Because it was the Queen’s Jubilee this year (that is, she’d been the Monarch for 60 years), Britain got a 4 day weekend instead of the usual 3 for Queen’s birthday. We figured that was an excuse to go for a trip, so took some friends to Norfolk for a look’n’see.
First stop on our drive to Cromer was Sandringham House, where the Queen has spent her winters since she was a child. We got to be good Samaritans on the way to the estate, pulling over to push a broken-down van up onto the shoulder at a busy roundabout. Go us! And our reward was Sandringham House! Well, visiting it for a couple of hours.
Built in 1870 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, Sandringham was once described as ‘The most comfortable house in England’. It has been passed down as a private home through four generations of British monarchs and is now the country retreat for The Queen and Prince Phillip.
Sandringham House is set in 24 hectares of gardens, perhaps the finest of all the Royal gardens. Every generation of the Royal Family which has lived here has added something of their own times and tastes.
We couldn’t take photos inside the house, but it was very traditionally decorated. The Queen inherited the furniture, the wall displays of weapons and armour in between fine tapestries, art works and family photographs. Perhaps a bit sad that you can’t decorate a place the way you’d like – but I suppose if that’s your family’s tradition.
There was a whole room full of hunting guns purchased mostly by the Queen’s father. There was the dining room with all the silver laid out – the Queen’s menus are all written in French, as they always have been at Sandringham House. It felt like this place was a family place, grand as it was, with so much history and so many memories. We couldn’t take a photo inside, but here’s a photo of some photos of the inside.
As interesting as the house itself, was the Sandringham Museum, which houses the Royal car collection. This is the first Royal car, a 1900 Daimler Mail Phaeton, bought by Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, a year before he became King Edward VII. It was 6 hp vehicle – a beast!
There was an impressive Rolls-Royce Phantom V, complete with Royal crest emblem on the back of the car. I thought the collection of Royal children’s cars was pretty neat. What do you get for kids who have everything? Petrol powered mini-cars, like this little American Style Imperial Midget Racing Car which was HRH Prince Charles when he was a kid.
There was also a collection hunting cars, called Shooting Brakes, which would seat about 8 people and even had a collapsible bench inside for holding the hunting guns. On the left is a 1937 Daimler V-4 Litre Shooting Brake for George VI and on the right is the 1924 57 HP Daimler Shooting Brake for George V.
A great way to spend a couple of hours. If you’re in Norfolk and are looking for things to do, I would recommend coming to Sandringham House. Only, don’t come in winter when the Queen’s in. They’d probably turn you away at the gates.
We were based out at Cromer, the farthest point of North Norfolk in a little apartment for 6 people. We figured we should get into the Jubilee Weekend spirit with some bunting, and having all the Jubilee events running live on TV.
But the real reason to go to Norfolk is for the beautiful coastline and scenery. So we went for a few walks.
Wandering around these beautiful places, we also did some Geocaching. Geocaching in a nutshell –
- Go to your Geocaching smart phone app.
- Find the GPS coordinates to your closest cache.
- Use your phone to navigate to the cache.
- Hunt around nearby to find the cache’s hiding spot!
Tadaa! A cache contains a little log book for you to write a message in and some trinkets which you can take out and migrate to another cache next time you find one. You also log your cache finds on a website and build up your count! Very satisfying little hobby.
We also got our first look at another highlight of North Norfolk – seals!
But more about them after…
There are some affordable tourist sites in Norfolk (ie 2 or 3 quid each) like Horsey Windpump, that used to pump water out of the surrounding plains. It has a great view over the coast and broadland landscape from the top too!
We also stopped by the Waxham Great Barn for lunch and had a little wander around. Barns were a way for families to show their wealth and prestige in the 16th century. This one was pretty sizable.
Highlight, for me at least, of the weekend was going out to the Blakeney Point seal colony. On our last day in Norfolk, we had to crawl out bed at 7am (challenging after a night of drinks and a Jubilee concert) and head to the coast.
There were dozens of seals! Both common and grey seals, with a bunch of cubs on the beach as well. They would flop around on the beach, looking, watching, looking. They would balance up on their belly’s to pivot around. They look so strange on the land – awkward and uncoordinated.
But of course, in the sea they look sleek and speedy. There were as many in the water as on the land, but they were harder to photograph – bobbing up and down, dashing to the boat then away. Captivating creatures, kind of like dogs of the sea. I loved their little faces.
A magical experience for only £9 each. Well worth the trip early in the morning.
Our delightful finish to the weekend was a 3 course lunch at The Crown Hotel – The Flying Kiwi Inn at Wells-next-the-sea. Wine, Oysters, Wells crab, locally caught Hake with pearl barley risotto, creme brulee and chocolate ice cream dessert. What a feast!
Thanks to all our friends who came with us on this adventure! We had an awesome break, and would love to holiday with you again soon
Bring on more long weekends!