With the summer holidays looming, you may be heading to exotic shores. But if not, stave off the boredom by exploring England. We continue our series of guides to some of the most popular British counties for families with our pick of 10 things to do in Norfolk with kids.
Whether you think of Alan Partridge, Colman’s English Mustard or the Norfolk Broads, you’re bound to have a firmly held preconception about East Anglia. However, England’s eastern hip is rich and diverse, cool and old-school, and perfect for a family fling. Just don’t expect mountains.
We’ve picked our favourite things to do in Norfolk with kids in tow, from tracking seals to crabbing on the quayside, perusing art galleries and picnicking at castles.
Our 10 Best Things to Do in Norfolk with Kids:
GO CRABBING: There are a string of gorgeous quaysides along the North Norfolk coast, but our favourite is Blakeney. The beautiful village is great for crabbing. You can buy all the necessary kit from the Spa. Stop for an ice cream, drop into cool kidswear shop Gone Crabbing and stroll along the sea wall to Morston to stretch your legs, it’s a 20 minute walk – unless you have unwilling toddlers in tow.
FOREST THRILLS: If you’re in the broads, you can’t forgo a visit to the magical outdoor adventure land Bewilderwood set in a forest on the Norfolk Broads. Bravelings can head into the sky maze of suspended tunnels and walkways, take a boat trip or explore the treehouses before zipping down ‘wobbly wires’.
SEE THE SEALS: From Morston, take Bean’s boat out to Blakeney point. You can almost guarantee seal sightings and even if you’re unlucky, the kids will enjoy being on the water spotting all the coastal birds. (Children under 5 free)
GO RIDING: Head to the North Norfolk Riding School in Little Walsingham, where kids can take a lesson and walk out on very well-behaved ponies, a great introduction for new riders. Make sure you stop in at Walsingham Farm Shop and the Chocolate Deli while you’re there.
HIT THE BEACH: Holkham in North Norfolk is hands down the best beach for families we know of in England. Gwyneth Paltrow famously glided across it in the closing scene of Shakespeare in Love, and the setting is pretty filmic. The dunes and pine forests flank miles of sand and mudflats, wrapped by huge pastel skies. It does get busy in the summer but the vast open space means it never feels too crowded and you’ll always get a spot if you’re willing to walk. Wells is really nice too, worth a trip to end the day at Platten’s Fish and Chips.
PLAY KNIGHTS & DRAGONS: To really get their imaginations fired up, spend the morning exploring the nooks and crannies of Castle Rising – a proper castle with a moat, a bridge, and a whopping great hall. You can buy the kids wooden swords and watch them dragon slaying around the grounds.
GET UP CLOSE: With an amazing farmshop Norfolk Lavender is one for food lovers, and Farmer Fred’s play barn is a saviour on rainy days. If the weather is playing ball, there’s an outdoor farm area with animals and ride-on tractors. The lavender is beautiful in late Summer – Norfolk posing as Provence. A real crowd pleaser of a place.
PICNIC SPOT: With little ones who need to tear around, head to Sheringham Park with a picnic blanket and explore the 1000-acre woodland and glorious, Repton-designed parkland. Pick a spot on the cliff tops or climb the tower to see the coast and the North Norfolk Steam Railway.
WOODLAND WALK: To burn off excess energy, head to Thetford Forest, part of the largest lowland pine forest in the UK. There’s a Go Ape for older kids, bike trails, amazing playground equipment, a Gruffalo trail for the younger ones and masses of woodland walks, including a trail along which you can play musical instruments – just magical. (Open all year, dawn till dusk)
SHOP: Burnham Market is known locally as Chelsea on Sea, but really it’s just a quaint village with some lovely interior shops, delis, cafes, boutiques and art galleries. We love browsing Birdie Fortescue for home accessories. A nice place to while away a day with older children. Sandringham is nearby which has some beautiful woodland walks and gardens.
Making a weekend of it?
Mr Fox eats at: For the best coffee in the county, get to Artemis Coffee Shop in Cley, attached to a quirky antiques shop it has a gorgeous terrace overlooking the reedbeds. A Grey Seal coffee (roasted just two miles away) for you and a freshly baked scone for them. (While you’re in Cley, check out the Pink Foot Gallery). Time it so you’re in Holkham for the North Norfolk Food & Drink Festival (September 2–3 2017) and sample the best of the county’s produce in one hit. If you’re self-catering, head to Gurney’s in Burnham Market to stock up on lobster, razor clams and mussels. The best Sunday lunch is at the Victoria Inn, Holkham. The Gunton Arms near Thorpe Market has an incredible open kitchen and outdoor dining area run by an ex-Hix chef.
Mr Fox Stays At: Barsham Barns have a string of great self-catering options for larger families – we like Quaker Barn sleeping 6. To be perfectly placed for beach days, nab room 14 (Wilbrahams) or 16 (Lime Kiln) in the ancient house of the Victoria Inn, Holkham (above). Just make sure you are there for Sunday lunch. Art aficionados must check into Chelsea art dealer Ivor Braka’s hotel, The Gunton Arms. Clogged full of Hirst, Emin, Gilbert & George originals, and the interiors are by Robert Kime. Kids love the deer park. For something more low key, head to cosy Chequers Inn in Thornham, a stone’s throw from Turnham, Brancaster and the Holmes Dune Nature Reserve.
With thanks to Rebecca Lindon and Corinna Harrod
GETTING READY FOR SUMMER?