Thornham - local area guide
Situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty roughly halfway between the popular seaside town of Hunstanton and the picturesque Burnhams,is the perfect spot from which to explore the subtle beauty of the North Norfolk coastline.
Whether you’re drawn here for the wonderful wildlife, attracted by the numerous walks, tempted by the sweeping beaches and desolate marshy landscapes, keen to indulge in, or pursuing your favourite sport and leisure activities, there’s plenty here to keep you entertained.
Here’s our pick of things to do in Thornham and the surrounding area.
Villages & Towns
The village of, once a prosperous harbour and smugglers’ haunt, is today a small coastal village separated from the sea by its atmospheric marshes. Home to the Lifeboat Inn and our sister pub-restaurant, , it’s a magnet for walkers, birdwatchers, artists and photographers with its characteristic landscape of salt water inlets and marshes.
This stunning stretch of coastline starts at nearby, a family friendly seaside resort complete with funfair, amusements, a long promenade and its famous stripy cliffs.
Along the coast road in the opposite direction you’ll find, a group of seven small villages clustered around the River Burn, including Burnham Thorpe, childhood home to Lord Nelson, and Burnham Market, Norfolk’s answer to Chelsea-on-Sea.
The historic fishing town ofis a charming destination where children hang crabbing lines over the jetty next to visiting yachts and a narrow-gauge railway ferries people between the harbour and the long sweeping beach, which is fringed with stripy beach huts and backed by cool pinewoods.
Beaches near Thornham
The North Norfolk coastline offers a variety of beaches, from the childfriendly to wild, unspoilt stretches of sand.
is a typical family-friendly beach with ice creams, pony rides, funfairs, rock pools, and an abundance of buckets and spades, while neighbouring is wilder, with beach huts nestling amongst sand dunes.
offers a windswept stretch of golden sand, perfect for sand castles and a magnet for kitesurfers, but the jewel in the crown is the magnificent beach stretching between . Once a year, the Queen’s Household Cavalry brings its horses here for their annual holiday, where they trot through the pine woods and sand dunes before galloping along the water’s edge.
The Nature & Wildlife of Thornham and the Surrounding Area
North Norfolk, with its sand dunes, reed beds, marshes and mud banks, may just be the birdwatching capital of Britain.
The nearby reserve of, accessible on foot from Thornham, plays host to a Norfolk favourite, the ghostly barn owl, along with a host of migrating birds and seabirds.
Just up the road,offers excellent birding all year round and is notable for its migrating waders, shy bearded tits, nesting marsh harriers, and booming bitterns.
, its mud flats home to thousands of knot and skeins of pinkfooted geese in the winter, is a short drive away, while further along the coast are and , home to colonies of common and grey seals.
Heading inland,is home to woodland birds, marsh harriers and a variety of owls, while summer plays host to an assortment of dragonflies.
North Norfolk Heritage
With its rich history and royal links, it’s little wonder Norfolk has its fair share of historic houses to explore. The Queen’s country home at, set in sixty acres of glorious gardens, is open at certain times of the year and filled with royal mementoes and art, while the surrounding country park is a popular destination all year round.
Statelyimpresses with its gardens and large estate, and its Bygones Museum is a magnet for adults and kids alike with its collection of vintage cars, agricultural tools, Victorian toys and household gadgets.
Nearbywith its impressive state rooms and stunning walled garden, has an artistic twist in its contemporary sculpture garden. It also plays host to the prestigious Houghton International House Trials.
Archaeology lovers can explore the site ofat Holme, where a 4,000-year-old timber stone circle was discovered in 1998 – the original is now housed in a specially designed room at the .
Sport & Leisure Activities along the North Norfolk Coast
This area of coastline is sheer joy for walkers, drawn here in their droves to enjoy the verdant countryside and magnificent seascapes of the.
Norfolk Coast path
Sea lovers can take to the waters to goor from Brancaster Staithe, while the more adventurous can head to Hunstanton for .
If golf’s your game, there are a couple of great courses in the area:and the in Brancaster, both 18-hole courses, though check the tide times before heading to the Royal West as high tides can cut off some of the holes.
The narrow country lanes, woodland cycle routes and pretty coastal paths offer perfectfor enthusiasts and those who fancy the wind in their hair and a break from polluted city air.
Artists and photographers will find plenty of inspiration here too, in the atmospheric land and seascapes, the many galleries, exhibitions and displays, and the regular, where local artists open their studios for the day.
Children’s Attractions in the Thornham Area
North Norfolk has plenty of family-friendly attractions so you can keep the kids – or the grandkids – amused during your visit. Nearby Hunstanton is home to the, where you can see seals, otters, and a host of other marine animals, and the offers fun for everybody.
SEA LIFE Centre
offers the perfect rainy day activity for 0 to 12-year-olds, while is a real working farm where adults and kids can get up close and personal with their favourite farmyard animals.
A little further afield near Fakenham is, with lakeside trails and woodland walks, and a whole host of activities to engage youngsters with the natural world.
Transport along the North Norfolk Coast
Transport lovers will adore therunning between Wells-next-the-Sea and Walsingham, a place of pilgrimage since medieval times that’s worth visiting in late winter for its in the abbey grounds.
If you don’t fancy driving for a day, the reliableruns along the coast from Kings Lynn to Sheringham and Cromer, joining the dots between the main places of interest.
And to keep the kids amused, amaze them with a ride on one of, amphibious vehicles that drive from beach to sea and offer a panoramic view of the Hunstanton coast and those famous cliffs.
Shopping in Thornham and North Norfolk
Finally, while North Norfolk isn’t a well-known shopping destination, there’s some seriously good shopping to be found with an emphasis on local produce and independent boutiques.
, on the outskirts of Thornham, houses an impressive farm shop and invites visitors to ‘pick their own’ fruits. You can also find a fishmonger, plant nursery and a small selection of lifestyle shops.
Along the coast atthere’s another cluster of lifestyle and nature shops, local art and pottery shops, and a pop-up market place, while , a favourite haunt of celebrities, offers numerous boutiques, independent food stores, and a scattering of galleries supporting local artists.
Our favourite things to do in Thornham and the surrounding area