05 March 2018
For anyone looking to take in stunning views and some fresh air when visiting Norfolk, little beats getting out on foot. This month our special guest blogger is expert walking guide Suzy Watson, author of the excellent Dog Walks Around the Norfolk Coast and the Norfolk Beaches Handbook. Here, she details four great walks in and around Hunstanton:
"Firstly, I'd like to thank Searles for asking me to be a guest blogger and giving me the chance to showcase some of the wonderful easy local walks near Hunstanton. There’s nowhere better to walk than on and around the beautiful North Norfolk Coast, with its huge skies and swathes of golden sand. There are a fantastic variety of habitats too, from salt marshes and water meadows, to woodlands, commons and heathland.
I’m going to give you four ideas here (well, six in total, but three of these use part of the same route!) for easy local walks in woodlands, on the coast and along part of a nature reserve. As we approach spring, we enter a fantastic time for wildflowers and things to spot, but you could enjoy these trips at any time of year.
Staying in Hunstanton gives you an excellent choice of family friendly and dog friendly walks. Other routes have friendly pubs, landmarks and historic features. All the suggested options that follow are easy walking. Remember, there are no hills in Norfolk (unless you cycle, and then you realise that actually, Norfolk does have hills!).
Some of these walks you can drive to, but others are car free walks where you can catch the excellent Coasthopper Bus, which stops at every village along the Norfolk Coast. All you need to do is jump on and off at your destination. You can find more details of some of these walks either on our Coastal Walks pages on the Explore Norfolk UK website (https://www.explorenorfolkuk.co.uk/coastal-walks.html) or my guidebook "16 Coastal Dog Walks in Norfolk (https://www.explorenorfolkuk.co.uk/dog-walks-around-the-norfolk-coast.html).
Hunstanton to Holme on the Norfolk Coast Path
Distance: 4 to 7 miles (depending on whether you want a linear or circular walk)
What you’ll see: The vast expanse of Old Hunstanton and Holme Beach. You’ll also walk through a nature reserve, along a boardwalk, past a WWII pillbox, alongside the golf course, onto the dunes and into the flintstone villages of Holme or Thornham.
Refreshments: Norfolk Wildlife Trust Café, or if you fancy a pub walk there are several options (The Orange Tree, The Lifeboat Inn, The Chequers Inn), as well as a deli in Thornham or The White Horse pub in Holme.
There are three easy walking routes here, starting right from Hunstanton.
The shorter linear route: For this walk, you can proceed straight out of your door and onto the beach or promenade at Hunstanton. It’s a very easy walk as all you need to do is follow the Norfolk Coast Path signs, which are prominent along the path until you reach Holme. The Norfolk Coast Path starts by the bandstand on The Green in Hunstanton. Once you reach Holme (the end of the golf course) you head inland to the village. Why not stop and have a bite to eat at The White Horse and then catch the Coasthopper back to Hunstanton?
If the tide is out you can walk along the beach around the multicoloured cliffs, although it is a little tricky underfoot. The easier way is to walk along the cliff top, which is a very pleasant grassy walk all the way to Old Hunstanton, passing the white lighthouse and the remains of St Edmunds Chapel. Continue from here following your way parallel to the sea, up behind the beach huts at Old Hunstanton and on to Holme Dunes.
The longer linear route: If you want a slightly longer walk (6 miles), continue following the Norfolk Coast Path, through Holme Dunes Nature Reserve (hopefully the wildlife on the reserve will show for you), and onto Thornham (passing the iconic Old Coal Shed). There are three pubs and a deli in Thornham, so plenty to choose from and some fine ways to while away the rest of the day!
For the circular walk (7 miles): Fancy a longer route? Having walked from Hunstanton to Holme, continue along the Norfolk Coast Path (it's well signed), passing the end of the golf course. Look out for a house on the right as you walk along the raised path, and then a brick post with and oval top. You’ll see a small car park on the right-hand side (if you carried on further, you would reach the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Café). Walk down into the car park and turn right along the rutted track. Continue along here for short way, past the sign for Redwell Marsh Reserve on your left, and shortly after that you’ll see a small track bearing left along the river’s edge (by a bench). Take this path and follow it all the way to Hunstanton Golf course, keeping the River Hun on your left all the way. Just before the clubhouse, you’ll see a sign on the right which says you can cross the golf course. Do beware of golfers teeing off on your left! You then cross the golf course and join the Norfolk Coast Path back to Hunstanton. Should you fancy a change to your outbound route, you can walk back along the beach.
Distance: 1 or 2 miles
What you’ll see: The woodlands surrounding Sandringham House, the home of Her Majesty The Queen, beautiful grounds, a lovely small church with a silver altar (worth a look). Secure wooded playground and dog friendly woodlands.
Refreshments: Visitor centre café and shop
This is a lovely, much shorter and very easy walk of 1 or 2 miles. It is a perfect pet friendly or family walk if you’ve got dogs or children as there is a lot of space to run around. It’s a wonderful woodland route around the estate of Sandringham House, home to Her Majesty The Queen during certain parts of the year. It's also one way to visit Sandringham without having to go into the house. There’s also a lovely enclosed playground made from wood, along with an excellent café and shop.
There are two trails on this circular dog friendly walk: One is a blue walk around 1 mile long, the other a yellow trail, 2-3 miles long. Both of these walks are very easy to follow. Park at the visitor centre, go across the park towards the playground and start the walk from the far side of the playground. The paths are very well signposted; just look out for the little circular coloured arrows attached to the trees. You can also get a very good view out to The Wash on a viewing platform in the middle of the walk. It's pleasant at any time of year, but if you visit when the rhododendrons are in bloom, the colours are incredible.
