Enchanting Norfolk’s best towns and villages

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Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

5 min read

They say the people of Norfolk always have at least one foot in the water. And it’s true, there’s a lot of water around these parts, whether it’s the sea, a river or wetland. From quaint fishing villages still clinging to their Victorian heydays to pretty Georgian towns packed with antiques galore, fine delis and modern art galleries, Norfolk is peppered with interesting towns and villages. Spend some time gently ambling through them and when you're ready to give your legs a proper stretch, happen upon a nature reserve, bird-rich saltmarsh or breezy coastal path. From iconic windmills to medieval churches, and renowned graffiti art to warm and welcoming places to stay, Norfolk has many delights.

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Combining the charm of an ancient fishing town with the hustle and bustle of a modern seaside resort, Cromer’s streets are busy with independent shops and its magnificent pier gives the place a real bucket-and-spade feel. The epitome of coastal fashion back in its Victorian heyday, the tall, elegant houses clinging to the cliffs nod to its trendy past. Today you can soak up the wonderful sandy beach, arcades and entertainment on the pier, a sprinkling of fish and chip shops and blowy clifftop walks. The Cromer Lighthouse circular is particularly breathtaking. Visit the quaint Cromer Museum, set in an old fisherman’s cottage, to see what life here was like in the 19th century then check out the Banksy on the sea wall for a modern take on it. 

Stay in the heart of town at Shrimp, a Georgian cottage with all mod cons at the end of a terrace just a short walk to shops, cafés and the beach.



Historic Holt is as pretty as a picture, set around charming courtyards and winding alleys, and stuffed to the gills with treasure you’ll covet. Come to browse antique shops, independent emporia and galleries, and discover a unique find or two to take home. It’s also home to a superb bookshop, The Holt Bookshop, and the divine Bakers & Larners, north Norfolk’s answer to Fortnum & Mason. On its fringe you can stroll through Holt Country Park, a 100-acre woodland planted with mature oak, pine and silver birch trees. Wander the nature trails, stop for a picnic and let the kids run riot in the playground. And the ‘Poppy Line’ – full steam ahead – is just down the road.

Stay at Cartshed Cottages at Sharrington Hall, a walk or short drive into Holt, these four pretty cottages come with private terraces, a shared garden and muted interiors inspired by Norfolk’s landscapes. 

Burnham Market

The Burnhams are a group of six picturesque villages, positioned around the flowing River Burn on the north Norfolk coast, close to Brancaster Bay and the Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve. The largest of the villages, Burnham Market, is lined with red brick and flint Georgian houses and an enticing range of independent shops, friendly cafés and galleries. The Hoste Arms stands proud in front of the neat village green, which is lively in summer. In neighbouring Burnham Deepdale, they host an annual music and camping festival, a roster of open-air theatre and an ever-evolving selection of pop up shops. 

Stay at Suaeda Cottage, a comfortable, traditional cottage on the beautiful north Norfolk coast. Villages to explore, wildlife, sandy beaches, sea air and long walks…



The coastal village of Mundesley was a popular Victorian seaside destination with visitors travelling here by rail. The station is long gone but thanks to its narrow, award-winning beach it’s still a firm favourite with families. At low tide, it’s safe for swimming and paddling and there’s a jaunty promenade dotted with colourful beach huts framing the sands. There’s a special dog-friendly zone between May and September and the RNLI keeps a watchful eye in summer. Behind, clifftops rise up to a dinky maritime museum, believed to be the smallest in the UK, and pretty coastal gardens. The coast path rewards with blustery walks or follow trails inland on the Paston Way to discover the area’s medieval churches. 

Stay nearby at The Willow Cottage, and escape to this cosy, restful cottage – a stroll from the village pub, close to the coast – for birders, walkers and loafers, and their dogs.  


If windmills spring to mind when you think of Norfolk then make the trip to Cley to gaze at its iconic 19th century example or climb to the top for long views over the bird-rich marshes. Originally a thriving flour mill, it was converted into a holiday home in the 1920s, and today it’s one of England’s most photographed constructions. The Cley Marshes nature reserve is on the village’s doorstep. Home to wintering and migrating wildfowl and waders, marsh harriers and snow buntings, there are meandering paths and plentiful bird hides accessed via boardwalks to watch the feathered friends in action. Take a stroll through the narrow streets, packed with specialist food shops, deli, bookshop, pubs, pottery, smokehouse and an art gallery. 

Stay a 10-minute walk away at Barn Drift, with its grand dining hall and super kitchen, perfect for big gatherings. Spot spoonbills on the salt marsh, sea swim or walk to delis and pubs.



In the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Blakeney village is peppered with pretty flint fisherman’s cottages, plenty of places to eat and a clutch of pubs, gift shops and art galleries to visit. On the outskirts of the village is a rather spectacular two-towered church, built between the 13th and 15th centuries. Nearby, Blakeney National Nature Reserve’s wide open spaces and long coastal views make for delightful walks where you can spot much local wildlife including seals and migratory birds. Take a boat trip to Blakeney Point to visit the largest seal colony in England. Between November and January, over 2,000 seal pups are born.  

Stay nearby at The Harper, a contemporary hotel with a laid-back vibe and excellent food, close to the expansive north Norfolk coast.  


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Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

Carmen is a freelance writer specialising in travel. She once lived in a bus in north Wales, skipped off to study in Barcelona, and now calls Bristol home. When she’s not tapping away on her laptop, she can be found reading (a lot), lake swimming (a little), and pottering on the allotment with husband and two kiddos. She’s currently dreaming about cold cerveza and torta in Mexico.

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