Let's staycation in...Sandringham
- Credit: IAN BURT
Well, not the main house, obviously, but in the lovely west Norfolk coastal countryside nearby...
Royal Sandringham estate is surrounded by nature reserves, hundreds of acres of parkland and woodland and pretty villages including Wolferton, Babingingley, Shernborne and West Newton. The rich seam of red stone which runs through the region is officially called carrstone. Nicknamed gingerbread, it gives a fairytale feel to villages full of gingerbread cottages. Find them in Ingoldisthorpe, whose name gives away its Viking past, Flitcham, where St Felix visited in the 7th century, and Dersingham, with its historic tithe barn and national nature reserve bog.
Sandringham is where the royal family traditionally spends Christmas and has been a much-loved country retreat for generations of monarchs and their families. At one of the entrances to the estate the spectacular ironwork Norwich Gates were a wedding gift to Prince Albert Edward (later King Edward VII) and Princess Alexandra from the people of Norfolk.
King George V called the house and estate: “Dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere in the world.” The first Christmas Speech was broadcast by radio from Sandringham by the Queen’s grandfather, George V, on December 25, 1932. The Queen made the first televised Christmas broadcast, live from the library at Sandringham, 25 years later in 1957.
Where to stay near Sandringham
The Rose and Crown, Snettisham, is renowned for its food, winning the Good Pub Guide’s award as Norfolk Dining Pub of the Year and also 16 luxury bedrooms.
Heacham Manor Hotel is an Elizabethan manor house with restaurant, golf course – and a tree said to have been planted by Pocahontas.
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The Ffolkes in Hillington is a 300-year-old coaching inn with fabulously furnished luxury rooms. It is also famous for its food, including a brunch feast, pie feast and street feast.
Congham Hall Hotel and spa is a secluded boutique hotel in a Georgian manor house with a pool and acres of lovely gardens – which also provide flowers for the rooms and food for the table.
Where to shop near Sandringham
The royal estate has its own shop, selling a wide range of Norfolk produce. From preserves and chutneys to sweets, ports and liqueurs, many of the products are made using ingredients from Sandringham. While Sandringham House and Gardens are closed to the public until the spring, the royal parkland and the courtyard shop and cafe are open all year round. As well as food Sandringham Shop sells handmade crafts, home and garden gifts and country clothing, much of it made in Norfolk.
Where to eat near Sandringham
As well as the award-winning Rose and Crown in Snettisham the village also has The Old Bank, which was named the country’s best local restaurant by the Good Food Guide in 2019. It offers imaginative and impressive longer and shorter taster menus and a lavish Sunday lunch.
Only two Norfolk restaurants have a Michelin star – and The Neptune at Old Hunstanton is one of them. Advance booking essential for this small restaurant which specialises in sublime seafood (and has rooms for overnight stays too.)
The Duck Inn at Stanhoe is another gastro-pub renowned for menus packed with beautifully-cooked local produce.
Things to do near Sandringham
Luminate Sandringham is a mesmerising illuminated trail, set to ambient music, along a forest trail through Sandringham Country Park. It runs until December 19 and includes interactive installations along the way, plus the chance to warm up with hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows.
Sandringham Country Park is open daily for free with two waymarked trails through the woodland and parkland, lots more unmarked footpaths and a new children’s play area.
Walk through the estate village of Wolferton to admire the railway station, now privately owned, where royals from around the world once alighted for Sandringham. One story is of Edward VII and the Tsar of Russia walking to the station and being asked for their tickets. “I am the King of England and this is the Tsar of Russia,” said King Edward. The ticket collector is said to have replied: “Glad to meet you. I am the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
10 minutes away
Snettisham, with its pubs, shops, restaurants and walks, is also internationally famous for treasure. The Snettisham Hoard of huge twisted gold necklaces and bracelets was unearthed here from 1948 when a farm worker ploughing a former lavender field uncovered pieces of twisted metal. Believing them to be parts of a broken brass bed he left them at the edge of the field for several days before eventually showed them to local archaeologists. They were Iron Age gold and silver torcs and are now some of the star exhibits in the British Museum and Norwich Castle Museum.
A separate hoard of Roman jewellery was also been found nearby and the remains of a Roman villa lie beneath Snettisham Park - a working farm and visitor attraction open daily.
The soaring spire of the parish church is the second highest in Norfolk (top spot being taken by Norwich Cathedral.) And had you been visiting the village in 1474 you might have enjoyed Rockfeste. Village records reveal that Snettisham had its own actors Morris dancers and sword dancers at the time, and Rockfeste was probably a festival of music and dancing.
15 minutes away
Close to Sandringham are the beaches of Snettisham, Heacham and Hunstanton and this western Norfolk coast borders the biggest nature reserve in Britain – the Wash National Nature Reserve. Birds fly in from the Arctic in the winter and Africa in the summer. The RSPB Snettisham reserve is alive with flocks of resident and migratory birds all year round and in the winter people travel for miles to see thousands of pink-footed geese soar into the sky at sunrise.
20 minutes away
West Norfolk is not all huge open spaces. King’s Lynn has shops, cafes, restaurants, theatres (including the only surviving place Shakespeare acted), the 1920s Majestic cinema and plenty more impressive architecture including the grand Tuesday Market Place, the Minster and the flint Town Hall facing each other across the Saturday Market Place, and the elegant Custom House and the Hanse warehouses along the river.