Ruff Guide to… North Norfolk

If your dog loves to feel the sand between their paws, they’ll be in heaven in North Norfolk. With more than 45 miles of unspoilt coastline, friendly coastal communities and an abundance of wildlife, this beautiful part of the country is a joy to visit all year round. As well as natural treasures, North Norfolk has lots of history to explore, from imposing country houses to Victorian pleasure piers. It’s also home to Sandringham – the Queen’s much-loved country retreat – so you’ll be in good company when you visit.

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Ernie leads the way through the pine forest to Holkham Beach

WHAT ARE THE MUST-SEES? North Norfolk is famed for its beaches, many of which are dog-friendly all year round. Whether you’re looking for miles of soft sand or rocky coves to explore, you will find it here. Holkham, which is backed by a pine forest, is probably the most famous Norfolk beach and even appeared in 1999’s Shakespeare in Love movie. The two-mile walk through the pines to Holkham Beach is a must (parking costs £2 per hour), but click here to see a list of the top beaches in North Norfolk. Remember to watch out for ground-nesting birds, too – they are quite common in this part of the world.

If you do head to Holkham Beach, pop across the road to Holkham Hall. Dogs are not allowed inside the main house but are free to explore the 3,000-acre estate, which is home to a large herd of fallow deer. They roam freely so dogs must be kept on lead at all times. The Holkham website recommends walking routes of varying lengths that take in the park, lake and farm. Dogs are also welcome in the courtyard of the cafe and, at peak times, the gift shop. It’s free to visit the Holkham estate but parking costs £3 a day – which you can claim back if you spend more than £12 in the shop.

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Go seal-spotting at Blakeney Point with Beans Boats

Put your sea legs to the test by taking a trip with Beans Boats, who make daily sailings to see Norfolk’s resident grey and common seal colonies. The hour-long trips leave from Morston Quay and head out to Blakeney Point where, if you’re lucky, you will see some inquisitive seals swimming around the boat. Depending on the tides, some sailings also give you the option to get out at Blakeney Point – but always keep your dog on lead at a safe distance from the seals. Beans Boats is a family-run business and welcomes well-behaved dogs, although no more than two pets per family are permitted. Adult tickets cost £13 while dogs travel free.

Another great day out can be had at RSPB Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve, which is home to bird-filled reedbeds, lagoons and marshes. Avocets, bearded tits and marsh harriers are among the species that call this RSPB reserve home. Dogs on lead are welcome to explore the West Bank Path – find out more by clicking here. Pets are also allowed on Cromer Pier, which makes for a nice little stroll. The Grade II listed Victorian pier is just over 150m long and is a great spot for crab fishing.

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Colourful beach huts at Wells-next-the-Sea © Richard Humphrey

WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? Head straight for the beaches! As previously mentioned, North Norfolk is renowned for its coastline and it’s impossible to visit the area without checking out a beach or two. The 83-mile Norfolk Coast Path, which runs from Hunstanton to Hopton-on-Sea, takes in all the best beaches and allows you to make the very most of the coast.

The five-mile walk from Wells-next-the-Sea to Holkham is a lovely one – simply start from Wells beach, go past the iconic beach huts and keep going. Alternatively, enjoy a four-mile stroll from Cromer to Overstrand, heading out along the beach then returning via the promenade. Sandy Brancaster Beach is great for dogs, too – when the tide is out, you can see the remains of SS Vina, which the RAF used for target practice during World War Two. Check the tide times before you go though, to save you getting stranded!

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Sheringham Park © Martin Dawes

For woodland walks, head to Sheringham Park which more than 1,000 acres of land to explore. The park, which is owned by the National Trust, surrounds Sheringham Hall and has plenty of marked walking trails, ranging from one to five miles. Dogs are also welcome in the gift shop, visitor centre and cafe, when you need to refuel. For more information about visiting the park with your four-legged friend, click here. Parking costs £6 per day but is free for National Trust members.

Anyone hoping to spot the Queen should try their luck at Sandringham. Although dogs are not allowed on the official estate, they are welcome to explore the 142-hectare country park, where it is free to park and there are two trails to follow. You can also get back to nature in and around Kelling Heath Holiday Park, which is nestled in open heathland between Sheringham and Holt. Not only is it a lovely place to stay, but the team at the family-run park have put together a number of walks to suit all abilities – click here to see their suggestions.

