When you drive from the village of Blakeney
towards Cley-next-the-Sea, you first notice the windmill. It sits on
the edge of the Cley Marshes Nature Reserve, its sails silhouetted
against the endless horizons beyond.
The small Norfolk village of Cley-next-the-Sea is so beautiful that the BBC has even used it as a backdrop between programs. And you really can't blame them.
Cley is picture-postcard perfect with its flint houses and flower-filled window-boxes.
As other villages along this stretch of coast, Cley was once a thriving trading port. Its Medieval harbour was in front of St Margaret's Church - in an area now silted up and overgrown. It appears quite a way from the sea now, with the beach, the Marshes and even the main road separating it from open water.
But what caused the decline of the wealth brought by shipping, eventually brought wealth by tourism. Cley-next-the-Sea is renowned for its peace and tranquillity, for its wonderful views, for long leisurely walks and spectacular wildlife.
Cley's a friendly, busy place and like Blakeney just three miles up the road, makes a good base for a relaxing Norfolk break.
Picnic Fayre, the deli at the corner is richly stocked with all manner of tasty bits for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There's fresh bread and a very fine selection of cheeses. There are pastries and cakes, olives and antipasti, oils and sauces, fresh and dried pasta ... and even ready meals for those who are not at all in the mood to cook. Alongside all of this bounty you can find snacks, super fresh vegetables, wines and even fresh coffee. We were almost daily visitors.
And if this is not enough food, there's a great place selling truly mouthwatering ice-cream and just across from the deli you'll find the Cley Smokehouse offering the tastiest of smoked goods.
Cley used to have the most wonderful vegetable restaurant, one of those Mediterranean-style places where there's no menu. You'd arrive, sit down with a sherry and some olives and wait to be told what you'd be eating that night. Usually, it would be something fresh from the garden or the farm, along with an unusual wine or two. It was a sad day for a much-loved holiday treat when the owners, Kalba Meadows and John Curtis, decided to sell up and move to the French Pyrenees. (If you'd like to know what they're doing now, check out Kalba and John's site here)
But don't think for a moment that you'll now have to go hungry in Cley-next-the-Sea. You could not be more wrong. The village is host to several small cafes and a couple of pubs and restaurants.
And you can find lots of good artwork, too. The Pinkfoot Gallery in the High Street usually has beautiful landscapes in its windows, and Made in Cley opposite is a dream if your taste runs to handmade pottery or jewellery.
So - all in all - there's really no reason not to make a stop in Cley
when you're spending time on the North Norfolk coast. I promise you'll
Norfolk has no shortage of fabulous holiday accommodation whether you want to spend time on the beach, love boating or want to explore inland. You may covet a tiny fisherman's cottage like the one in Blakeney we kept returning to. You may like something larger and more modern like a loft overlooking the Norfolk Broads, or the right place for you may be a chic city apartment perfectly placed to explore Norwich...
It's next to impossible to be bored in Norfolk, there's just so much to do and see. The list below includes some of our favourite places