Blakeney, a wonderful village on the North Norfolk coast (A149), about five miles from the Georgian market-town of Holt.
Awarded a market charter in 1222, Blakeney was once an important harbour, with ships importing timber from the Baltic and coal from Newcastle. Commercial activity ceased when the estuary began to silt up, but the imposing, double-towered church of St Nicholas (above, viewed from Morston Quay) is testament to Blakeney’s former importance.
The legacy of the silting is an amazing landscape of creeks, sandhills, and mudflats, which are home to migratory birds and other wildlife. This part of the coast has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
What to do
Stroll down the high street, which is lined with flint-built fishermen’s cottages, many of which have been snapped up as second homes. Walk along the Glaven Estuary mudflats among the samphire and sea lavender, and marvel at the famous Norfolk skies.
An open-boat trip to see the seals basking on Blakeney Point, a shingle spit formed by longshore drift, is absolutely unmissable — and a bargain at £8 for adults, £4 for children. Temples Seal Trips depart from nearby Morston Quay, but you can buy tickets from the Anchor Inn in Morston, a former smugglers’ inn that now serves wonderful traditional, locally sourced food. Departure times vary according to the tide.
We went in December, when the grey seals have their pups, but in summer months the common seals arrive to give birth. Be warned: it is a bracing trip, especially in winter; so windproof clothing is recommended.
Eating and drinking
Try the genteel Blakeney Hotel, which offers grand views across the sea, especially from the upstairs lounge. Or there is the more fashionable White Horse Hotel near by. Alternatively, drive a few miles along the coast to Salthouse, where Cookie’s Crab Shop has been selling amazingly fresh fish for three generations. Platters, soups, and sandwiches can be ordered to take away. (Quite interesting fact: Cookie’s is Stephen Fry’s favourite eatery.)