Throw a dart at any map of Britain’s coastline and you’ll discover somewhere special, but Norfolk is the bullseye. Hidden on the east coast of England, there’s nowhere quite like this crown jewel of coastal life.
From the big skies to the huge sweeping beaches, the windswept saltmarshes to the dense forests, there’s a local saying that those who live here have 'one foot on the land, and one in the sea'. No matter which part of this county you decide to explore, you’re never far from tranquil waters in Norfolk.
Whatever you’re into, whether it’s undulating countryside, endless beaches, grand stately homes or pus that serve local beer and insta-worthy food, here’s how to spend 48-hours in Norfolk:
Where to stay: The Gunton Arms
Choosing a home-away-from-home in Norfolk is almost impossible, but no one could argue with you leaving your Weekend Bag at The Gunton Arms because you’ve never experienced anywhere quite like this before. Hidden in the middle of a thousand-acre deer park, this countryside inn is part-pub and part-art gallery; the walls lined with everything from risqué Emin plates to neon signs to big-hitting art, and the bedrooms have played host to royalty. To kings and their lovers. Yet this place is as far from pretentious as London is from Timbuktu, where the award-winning restaurant celebrates muddy boots, scruffy dogs and the best steaks you have ever ordered.
Saturday morning: Holkham Beach
Tucked behind a long belt of pine trees at the end of a long wooden boardwalk, you’ll find one of Britain’s best hidden beaches. An endless stretch of sand that fills up at high tide to create a huge shallow lagoon and the perfect place to watch the sun rise. And the best bit: this beach is just the beginning. Head past the large rolling dunes to the east and you’ll discover totally unspoilt stretches of shoreline, such as Scolt Head Island and Gun Hill, or you can turn inland and stroll into the Holkham Estate; a stately home that boasts everything from treetop rope courses to mountain bike hire and even a lake to kayak on.
Saturday’s late-lunch: The Anchor
Drive for fifteen-minutes along North Norfolk’s spine-tingling coastal road and you’ll stumble across Morston, a once-upon-a-time fishing village and home to the award-winning Anchor Inn. Picture a real countryside pub with local ales on tap and whitewashed cobblestone walls. From fresh-off-the-boat seafood to the best in hearty game, this is a place you can come for a post-walk Wherry or a pre-seal trip bite to eat.
Saturday afternoon: Temples Seal Trip
After every long lunch comes an epic walk, and it doesn’t get more epic than walking down to Morston Quay to enjoy a gentle boat ride to Blakeney Point, where a colony of 500 seals bask in the sunshine. From new pups relaxing on the pebbled shores to those inquisitive ones that love swimming around the boats, make sure you have your camera ready, especially for the return trip where you’ll land on the Point to explore this usually unreachable stretch of beach.
Time to dine: Wiveton Bell
After a long day exploring land and sea, there’s only one place to book in for some supper, and that’s because there’s only one place in Norfolk (and only eleven in England) that won a Michelin Bib Gourmand -- The Wiveton Bell. Translation: you’re going to get a lot of delicious food for a lot less money than you imagined. Think twice baked crab souffle to start followed by a pan fried skate wing for the fish lovers or an aged highland steak for those red meat fans. Welcome to your new favourite staycation find.
Sunday mornings were made for: The Broads
A weekend away in Norfolk is not complete without a micro-road trip along the coast - through the pretty coastal villages and old port towns - to the Norfolk Broads, a unique patchwork of windmill-framed rivers and tranquil lakes that play home to more than a quarter of Britain’s rare wildlife species. And that’s not all that’s rare. It’s also one of those rare places you can walk, hike or kayak as you explore this watery world of inland marshes and wild coasts -- and when you’re ready to, plonk down your weekend bag full of local picnic bits and enjoy the moment.
Sunday afternoons are for: Blickling Estate
Norfolk’s not short of breathtaking historical houses. From the royal residence of Sandringham to the artist backdrop that is Houghton Hall, there are stately homes everywhere you look. But none of them beat Blickling Hall because nobody - and we mean nobody - forgets their first Blickling adventure. Step inside this red Jacobean mansion and you’ll find total extravagance from top to bottom, including the biggest book collection cared for by the National Trust. Then there’s the huge slice of great outdoors that’s made up of formal gardens, historic parklands and serene lakes, and it’s all yours to explore by foot or by bike, all 4,600 acres of it.
Supper on Sunday: The Gunton Arms
No bon viveur can spend 48 hours exploring Norfolk and not eat The Gunton Arms. Twice. There’s just too much artisanal earthiness to consider booking anywhere else. But what draws both Londoners and Norfolk-dwellers alike is the menu and the vast open fire they cook it on in the Elk Room. Aberdeen Angus rib of beef. Check. Barbecued beef brisket. Done. Venison sausages and mash with Green Jack beer. Nothing better. This is the place for your last supper.
Where to watch the sunset: West Runton
You only have to step into the deer park surrounding The Gunton Arms to feel the hairs stand up on your neck as you watch day fall into night. But if you want to find the place, you need to head down the road to West Runton; to a place of woods, heaths, cliffs and the best coastal views. It’s the perfect place to pull a bottle of red from your backpack and watch the sun dance across the waves as they roll onto the shore below you. It’s one of those places where the sky feels bigger than you ever thought possible.