With its vast deserted beaches, picture postcard villages and unique salt marshes, North Norfolk is a great place to enjoy the great outdoors
With a short walking holiday in North Norfolk in mind, my husband and I decided that it would be a shame to leave our two dogs at home. However, when we began our search for accommodation, it became apparent that many ‘pet-friendly’ cottages would only take one ‘small’ or ‘well-behaved’ dog. Thankfully, we persevered and stumbled across a website for Clevency Cottages in the charming Conservation village of Great Snoring. We booked a three-night stay in Rose Cottage, a two-bedroom, 17th century cottage that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the front of a chocolate box.
On arriving in Norfolk, we were delighted to find that Rose Cottage was even more appealing than it appeared on the website and one of three cottages located around a small, private yard and pretty garden just off the main street. The ancient village of Great Snoring is extremely tranquil and surrounded by lots of lovely, traffic-free country lanes that are perfect for exploring with dogs.
One of the best nearby routes is The Green Way to Walsingham, a two mile-long footpath bordered by tall, verdant hedgerows that leads to the medieval village of Little Walsingham. A place of pilgrimage since Saxon times, it’s home to the famous Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham and a walk down the high street is like stepping into the pages of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. We particularly liked Walsingham Farms Shop on Guild Street, Walsingham (www.walsinghamfarmsshop.co.uk), where you can buy fantastic produce from local growers and suppliers, and The Norfolk Riddle fish and chip shop (Tel: 01328 821903) on Wells Road, Walsingham. The Bull Inn (Tel: 01328 820333) on Common Place is dog-friendly and has a lovely beer garden that made a great pit stop before we set off on the walk back to Rose Cottage.
As we ventured further afield, we discovered that Great Snoring’s location - just six miles inland from the sea – makes it an ideal base for a holiday that combines the best of the surrounding countryside and coastline. One of the highlights of our stay was a walk along the seemingly endless swathe of powdery white sand at Holkham, which reminds me of the huge, deserted beaches of Queensland, Australia. Bordered by rugged sand dunes and pinewoods, and part of the Holkham National Nature Reserve, the beach was the atmospheric setting for the closing scenes of the film Shakespeare in Love. We walked for miles and only encountered the occasional dog walker. The shingle beach at Cley-Next-The-Sea is also a great place for a walk, although, when we visited, an area was cordoned off to prevent a colony of ground-nesting Terns from being disturbed during their breeding season.
Visits to the coastal villages of Skiffkey, Morston and Blakeney gave us the opportunity to explore a very different kind of coastal landscape made up of miles of salt marsh punctuated by brackish pools and the narrow inlets that enable small boats to reach Morston quay and Blakeney harbour. The Norfolk Coast Path is clearly marked and links the villages along this part of the coast. As the salt marshes are a haven for birdlife, including vast flocks of Brent geese, it’s best to stick to the footpaths and ensure that dogs are kept under control. After working up an appetite, we headed for the Red Lion on Wells Road, Skiffkey - www.skiffkey.com - which serves hearty pub grub and welcomes dogs. The seafood stall on Blakeney quay is also well worth a visit for fresh crab, shrimps, mussels and other shellfish. A seating area is provided so you can enjoy lunch al fresco. Almost everywhere we stopped off, we found that bowls of fresh drinking water were provided for thirsty dogs and this was no exception.
Back at Rose Cottage, home comforts and attention to detail – such as fresh flowers and the little bowl of dog biscuits left on the kitchen table – made it a welcoming place to retire to after an action-packed day of walking in the spring sunshine.