Tucked unobtrusively between Sheringham and Cley, Weybourne is the perfect retreat for enjoying the gentle North Norfolk vibe along with classic seaside activities, from coastal walking to steam train travelling to seafood snaffling, as Nicola Smith discovers
The small village of Weybourne – or Wabrunna as it is known in the Domesday book – sits in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on Norfolk’s windswept north coast, flanked by a large shingle beach on one side and fields and woodland on the other. Its distinctive flint cottages cluster along its winding roads, while in the centre sits All Saints church, abandoned amid the remains of a Priory to which it formerly belonged. Just down the road is a popular pub and a village shop and cafe, completing the picture of a quintessentially charming English village.
Beach anglers flock here to fish in Weybourne’s deep waters, and fishermen launch their boats in search of crab and lobster, while it is a perfect base from which to explore the north Norfolk coastline, with Sheringham just three miles east and Cley-next-the-Sea less than five miles west. The cry of the steam locomotive on the North Norfolk Railway (nnrailway.co.uk) carries nostalgically across the fields and out to sea, making Weybourne an idyllic coastal retreat.
9.30AM VILLAGE LIFE
We leave cosy Helgon Lodge, just a few minutes walk from Weybourne’s village centre, and head down to Weybourne Beach, passing the church, pub and village shop and joining the footpath that leads us through a flat expanse of fields towards the sea. The shingle beach stretches out of sight, and along the shore are several anglers hoping to catch bass, cod and whiting.
The air is cold but the sun is shining, and after a bracing stroll we return to The Village Store, a former post office which has been successfully reimagined as a deli, cafe and village shop. As we wait for our mouthwatering bacon sandwiches, a stream of locals call in for newspapers, supplies and coffees. Most customers linger to chew the fat with the owners – and with each other.
11AM SHERINGHAM BOUND
Determined to make the most of the beautiful day, we set off for the seaside town of Sheringham, a three-mile walk along the coast. We follow the sound of the whistling steam engine before passing pretty Weybourne railway station, famous as a film location for Dad’s Army, Hi-de-Hi and Allo Allo. Time seems to have stood still since its opening in 1901, with a small ticket office and buffet, not to mention bookstall and immaculately dressed guards.
From here we join the coastal path. It lifts us high, skirting alongside the woodland of the National Trust’s Sheringham Park, offering expansive views towards the shimmering horizon, before leading us over the railway bridge and through a series of flat, golden fields that run away towards the deep blue sea. We follow the undulating coast path with its towering cliff edge on one side and Sheringham Golf Course on the other.
After passing the Old Coastguard Lookout, home to Sheringham Coastwatch, we descend towards the town, joining the promenade that weaves in and out of the cliffs alongside its generous sandy beach.
12.30PM SEASIDE SHOPPING
Sheringham began as a fishing village and it has retained a fishing vibe, coupled with a traditional British seaside feel complete with beach huts and a seafront boating pond. We join the throng of visitors in its High Street and start to explore its quirky shops and galleries, lingering in Miss Madeleine’s home and gift shop – an emporium of hidden treasures, including an impressive array of Tintin collectibles. We also browse the Red Lobster Gallery (redlobstergallery.co.uk), with its eclectic array of art, gifts and sculptures.
1.30PM LOVED BY LOCALS
Shopping is hungry work, and we retreat towards the sea to find the popular Whelk Coppers where, despite the bracing wind whipping off the sea, people are queuing outside for a table. Even their dogs are clamouring to get in. We join them, eventually gaining entrance to this cosy tea room – a former fisherman’s cottage – which looks out over the West Promenade. The emphasis here is on fresh and local, and while the renowned crab sandwiches are off the menu, we tuck into kipper pate on sourdough with Corkers East Anglian crisps, a mouthwatering combination, as we sit in the window and contemplate the sea.
2.30PM VERY AMUSING
Borne on a wave of seaside nostalgia, we are drawn into the High Street’s Carousel Amusement Arcade, its volley of pings, bleeps and whizzes, coupled with a wall of bright, flashing lights, immediately transporting me back to childhood holidays in Bognor Regis. We limit ourselves to £1 each, and our 10ps and 2ps are quickly gobbled up by the army of merciless machines.
Back in the sea air, we amble up the main street towards the Town Clock, a small but distinctive clock tower erected in 1862. A few yards away, Camellia Cottage tearooms (camelliacottagesheringham.com) lures us in for tea and homemade shortbread before we continue to the train station at the top of the High Street.
