The term 'happy place' is banded around a lot these days, North Norfolk isn't just a happy place, it's more. Now I don't like to go all deep and meaningful in my first travel blog. But so much has happened to me in this part of the globe. For starters Mrs T lives there. We happily sing our way to Granny's playing eye spy as often as we can... Reality, we put a movie on before we leave the drive way with every conceivable electronic device we can lay our hands on, fully charged and in full use, usually before the sandwiches and cucumber sticks have been venomously rejected.
On we charge picnic thrown into the bin at the fast food drive through. On a good day we can do it in 3 hours on a bad day much longer. For 5 humans, 2 dogs and their luggage, its no picnic let me tell you. You know this.
We stay in Thornham, Mum has lived there for over 20 years but we’ve been in and around that area since we were kids. Before my parents separated we had a bungalow in Brancaster just down the road. We have album after album of sandy sandwiches on the beach, dune jumping till dusk, crabbing at the harbour… happy idyllic memories which I try and emulate. We regularly do this by simple parental enforcement. We march to the beach, drill sergeant style, my dis-interested limp limbed privates lagging behind. Its ingrained, we’re by the sea, therefore we must sit on the beach. Its obligatory and shouldn’t and can’t be weather dependent, because lets face if it were, we would never go.
So North Norfolk is a little hive of stuff to do with our off-spring. Out of everything to do, crabbing comes out on top every time for us. We are of course, governed by the ocean, so we study the tidal timetable with our single shot flat white from The Thornham Deli. Then, with crabbing firmly pencilled in, we can plan our day. Mine starts with a jog around the village, a 3 mile loop which includes a steep road that my sister and I lovingly refer to as ‘the hill of doom’.
Beach wise my favourite is Thornham, its a 20 minute walk to get there from Thornham Harbour which is enough to put off the masses. Not in the summer though, no no, in August our little haven is cheek and jowel, stripy towelling hoodies/awkward teens in their daisy dukes, streaming out of Hunstanton tennis week. We can often be found set up for the day with our wind shield (yes we actually have one of these), usually apologising on behalf of our BBQ stealing Jack Russell simultaneously screaming BUELLER at the top top of our lungs, we’re working on his recall. Suffice to say, we’re not hard to find.
There's Brancaster beach, it's super popular mainly as its so easy to get to with an enormous car park almost on the beach itself. Hang a left when you arrive on the beach and a 15 minute walk will get you a seal sighting too. I can still persuade my younger two to get in the car with the promise of a seal head bobbing in the waves.
Holkham Hall is brilliant. Hire your crew some bikes from Holkham Hall bike hire, they have every conceivable size, adult, kids, baby seats, tag cycles the lot. The hounds come along too, but they do have to stay on the lead. They are allowed in the Beach Cafe though, more than that they have a self service washing place just for them and a doggie bar no less. My Romanian rescue fits right in with the labradoodles and the cavapoo’s as you can imagine…!
We’ve done many many seal watching boat trips over the years, a boat trip to see the seals is kind of obligatory when you’re in and around these parts. A friend came to stay nearby this Easter and used Beans Boats who were great, you leave from Morston Quay. Which leads me seamlessly on to Morston! Whilst your there have a pint in the Anchor, not only can you actually book your seal watch from there, the food is cracking.
There’s too much to put about this area, we lived and breathed it for so long, I could write a brochure, but the Dinosaur Adventure Park in Lenwade needs a mention, all three of my kids have poised happily in the jaws of a T - Rex and squealed down the zip wire. Definitely worth a visit. There's Farmer Freds in Heacham, how many hours have we spent in sweaty ball pits and slides? This one, not so sweaty! My book and I find a little spot, root ourselves there for a couple of hours with a coffee, whilst the mini two use me for sweets and water at regular intervals. My kind of parenting.
Sunny Hunny (Hunstanton) needs a heads up, it has a Costa no less! Its the only bank for miles so get yourself to the hole in the wall. Our three are obsessed with the arcade. There is nothing they won’t do for an hour on the slots. Bowling on a rainy day works, home via the joke shop, its always a winner.
So, back to Thornham. It’s changed beyond recognition since we made our base there 20 years ago, The Deli I mentioned earlier, has quadrupled in size, go in there for (seriously good) coffee and you’ll leave with a kitchen table, scatter cushions and a starred jumper. Head to the Orange Tree for food, its incredible. Matilda and I with our gluten and dairy free annoyingness, are no problem there either. The curries are to die for. There’s The Life Boat, Will’s mountain of ushers stayed there for our wedding in 03, thankfully we’ve been forgiven for that…. its changed hands a few times but it's still great for a family feed.
I’m finishing up with The Drove because it has one of my favourite little shops in it. Nelle is a little Danish delight, how I love their threads. The Drove is where you can stock up on the veg, ice cream, interiors, stuff for the kids. But don’t leave until you go to Erics Fish and Chips, its the best chippy on the planet, fact. I’m not sure there is anything Matilda and I wouldn’t do for their gluten free fish and chips and they serve a seriously good sauvignon blanc by the glass, so even during busy times, waiting isn’t a chore!
North Norfolk is the bomb, I would challenge anyone not to find something that floats their seal watching boat here.