If you feel a hankering for some “sea air”, then the wonderful traditional seaside town of Sheringham should go on your 'must-visit' list. Visitors love the sandy beach, independent shops, pubs and restaurants, terrific fish & chips, theatre, heritage railway, museums, and coastal walking with fantastic views.
Sheringham is an excellent destination for a great day out, just as it makes a wonderful base from which to explore the Norfolk coast and broads.
I fondly (or should I say grimly) remember our first visit one wet June day. We arrived in a cloud of steam on one of the trains on the beautiful North Norfolk Railway. Having left Holt, we stopped off and explored stations along the way to arrive in a rather damp Sheringham around lunchtime. We walked down to the beach along an attractive High Street, and after buying our fish & chips, strolled the promenade to find somewhere to shelter from the drizzle and enjoy our lunch. The sea was rough and the tide high. The waves crashed against the rocks and stones beneath the promenade. There wasn’t much to look at out at sea, as it was all grey and merged into the sky. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t see anyone enjoying the water!
warming, tasty lunch, we ducked back under our umbrella and dashed to
the station, trying our best to avoid the largest puddles. As we excitedly climbed
aboard our steam train back to Holt, we agreed that we would have to give
Sheringham another chance when it wasn't raining.
Fast-forward many years to one of the hottest days of 2022. We hadn’t been to the seaside for three months and treated ourselves to a day out. Our first stop was Blickling Hall and a walk around the estate, then we took the short drive up the coast - with a stop along the way to visit Beeston Regis Priory - to end the day with a stroll around Sheringham and up on the cliffs for the great views. Wow, what a different experience…
It’s hard to imagine mammoth, sabre tooth tigers, and wild boar roaming the area, but the discovery of fossilised bones, including a near full mammoth skeleton, make that hard to argue with. Flint axes and arrowheads found in peaty deposits suggest the area was once marshland and home to hunter-gatherer people. In fact, the Happisburgh hand axe found just along the coast is one of the world’s most significant ancient finds and is 700,000 years old!
Why am I telling you about an Ice Age World? Because this slice of Sheringham’s history is captured in a beautiful mural along the promenade.
As for Sheringham's more recent history?
Local historians believe that the Sheringham area was first settled by Scira, a Viking leader, and his people before the year 900. Every February, a Viking-themed festival celebrates the creation of the settlement with recreations of Viking camps and re-enactments, as well as a torch-lit parade and ceremonial boat burning on the beach.
In the Domesday Book of 1086, Sheringham was listed as Silingham, meaning “the homestead of Scira’s people”. Its population of 28 comprised 10 villagers, 12 smallholders, 5 slaves, and 1 freeman. The record registered a 4-acre meadow and some woodland, a church and church land, and 100 pigs.
In 1216, Margery de Cressy founded the Priory of St. Mary, or Beeston Regis Priory, conveniently positioned on the popular pilgrimage route to Walsingham. A small Augustine community of four canons was based at the priory, and one of their main functions was to act as parish priests in the nearby churches. The priory was lost in 1536 after Henry VIII created the Church of England and closed all religious houses. The buildings were stripped of valuables, broken up to be used as building materials, or converted into farm buildings. The latter ensured that several important structural features survived until this day.
The railways arrived in Sheringham on the 16th June 1887 in the form of a direct line to London. The journey took 3 hours and 13 minutes - a boon for the local fishermen, who could have their famous crabs, lobsters, and whelks for sale in London's markets within a few hours of being caught.
On 23rd January 1897, the Norwegian brig “Ispolen” was driven aground at Sheringham. Despite a violent storm making conditions very dangerous for the Sheringham lifeboat “Henry Ramey Upcher”, the crew deployed to save the eight hands of the stricken Norwegian vessel. Sometimes, when weather and sea come together the right way, the remains of the wreck can be seen at low tide. There is an information board along the promenade, and buoys float in the sea to mark the wreck's position.
In 1915, Sheringham became the first town in Britain to be bombed by the Germans during World War I. German Zeppelins dropped two incendiary bombs during an attack along the Norfolk coast. Luckily, no one was killed.