Last but not least, to add a little something extra while you're here, why not take a quick detour to the fantastic Wolferton Royal Station Museum too? This is a stretch of railway that was used by royalty until it closed down. You can read more about Wolferton Royal Station here: https://www.explorenorfolkuk.co.uk/wolferton-royal-station.html
Distance: 2.6 miles
What you’ll see: This is a nice, dog friendly woodland walk, including the huge steeple of St Marys Church at Snettisham.
Refreshments: Pubs in Snettisham
This walk is just a bit further down the coast at Snettisham, and needs a little direction, although it is marked well with green footpath signs. It's among the prettiest of woodland walks in Norfolk, with scenic views over to The Wash. It’s an ideal shorter walk too, and there are a couple of pubs in Snettisham which you could drop into afterwards for some well-earned refreshment.
- Start at the car park just off the A149. To get to this car park, take the road signposted to The Beach at Snettisham (Beach Road). It isn’t marked as a car park, but has a height limit barrier so you’ll know when you see it. Walk along the short track away from the car park, keeping the house on your left, until you reach a narrower but well-trodden path which takes you up into the wood.
- Once you reach the top of the hill, head straight on through the gate (stone footpath sign on the ground) and continue to follow the well signed track, look to your left as you walk up the hill, you’ll see Lodge Hill Farmhouse and views of The Wash.
- As you walk down the other side of the hill, at the bottom, the path splits in two. Take the right-hand track and you’ll know you’re on the right track when you see another footpath sign just after this split. Continue until you reach the main road.
- Cross straight over the main road, walk through the field between the fences keeping horses in, and you arrive at a small residential road. Turn right here and walk back towards the main road. Turn left along the pavement for a very short distance, and cross over to Common Road. Walk a very short distance to the corner, cross over the road and follow the footpath back into the wood (just after a 30 mph sign). Take this path all the way to the end of the wood and back to where you arrived at the stone footpath sign (no 2 above).
- Turn left and head back down to the car park.
Brancaster Circular Walk
This is one of the best beaches in Norfolk and at low tide you will even see the shipwreck of SS Vina (it is advisable NOT to walk out to the shipwreck due to the strong currents). If you want to find out more about all the best Norfolk beaches, why not look at my Norfolk Beaches Handbook here: https://www.explorenorfolkuk.co.uk/norfolk-beaches-handbook.html
Distance: From 4 to 4 ½ miles
What you’ll see: Brancaster Beach, saltmarshes and reedbeds are great for wildlife. As you walk along the sea wall and farm tracks there are also wonderful, far-reaching views from the hill over towards the sea.
Refreshments: Ice cream kiosk at Brancaster Beach (depending on time of year) and The Ship Pub at Brancaster.
This requires getting to Brancaster which is about 15 minutes’ drive away from Hunstanton, but you could catch the Coasthopper bus which is very easy and therefore makes it a car free walk. If you drive you can park at Brancaster beach car park or The Ship pub if you’re going to stop and have a drink there after the walk!
Most of this walk is part of the Brancaster Circular walk which is well signed, so you won’t get lost, and you don’t really need a map either. The only deviation is when you are walking west, on the brow of the hill above Brancaster – here you’ll come across a permissive footpath on your right, heading down towards the sea. This particular path comes out on the opposite side of the main road to where the Brancaster Circular Walk heads off towards the sea (no 2 below).
- With your back to the church, cross the road and take the main road to Docking. A few meters along here, take the narrow right-hand road which goes at an angle, in between flint stone houses. Follow this road, which then turns into a track, all the way up to the brow of the hill.
- Once you reach the top of the hill, follow the signed path to the right, along a grassy track. Further along here, look out for the permissive footpath sign on the right-hand side. Turn right down this field, keeping the hedge on your right-hand side. (If you get to a small lane, Chalkpit Lane, and signposts for the Norfolk Coast Path and Peddars Way, you’ve gone too far, but it doesn’t matter as you just turn right and head down towards the sea along the lane rather than along the field – once at the main road, turn right until you see the circular walk sign on the left heading towards the sea).
- At the bottom of the hill you’ll reach the A149. Cross straight over this road and join the Brancaster Circular Walk again, heading towards the sea. Walk along the well-trodden path with hedges either side, until you come out onto the sea wall, with reed beds, salt marshes and fresh water meadows. Follow the sea wall all the way to the beach if you wish.
- If you want to make this walk slightly shorter, you can turn right along the sea wall, heading east, and join the parallel sea wall which takes you back into Brancaster.
- If you choose to carry on, head towards the beach. You can either walk over the dunes and along the beach on the sand, and then head inland once you get past the Club House, or you can take the path just landward of the dunes, and walk behind the Brancaster Club House. Head towards Brancaster by walking up to the sea wall and follow this path all the way back to Brancaster village.
Final thoughts and recommended Norfolk Walking Guides...
I really hope you get a chance to enjoy some of the amazing landscape and skies on these walks when you’re here visiting Norfolk. You really cannot beat seeing Norfolk on foot. It truly is the best way by far to take your surroundings, from coastal wildlife to the best views. Enjoy your next trip and happy walking!"
For further reading on the best walking routes in Norfolk, we heartily recommend Suzy's two excellent books, Dog Walks Around the Norfolk Coast and Norfolk Beaches Handbook.. Both are packed with useful information and great ideas for your next walking break. Both can be found at Amazon UK, while Suzy's website Explore Norfolk has lots more to inspire you: https://www.explorenorfolkuk.co.uk