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Travel

Taking it easy in Norfolk

Clive Nicholls enjoys some pampering while savouring the off-season delights of this popular destination

Kings Lynn: Ancient port, close neighbour to the Royal Family at Sandringham and gateway to the fabulous North Norfol coast.

I'm staying for a couple of nightss at the King's Lynn Knight's Hill Hotel & Spa, BW Premier Collection for an off-season break to explore the area.

The car hasn't warmed up yet but it's time for the first stop, about a mile from the hotel. Castle Rising, the castle dating back to 1140AD is surrounded by defensive earthworks and the stone keep is remarkably intact.

Queen Isabella lived here from 1330, and her son Edward III stayed on several occsiona. After Isabella's death the castle was inherited by Edward the Black Prince.

Just up the road (off the A149 to Hunstanton) aand still just a couple of miles from the hotel is the village of Wolferton.

This is home to perhaps the most historic, and certainly the most beautiful, disused railway station in the world.

Opened in 1862, the Great Eastern Line ran from King's Lynn to Hunstanton, but Wolferton became its most important stop when Queen victoria bought the Sandringham Estate (just two miles away) in the same year.

Royal trains became almost routine and, amazingly, between 1884 and 1911 there were 645 Royal Specials as the royal families of Europe visited the estate.

This tiny station has played host to world leaders and delivered the approriate pomp and cermeony accordingly.

Roya;s have arrived, funeral trains have departed and its last Royal train ran as late as 1966, before the line closed for goos in 1969. today it has been lovingly restored by owner Richard Brown, who welcomes guests to look around the station and its museum. There's no charge, it's a labour of love for Richard.

Sandringham will again be the focus of attention at Christmas, as the Royal Family heads for the local church, the parish church of St Mary Magdalene.

Of course everyone wants to see the Queen, but more and more it's the great-grandchildren who are becoming the stars of the show. The Queen's house at Sandringham, the Gardens and Museum are open to the public from March 31 to October 21, 2018 (except July 23 to 27). You will need to allow half a day to do it justice.

There is nso much more to see, but I want to enjoy the hotel so it is back there for a bt of pampering in the spa.

I pick out the Raindrop Massage- the description says that I should feel like "I've jus walked through a tropical rainforest".

Shonagh drips essential oils down my spine before starting the massage- it was winderful. The last time I walked through a tropical rainforest it was warm and wet. This was just so much better: relaxing, therapeutic, soothing and calming. If you don't fancy a massage the Imagine Spa does a range of treatments and manicures.

Eating out is always a treat and tonight I'm dining in the hotel's Garden Brasserie REstaurant (they also have the Farmer's Arms pub and restaurant on site).

The sun is setting as I peruse the menu: charred tiger prawn skewers with Asian Slaw, sweet chili sauce and charred lime, sounds good for my starter; loin of lamb with a herb crust and slow cooked braised houlder and potato terrine for main. A great way to end a wonderful day.

In the morning the sun is shining- it's time for the Norfolk coast.

The lighthouse at Old Hunstanton stands out like a beacon (that's its job after all) built in 1840 on the sire of the first lighthouse here- it was an iron basket of bruning coals that started work in 1665.

Just a few yards away on the cliff top are the remains of St Edmund's Chapel.

From here I take the coast road along to Wells-next-the-sea, It winds through magical villages including: Holme-next-the-Sea, Thornham, Titchwell, Brancaster, Brancaster Staithe, Burnham Norton, Burnham Overy Staithe and Holkham before Wells-next-the-Sea.

Buildings faced with Norfols flint, churches withr ound towers, fresh fish outlets, farm shops and traditional pubs line the route. There's even an AA box in Brancaster Staithe. Just like old times.

St Mary's Church in Burnham Deepdale, with its round Saxon tower, Norman font and medieval glassm is stunning- it's in the roadside, you can't miss it. Take a few minutes to bask in its tranquility; visitors are very welcome.

Wels-next-the-Sea is charming. It manages to mix fish and chips shops and candyfloss with a wonderful histooric harbbour. the old maltings and granaries no longer ply their trade but the buildings remain to give history and character to this bustling little town.

The tide rolls in and out bringing an ever-changing picture as the boats bobbing on the water settle onto the mud. the wading birds follow behind, planning their klunchtimes to coincide ith the state of the tide.

I could fo cross-country backlk to King's Lynn but instead I retrace my steps along the coast road. Travelliing in a different direction I spot details that I had missed on the way out.

North Norfolk is outstanding. out of season it's even better. Less traffic, easier parking and a peacefulness you don't get in the summer season. And I've left Ling's Lynn until last.

After breakfast (real sausages) I slip into the town sitting on the banks of the Great Ouse, where it empties into the wash.

In the 14th century it was one of England's busiest ports, playing its trade with the major parts of Europe. As a maritime powerhouse it is nor insignificant but the ferry across to West Lynn passes forward and back over the waters of the Great Ouse..

King's Lynn is home to St Nocholas' Chapel (the largest chapel in the country), which, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, has had a £2,78 million restoration.

For the last l800 years the chapel has had extensions, additions and rebuilds but it all hangs together rather well.

The Custom House, designed by Henry Bell (also the town's mayor) in 1683, is very grand, as is St George's Guildhall and the Corn exchange. The historic areas make a fascinating walk and it is well worth spending an hour or two relieving the past.

I've had luxury at the King's Lynn Knight's Hill Hotel & Spa (www.bestwestern.co.uk), I've enjoyed royal connections at Wolferton and Sandringham and had a magical drive along the North Norfolk coast and being, off season, I haven't had to battle with the crowds- definitely recommended.

Have you visited Norfolk recently? Want more great UK travel advice? 

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