Holidaying with a baby is very different to how we used to spend our time. Even while I was pregnant, we would attraction hop, trying to see as much of the area as we could. Now, our pace of travel is much slower. For our first family holiday, we searched for a number of Norfolk weekend breaks, aiming for somewhere quiet but with a few baby-friendly, dog-friendly attractions.
So we settled on an AirBnB in Lessingham. Lessingham is a tiny village, with just one pub and a primary school: it’s so small in fact, that the post box is a local attraction. We reached the cottage and spent an hour or so unpacking. Then we hit the beach. Our closest beach was Cart Gap Beach, only a five minute drive from the cottage.
We weren’t sure what to expect from the beach, especially as it looked a little like visitors weren’t actually allowed there. The huge RNLI base is quite imposing as it stands out next to the car park, and there were a number of warning signs – beware of high tide, beware of underwater structures. We parked up and quickly realised that you are allowed to access the beach, even during high tide, and it was very quiet.
We walked north along the sandy beach to find a spot away from all other bathers, just so we could let Ted off lead and have a little run. The boy still refuses to get in the sea, so we had no worries about him getting caught in the underwater structures, which we later discovered were groynes, wooden sea defence designed to break up the intensity of waves.
The beach would have been perfect for Baby if she were a little older. At six months, she was just getting used to the sensation of sand underfoot, but had she been two or three, I could imagine her and her dad running up and down the beach, paddling in the water, and building sandcastles. It was a whole world away from the hustle, bustle, litter, and stones of Southend on Sea!
Lessingham was also the location we picked for a spot of Sunday lunch. The Star Inn was only a few metres from our cottage, dog-friendly, and served a fantastic Sunday lunch. We could pick from beef, pork, or turkey, and the meal came with all the trimmings, even a bowl of cauliflower cheese on the side. Whether you’re in Yorkshire or Norfolk, weekend breaks wouldn’t be worth it without a good pub roast dinner. I wish I’d taken a photo, but I was so hungry, I only remembered when it was half demolished!
On one of our days in Norfolk, we decided to take a turn around Blickling Estate. Lots of travel bloggers and Norfolk travel websites promoted Blickling Estate as being one of the best dog friendly things to do when visiting the county. I’m a National Trust member, so booked a ‘free’ ticket online the night before. We parked up, I got our free car parking ticket, and we made our way towards the entrance point, the NT café on the estate. As it happened, I didn’t need to show my tickets, or my NT card, but the people at the entrance point warned me that dogs were only allowed in the wider estate, not the house or the gardens, but directions to the estate are well signposted.
Let me tell you that they are not. It took us about 30 minutes of walking around to find the entrance to the estate, which is called the ‘park’ on the signs. The park is huge, but with temperatures touching 23c, a very furry dog, and a baby in a pushchair, we wanted to do the shortest walk possible. We wished we had brought our proper pram with us rather than the little pushchair. The path is very stoney and uneven, so poor baby was bouncing all over the place. The difficulty of the conditions made it tough for me to really enjoy the views.
When suddenly, we stumbled across the mausoleum, an enormous, pyramid structure hidden in a clearing in the woods. We just started to approach when I heard the unmistakeable sound of baby poop, so had to stop to wipe a bottom.
I do think we would have had a much better time with the bigger pram, with a child who could walk themselves, or dare I say it, without the dog – as then we would have been able to go inside the house and gardens.
After our walk, we were dehydrated and famished, so deliberated between eating in the NT café, the Buckinghamshire Arms next door, or to drive to Cromer.
Ride the North Norfolk Railway
Norfolk is home to seven tourist railway lines: both narrow gauge and heritage railways. Each has their own appeal, but we decided that we wanted to experience a real steam train, so we booked tickets to ride the North Norfolk Railway.
Navigating the website isn’t easy, but we eventually worked it out. To ride the steam train you must book a compartment at £20 each way. Compartments seat four people, but you can purchase extra adult or child tickets if required. This option is particularly cost effective if travelling as a group of four, but is quite pricey for two adults and a baby… and a dog, who cost us an extra £1 each way.
We decided to start our journey at Holt, and signed in to find out the compartment number. Because we had Baby in a pushchair, we had to park it in the carriage for disabled riders, and of course our compartment was at the other end of the train! It didn’t matter though, as we had a lot of time to make the journey before the whistle was blown for us to leave – not sure we would have made it if we were late.
The journey each way is only 20 minutes long, but takes you past some fantastic scenery. Then once at Sheringham, you can spend your time enjoying the shops and lunch spots of a classic sea side town. We stopped for lunch in The Lobster, which had exceptionally quick service. We sat down in the pub garden, ordered, paid, were served drinks, and were fed a couple of delicious wraps all in about 45 minutes. There’s no reason why you couldn’t spend your time on Sheringham’s beach instead.
Family holidays don’t have to last a whole week. Norfolk weekend breaks are a great way to see East Anglia, and get used to travelling with a pup or a baby. The real beauty of the county is how quiet it is, even on a warm June weekend.
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