3.30PM AGE OF STEAM
We watch as the steam train blows and lumbers into Sheringham station, whistling and screeching, pistons pumping, as it slows to a halt. It is an impressive sight. We take our seats in the old-fashioned carriage feeling like extras in an Agatha Christie adaptation, and people wave and smile as we pull away, chugging faster and faster as we leave town for country, passing the distinctive white form of Cley Windmill in the distance.
Some 15 minutes later we pull into Weybourne station. As we stroll back towards the village we hear the nearby whistle of the train as it continues on its way, its call mournful in the fading afternoon light. Back at Helgon Lodge we cosy up with a cup of tea and a hot bath to rest our weary legs.
6.30PM COD, CHIPS AND WINE
The Ship Inn (theshipinnweybourne.com) is just a five-minute walk from Helgon Lodge, and we arrive to find a convivial atmosphere and a roaring woodburner, not to mention a welcome choice of over 140 gins. After an aperitif by the fire we tuck into fresh North Sea cod in batter made from Norfolk’s Wherry ale, served with chunky chips and washed down with a glass of wine. The place is fully booked and clearly a popular haunt. There is murmuring of a chicken loose around the village and ‘chicken curry’ is swiftly scored off the menu.
10AM OFF TO MARKET
We head to the market town of Holt, which is four miles inland from Weybourne. This is an attractive muddle of Georgian streets and back alleys, peppered with boutique shops, galleries and cafes. We stumble across tiny Indigo Bay, which has a fine selection of accessories and gifts, and a particularly enticing range of scarves and jewellery.
11AM REFRESHMENTS ON TAP
Obligatory purchases made, we find ourselves in Hoppers Yard, framed by a beautiful archway and tucked behind opulent gates. It is home to several businesses, including Berber (berberinteriors.com), with its array of colourful lamps and Moroccan rugs; and The Folly Tearoom (follytearoom.co.uk), where we press our noses to the window, admiring its vintage interiors and resisting the lure of its warm croissants. If tea is your thing, next door is its sister business, Tea Caddy (thefollyteacaddy.co.uk), which does what it says on the caddy, including selling a mind boggling choice of teas which are wrapped and weighed while you wait.
We pop into Wells Deli (wellsdeli.co.uk), perusing its gluten free, dairy free, vegan menus – and taking note of its yoga classes – but continue onwards to sate our thirst with coffee at the Owl Tea Rooms (owltearooms.co.uk), reportedly one of the oldest in Norfolk, and run by Claudia Pollinger, a former pastry chef for Anthony Worrall Thompson. Its cake selection is bewilderingly scrumptious, and the shared treacle tart a proper treat.
12PM TROT THROUGH HISTORY
We drive eastwards to the National Trust’s 17th Century Felbrigg Hall (nationaltrust.org.uk/felbrigg-hall-gardens-and-estate), which is seven miles from Weybourne, and just two miles inland from Cromer. It sits in 520 acres of woods, and is found down a long and winding drive. We admire the walled garden with its brick dovecote, and stroll around some of the expansive grounds before skirting the majestic 17th Century Hall and entering the orangery, which sadly looks a little neglected. In the welcoming courtyard we browse the shop and its vast plant selection before popping into the Squires Pantry for an excellent pot of venison stew.
2PM GOING LAKESIDE
We follow one of the numerous waymarked paths and just have time to visit Felbrigg Hall’s impressive lake – said to have been formed by combining three rectangular lakes filled with fish destined for the kitchens – before it is time to head home. North Norfolk, we will be back.
NEED TO KNOW
Stay at Helgon Lodge, Weybourne
Helgon Lodge is a Scandi-style single storey three bedroom cottage just five minutes walk from Weybourne village centre. It is open plan with a spacious lounge and kitchen and a huge ensuite master bedroom. It also has an attractive courtyard garden. From £574 for three nights, based on six people sharing (01485 558176 norfolkhideaways.co.uk).
How to get there
Weybourne is on the A149 that runs between Kings Lynn to the west and Cromer to the east, while a bus also runs from Sheringham and Wells-next-the-Sea. Trains run on the North Norfolk Railway from Sheringham and Holt to Weybourne. The village is a 45-minute drive from Norwich Airport.