The royal family have taken holidays in North Norfolk on their Sandringham Estate, their only privately owned house in England, for generations. Princess Anne and Prince Charles played as children in the royal beach hut on the superb sands at Holkham and now Kate and Wills are renovating a home of their own, Anmer Hall, on the estate.
What’s the appeal? North Norfolk has some of Britain’s most acclaimed beaches — Holkham, Hunstanton, Brancaster — perfectly preserved, fiercely independent Georgian market towns — Burnham Market, Holt — and fabulous locally sourced food, from Cromer crabs to Sharrington strawberries.
London is just over two hours away (one hour and 40 minutes from King’s Cross to King’s Lynn, followed by a 30-minute drive to the coast) yet the area is much less “discovered” than Rock or Padstow in Cornwall. “The road system is still not brilliant to North Norfolk, which keeps us a little off the map,” says Max Sowerby of estate agent Sowerbys (sowerbys.com; 01328 730340). “But that means that even on a sunny bank holiday you can find a secluded spot on the beach. Visitors come for the space, the legendary big skies and a dry — if often bracing — climate.”
Nearly one in 10 properties in North Norfolk are second homes according to stats from Savills, a figure that rises steeply in prime coastal villages, such as Burnham Overy and Brancaster.
Burnham Market, three miles inland, is one of the most in-demand locations for second homes thanks to its winning mix of convenience and charm. There’s a butcher, baker and fishmonger alongside art galleries, antique shops and cute-as-a-cupcake tearooms.
The Georgian village with its red-brick homes and stylish Hoste hotel is invariably referred to as Chelsea-on-Sea thanks to the many smart Londoners who holiday there. But it’s a sobriquet that makes many locals wince.
“Burnham Market is more multi-layered than that,” says Sowerby, while acknowledging that there are weeks in summer when traffic slows to a standstill and parking becomes a headache. “We have a good mix of locals and visitors. Sure, there are chichi parts but there is also a true community.”
Property is certainly at a premium in this delightful village. Just outside Burnham Market a traditional brick-and-flint mid-terrace cottage with two bedrooms costs from £250,000 while a similar-size cottage directly on the village green carries a price tag of £450,000.
North Norfolk Villages: Wells-next-the-Sea, Docking, Syderstone and South Creake
“Most buyers want to be north of the A148 that runs from King’s Lynn to Cromer, close to the coast and in a village where they can walk to the pub and shops,” says Sowerby.
“The biggest increase in sales and prices recently has been in Wells-next-the-Sea. Whereas once it was a traditional bucket and spade, fish and chips and arcades resort, it is becoming smarter and retains a good range of independent shops.”
Figures show prices in Wells have risen by 21 per cent since 2007.
For value, Sowerby tips the villages of Docking, Syderstone and South Creake, not as fashionable as some near neighbours but with interesting property prices.
“Syderstone in particular looks good value with an excellent common, good walks and the coast only 10 minutes away,” adds Sowerby. “It is also the right side for King’s Lynn so transport links are good.”
Three-bedroom terrace cottages in Syderstone start from £170,000 with a new three-bedroom brick-and-flint cottage at The Linnets for £275,000. Sowerbys have a period cottage there with two bedrooms in the heart of the village for £189,995.
Rental homes in Norfolk
Burnham Market is a firm favourite for holiday rentals, says Simon Barclay of Kett Country Cottages, who has seen bookings increase by 12 per cent over the last year. Weekly rents range from under £300 for a cottage sleeping four, to £500 for a four-bedroom house. Visit kettcountrycottages.co.uk.
The Hoste offers three self-catering cottages a short walk from the village green next to the Railway House, the converted original station house, an annexe to the main hotel. The cottages sleep six and start from £160 a night.
Historic Hoste with the most
If Burnham Market is Norfolk’s social pinnacle, The Hoste is its epicentre. A 17th-century coaching inn-turned-21st-century boutique hotel with restaurant and Hoste Arms pub where Lord Nelson regularly drank, it has been owned by Brendan and Bee Hopkins since April last year.
In that time they have taken it to a four-star hotel and this summer unveiled their latest project, a £2 million extension that has added a large conservatory-style Garden Room, four new bedrooms and doubled the size of the kitchens. “The Hoste is an institution in North Norfolk,” says Brendan who bought the hotel from a lifelong friend. “We’re custodians. We strive to move with the times but retain the character.”
With an annual occupancy of 82 per cent and 60 per cent of repeat guests, The Hoste is an established favourite.
It has 64 rooms in six properties spread over Burnham Market. “This coast remains unspoilt with great natural beauty and wildlife,” says Brendan. “Lord Nelson was born half a mile away and stayed in the hotel. Norfolk is simply a very special place.” Visit thehoste.com.