Dog-friendly Beaches in North Norfolk

Dogs at Wells

We may well be biased, but we think North Norfolk is one of the very best places to bring your dog on holiday. And one of the reasons is that many of our stunning beaches are dog-friendly.

With summer on its way, we’ve created a list of our top picks for summer fun with your four-legged friend. And if you need somewhere to stay, make sure you check out our dog friendly holiday cottages.

Old Hunstanton Beach

You can walk for miles on golden sands at this dog friendly beach. There are no restrictions, although the beach can get a bit busy in the summer months. It’s a safe beach for paddles and swims and the beach café has doggy treats and water. As the beach faces west, this is also a great place to take in the sunset.

Thornham Beach

Another lovely dog-friendly beach with no restrictions. However, the beach is part of a Norfolk Wildlife Trust Reserve with birds using the beach and dunes for nesting between April and July, so make sure you keep your dog on a lead.

Brancaster Beach

This beauty can get busy in the summer months, but if you take yourself along the sandy beach a little way, there’s plenty of room for running, digging and ball games. There is a small restricted area (1stMay to 30thSeptember), but beyond that, dogs can run free! Just remember to check the tides before you travel – the beach car park can get cut off.

Burnham Overy Staithe Beach

There’s a bit of a walk to this sandy beach, which generally means it’s not too crowded. Your dogs will love it! There are no restrictions, but it’s within Holkham Nature Reserve, so please be careful during nesting times.

Holkham Beach

Holkham Beach

Holkham Beach

With no restrictions and miles of sand, this has to be one of the best dog walking beaches in the country. You can walk along the beach, between the dunes, or take the footpath behind the line of pines which fringe the beach. Just be mindful and keep your dogs on a lead if you take the inland path. It’s a National Nature Reserve with breeding birds between April and July.

Wells-next-the-Sea Beach

Yet another beautiful sandy beach with miles of space to run around. Dogs aren’t allowed to the east of the steps which lead down to the beach from the pines (where the beach huts are), but head west and you won’t be disappointed. There’s also the bonus of a super dog-friendly café in the beach carpark with plenty of water and treats for your pooch (and a mean slice of cake for you!). Walking from Holkham to Wells is a true delight.

Weybourne Beach

This shingle beach is easy to get to with a good-sized car park behind the beach. There are no restrictions. The beach shelves away steeply in places, so it’s not always ideal for swimming.

West Runton Beach

There is a small restricted area on this beach, but beyond that, you have the run of the place. It’s a famous fossil collecting beach, so keep your eyes peeled for interesting finds. Make sure you check the tide before you head out. There are cliffs backing the beach so be careful not to get cut off.

The best of North Norfolk’s Summer Festivals 2018

north norfolk festivalsThere’s plenty to do in North Norfolk, no matter when you visit. But we are blessed to have some fantastic seasonal festivals too. Here are some of our favourite summer events and festivals, all easily accessible from any of our holiday cottages. Coincide your holiday with one of these dates and you’re in for a real treat!

Folk on the Pier: 11th– 13thMay

Cromer’s popular folk rock music festival celebrates its 20t anniversary in 2018. This year’s line-up includes some of the top names in the folk rock and acoustic world including Fairport Convention, Edward II, Little Johnny England and Home Service. Tickets are selling fast, so book then online now!

Norfolk and Norwich Festival: 11 May – 27thMay

With a unique mix of performance, music, literature, art and free outdoor events, this festival has something for everyone. Many of the events take place in Norwich, making it the perfect choice for a day trip. But you can also enjoy a free art installation on Wells beach as part of the festival.

Crab and Lobster Festival: 19th– 20thMay

This fun festival brings together the coastal towns of Cromer and Sheringham in a lively weekend dedicated to promoting the active fishing community. With an opening night concert, cookery demonstrations, local crafts and entertainment, there’s a real sense of the community coming together.

Royal Norfolk Show: 27-18thJune

Although we’re focusing on North Norfolk, we couldn’t miss out the biggest event in the county’s calendar. With 700 trade stands, 3,000 animals and hundreds of attractions, there’s something for everyone.

