Escape to Norfolk's pristine beaches

  • Ell Brown, Flickr

The North Norfolk coast is a popular escape for weekenders from London during the summer. Out of season, or even midweek, the long expanses of beach can seem almost deserted. There are invigorating cliff walks to enjoy, scenic windmills and, in Hunstanton and Cromer, old-fashioned English seaside resorts untroubled by modern development or the demands of fashion.

Some of England’s most beautiful beaches are in evidence along this stretch of coast. Blakeney is the perfect starting point for a family break. For generations, children have enjoyed sitting on the quayside dangling lines into the water and pulling up crabs that cling tenaciously to a chunk of bacon. When that palls, there are trips out to Blakeney Point to see the seals or hikes east to Cley to see the windmill.

Cyclists will enjoy the route from Wells Next-The-Sea west through the lavish estate of Holkham Hall, stopping off at one of the gastropubs that have sprung up in the area. Norfolk seafood is superb, particularly the renowned Cromer crabs. Local real ales and Norfolk cider are among the best in the country.

Beyond Cromer the coastline drifts south-eastwards and the North Sea breezes are a little more daunting. Overstrand is a charming village that is just an hour’s walk from Cromer along the beach or by the cliff path. Further down the coast, Mundesley is an unassuming little resort with a beautiful beach.

Kids, notoriously unappreciative of stark natural beauty, will be in their element on Hunstanton’s seafront with its donkey rides, amusement arcades and Sea-life Centre, all fuelled by a relentless parade of fast food outlets.

Grandparents, at least those unwilling to hike five miles along the cliff paths, will enjoy the entertainment on offer at the end of the pier in Cromer. This is where variety acts, comedians and Seaside Special song-and-dance troupes will always find a welcome, however dated their repertoire. There is also the occasional ballet or classical concert to elevate the tone.

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