Norfolk Stories and Tips

Blakeney and Little Walsingham

Blakeney marshes Photo, Norfolk, England

Blakeney is a really pretty seaside village. Flint fishermen's cottages tumble down a steep slope to a picturesque quay with wonderful views over the salt marshes. Beyond the harbour is Blakeney Point, the tip of a 4 mile long shingle spit, a National Trust nature reserve, famous for its seals. You can get there on foot, but it is a lot more fun and a lot less tiring to be ferried in a fishing boat from Morston, a small marshland village about a mile along the coast from Blakeney. A round trip takes one hour.

The boat trips operate with the tides so the times change daily. The boats do not venture out into the open sea, but stay in the harbour, so apparently it is never choppy. After a short boat ride you arrive at the seals basking on the sandbanks. The colony is make up of common and grey seals and there are around 500 of them. The boats sail close to the seals which gives good opportunities for photographs.

The seal boat trip costs £8.00 for adults and £4.00 for children and it is advisable to book in advance. We booked a couple of days before, and you do not pay until you collect your tickets, about half an hour before the trip. They accept credit cards.

After visiting Blakeney, we drove inland to the extraordinary village of Little Walsingham, 9 miles inland.

In 1061 an influential local widow convinced the villagers here that she had seen the Virgin Mary and persuaded them to build a shrine to Our Lady of Walsingham. This out of the way village then became one of the most important pilgrim centres in Europe. It became known as "Nazareth in England."

The shrine was destroyed in 1538 during the Reformation and pilgrimages were brought to a halt. It is said that all the Kings and Queens of England from Henry III to Henry VIII visited the shrine.

In Victorian times there was a revival of Little Walsingham's fortunes, the 14th century Slipper Chapel was restored and in 1897 pilgrimages started again. In the 1930's a new shrine church was built and today the pilgrimage business here is thriving, especially at Easter.

The village retains its charming medieval character with timber framed houses, an old courthouse, a ruined priory and numerous historical and religious relics.

There is a visitors centre where you can watch a short video on the history of the village - very interesting and I would recommend this. You can also wander around the shrine area and visit the church.

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