Nestled almost halfway across the North Norfolk coastline is Sheringham, a quintessentially quaint seaside town with bucket loads of charm.
The whole North Norfolk coast is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, famous for sweeping views, open wilderness and endless skies. Sheringham is both part of and close to all the beauty the region has to offer.
Sheringham is a few miles up the coast from Cromer, which is the more famous of the two towns. But I have always felt that Sheringham is the one not to miss.
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It is a bit quieter, a bit prettier, and, in my opinion, the nicer of the two. There’s also more to do than you might expect in such a small town; these are a few of my favourites.
Explore the Victorian Town Centre
Sheringham was once little more than a small, unassuming fishing village relying on the North Sea to fuel its economy. The introduction of the steam railway in 1887 transformed the village completely.
An influx of seaside holidaymakers brought a lot of wealth to the village, and a town of Victorian houses and shopfronts soon sprung up around it. The town still revolves around tourism to this day; it is far busier in the summer than any other time. But Sheringham has managed to avoid the fate of many other seaside towns in the UK: it doesn’t feel tacky.
Instead, the centre feels charmingly low-key, filled with stores owned by locals. You can visit boutiques and vintage stores, or pop in to a seaside store aimed at summer visitors.
If you find the time, stop by The Courtyard. This charming covered arcade is home to six independent shops, including a craft store and a coffee shop.
There is plenty of character in Sheringham. It has enough history and picturesque buildings to appeal to visitors without needing to add anything too flashy; the town may have expanded due to tourism, but you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell just by visiting.
One of the more popular Victorian sights in Sheringham is the clock tower, built in 1862, which acts as a focal point for the town.
Tiptoe Across the Sand and Shingle Beach
Facing down the agonising stretch of pebbles to reach the sea is one of the inevitable experiences of visiting most beaches in East Anglia.
The beach at Sheringham might be a mixture of sand and shingle, but I can guarantee it will be the shingle you notice prodding into your feet. It doesn’t matter all that much though, once you reach the bracing cold of the North Sea all will be forgotten.
Sheringham is a traditional seaside experience in England, right down to the beach huts and 99 flakes. Fortunately, the weather is usually better than you might expect: East Anglia sees more sunshine than anywhere else in the UK, and Norfolk is one of the driest counties. In the summer, you can spend hours lounging on the sand. Or, if the sandy areas are all occupied, a short time sitting uncomfortably on the rocks.
Sheringham beach is beautiful, despite the shingle. The sky and sea merge to become an endless horizon, while the blue flag beach stretches for miles down the coastline. Most charming of all is the collection of colourful beach huts on the seafront.
If you’re looking to find a place for takeout to bring to the beach, Sheringham has a handful of options. Fish and chips is traditional of course, but I often find myself at Fat Ted’s Street Food hut if I’m looking to grab food out.
Walk up Beeston Bump
Make the climb up to Beeston Bump for spectacular views up and down the coast. On a clear day, you can see as far as Cromer and West Runton.
The walk up isn’t long, but might leave you feeling a little breathless. You walk along the Norfolk Coastal Path for 15 minutes to reach the top. Beeston Bump looms large over Sheringham – the 63 metre high hill sits to the east of the town centre, and is a bit of an anomaly on an otherwise very flat landscape.
Its unique status as a hill in Norfolk does come with some fantastic benefits: there are few places better to enjoy beautiful panoramas of the North Norfolk coast. It offers a brilliant view over Sheringham itself, and is a lovely walk which only takes a short amount of time. If you bring a picnic along, you could make an afternoon of it.
Ride the North Norfolk Railway
Chug merrily along the Poppy Line, one of the UK’s five great heritage railways; journeying through the gentle North Norfolk countryside by steam train is an experience of pure nostalgia.
The Poppy Line connects two of Norfolk’s most charismatic towns, Holt and Sheringham. If you’re staying in Sheringham, then the trip to Holt is unmissable, and vice versa. The gorgeous Georgian town is a maze of charming courtyards and pretty side-streets. It’s very upmarket, and the shops and boutiques cater to that audience.
Taking a trip on the North Norfolk Railway would be worth the trouble regardless of the towns on either end. You weave between wild heathland, rolling hills and stunning coastal views on a route that highlights the best North Norfolk has to offer.
The trains themselves are beautiful machines, and the individual carriages are very Harry Potter-esque. The railway often hosts popular events, like Agatha Christie murder mysteries or ghost tours. Their dining carriages in particular are wildly popular – I, for one, am all aboard the Gin Train.
Admire the Rhododendrons at Sheringham Park
Sheringham Park explodes in colour in May and June, as the bloom of rhododendrons and azaleas reaches its peak.
Bright reds, pinks, purples and yellows add a splash of cheerful vibrancy to the sprawling grounds of Sheringham Park. The gardens really come to life in the transition from spring to summer, but are a lovely refuge in nature all year-round.
The grounds – and Sheringham Hall – were owned by the influential Upcher family before the estate fell into the hands of National Trust in 1986. Though the hall is privately owned, Sheringham Park has been managed and protected by the National Trust ever since.