Holt Festival: 21stJuly – 29thJuly

Holt is a destination for tourists to the area all year around. But the week of the festival is dazzling, as the town is taken over my musicians, poets, actors, dancers, artists and comedians.

Wells Carnival: 27thJuly – 5thAugust

The Wells Carnival has been taking place for well over 90 years. It’s grown over the years such that there are now more than 100 events over the 10 days of the carnival. There’s live music, food and crafts, a sandcastle competition and much more.

Sheringham Carnival: 28thJuly – 5thAugust

Fun for all the family, a week of traditional carnival fun and festivities.

Cromer Carnival: 11thAugust – 17thAugust

This family festival culminates with the fantastic Parade and Red Arrows display on the 15th. The illuminated procession on the 16th will be another fantastic spectacle.

North Norfolk Music Festival: 13th–24th August

A very civilised series of classical music, often accompanied with delicious dining experiences. Featuring a mix of internationally renowned performers and upcoming talent, the festival is now in its 14thyear.

Hunstanton Kite and Classic Car Festival: 19thAugust

The perfect location for an impressive display of kite flying, along with a classic car rally, air display and lots of activities for the kids.

North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival: 1st– 2ndSeptember

Heaven for all foodies, this festival in the beautiful walled gardens at Holkham Hall features a host of local producers with plenty to tempt the taste buds. You won’t go away empty handed!

North Norfolk Railway 1940s weekend: 15th– 16thSeptember

Crowds in their thousands descend on Sheringham and Holt for this amazing event. With lots of history fans getting dressed up for the occasion, it’s like stepping back in time! A trip on the Poppyline completes the nostalgic experience.

 

Please note: our cottages can get very booked up when these special events are on, so book as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

Holidaying in Holt

When planning a stay in North Norfolk, many people will turn to the coastal towns and villages in search of the perfect base. But just a short drive inland lies Holt, arguably one of the prettiest towns in the county. With everything you could possibly need right on your doorstep, Holt could be the perfect place to stay.

Holt, NorfolkOur very own Blue Stone Cottage is set in the heart of the town. Or Netherfield, in the pretty village of Sharrington, is just 3 miles from all the charm that Holt has to offer.

Holt is a small Georgian town steeped in charm. The majority of the 200 shops and services in Holt are independently owned giving the town a very unique character. With its pretty flint yards filled with boutiques and fabulous eateries, you’ll be spoilt for choice!

The Holt Owl Trail

The Holt Owl Trail is designed to take you on a tour of the town, so you don’t miss anything. Pick up a leaflet or download the trail online then follow the pavement plaques around the town. There are loads of historical facts and intrigue – the perfect introduction to the town.

Shopping in Holt

It’s easy to while away a day shopping in Holt. With so many independent shops and galleries to poke around in, there really is something for everyone. There’s a handful of high-end high street names, like Joules and Fat Face. But most of the small shops feature less well-known designers and local artisan goodies. It’s definitely a classy place to shop!

Bakers and Larners is the town’s independent department store, serving the town since around 1730. The real gem is the food hall and wine department. Think Fortnum and Mason and you get an idea of the fare on offer. You can even hire bikes here – the perfect way to explore the surrounding tranquil countryside.

Eating and drinking in Holt

Holt, NorfolkIf you’re a foodie, you’re in for a treat! Byfords café and store is a must. The relaxed dining in this beautiful building is perfect for refuelling mid-shop. The Barn café-bistro is another delightful stop off. Hidden away from the main thoroughfare, it’s perfect for relaxing with the paper or doing a spot of people watching from their outdoor seating.

We can’t possibly namecheck all our favourites, but your only worry will be where to try next!

If you’re self-catering in one of our cottages, with bakers, butchers and greengrocers, there are plenty of places to get supplies. But don’t worry, if you need to stock up on the essentials, Budgens in the town centre covers all the staples.

