2020 has been, by far, the most horrendous year for everyone across the globe and with a wide number of travel restrictions in place many have been left with cancelled holidays. As such there has been a natural growth in the number of staycations within the UK.
Despite spending the majority of my annual leave on international holidays and city breaks, seeking the guaranteed weather and different cultures, I do love a staycation. As with others, by mid summer I had not left the UK since lockdown began in March, I had numerous battles with travel companies due to cancelled trips and was seeking an opportunity to simply get away.
Therefore, I used one of the many credit notes I received from the travel company (who I will not name, not wanting others to experience such shocking customer service), to book a night away.
I wanted a mix of coastal adventure, as my heart always aches for the sea, alongside a little culture of a city. Therefore I booked a night’s break in the centre of Norwich and planned a number of stops over two days to explore the surrounding areas.
So what did we get up to?
Located a short drive from the popular Wells-next-the-Sea you will find the 18th century country house in the centre of Holkham. The hall, built by Thomas Coke, the 1st Earl of Leicester, is set within a 25,500 acre estate. Today, it is still a lived-in family home, which is open to the public to enjoy. Surrounding the hall you will discover a mix of parkland, farmland, forestry, wildlife (look our for the deers), walled garden and even a boating lake.Visitors are encouraged to bring along a picnic, follow walking trails and cycling paths for a good family day out.
At the time of visiting, on a sunny July weekend, the estate was hosting “Feast in the Park,” an event boasting a selection of street food and drinks, all from local producers – including the Adnams Brewery from the neighbouring county.
Just a short walk from Holkam Hall you will find Holkham Nature Reserve and Beach. Covering 3706 hectares from Wells-next-the-Sea to Burham Overy, you will be able to explore the mix of salt and grazing marshes, sand dunes, woodlands and beach. For the avid hikers, the Norfolk Coastal path runs straight through the area. As a great hiker myself, I am planning to come back to experience the path and the views it had to offer. During this break, however, we were simply enjoying the views and coolness of the sea on an extremely hot day.
If visiting the reserve and beach I would recommend two things. Firstly, as always, check the tide times so you can make the most of the day. Secondly, if you don’t enjoy lugging your belongings to the beach park in the reserve car park, rather than Holkham Hall. And, if you really struggle, bring along a trolley to cart everything with you. The walk to the coast line, when the tide is out, can be a long one – especially on a hot day.
On a hot day there is nothing better than a nice boat trip to help cool you down and in this area of Norfolk there are plenty opportunities for this, whilst experiencing the wildlife at the same time. Blakeney Point, just a short drive from Holkham, is owned and protected by the National Trust. Here you will find 6.4km of of shingle and sand dunes – which are home to a colony of seals. As the area is protected, the only way to reach the point and see the seals in their natural habitat is by boat.
We booked our trip with one of the many companies that provide an hour long tour, Beans Boats. Available all year round, with times subject to the tide, the tour was a fantastic way to experience the seals up close. The boats are not allowed to land ashore, however, you still receive an amazing view. If you are lucky, you will even get a performing seal who will swim up close to the boat.
The medieval city of Norwich has an abundance of culture, from its cobbled streets, Tudor houses and imposing gates. Despite being rich history and unbelievable quaint, it is also famous for a number of things – including Colmans Mustard, which has been its home since 1814. Admiral Lord Nelson was educated here, hence why Norfolk is known as “Nelson’s County.” Delia Smith is the joint majority shareholder of Norwich FC and Hugh Jackman is a huge fan of the club, due to his mother living nearby!
You can easily spend a good day wondering the streets of the charming city. Having visited two years in a row I would recommend the following.
The heart of any city, and it is no different here. Admission is free and on a usual summer weekend, you would find copious numbers of tourists exploring the grounds and Cloisters. On our visit, in the midst of a pandemic, we enjoyed an unusually tranquil setting.
Missed on my last visit to the city, this time round I was determined to explore this cobbled lane dating back to the Tudor period. We wondered the picture perfect street early without an influx of cars or pedestrians and on a beautiful sunny morning we were rewarded with an idyllic setting.
Though one of the most underwhelming castles I have seen to date, the medieval fortification stands proud in the centre of the city. It was founded by William the Conquerer after the Norman conquest of England as he wanted a fortified place in the centre of Norwich. We did not spend time in the castle itself, as we were pressed for time. However, it is a steeped in history and definitely worth the visit if time is on your side.
The traditional seaside town, less than an hour from the centre of Norwich, offers an award winning family beach, shops selling local produce and stunning coastal walks. Here is where we ended our staycation. On arrival, shortly after lunchtime, we found the tiny town packed with enthusiastic beach goers, families and dog walkers. Simply finding a parking space was a challenge and the high street was bursting with pedestrians as the paths simply were not big enough to cope with the volume of tourists.
Though lovely and traditional, I much preferred my visit to the neighbouring Cromer. That said, we spent a short time here, feasting on fish and chips before heading home.
The whistle stop tour along some of the scenic coastal locations and the picturesque city of Norwich was just the ticket after a long period of lockdown.
Not only did it help recharge the batteries, but it gave me plenty of hiking inspiration for the autumn and winter periods. I love the coast all year round, especially during the periods where tourist numbers drop and you have the beach to yourself.