Updated: Sep 1
Stiffkey is a unique place on the North Norfolk coast, both for visitors and for residents. It offers a way of life that ebbs and flows like the tide. Life here evolves over the months, offering new things to explore, with each new season. Popular with tourists because of its access to the coast, and its position on the North Norfolk coastal path.
Have a look at my guide if you're interested in exploring the North Norfolk coast with Stiffkey as your home or your base for a holiday.
Stiffkey is a flint and brick village in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the North Norfolk coast.
In between the sea and the village is the saltmarsh. A saltmarsh, is a coastal ecosystem in the intertidal zone between land and open saltwater or brackish water that is regularly flooded by the tides. It is dominated by salt-tolerant plants such as herbs, grasses, low shrubs and mudflats. It is a wildlife haven for invertebrates, birds and fish, for which the creeks and shallow waters are important nursery areas. Our saltmarsh has been developing for over 6,000 years.. The saltmarsh is particularly striking in mid to late summer when sea aster and sea lavender are in flower. If you are an early bird and can get to the dunes as dawn breaks, or you are prepared to stay as dusk approaches, you will witness nature at its most impressive. These are the times of day that you will see a great deal of bird activity, with skeins of geese and flights of duck going to or returning from their feeding grounds. You may also see a fox hunting along the foreshore, a hare leaping away from you, or a muntjak trotting along amongst the mudflats.
Chalk Stream, River Stiffkey
Within the village, the river Stiffkey flows. It runs in parallel to the A149. The river is special in that it is a chalk stream of which there are only around 200 in the world. It is surrounded by arable land, coniferous plantations, woodland and marshland. Access to this stream is relatively limited. There is permissive access on Bridge Street and also on the Muckledyke path near the Stiffkey Red Lion.
Along the river, water voles and otters are regular visitors along with buzzards, kites, barn owls and kingfishers. Trout and brook lamprey may be glimpsed in the clear waters. The river is also special for invertebrates and includes a wide selection of damselflies and dragonflies.
Walks and walkways
Map is a screenshot of google maps
All year round
1. Green Way
I love walking down the Green Way and then taking the coastal path all the way to Wells-next-the-sea, which is roughly a 3.5 mile-4 mile walk depending on your end point in Wells.
It is a varied landscape, going through the marsh, with the Whirligig to your right as you then come to open grassland and then more marsh as you follow the path all the way into Wells. Quite often I'll come down here and watch a barn owl hunt, or see the spoonbills feeding in the marsh channels.
Photos from Green Way to Wells-Next-the-Sea
2. Hollow Lane
Map is a screenshot of google maps
I've highlighted Hollow Lane on the map screenshot above in green. You access it on foot from the intersection where the old phone box is, and the sign is to the playing fields. That track is Hollow Lane. It is the easiest place to access the coastal path from within the centre of the village closest to Stiffkey Stores. I frequently see people walking up from the stores with a coffee and a cake to go and take in the marsh.
It is a beautiful way to arrive at the famous, five bridges, which enable you to take a safe walk over the marsh at low tide.
I often go float swimming in the sea at the first point that you reach down from the coneyford wood, where there is a bench. It gets quite deep there, and has relatively easy access in and out of the mud. I use the Blakeney bar information for the tide times on the app, My Tide Times, and add a little time to it, to allow the sea to flow in and out of the Stiffkey channels.
This route is the one that I used to access to the coastal path to head east towards Morston.
The walk to Morston is my favourite walk. I love identifying the different birds either by sight (thanks to the British Bird app) or song (thanks to the Merlin App) The ascent into Freshes Creek has to be my favourite. I love turning the corner and seeing what natural wonders come into view. It is worth taking your binoculars with you on this walk, in fact, on any walk along the coast.
Winter Walk - Damson Lane
The reason that I only do this walk in winter is that the cattle are in the various fields in spring/summer/autumn. There are from time-to-time rare ground nesting birds in the field closest to the river, which use this field for nesting. I call this walk the Damson Lane Loop, you won't see Damson Lane marked on google maps although it is marked on the OS Map. It is part of an ancient route that used to be used to walk to Warham from Stiffkey. This walk starts at Bridge Street at the back of Vale farm, Damson Lane runs along the right hand-side of the hedgerow. On my loop walk, you continue to follow Damson Lane until you get to the first stile (which will be on your left-hand side). Use the stile to ascend into a field that takes you up into the woodland (Minor Plantation) at the top of the hill (Home Hill). I love watching the deer scurry away from you, and the kites soar as you come out through the other side of the woodland to the brow of the hill. You are then treated the panoramic view of Stiffkey from above. From the top of the hill the track continues alongside the wood dropping steeply down through the wood to re connect with Damson Lane over a couple of stiles.
