Sunrise on the North Norfolk Coast, taken at Morston

The beach at Cley next the Sea leads to Weybourne

Plenty of boating fun at Burnham Overy Staithe

Norfolk coast sea lavender at Burnham Deepdale


The Norfolk Coast Path stretches along wild and magnificent coastline for roughly 47 miles. You cannot take horses here nor bicycles, although there is a special cycleway just a little inland.

Walking the Norfolk Coast

Beginning at Hunstanton, a complete new town built by Henry Le Strange in mid Victorian times and, before that, the landing place of St Edmund, the first Patron Saint of England, you walk past Holme and on to Thornham. Whilst at Thornham you will see a land of rolling mists and the legendary and mysterious Thornham stumps.

Cliffs at Hunstanton

The three layered cliffs at Hunstanton are rich with fossils

The path continues past Brancaster which, apart from being incredibly beautiful, is legendary in being the spot where Norfolk’s greatest sea hero, Admiral Lord Nelson, gained his love of the ocean. We took a breather in Burnham Deepdale as it is a good stopping-off point with a campsite, information centre, shops and cafes. The panorama is simply stunning.

From here it is about 8.1 miles to Holkham, along one of Norfolk’s most beautiful stretches of coastline. You may get blown about a little! You may like to visit Holkham Estate, home of the famous Thomas Coke whose ancestor, the 1st Earl of Leicester, built a beautiful house and began the task of reclaiming this hitherto barren land for agriculture.

For many, the next stage of the walk – about 7.2 miles to Stiffkey – is paradise and passes through Wells next the Sea with its endless sandy beaches.

You may well spare a thought for the Rector of Stiffkey, Howard Davidson, as you pass by. He was by all accounts a fine priest who fell fowl of some powerful local people due to his habit of travelling to Soho in London and helping the prostitutes there. In 1932 he was found guilty of immorality and defrocked. Ever the showman and determined to demonstrate his innocence, he took to appearing in a fairground at Blackpool. He would enter the cage of a lion and lioness and talk to the ticket holders. Unfortunately, in the performance on 28 July 1937, he stood on the tail of the lioness and was killed by the lion. There was great grief at his funeral and, right up to today, people talk of him, most considering him quite innocent fo the charges laid against him.

Cley next the Sea

Cley next the Sea village and mill

Then the walk continues to Cley, to Weybourne and Cromer. You will pass through Salthouse, once very prosperous as salt was a most valuable commodity in days gone by. It was also the home of one, Onesiphorous Randall, who built a lovely house. On the beach. He put a canon in front of his domain to stop prying eyes as often a carriage could be seen whisking along the sands carrying a beautiful lady. The ‘folly’ as it was known lasted until 1953 when it was duly carried away by the sea.

Cromer Pier

Sunrise behind Cromer Pier

You will pass through East and West Runton, Sheringham and into Cromer, famed always and now for the ‘Cromer Crab’. Once also, as we highlight in one of our books ‘Norfolk Food Heroes’, this was the centre of the herring industry, probably the most important industry in Norfolk.

The area also has associations with the Black Shuk, a huge dog with glowing eyes who was partial to the throats of any foolish folk who ventured onto the cliffs at night. In fact, it was here that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the most widely read author in the world, heard of the legend and based one of the greatest of the Sherlock Holmes stories on these events. It was ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’, and it gained immediate international attention just a year after his visit here in 1901.

Arguably, of even greater importance in the development of the area was a journalist named Clement Scott, who was sent here by his paper, the Daily Telegraph, to find out why this part of the coast appealed to so many. He came down and immediately fell in love with the area as well as a local miller’s daughter, Louie Jermy. The area is now know as ‘Poppyland’ and that is down to him. He wrote to following famous verse in the churchyard of Sidestrand church, just a couple of miles from the end of this trail. He was waiting for his love.

In my Garden of Sleep, where red poppies are spread, I wait with the living alone with the dead! For a tower in ruins stand guard o’er the deep, At whose feet are green graves of dear women asleep! Did they love as I love, when they lived by the sea? Did they wait as I wait, for the days that may be? Was it hope or fulfilling that entered each breast, Ere death gave release, and the poppies gave rest?

Norfolk Poppies

Poppies at Beeston Bump near Sheringham

It is true that, if you wait in Summer for the tide to recede and walk a little out on the sands, you can look back and see the cliffs, the green of the trees, and an arc of glowing red poppies under the limitless metallic blue sky with its characteristic Norfolk primrose edge. The effect is quite beyond beautiful and you may well be tempted to write a poem, too!

Written by © Stephen Browning 2013
Photography © 2015 Daniel Tink

‘Peddars Way and the Norfolk Coast Path’ by Stephen Browning and Daniel Tink is published by Halsgrove at £14.99. Available from local bookstores and online from Amazon.