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North Norfolk – Cotswolds-by-the-Coast

The Cotswolds are, quite rightly, a wonderful destination to visit in England. But north Norfolk has got everything the land-locked Cotswolds have plus one little extra – it’s by the sea!

If you’ve visited the Cotswolds you’ll know it’s a place of Farrow & Ball paint, Chelsea Tractors and expensive second homes for wealthy Londoners. So is north Norfolk!

Stiffkey Stores

In fact, Farrow & Ball’s Stiffkey Blue No 281 is named after the quaint north Norfolk village otherwise famous for its cockles, called Stewkey Blues, and local rector Harold Davidson, who was defrocked by the Bishop of Norwich after devoting himself to being ‘The Prostitute’s Padre’ in London and being pictured with a near-naked teenage girl, and who was eventually killed by a lion while performing in a seaside spectacular after stepping on its tail.

Stiffkey Red Lion pub

We are not making this up! Indeed, the story is remembered on The Red Lion pub sign in the village.

Anyway, Stiffkey Blue No 281 is, according to Farrow & Ball, ‘reminiscent of the extraordinary colour of the mud found at Stiffkey beach, Norfolk. A slightly bluer alternative to Down Pipe’.

Wells-next-the-Sea beach huts family

There wasn’t a beach at Stiffkey last time we looked, however there are some of the finest beaches in the UK close by, particularly at Wells-next-the-Sea, with its 200 multi-coloured higgledy-piggledy beach huts and pooch-friendly café, and Holkham, voted the best in Britain by readers of BBC Countryfile magazine and where Gwyneth Paltrow filmed the closing shots of Shakespeare in Love.

Seal pup, Blakeney

Like the Cotswolds, north Norfolk has a beautiful Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, except ours’ provides bracing cliff-top walks at Sheringham, and a four-mile sand and shingle spit called Blakeney Point, home to the largest seal colony in England. Take a boat trip from Morston Quay to see them up close and personal.

Where to see the seals in Norfolk

Roman Camp/ Beacon Hill views out to the North Sea. North Norfolk.

North Norfolk also has rolling hills, including the Cromer Ridge, the highest point in the East of England from where you can get spectacular coastal views, and while the Cotswolds have the meadows of the upper Thames, north Norfolk has meadows from which springs the Wensum, the longest and most protected chalk river in Europe. Oh, and in prehistoric times, the Thames used to be in Norfolk.

Blakeney Point sailboat sunset

Again, not making it up. Read all about our Deep History Coast, the world’s biggest and best-preserved mammoth skeleton, a flint axe that was the Swiss Army knife of its day and the human footprints that are the earliest evidence of mankind outside the Great Rift Valley in Africa and proof that the first tourists ever to arrive in the UK holidayed in Norfolk.

Fisherman's cottage in Blakeney, Norfolk

Whereas the Cotswolds has its gorgeous golden coloured stone for building, north Norfolk has flint. Across the mainly rural landscape you’ll see flint walls, houses and churches. Many of the latter are Saxon round towered – we have more than the rest of the country put together.

Like the Cotswolds, north Norfolk has Neolithic settlements – Grime’s Graves flint mines were the earliest industrial centre in Europe; Roman remains at Caistor St Edmund and Burgh Castle, and Roman roads, such as the Peddar’s Way.

Walsingham Farms Shop.

The Cotswolds’ medieval wealth came from the wool trade with the continent, with much of those riches being used to build churches. So did ours’. Norfolk has a plethora of magnificent ‘Wool Churches’ and in Walsingham, a medieval centre of pilgrimage. Here you’ll find Walsingham Farms Shop, our equivalent of the famous Cotswolds’ Daylesford Farm Shop.

Like the Cotswolds, the industrial revolution passed Norfolk by (a lack of fast-running water) meaning that much of our beautiful built capital remains gorgeously set in aspic.

Both the Cotswolds and north Norfolk are quintessentially English.

Burnham Market

North Norfolk is punctuated with beautiful gardens, historical and lively market towns such as Georgian Holt, picturesque villages such as Burnham Market, otherwise known as Chelsea-on-Sea, and Burnham Thorpe, birthplace of our greatest naval commander Nelson, and splendid stately homes such as Holkham Hall, Felbrigg, Blickling and Houghton, which recently hosted a stunning celebration of work by Damien Hirst.

And that’s not to forget Sandringham! The Cotswolds is home to Prince Charles and the Princess Royal, but the Sandringham estate is the Royal Family’s countryside dacha and also rural retreat of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children. So the Cotswolds has the next in line to the throne, but north Norfolk can claim the second to fifth.

Cley Marshes and Windmill

Like the Cotswolds, north Norfolk has famous reserves for bird-watching, such as Cley Marshes, breath-taking landscapes that are ideal for walking and cycling, and an arty vibe with galleries, exhibitions and festivals.

Unsurprisingly, this landscape provides a rich harvest that can be enjoyed in gastro pubs, country inns, restaurants in chic hotels and in characterful cafes.

Talking of hotels, there’s great accommodation in north Norfolk – spa hotels, country house hotels, boutique hotels, charming B&Bs, glampsites and self-catering cottages.

So, is that enough to satisfy? North Norfolk. Just like the Cotswolds. With added Coast. You’ll love it. At any time of the year.

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