Local services and shops
Stiffkey Stores and Post Office
We're blessed having this little store in our village. There is always a something decadent cake wise in their counter. Most of which they bake themselves. They're known for their coffees, and if you want an oat foam macchiato this is the place to go to on the coast. Their freezer is filled with locally produced foodstuffs. There is something for everyone. It has lovely produce, gifts, plants, and importantly for locals, the post office too. As it is a post office, it also is a cash point, which is very handy. They don't have a website- however- they do have a Spotify playlist!
The Stiffkey Red Lion pub - a fabulous little pub, the food is more high-end bistro than pub, and the food is priced accordingly. Although during the summer months at the weekend you can pick up a gourmet hotdog in the courtyard without needing a reservation. The head chef Liam gained a Michelin Star whilst working at Morston Hall before taking over the kitchen at the Stiffkey Red Lion. It has a small kitchen, so can get very busy at peak times. My top tip is to dine early in the evening, pick their earlier sittings of 6/6:30pm and you'll get first dibs of the specials (which will have just been dropped off by John the local fishmonger from North Norfolk Fish) It is dog friendly throughout, the only place you cannot take a dog is into the kitchen! Although great for dining it still has a village pub vibe as it is popular with locals.
For an up-to-date local events list look to the first two pages of the bi-monthly Locally Lynx magazine. This magazine is entirely run by volunteers. I edit the section for Stiffkey.
It is open 11am until 4pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays from April until the end of October in the old officers mess. If you're interested in history it is well worth a visit. It is the only museum dedicated to local working wooden boats, and their place in our history. It is free to visit, and you can engage in the local military history as well. A real gem. They're in the process of restoring the Wells Whelker and Dunkirk Little Ship, Bessie.
Stiffkey Parish Council
See what they're.up to at their bi-monthly meetings - https://www.stiffkeyvillage.org
Recently they have been clearing the vegetation away from the speed signs in the village. Did you know that the majority of the village is restricted to 20mph?
Playing Field -you access this from Hollow Lane. Have a look at this website stiffkey play park information for parents who want to use the play park. This is also where the Stiffkey cricket club host their fixtures.
St John the Baptist church which is open during daylight hours and is kept clean by a team of village volunteers.
In the summer you can check out the Stiffkey Cricket Club playing on Sunday's at the playing field (accessed on Hollow Lane). You can see their upcoming fixtures in the Local Lynx magazine too.
North Norfolk Open Studios - Stiffkey artist, Sophia Williams, opens up her studio doors during the May/June half term as part of the open studios event (run by volunteers).
Stiffkey local history group host pop up events. Their next event is 26th, 27th and 28th August in St John's church, Stiffkey.
The Maritime Heritage Centre BBQ - taking place from 5pm-8pm on Weds 23rd August 2023 at the heritage centre on the Green Way.
Visit using Public Transport
Using the local Coasthopper you can visit the following destinations during the day, as depending on the time of year buses only run from roughly 9:45am until 17:15pm ish.
Most venues are extremely dog friendly. The places I've listed that you cannot take dogs to I will highlight.
Whin Hill Cider - bring your own food and quaff their amazing ciders. Many of their apples are sourced from the Sandringham estate as well as their own orchard. Lisa and Mark will make you most welcome.
The Wells Maltings - a treasure trove of events, exhibitions, live music and local history. Worth a look inside to see what they have going on and coming up.
Wells Crab House - my favourite seafood bistro on the coast. Not dog friendly.
Lucy Lavers - Have a trip out on the Dunkirk Little Ship, the Lucy Lavers. She was built by Groves and Gutteridge on the Isle of Wight in 1939, Lucy Lavers was completed in 1940 for Aldeburgh Lifeboat Station. Her shallow draft - 2ft 3.5ins - made her suitable for her first service at the Dunkirk Rescue Operation in 1940. She gives trips and charters afloat from April to October (weather permitting) to the public, schools and other groups, acting as a floating ambassador to help people understand and experience maritime heritage in Wells. We're very lucky to have her.
The Little Blue hut on the quay where you can rent an environmentally friendly crabbing kit
The Globe Inn - on the Buttlands near to the bus stop. A gastro pub with lots going on.
The Bowling Green - love their old fashion style Sunday lunches, great value, hearty portions and vegetarian friendly.
Holkham beach - consistently voted into the top 10 beaches within the whole of the UK!
French's - ask for a discount card- just hand over your email address and get 10% off- lots of vegan and vegetarian options here
Plattens - fish and chips - love their chips, and mushy peas, like French's you can ask for a discount card- just hand over your email address and get 10% off
Top tip, get the bus to Wells-Next-The-Sea then get the Wells to Walsingham railway to Walsingham and visit the new wine bar (due to open in September 2023 at 2 Wells Road, https://www.martavine.co.uk)
The Morston Anchor - a fish and chip pub where they don't take bookings.
Temple Seal trips.
Beans Seal trips.
