Day out: Blakeney, Norfolk
Blakeney Point’s basking seals are a must-see on a visit to North Norfolk, but with its exuberant history and cosy inns, the spit’s namesake village on the coast shouldn’t be missed either
The tang of salty sea air and the clinking of halyards add to the sensory experience as you gaze out over saltmarsh and tidal creeks at those famously big North Norfolk skies, the deep orange sun sinking slowly over the horizon.
Today Blakeney is a quiet little haven, but from the Middle Ages through to the very early 20th century, this was a bustling seaport with a thriving fishing industry and distant trade in spices and oriental cloths.
History of Blakeney
The port reached a peak in the 15th and 16th century, when cod and ling were the main hauls. That wealth is reflected in the 15th-century Guildhall, one-time home of a prosperous Blakeney merchant and, by 1516, used by the guild of fish merchants. When it was built, Blakeney was the third most important port in Norfolk. Dating from the same time, the church of Saint Nicholas is unusual in having two towers, the smaller built as a beacon to help ships navigate the tidal creeks and River Glaven.
Things to do in Blakeney
As the Glaven silted up, shipping traffic was lost to other ports and today just a handful of fishing boats operates out of Blakeney, catching local crab and fish to service nearby pubs, restaurants and shops. Many pubs in the area offer excellent locally caught fish dishes, often accompanied with samphire handpicked from the shore. Try a crab sandwich or seafood platter from Cookie’s Crab Shop in Salthouse for a sample of the local catch.
Pleasure craft have replaced fishing vessels and a number of operators offer trips out to Blakeney Point to see the grey and common seals. They depart from either Blakeney or Morston Quay depending on the tides.
Today, the flint fishermen’s cottages often operate as holiday lets and Blakeney makes an excellent base for exploring the North Norfolk coast, whether it be on foot along the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path, on a bike or using the Coast Hopper bus that connects the charming villages of Salthouse, Cley next the Sea and Morston with Wells-next-the-Sea.
Chris Gee is the author of Walking the Yorkshire Coast: A Companion Guide.