What to do while you’re here

Holt Country Park

Just a short trip outside the main town, you’ll find Holt Country Park. With easy colour-coded circular walks, this tranquil woodland and heath provides a peaceful departure from the town centre.

Baconsthorpe Castle

A few miles from the town centre, Baconstorpe Castle is well worth a visit. The extensive ruins of this once impressive 15th century fortified manor house is surrounded by open meadow, cattle, a moat and lake. Believed to be haunted, it’s equally sinister and beautiful.

North Norfolk Railway

Holt is at one end of the North Norfolk Railway, which runs from here to Sheringham on the coast. Plan your trip to include a trip on the steam train and you won’t be disappointed. A beautiful, nostalgia-inducing journey that the whole family will enjoy.

Auden Theatre

The town’s Auden Theatre hosts a varied programme of events, from productions by students at the famous Gresham’s School, to local musical acts, and world-class performances. If you love the arts, check their programme and book your trip to coincide with a fantastic show.

When to visit Holt

Holt is a great holiday base at any time of year. With cosy cafes to escape the rain, to al fresco dining and fantastic local walks to enjoy on a sunny day, you’ll have a great trip. The town can become very busy in the summer months. For some the bustling vibe is perfect, but if you prefer a bit more space to relax and enjoy what’s on offer, avoid peak season.

There are two notable annual events worth visiting. The Holt Festival in July sees the streets come alive with musicians, poets, dancers, artist and comedians. Alternatively, the spectacular Christmas lights switch on in November is the perfect way to kick off your Christmas shopping.

Wonderful Walsingham – well worth a trip!

At this time of year, I’m always compelled to take a little trip to Walsingham. Why? It’s one of the best places to see snowdrops. Time it just right, and with the sun shining through the trees, you can almost be fooled into thinking spring is here!

snowdrops at Walsingham

The snowdrops at Walsingham Abbey are truly a sight to behold. With a huge number of varieties, if you can spot the differences, a wander through the 18 acres of woodland is a must.

But Walsingham, more accurately two villages – Little and Great Walsingham, is a bit of a hidden gem, well worth a visit at any time of the year.

Snowdrops aside, the Abbey grounds are always a peaceful haven. The spectacular ruins of the mediaeval Priory are a photographer’s dream.

Walsingham shrinesShrines at Walsingham

Walsingham is a famous destination for pilgrims of all denominations. The most famous of the villages’ multiple shrines and churches is arguably The Anglican Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham.

The Shrine has a long and varied history. Founded in 1061, it became known as “England’s Nazareth” after Lady Richeldis experienced a vision where she was taken by Mary to the house in Nazareth where Gabriel had announced the birth of Jesus. The three major pilgrimages each year bring thousands to Walsingham.

The Wells and Walsingham Light Railway

If you’re heading to Walsingham, one of the best ways to do so it to start at Wells and hop on the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway. Touted as “the world’s smallest public railway” the short journey on this nostalgia-inducing steam train is an absolute joy. You’re quickly immersed in the North Norfolk countryside with options of open or covered seating. Just make sure you check the timetable in advance to plan your trip.

Walsingham Farm Shop

Whilst the villages are able to boast a number of eateries and watering holes, the Walsingham Farm Shop deserves a mention. With local produce and a whole host of other delicacies on offer, you’ll be able to pick up a picnic for your trip. Or take some goodies away with you and cook up a storm back at your holiday cottage!

Other things to see in Walsingham

Simply wandering around the villages is a pleasure, with its mix of Medieval timber-framed houses and Georgian buildings. The Shirehall Museum has displays which give an insight into the history of Walsingham over the years. You can even borrow the key to take a look around the old House of Corrections which has survived virtually untouched since it closed in 1861.

The Bull Inn comes highly recommended as a spot to enjoy a pint of local ale. Set in the heart of Little Walshingham, this quirky pub also serves home-cooked dishes every day and offers bed and breakfast accommodation.

With footpaths and cycling routes aplenty to and from the villages, and just 5 miles from Wells-next-the-Sea, there’s no excuse not to pop by when you’re enjoying your holiday in North Norfolk.

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.

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.