Bank holiday weekends, when everyone flees London and returns to their family homes around the country. This May bank holiday the Whiteheads drove, trained and taxied up to the Norfolk coast, childhood home of my aunt Catherine, to celebrate her 60th birthday. And she didn’t know any of us would be there.
Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk
This beautiful little town is located up on what I like to think of as the knee of Great Britain. The best way to reach this tiny town is by car. Lacking wheels, my sister and I, along with our other halves, managed to catch a train from Liverpool Street station to Kings Lynn, where a reckless and slightly racist taxi driver took us the remaining 25 miles (in only 30 minutes).
After (or perhaps thanks to) the race through the Norfolk country side, we arrived just in time to join our parents and surprise our aunt at the pub, The Jolly Sailors, where we all tucked in to stone baked pizzas.
Brancaster Staithe is technically only half a village, merging with next door Burnham Deepdale to create a whole village. Despite this half status, it has a harbour, sailing club, two pubs, an activity centre, and not one but two seafood shacks – Fish Shed and the Crab Hut. We were also lucky enough to catch an Afghan rug and teak furniture sale in the village hall.
Our first full day in Brancaster was mostly taken up with my aunt ‘s surprise 60th birthday party, complete with birthday bunting, the secret arrival of guests, and cake with miniature Catherine on top.
After the celebrations had died down, we left the parents and went out exploring the vast flat fields around the house. A boardwalk connects Brancaster Staithe with Brancaster proper, hugging the houses along a sea of dry grassland.
Once you hit Brancaster proper you can follow the road or walkway to the beach. Fair warning to drivers: You have to leave the beach by 6:45, or you’ll be stranded by the rising tide which floods the road.
The land around the Norfolk coast is so strikingly flat, the weather tears across it with no interruption, so make sure you’re prepared for quite wild changes in temperature from alternating windchill and sunshine.
The beach at Brancaster was almost non-existent when we reached it at peak high tide, but I’m told it’s lovely to walk across when the tide is out!
Holkham Beach, Norfolk
Our second day on the Norfolk coast took us to Holkham Beach, which we heard a lot about due to it being my cousin‘s engagement shoot location.
The beach at Holkham is huge. It reminds me of extensive beaches like Perranporth in Cornwall or Playa de Es Trench in Majorca. The shoreline is spread around a semi-circular basin, filled by high tide to create a shallow lagoon, or emptied at low tide to expose a wide expanse of sand flats interrupted by grassy dunes.
As a nature reserve Holkham beach and the surrounding pinewoods is home to dozens of rare species, including marsh harriers which nest in the dunes themselves. It’s a great place to walk dogs, as long as you keep a close eye on them.
On our last night on the Norfolk Coast we had a superb family dinner at the Victoria Inn just by Holkham Beach. The menu stuck loyally to fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, with lots of fish from the coast and meat from local farms. Definitely one to try if you’re in the area.
If you’re looking for a change of scenery, the Norfolk Coast is a great destination. The whole time we were there I could not get over how flat the country side was. And there’s nothing like a bracing coastal wind to blow the pollution from your lungs.