Morston Hall for a sumptuous lunch on Saturdays/ Sundays. You will need to book as it's a tasting menu and you get five courses at current prices (august 2023 for £75). You cannot take dogs into their restaurant.
Grab a pint in the Kings Arms Blakeney near the quay - its a proper pub that doesn't take bookings.
In the summer visit the Quayside Blakeney which is an outdoor cafe from a food truck in the National Trust car park on the Quay.
Book dinner at the Moorings bistro - save yourself for their decadent puddings.
It's pronounced CL-EYE not clay. Just in case. you wondered, as many call it clay. It has recently been featured on the BBC's villages by the sea, season 3. The programme is well worth a watch.
Picnic Fayre - the deli that used to be owned by our HRH Queen Elizabeth II's cousin, is now owned and run by the people that own the Cley Windmill. They have a wonderful selection of sourdough breads by James, who used to be a chef at the Ritz in London. His sourdoughs are outstanding. You can only get them Tuesday until Saturday. They also have a great selection of deli items in the fridge. It's easy to get lost in all their foodstuffs.
The George and the Dragon - I've not eaten there for a while but often stop for a drink when walking a Cley/Blakeney or a Cley/ Salthouse loop. Very dog friendly.
Head to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust on the road outside of Cley on the way to Salthouse and grab a coffee and a scone, as well as a sight of a teaspoon (a baby spoonbill) from their wonderful visitors centre.
The Dun Cow is practically an institution on the coast. Stands out for well done pub classics from a coastal pub. Mainly for dining inside, lots of drinking space outside. You will definitely need to book.
If you are vegetarian or vegan the Ship Inn at Weybourne has an extensive menu for you. Their selection of Gins is second to none too! Worth a look. You can also go fossil hunting on the beach there, and in the nearby West Runton. Best done at low tide in Winter, or after an Easterly Wind all year around. The deep history coast begins here: https://www.visitnorthnorfolk.com/deep-history-coast/discovery-trail
Mo - the museum - a wonderous cavern of culture. There is something for everyone here.
The Poppy Line - steam train - catch the steam train that is run by volunteers and step back in time. The trips starts and returns to Sherringham. For more information on their special trips click here.
Love pizza? Head to Stubbys at Sherringham.
No.1 Cromer Love the view from this scrumptious chip shop. You can see why it's multi-award winning after eating food at their restaurant or take away.
Cromer Museum - set in Fishermans cottages - it is an interesting insight into all aspects of life on the coast at Cromer over the milleninia.
Red lion cromer - my favourite spot to watch the world go by at in Cromer. CAMRA award winning.
Cromer pier - all sorts of family friendly activities here.
Restaurants/Cafes nearby worth the trip out
Worth the drive. You need to book taxi's way, way, way in advance. There aren't many around, and they get booked up accordingly. I cannot emphasise this enough, especially in peak holiday season you will struggle to get one. Please bear that in mind before booking your meal if you think you will need a taxi home.
An elegant gem. Rebecca and Gregg are a sublime match, and their restaurant reflects this. Every little detail is taken care of, you can tell that they have thought of everything from the diners point of you. Rebecca is such a wonderful front of house host. Gregg's kitchen team work wonders and create elegant morsels for you to devour. Worth booking. A real treat. You cannot take dogs into their restaurant.
Morston Hall for a sumptuous lunch on Saturdays/ Sundays. You will need to book as its a tasting menu and you get five courses at current prices (august 2023 for £75). You cannot take dogs into their restaurant.
Wells Crab House - my favourite seafood bistro on the coast. When the front of house is owner led, you know, you're in for a treat, and Kelly delivers every time. She is consistently there and clearly loves everything about her job, which makes visiting her place special. Not dog friendly.
I love this place, the setting, the vibe, the menu, the wine list. One of my must visits on this coast. Worth the ride out. A watermill built on the River Wensum in 1757 is now this beautiful country pub, set in the heart of the glorious Norfolk countryside near to Fakenham.
Run to perfection. Very busy at peak times. The reason is because it is well run. Layout is a long room with a mezzanine dining area above the kitchen. My personal preference is to sit downstairs and watch the chefs work their magic. If you have any dietary requirements let them know, and your own personalised menu will be on your table upon arrival. Every-little-detail matters to them. We tend to go to number29 in Burnham Market for a drink first, and then go to dinner at Socius. Never taken my dog here.
The drive up to the pub is quintessentially English, Norfolk, and charming all in one. The pub doesn't let you down either with a revolving menu with local specials, vegan options and even a doggy menu you won't be disappointed.
Just outside of Blakeney on the road to Cley you will see the Cafe signed. In the summer months they do pizza in the evening. Open Weds-Sunday its great to visit and eat breakfast/lunch or pizza with a breathtaking view.
If you love the North-Norfolk coast as much as I do you might also enjoy my original art works that celebrate the landscape. Have a look at my impressionistic oil paintings of Stiffkey, Holkham, Salthouse, Cley and Morston.