North Norfolk is blessed with lots of small, and market, towns. Quaint, yet offering up to the minute facilities; quiet, yet packed with lovely shops and excellent places to eat and drink, these historically interesting and easily accessible towns are very much part of the areas charm.
We’ve chosen five our favourites because we think you’ll love to visit them. But, we must stress that these five favourites are in no particular order. We wouldn’t want to offend anyone!
So, in random order, our five favourite small towns in North Norfolk are –
Definitely one of Norfolk’s most handsome towns, Holt was established way back in Anglo Saxon times. It’s Georgian elegance, coupled with some splendid Victorian architecture is the result of it being almost completely rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1708.
In the centre of modern Holt you’ll find Byfords, the popular cafe and delicatessen. Ironically it’s in one of the oldest buildings in Holt because it survived the great fire, and another one in 1906.
Holt has a lovely selection of independent retailers, antique shops, art galleries and places to eat and drink.
Famous for its Christmas lights, but utterly charming all year round, Holt is a definite port of call on any trip around North Norfolk.
2. BURNHAM MARKET
At a rough count Burnham Market has 30 or more independent shops, salons and galleries selling everything from high quality necessities to downright luxuries.
The Hoste Arms is a central and very popular place to eat and drink, but by no means the only purveyor of sustenance in this prettiest of places.
Burnham Market is a sought after place for holiday, and full time, homes. Despite the name, the original market which was probably once part of the important amber trade, has gone. But you’ll still find plenty to tempt you in this seriously stylish place.
In fact Burnham Market is the best known of a group of what had been seven villages – Burnham Deepdale, Burnham Norton, Burnham Sutton, Burnham Thorpe, Burnham Overy, Burnham Ulph, Burnham Westgate. You’ll have noticed that the list doesn’t include Burnham Market! That’s because it’s a merging of some of the ancient villages. They must have been important once though because there’s a rhyme, apparently popular in the Middle Ages, that went –
London, York and Coventry
And the Seven Burnhams by the Sea.
And that’s another bonus of Burnham. It’s only a stones throw from the wonderful North Norfolk coast.
Aylsham is a heady mixture of rich history and exciting present. In historical terms you could start with the town sign. On it you’ll find the man who was Lord of the Manor in Aylsham in the 1370s. He’s John of Gaunt, and he appears in Shakespeare’s Richard II. He’s only the one who says some of the most famous lines in all literature! He’s on his death bed when he utters –
This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in a silver sea.
And there’s more history. The Black Boys Inn has some impressive connections.
Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, stayed, and dined at the inn in 1732. Parson Woodforde, Norfolk’s legendary diarist and food fan ate there too, in 1781. Perhaps Norfolk’s most famous son, Lord Nelson, danced at a ball held in he Assembly Room, attached to the inn.
All of that ancient wining and dining seem to have set the scene, because today Aylsham is a favourite place for food lovers. The town boasts award winning butchers, as well as an array of independent food outlets, and Aylsham holds FARMA accredited farmers markets as well as an internationally recognised food festival.
The one thing you won’t be short of in Fakenham is information. The all year round info hub in the Tourist Information Centre is in the Market Place and it’s packed with ideas for places to go and things to do.
For something extra to do while you’re there, Fakenham has its own racecourse. Bet you go (if you see what we mean!)
With a bustling Thursday market, and monthly farmers market, Fakenham is a real slice of Norfolk life.
Situated on the River Wensum, and just under 20 miles from King’s Lynn, Fakenham is easy to get to, but it’s so full of attractions it’s not easy to leave!
Want some Fakenham facts? It’s home to Kinnertons Chocolate. They’re now the largest manufacturer in Britain of novelty confectionery specialising in character licensing.
And, we said it’s a real slice of Norfolk life. Well, Country Life love it too. In their Quality of Life survey, Fakenham was cited as the seventh best place to live in Britain! So it has to be worth a visit.
5. WELLS- NEXT-THE-SEA
A really fabulous place for wildlife and bird-watching, the town is part of the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
There’s so much to like about this place. The lovely beach, with its characteristic beach huts; the narrow gauge railway that runs from the town and car parks to the beach. Try the outstanding cafe. Visit the harbour. It’s great for crabbing.
You’ll find a real mix of shops, and the whole scene is overlooked by the famous granary, with its gantry high above the street.
People from outside Norfolk often comment on the town’s name. Well, it does seem rather precise! Unsurprisingly Wells derives from an ancient word – Guella- which meant wells or springs. By the time the holiday traffic was establishing itself in the 19th century the residents decided to call the town Wells-next-the-Sea to remove any confusion with other towns called Wells.
As a footnote in history, The Wells and Fakenham Railway Company was launched in 1857, but they called their station Wells-on-Sea. Nearly a century later, in 1956 the local District Council decided they liked the original idea best, and duly reverted, officially to Wells-next-the-Sea.
You’ll find a welcome, and so much to do and see, in all of these little towns. And best of all? All of them are so easy to get to when you’re staying at Woodland Holiday Park.
Maybe that’s why they’re our five favourites! We think you’ll love then too.