Beyond the rainbow: a family road trip to the big sky county of Norfolk
Words + photography: Lee Osborne
Situated on the East Coast of England, North Norfolk boasts 45-miles of stunning coastal scenery, from soft glacial cliffs and sandy beaches to vast lowlands and sand dunes with jaw-dropping countryside juxtaposed in-between. To the west, saltmarshes, dominated by the great iconic shingle ridge which snakes its way up to Blakeney Point spit, while to the east, pebble beaches and sand-dunes are all that separates the North Sea from the Norfolk Broads. These topographical features help form the dramatic backdrop to an area often referred to as Big Sky Country.
Our journey begins with a visit to The Real Ale Shop, a chance discovery made by my wife as she researched the trip – knowing my penchant for real ale, she insisted we stop to replenish our stocks. Situated in the beautifully rural setting of Bramhall Farm near Wells-next-the-Sea, surrounded by fields of malting barley which supply the brewers of the region with much of their malt. The Real Ale Shop offers up a wonderful array of over 50 naturally bottle-conditioned ales from over 15 Norfolk Breweries – and there are usually two rotating sample jugs for punters to try before they buy. We stocked up on Malt Coast IPA (5.3% ABV) particularly noteworthy, as was its sibling Amber Ale, a tad weaker at 4.7% ABV.
From here we head to the coastal town of Wells-next-the-Sea, dominated by its former granary building, an iconic site which straddles the road and adjacent quayside. Wells is a great little place to stroll around for an hour or so browsing its chic boutiques before heading to the beach, no matter what time of year it is. We were even afforded a glimpse of a seal that had swum into the shallow bay, playfully poking its head in and out of the water, much to the enjoyment of everyone in attendance. Wells Deli is a nice spot to break for coffee and cake, or indulge in a light lunch such as spicy Prawn Laksa with glass noodles, all freshly prepared to order.
No matter where you stop along this winding picturesque coastal road, you’re guaranteed photo-worthy scenes at almost every turn. From Blakeney, a chic coastal town brimming with art galleries, cafés and pubs – perched on a hill that rises above its iconic mudflats; to Stifkey and The Red Lion pub; then Cley Next-the-Sea, with its emblematic Windmill – now converted into a smart b&b which can also be hired exclusively for private parties and weddings.; its dinky little smokehouse Cley Smokehouse packed to the rafters with kippers and the rather charming Picnic Fayre (see below).
WHERE TO EAT + DRINK
Anchor Inn Morston
A cozy hostelry just a stone’s throw from where the seal spotting trips depart to nearby Blakeney Point. The Anchor does a mean fish and chips as well as serving locally sourced ales such as those from Barsham Brewery, a rising star of the region’s craft brewing movement.
The Anchor Inn , The Street, Morston , Norfolk NR25 7AA
The Wiveton Bell
Book a table in the Bell’s natural light-infused conservatory and feast on delights such as Brancaster Mussels, Pan-Roasted Partridge and Herb Crust Hake Fillet – all washed down with pints of locally-brewed Yetman’s Orange from Holt, voted Best Bitter at the 2018 Norwich Beer Festival, no less.
WHERE TO SHOP
A treasure trove of gourmet delights at the junction that leads down to Wiveton Hall. Owned by Victoria Pryor, the Queen’s goddaughter no less. Stock up on homemade cakes, sausage rolls, delightful preserves, local bottled beers and a well-chosen selection of international wines.
The Old Forge, High St, Cley next the Sea, Holt NR25 7AP
This vast emporium on the Holkham Estate is a haven for lovers of country pursuits. Jam-packed with shooting jackets, Deerstalkers, Schöffel gilets and Dubarry boots to kit you out for autumnal strolls along the golden strand of Holkham beach just across the road.
The Reading Room, Park Road, Holkham, NR23 1RG
Clockwise from left: Sartorialee’s shoe picks at Fairfax & Favor including The Houghton, chocolate suede brogue; Byfords vintage-style window detail; Fairfax & Favor’s flagship store in Holt; F&F’s in-store Twelve Keys gin bar
Fairfax & Favor
The brand’s first standalone store threw open its doors in September 2019. With floors dedicated to both men’s and women’s shoes as well as a Twelve Keys gin bar, what’s not to love? Sartorialee’s pick of the bunch were these beautiful chocolate suede Houghton’s (pictured), £175.
23 High St, Holt NR25 6BN; 01760 338199
Byfords is an institution in the Georgian town of Holt, a 15-minute drive inland from the coast. Whether you visit for a full English Breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner, they have you covered. And if you need takeaway, they have a deli too to stock up for a picnic. Treat yourself and stay overnight in one of their cozy Posh B&B rooms and if you like any of the interior decor, everything is available to purchase.
1-3 Shirehall Plain, Holt NR25 6BG; 01263 711400
Thule Motion XT XL | Features
We found the Thule roof box the ideal travelling companion for our Norfolk road trip, particularly as we had our family dog in tow. Consequently, there was no space available in the boot, but thankfully all of our luggage fitted safely and securely inside the roof box and we loved the ease of the locking system – and the fact the box can be opened from either side of the car.
- Optimized design for best space efficiency, aerodynamics, and vehicle fit
- Easy to mount thanks to the extra-wide, pre-installed PowerClick quick-mount system. The integrated torque indicator “clicks” when it’s properly mounted, ensuring fast and secure fitting
- Easy to open and close in all conditions due to grip-friendly outer handles and supporting lid-lifters
- SlideLock system with separate locking and opening functions, automatically locks the lid in place and indicates when the box is closed securely
- Full trunk access with minimal risk of contact with the cargo box, thanks to its forward position on the vehicle roof
*Disclaimer: The Thule roofbox and Fairfax & Favor shoes were both gifted for review – otherwise this feature is unsponsored.