Thursday, 17 May 2018

A Week in Norfolk {Sandringham, Wells, Hunstanton & Ely}

As a family we love nothing more than to get away and explore. Obviously, with Richard's work and family budget limits, it's not something we get chance to do that often and now that our eldest is at school, we are a little more restricted for when we can get away. Therefore when we realised his Easter break was a mammoth two and a half weeks long, we knew we needed to get a trip away booked. We were going away with friends and together we decided on a UK break to Norfolk. We went away in April so just over a month ago now. I wasn't intending on documenting our holiday on here as we went away with friends and I had a total break from social media for the week. As such, I also didn't have my camera attached to me in the way I normally would on our travels (the rainy weather never helps with a DSLR anyway) but I love documenting our travels, it's always been my favourite thing to write about on my blog. We don't get the chance to go away as much as I'd like to, so I like to make the most of the opportunities when I can and so I thought I'd do a little round up of our week away (mostly) through the eyes of my iPhone.

We stayed in a wooden lodge called Pine Tree Lodge, located at the side of a lake in the Norfolk countryside, and just a short drive from King's Lynn. The lodge itself was made entirely of wood and had a beautiful kitchen, mezzanine gallery and a hot tub in the garden too.

We were ideally situated to visit most of the North Norfolk coastline as well as other places such as Sandringham too. The weather was unfortunately pretty rainy the whole week (it was April after all) but despite the rain we still found lots of family friendly and cost effective trips all within a 30-50 minute drive from where we were staying. 

The lodge is located on the edge of Pentney Lakes, which is surrounded by a collection of individual (mostly privately owned) lodges. We arrived on the Friday night and decided to head out for a little explore and a walk around the lakes.

The following day we headed to the nearby coastal town of Hunstanton. We spent the morning having a wander around some of the arcades and trying a few rides at the fun fair. The kids all loved the 2p machines at the arcades. 

We spent the rest of the day enjoying the beach, digging in the sand, building sandcastles and splashing in rock pools. The children were all kept entertained for hours, each with a bucket and spade and the sun on the backs of their necks. I often think the most fun activities are the ones which cost nothing, and what's better than a trip to the beach and an ice cream? 

On the Sunday we headed back out to the coast, to one of my favourite seaside places, Wells-next-the-sea. We went back in October half term (the weather was a bit kinder to us on that visit). But even in the rain it was still lots of fun and well worth a visit. We actually didn't go down to the beach or the famous colourful beach huts this time as it was so rainy, but we did the estuary walk from the beach carpark (where there's a lovely little Joules shop) down into the town. Down at the harbour you'll spot lots of people going crabbing. We bought the obligatory fishing line and clear bucket and stood in the rain for an hour or so which the kids all loved. 

Another place which is well worth a visit is Church Farm Rare Breeds Centre near Downham Market.    We went during lambing season so were able to see lots of new rare breed lambs, as well as horses, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs, donkeys and goats. There was an outdoor trampoline area, a ride on tractor track, indoor wooden play area, lots of indoor barns as well as a barn full of straw and hay bales for the children to climb about on. In fact I think they'd all have happily spent the entire day in the hay bale barn itself! There was also a tractor ride around the farm and a tea room and shop to visit too. You could easily spend the whole day here and all for what I felt was a really reasonable admission price.

One of the most famous places to visit in Norfolk is of course the Queen's estate at Sandringham. We enjoyed it so much in fact that we went back twice in the week. If you want to enter the main gardens, museum or house you do have to purchase a ticket (we paid for entry to the gardens and museum) but I think it was well worth the entry price and the children all loved exploring the different areas of the gardens. The museum houses a fascinating collection of royal memorabilia, photos and a large collection of the royal vehicles which were used. 

As well as the main gardens and the house itself, you can also get free access into the woods which surround the estate. There are a few different routes through the woods (it can get extremely muddy and the walks are fairly long) so we didn't take a pushchair. It's absolutely beautiful and on a  sunny day you could easily spend a few hours exploring the different routes through the woods. 

There's also a fantastic adventure playground made entirely out of wood. Again this was completely free and there was plenty to keep all the children occupied for a few hours including a zipwire, a lazy swing and wobbly bridges. 

After our visit to Sandringham we headed back to the coast to visit Hunstanton old beach, which is a beautiful stretch of unspoilt beach, and much less touristy than the rest of Hunstanton itself. It's the perfect place for a quiet walk along the sand or for building sandcastles, and lovely if you prefer the quieter more off the beaten track sort of beach. 

As we were located on the west side of Norfolk and fairly close to Kings Lynn, we were able to hop over the border into Cambridgeshire. Having been to the coast a few times we thought we'd explore somewhere a bit different, so we headed over to the beautiful cathedral town of Ely. The cathedral is absolutely beautiful and well worth a visit (note there is an admission charge though you can go in and look from the back of the building). 

We then had a mooch around the town and found a fudge shop called the Ely Fudge Company. It smelt divine in the shop and there were lots of unusual flavours to try. We headed to Pizza Express for lunch before walking down for a walk along the river to spot the boats (there's also a really lovely park next to the river, surrounded by some gorgeous houses!). I love going to beaches on holiday but I also love exploring towns too and I'm really pleased we hopped into Cambridgeshire to have an explore around beautiful Ely while we were away. 

We had such a lovely week away in Norfolk and despite the weather, we were able to spend so much time outside enjoying the beautiful coastline, Sandringham and Ely too. There's so much more of Norfolk to explore as well and I'm sure we will head back again when the weather is a little warmer. As a family we love travelling but we especially love UK travel and exploring all the beautiful places this little island has to offer and I can't wait to take the boys on more UK adventures. 

Have you been to Norfolk? Where else would you recommend visiting there? 

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