The park is notable as the best preserved design of famous landscape gardener Humphry Repton. Ornamental additions like ‘The Temple’ were part of Repton’s original design, but weren’t added until over a century after his death.
Go on a Blustery Walk by the Sea
The North Sea is an unruly beast, and the winds off it can knock you off your feet on a particularly blustery day.
But walking along this wild coast, with the wind whipping through your hair and blasting you with sprays of salt water, makes for an atmospheric hike. The stark emptiness of parts of North Norfolk give it an almost desolate feeling – at times, it feels as though you can walk endlessly across a stretch of sand and never see another living soul. There is great beauty in this remote wilderness; where you have nothing but the sea, sky and jagged cliffs for company.
It feels untouched, and deeply entrenched in the natural world: a walk by the sea from Sheringham towards Weybourne is an escape from hectic, modern life. Simply reconnecting with nature and allowing the distractions of the 21st century to fade away is a rejuvenating experience.
Though North Norfolk does tend to get windier than most parts of the UK, it’s not always such dramatic weather. If it were, no-one would walk the miles of cliffside routes that so beautifully traverse this rugged landscape. The 9 mile Weybourne Circular Walk is a particularly lovely trail that combines the cliffs and coast with a gentler jaunt into Sheringham Park and the surrounding heathland.
Eat an Ice Cream from Ellie’s
No trip to the seaside is complete without an ice cream. And Sheringham has been home to the best ice cream in North Norfolk for 30 years.
Ellie’s Ice Cream shop has been serving Ronaldo Ice Cream since 1990. The owner, Martin Jackson, was looking for an ice cream supplier that was genuinely local. One that, more importantly, used fresh fruit and the finest quality natural ingredients, with nothing artificial. He found it in luxury Norfolk ice cream supplier Ronaldo, and now sells 60 flavours of their ice cream in his shop.
You will face the toughest choice of your holiday in Ellie’s: choosing your ice cream. Toffee & Butterscotch, Norfolk Apple Crumble, Eton Mess and Honeycomb are just a few of the flavours available. There are vegan-friendly sorbets, like Norfolk Blackcurrant, or you could go for something more unique – like Norfolk Lavender.
A visit to Ellie’s is a real treat. You might find yourself jostling for a place in the queue; luckily, Ellie’s has two locations in Sheringham. One on the High Street, and one by the beach.
Explore the Peter Coke Shell Gallery
There couldn’t be a more fitting art gallery to visit at the coast than the Peter Coke Shell Gallery.
Almost 200 shell sculptures are housed in the gallery, and they vary greatly in style; from mirror frames to floral arrangements. They are the work of Peter Coke, an actor and playwright by trade, who donated them to the gallery so that the general public could enjoy his collection.
The artistry of the sculptures is wonderful, and offers something so different to what we usually expect from an art gallery. It’s an art style that appeals to all ages, and one that is increasingly uncommon in practice.
Admission to the gallery is free, though donations are accepted.
Get Lost in the Priory Maze & Gardens
Hidden away southeast of the town centre, the Priory Maze & Gardens is a tranquil little oasis right on the edge of town.
We strangely have Beeston Bump to thank for these beautiful gardens. The raised cliff shelters the gardens from the North Sea winds, creating a mild micro climate similar to what we see in Cornwall.
Plants that could not typically survive in the area are thriving, creating an exotic garden that seems wonderfully out of place in England. Despite the existence of the beautiful Tasmanian Tree Fern garden and mediterranean gardens, the biggest attraction in Priory is the magnificent hedge maze.
It is the only traditional hedge maze in Norfolk, and reaches an impressive height of seven feet. While running around the maze, you will probably stumble across a viewing platform – you can use the raised height to plot your way out, but also to spot the ruins of Beeston Priory, which run adjacent to the maze.
After you have tired yourself out walking in circles, eventually escaping the maze, you can relax and enjoy a drink or a meal in the Priory tearoom.
Priory Maze & Gardens closes for winter. Tickets are £6.50 for adults.
Discover the Town’s Long History at The Mo, Sheringham’s Museum
While Sheringham rose to prominence in the Victorian era, it existed as a fishing village long before that. It appears in the Domesday Book as a community of 28 households in 1086, suggesting that Sheringham has been a community for at least a thousand years.
The Mo delves into the town’s long past, and their forays with vikings and pirates, but focuses mostly on the last two hundred years and Sheringham’s rich fishing heritage. The lifeboat collection is the most impressive part of the museum, but you can also learn much about the bravery of the town’s inhabitants during World War II.
Another highlight of your experience at the museum will be the Viewing Tower, which offers 360 views over the coast and Sheringham itself.
Tickets are £4.50 for adults – the museum relies on admissions to stay open.
The Fisherman’s Lifeboat Museum is another fantastic little museum, but it is only open in the summer.
Things to Do in Sheringham
Sheringham might be small, but it isn’t boring. There are other things to do in the town besides these options, but the ten listed here are my favourites. A visit to Sheringham is great for anyone that loves the outdoors and seaside – you could easily spend a long weekend here exploring the local area, and a week if you travel a bit beyond that.
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