmas markets that are coming up.

Need the high street favourites? Head to Norwich and make a day of it. There are all the usual suspects in the modern shopping centres. Or enjoy exploring the Norwich Lanes: a treasure trove of goodies.

Festive entertainment in North Norfolk

People travel from far and wide to visit the Thursford Christmas Spectacular. It really is a sight to behold, but you will need to book in advance. The Cromer Pier Christmas Show is another firm favourite. And the kids (big kids included!) will love the Panto at Sheringham Little Theatre – this year it’s The Wizard of Oz.

Oxford Street doesn’t have the monopoly of Christmas lights switch on celebrations. The Holt celebrations (on the 15th November this year), complete with fireworks, is a fabulously festive evening. A few days later, you can do it all again in Burnham Market!

Soul-soothing time out

If it all gets too much, a bracing winter walk on Holkham beach has restorative powers. Team it with a hot chocolate in front of the wood burner at the Wells beach café and you’ll be ready to plunge back into the festivities in no time.

Pop round to the east coast a take a stroll at Horsey to see seal pups nestled in the sand dunes. Enough to melt even the hardest of hearts! Just make sure you stick to the marked paths so you don’t disturb them.

Are you convinced?

If that all sounds like just your cup of tea, give us a call. We’ll be able to let you know which of our cottages has availability in the coming weeks. A warm welcome awaits!

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Short breaks in North Norfolk – our top picks

North Norfolk is the perfect place for a short break. There’s plenty to see and do, no matter what you’re interested in. Once you’re here, you won’t have to travel very far to experience a whole host of treats. From beautiful beaches to fabulous shopping, we’ve got it all.

We’re based in North Norfolk. All of our beautiful holiday cottages are in North Norfolk. So we consider ourselves pretty knowledgeable on the area. We’ve compiled some of our favourite things to see and do to help you make the most of a short break here. And the best bit? All of these things are within 30 minutes or so of all of our cottages!

If you love walking and nature…

…You’ll be spoilt for choice in North Norfolk! Our coast is some of the most spectacular in the country. We’ve got swathes of sand at Holkham and Wells-next-the-Sea. There’s an abundance of birdlife at Titchwell Marsh. And a boat trip to see the seals at Blakeney point is real treat.

The Norfolk Coast Path provides relatively easy walking along the coast. You can walk to your heart’s content, and then hop on the Coasthopper to get back to your starting point.

Sheringham Park is a beautiful place for a relaxing stroll. Visit during rhododendron season for a truly stunning display. Or explore the grounds of Holkham Hall to catch a glimpse of one of the many park deer.

If you love good food…

…You won’t be disappointed! For an indulgent treat, book a table at the Michelin Star restaurant at Morston Hall. Or try The White Horse at Brancaster for dining with a sea view. You won’t be surprised to find a great selection of fresh seafood – pop in to Cookies Crab Shop in Salthouse or Rocky Bottoms in West Runton.

To experience more fantastic local produce, we love Wiveton Hall Café – but it is closed during the winter season and can get very busy so it’s best to call ahead.

The beauty of a weekend break in a holiday cottage is that you can eat exactly what you want, when you want. Pop into the Blakeney Deli or Byfords in Holt to pick up some tasty local goodies and enjoy a feast in the comfort of your accommodation.

If you want to relax…

…You’ve come to the right place! Aside from the wonderful walking and the wealth of eateries there are plenty of other ways to while away a few hours. Why no visit quaint Burnham Market where you can browse in the independent shops, or even get a massage at The Hoste.

If retail therapy is your thing, head to Holt. There are some wonderful little shops and galleries including a good range of designer outfits for all occasions. A real hidden gem is Bayfield Hall Antiques, just outside Holt. Rumoured to be a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, it’s a real treasure trove.

And no trip would be complete without a wonderful slice of cake in front of the wood burner at Wells beach café. Sheer bliss!

For a break with the children…

…Look no further than North Norfolk. If the sandy beaches aren’t enough, there are plenty of other things to keep the little ones entertained. Sticking by the coast, crabbing off Cromer Pier will keep them entertained for hours, or head to West Runton for rock pools galore.

Amazona Zoo in Cromer is a popular day out. As is Pensthorpe Natural Park where you’ll find plenty of ducks to feed, as well as one of the most amazing indoor and outdoor play facilities you’ve ever seen!

A train ride on the wonderfully scenic Poppyline is fun – you might even be lucky enough to catch the steam train! And if the weather’s not on your side, there’s always the pool at Splash Leisure Centre in Sheringham, or catch a show on Cromer Pier.

So, we hope that little round up of just a few highlights has inspired you to book a short break with us. A weekend in North Norfolk could be just the trip you deserve!


We have no official affiliation with any of the places mentioned in this article, we just like them and think you will too!

