Cley inland to Fakenham
Golden sand turns to tidal marsh at Salthouse and Cley-next-the-Sea, once a busy wool port and where you can now find the Cley Marshes Nature Reserve, operated by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Go into the visitor centre and from there head out onto saltwater and freshwater marshes, reedbeds and shingle ridge that are reputedly home to the enigmatic bittern. There are some interesting artisan shops and a distinctive windmill in the village itself.
From Cley you can take the hike along a 4-mile shingle and sand spit to Blakeney Point, a nature reserve renowned for its terns and seals. The other, and less strenuous, way to see the seals is to take a boat trip from Blakeney, a delightful village whose port is now silted up, but from where fish, corn and salt was once sent out to the world. It's also the home of the Greasy Pole competition (see film left). Seal trips can also be found at Morston, a mile further along the coast road, where the National Trust runs the quay. Beyond Morston is the village of Stiffkey (pronounced 'Stookey'), which has access through to the marshes.
On the roads inland from here to Fakenham are various attractions, including the substantial remains of Binham Priory, The Thursford Collection, which claims to host the world's largest collection of steam engines and organs, and Little Walsingham, a Christian pilgrimage centre since the 11th century. According to legend Richeldis de Faverches, a lady of Walsingham, felt that Mary the mother of Jesus, 'took her spirit to Nazareth, and requested that a replica of the Holy House at Nazareth be built at Walsingham'. This becomes 'England's Nazareth', a place of prayer and reconciliation and one of Europe's four great pilgrim places in the Middle Ages. The pilgrimage season at Walsingham runs from Easter to the end of October.
Walsingham has a terminus of the Wells & Walshingham Light Railway, said to be the longest 10-and-a-quarter inch narrow-gauge steam railway in the world.
In the Fakenham area you will find a National Hunt Racecourse, with racing from April to December, the Museum of Gas & Local History, the only surviving town gasworks in the country, and Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, renowned for its involvement in the BBC's Springwatch.