When I tell people I'm from The Fens I can generally guarantee that they'll have one of two reactions. There's the ‘Where the hell is that?' one or the classic 'Wow, right out in the sticks! Do you know anyone with webbed toes?' response. Unless the person in question is actually from East Anglia as well, in which case you bond over stuff like drainage systems and carrot farming.
Jokes aside, having grown up and lived here for most of my life does have its advantages - the area's proximity to such beautiful coastline for one. And what better way to spend the summer in good old England than on a classic beach holiday?
To me the Norfolk coast brings back fond memories of childhood day trips, sandwiches on the beach, 20-mile tailbacks on the A47 every Bank Holiday - and countless 'seemed like a good idea at the time' windswept New Year's Day walks which could only be described as 'bracing'. In recent years it's become one of the go-to destinations for both wealthy London-based second home owners and the sort of people who use the word 'staycation', enjoy shabby chic and own every single thing in the Cath Kidston catalogue.
But don’t let that put you off. The North Norfolk coast is an area of stunning beaches, picturesque towns, plenty to do and thanks to its renaissance as a ‘trendy’ holiday destination, not short of great pubs, hotels, galleries and shops. If you’re planning a day trip or a longer break I’ve put together a few ideas of places to go and things to see while you're there.
Want your seemingly endless stretches of golden sandy beach peaceful and free from the fairgrounds and amusement arcades of your typical English seaside resort? Look no further than Brancaster or Old Hunstanton. They’ll still be packed on a hot day and have the all-important ice cream vendor/pub combination, but provide a better atmosphere for chilling out than some of the busier resorts. Take a picnic and a couple of good books.
For a taste of the high life and potential celebrity spotting, hit Burnham Market and the surrounding area. Regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in England, this tiny place is a favourite of the second home set, known as ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’ and is consequently home to expensive boutiques, mouth-watering delicatessens and no less than four art galleries.
There’s a wealth of places to stay and eat but the best-known is probably the Hoste Arms, where Stephen Fry can sometimes be found enjoying a drink. Jamie Oliver has also been spotted and Naomi Watts’s mum, Miv, runs her interior design business from the village. Miv’s work can be seen in the Victoria Hotel at nearby Holkham.
Wildlife and walking more your scene? Take in the unique scenery and wealth of creatures via the Norfolk Coastal Path, which stretches 45 miles through a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and takes you through picturesque villages such as Wells-next-the-Sea and Blakeney, where you can book boat trips to see seals in their natural habitat.
There are plenty of places to stay to suit all tastes, but if you’re looking for somewhere quirky on a budget try Deepdale Farm, which is not only a backpackers’ hostel and campsite but a winner of countless awards for innovation and environmental friendliness. If you’re not down with roughing it in a tent, you can hire a tipi or a yurt and sleep in a real bed instead.
On the other hand, if it really is luxury you want, check out Byford’s in Holt, a café, deli, restaurant and B&B rolled into one which describes itself as a ‘higgledy-piggledy world of pleasure’, all housed in a centuries-old building.
As always, remember to pack hats, sunscreen and plenty of layers – you might be pleasantly surprised by the weather but don’t let it lull you into a false sense of security.