Sheringham is an attractive town. Cheerfully busy shopping streets, pretty traditional buildings constructed from flint and red brick, the charm of a former fishing village evident in small cottages, tightly packed together on narrow streets. Welcoming pubs and tearooms. Lovely…
We wandered along the promenade in a westerly direction to the Lifeboat Station. One of the first prominent buildings we came across was the Sheringham Museum at the Mo. Inside, not only can you learn about local history, but you also have exceptionally fine views out to sea and across Sheringham from the glass tower.
The promenade - a large concrete structure - also acts as part of the town's sea defences. It was really nice to see that local professional artists had been allowed to paint and decorate areas with their artwork in order to try and disguise the drab concrete. This is part of the Sheringham Art and Sculpture Trail. I’m not sure how it was achieved, but the artwork was truly stunning!
The views along the beach were just as fine. The tide was out, and the sand was clean and golden. This time, plenty of people enjoyed the beach and sea. The promenade ends at the Lifeboat Station, which is open between 10am to 4pm for visitors to look around the boat and equipment used by the volunteers to help or rescue those out at sea.
We retraced our steps for about 200 metres and turned right through an arch and up onto The Esplanade. Here we joined the Norfolk Coast Path and headed west towards the Coastguard lookout in the distance. The path goes through a small garden with fountains and ponds, passed the large model boat pond with its blue coloured water and a glorious Victorian shelter.
The path becomes sandy and leaves the edge of town. The slope is gentle, and the views open up across the North Sea, the coast, and the local golf course. If you time it right, you may even see one of the steam trains coming or going to Sheringham. Sadly, for us, we only got to see the last diesel train going back to Holt!
views from the Coastguard lookout on the top of Skelding Hill are amazing, and
on a cool, clear day you should be able to see as far as Blakeney Point.
We returned to the promenade. The sun was out and as it was early evening the smell of fish & chips drifted across the path as visitors and locals enjoyed their dinner whilst sitting on benches looking out to sea. The smell was so tempting, but with a three-hour drive back home, I didn’t want to risk tiredness. Instead, we passed the starting point of our walk and explored the East Cliff. Here, brightly coloured beach huts lined our route. As the tide had turned during our stroll up the cliff, people had moved off the beach and congregated outside their huts. It made for a very friendly, happy end to our visit. Thank you Sheringham!
We missed a climb up to Beeston Bump, as we ran out of time. If you're visiting Sheringham, keep in mind that climbing Beeston Bump is a must, as the views are supposed to be very good. And according to Google Maps, Beeston Bump was the tallest mountain in the world! I let you search for that story, as it doesn’t even claim to be the highest peak in Norfolk.
The Beeston Bump walk also visits the ruins of the thirteenth century Beeston Regis Priory. These quiet remains and ponds are very peaceful. The complete, near 5-mile walk would be a great way of exploring Sheringham, especially if you start early and can visit the museums and Lifeboat Station.
Another great place we recommend for a walk is Sheringham Park gardens, on the south side of the A148, only a short distance out of Sheringham. If you are visiting around late May and into June, Sheringham Park has a very colourful rhododendron display.
Choosing where to stay for a short break or holiday along the north Norfolk coast is difficult. If you want easy access to the salt marshes then Salthouse, Cley-next-the-Sea, Blakeney, or Stiffkey may be your choice. However, if you want easy access to crashing waves and beach walks then Sheringham and Cromer are probably good bets, and especially if you like cliff top views. If you don’t mind a mile or so walk to the beach then, Wells-next-the-Sea, Cley-next-the-Sea, and Weybourne may be on your list.
Then you also have to start thinking about your environment. Do you want a quiet town or somewhere with more pubs, restaurants, shops, and things to do? Maybe you want evening entertainment?
Sheringham certainly appeals as a place to stay for a holiday. When the weather was poor, you could take a relaxing ride on a steam train, maybe take the train to Weybourne and visit the tank museum, or the museums in Sheringham itself.
Another plus point for Sheringham is that you could arrive by train, as there is a mainline railway down to Norwich. I know we used this route when we visited Norwich for a day out during one of our holidays.
So, if you’re thinking Sheringham is the place to stay, then here are some examples of cottages or hotels that are available…
Or, if you fancy staying in a hotel here are some nice examples...
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Are you feeling in need of a holiday yet? Here are a few more pages that might give you ideas...