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Ernie enjoys some doggy ice cream at the Beach Cafe in Wells-next-the-Sea

BEST PLACE TO GRAB A BITE? You can’t beat the Beach Cafe in Wells-next-the-Sea, which is just a stone’s throw from the beach. It’s open all year round and pets are welcome both inside and out. Dog treats are readily available, alongside doggy ice cream during the summer months. There’s even a pet water station outside, which is really handy. The Funky Mackerel in Sheringham is also great – don’t leave without trying one of their flapjacks!

The Cliff Top Cafe in Overstrand is renowned for its breakfasts and has been serving homemade food since 1925. Your four-legged friend will really be spoilt here with a range of treats and doggy burgers cooked to order. You can also enjoy gut-busting meals at Eric’s, an upmarket chippy, which has branches in Thornham and Holt. Dogs are not allowed inside the restaurants, but there is outdoor seating and the takeaway menu includes items such as battered Mars bars and fried jam sandwiches.

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The quirky Art Cafe in Glandford is a real treat for vegetarians and vegans

Vegetarians and vegans should make a beeline for The Art Cafe in Glandford – the only veggie restaurant in North Norfolk. It is also home to a lovely little gallery and is proud to serve Grey Seal Coffee, which is roasted just across the farmyard. You can also get your Grey Seal caffeine fix at coffee shops in Wells-next-the-Sea, Blakeney, Sheringham and Cromer. All branches are dog-friendly.

Pets are guaranteed a warm welcome at The Wheatsheaf in West Beckham – formerly the West Beckham Manor House. As well as serving up traditional pub grub, it is home to a tea room. The White Horse in Brancaster is also worth a visit for its fresh shellfish, all caught in the village. Try to bag a table on the patio, which is a prime spot for watching the sunset.  The Ship Hotel, just up the road, also serves samphire – a Norfolk delicacy.

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The Lifeboat Inn at Thornham is one of the oldest pubs in North Norfolk

WHERE SHOULD I STAY? Thornham makes a great base for exploring the North Norfolk coastline and the village is home to no less than three dog-friendly pubs with rooms. Choose from The Orange Tree, which is renowned for its food, the traditional Lifeboat Inn or the stylish Chequers Inn. Another excellent dog-friendly pub with rooms is The White Horse in Overstrand.

If you’ve ever fancied being lord or lady of the manor, check out Holkham Lodges. Two of the four boutique boltholes on this 25,000-acre estate welcome dogs – including the Triumphal Arch, which is just magnificent. Guests will, of course, be close to famous Holkham beach as well as The Victoria Inn by the gates of Holkham Hall, which also offers dog-friendly rooms.

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Ernie checks out the view from our room at Stable Court

For something a little more budget-friendly, consider Stable Court, near Holt, which is linked to The Blue Bell gastropub. And if you’re travelling on a shoestring, check out Deepdale Backpackers, too. Dogs are welcome in the private rooms at the hostel or alternatively, you can choose to stay on the award-winning campsite.

Dog owners travelling with more than one pet should check out Pack Holidays, which offers a range of self-catering accommodation across North Norfolk sleeping from two to 12 people. East Ruston Cottages also specialise in dog-friendly breaks but be warned – its cottages often get booked up way in advance.

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The iconic Coal Barn in Thornham

GET ME THERE: By road, North Norfolk is easy to get to from most parts of the UK – especially the south, thanks to the A11. From Norwich, motorists can also pick up the Broadland Northway which will take you right to the coast.

Greater Anglia trains regularly leave London Liverpool Street and King’s Cross for King’s Lynn and Norwich and from the latter, you can pick up connecting services to Cromer or Sheringham. There are also daily National Express coach services from London, the Midlands and the south-east, while the nearest airport is Norwich International.

If you don’t have a car to get around when you’re in North Norfolk, there are plenty of bus services than can help you explore. The Coasthopper runs between Wells, Cromer and North Walsham while the Coastliner shuttles between Wells, Fakenham and King’s Lynn. Unlimited dog “Rover” tickets cost £1 per day.

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Ernie poses with his 2019 copy of The Barking Bugle Dogs’ Holiday Guide

FIND OUT MORE: Check out The Barking Bugle – an award-winning online newspaper written by dogs, for dogs. Every year, it produces a free holiday guide for pet owners but if you can’t get your paws on a copy or would just like to plan ahead, it can be delivered for a small fee. For more information about North Norfolk, visit the official tourism website or head to the North Norfolk District Council website, which also has plenty of ideas for things to see and do.


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