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Dog friendly attractions in North Norfolk

Dogs really are part of the family and when it comes to book your holiday one important consideration is finding dog friendly accommodation as well as things to do while away. Luckily for you North Norfolk is full of dog lovers and your four legged friend will be welcome at a whole host of attractions – meaning no more kennels.  

Bure Valley Trains – Aylsham

The Bure Valley Railway is a great day out for all the family where you’ll be able to take a nostalgic trip on a steam train on Norfolk’s longest narrow gauge railway. Dogs are welcome on the trains and the railway has their own resident Cocker Spaniel called Henry.

Broads Tours – Wroxham

Whether you want to hire your own boat or just take in the sights on a guided tour, Broads Tours offers a great way to experience the diversity of the Norfolk Broads and take in the beautiful scenery. All boats allow dogs and the guided tours offer light refreshments, are wheelchair accessible and have a fully licensed bar on board.

Holkham Beach

A trip to North Norfolk wouldn’t be complete without at least a day at the seaside and Holkham beach stretches for miles between Wells-next-the-Sea and Burnham Overy Staithe. Here you can let your dog off its leash and enjoy the miles of open ground that makes up the Holkham Nature Reserve.


Wells-next-the-Sea is a great place to enjoy a day out at the beach and your dog will be well catered for at the Well’s Beach Café which welcomes dogs inside. The café also has a free Wash n Wag dog wash where you can clean your pet before leaving in the car. Dogs are welcome on the beach at Wells but there are restrictions with a dog free area and protected areas that are roped off to protect nesting birds.


Join the Norfolk Coast Path at Thornham and enjoy a scenic walk along the coast to Old Hunstanton which is a great dog friendly beach. Take the coast hopper bus service back to Thornham and stop off at The Orange Tree pub which offers a great selection of food and drink including dog menu with delicacies such as pig’s ear and bone with marrow.

Holt Country Park

If you’re looking for a day away from the coast then a trip to Holt Country Park lets you get back to nature and explore the pretty woodland of the park. With coloured trails that loop around you’ll be able to enjoy a number of walks in pretty surroundings. Don’t forget to bring a picnic with you as there is no café on site but there are plenty of places where you can eat your picnic.

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Out and about – Festivals, Concerts, Carnivals and more

As the summer gets into full swing there are plenty of wonderful events to look forward to, from concerts and festivals to exhibitions and carnivals we bring you some of the highlights for the coming months. Whether you’re a foodie, a music lover or an art enthusiast, there’s an event for you in North Norfolk.

Open Air Concerts

Take in the beauty of Holkham Estate and listen to the living legend that is Tom Jones while he performs an eclectic mix of songs spanning his five decades of music. With hit songs such as It’s Not Unusual, Kiss, Delilah and What’s New Pussycat, this is your chance to see Tom Jones at a great open air venue on the 23rd of July.

For lovers of Ibiza dance anthems then Classic Ibiza at Blickling Estate is an absolute must this August. Set in the grounds of the stunning Blickling Estate National Trust property, Classic Ibiza (will help transport you to the Balearics and get you up on your feet dancing the night away. The Urban Soul Orchestra will start the evening off with a chill-out set as the sun sets followed by DJ Goldierocks playing the latest Ibiza tracks. A truly unmissable open air concert!

Country Fair

One of the biggest country fairs in the area takes place on the 22nd and 23rd of July at Holkham Estate and promises to be a fun-packed weekend that celebrates life in the countryside. From fast-paced stunt riding and horsemanship to falconry displays and the aerial acrobatics of the Red Arrows, there is something for everyone at Holkham Country Fair.

Carnivals and Regattas

From the 28th of July until the 6th of August the 10 day Wells Carnival takes place which provides a whole host of events organised by a team of local volunteers. The busiest day is Carnival day which this year take’s place on Saturday the 5th of August and includes a parade through the town, fancy dress competitions and music event in the evening.

Blakeney Regatta is another popular local event that includes plenty of fun activities including Gilly catching and sandcastle competitions as well as trying to walk the greasy pole.

Blakeney Point, North Norfolk

Foodies Delight

A late summer treat the North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival takes place on the 2nd and 3rd of September and provides a chance to enjoy great food and drink as well as be entertained by top chefs with live cookery demos. Set in the Walled Garden at Holkham Hall the festival is now in its eighth year and is a wonderful day out for all the family.

Gardens and Art

Take in the beautiful gardens at Houghton Hall which includes a 5 acre walled garden which is split into contrasting ornamental gardens which include: Italian garden, formal rose parterre, fruit and vegetable garden and much more.

Houghton Hall Gardens, North Norfolk

Art lovers will also be well catered for at Houghton with the Richard Long exhibition show piecing the Turner prize winning landscape artists work and adding to the current permanent Long sculpture, Full Moon Circle that was commissioned in 2003.

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