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Hidden Gem

Escape the North Norfolk crowds to this great cosy pub set in the marshes!

The perfect place to warm your cockles (and eat some) while exploring the North Norfolk coastline.

white country pub road side with orange tiled roof

THE LOWDOWN

Blink and you’ll miss it – The Red Lion pub is set in the tiny village of Stiffkey and is a perfect stop off when exploring the North Norfolk coast. It’s only a 10 minute drive from the beach and remote enough to be off the well worn Holkham and Burnham Market tourist track.

Don’t be put off by the pub’s roadside location. When I say road, think country track – a hop, a skip and a jump and you’re in the beautiful Stiffkey Salt Marshes.

The property started life as a family home, converted by the current owners 28 years ago because they felt the village was missing a local boozer!

fireplace wooden tables and chairs

THE VIBE 

‘Family’ and ‘local’ are the key words for this pub, you walk in and instantly feel a part of something incredibly homely. Which if you just happen to have packed a spare pair of knickers and are feeling spontaneous, there’s 12 eco friendly guest rooms including two family rooms that sleep up to five people.

Authentic rather than designed, this pub is far from contrived. Quirky furniture choices such as high backed church pews matched with large stained rustic wooden tables adds to its charm. With lots of different rooms and snugs –you can easily find a private corner to escape.

There’s a beautiful glass extension that creates the feel that you’re eating under the Norfolk sky and is ideal for large groups. Round the corner and along a wonky low ceilinged corridor – ‘mind your head and your step’ – and you’ll find an intimate dining area for those wanting a bit of romantic ambience away from the chatter of the central bar.

We arrived on mass for a late Mother’s Day lunch – Three children, two grandparents, my partner and three dogs. We loved the main bar area with it’s inglenook fireplace and wood burner – perfect for taking refuge from the cold winter day and warming up after a long walk on the beach.

This place is incredibly dog friendly, from the snacks on the bar to the genuinely pleased waitress who fussed over our three very bouncy Cockadors while juggling food and drinks.

bar wherry pumps dog snacks flowers ale barrels

SCOFF & QUOFF 

When I first stumbled across the Red Lion, I was awash with nostalgia as it’s exactly the type of place I remember going to as a child for Sunday lunch.

There’s nothing fancy or surprising about this menu – Scampi, Burgers and Norfolk Ale Battered Haddock. Standard pub fare but done well. Sea food fanatics will love this place for its in season crabs, lobsters, cockles and mussels sourced locally from Wells-Next-The-Sea, Moreston & Brancaster.

We all opted for Sunday lunch and were told if we look out of the window we’ll see the beef grazing across the road. Quick lesson in Farm-to-Fork for my youngest but she happily shrugged it off and ordered the chicken nuggets.

The meat was beautifully cooked and the veg al dente – a big peeve of mine when eating out is over cooked vegetables. Grandad was pleased that the quantity was just right illustrated by a table of completely empty plates – poor dogs!

Like everything else, the dessert menu was simple – not too much choice which isn’t a bad thing when you want to sample it all. Late lunch meant some of the things were off the menu but we happily made our own amuse bouche out of the Chocolate & Orange Tart and Chocolate Brownie.

chocolate dessert

I’m no connoisseur but the wine list was impressive for a village pub and I’ll definitely be heading back sans kids to sample a few of their 48 wines. Gin lovers delight – an extensive menu on display including some great ones made in Norfolk such as Black Shuck and Norfolk Gin. And finally and important for any ale drinker – Woodfordes on tap and indeed available for take away in these reasonably priced jugs.

OUT & ABOUT

Stiffkey is perfectly located for exploring the North Norfolk Coast, you can literally open the pub door and follow the Muckledyke Way through the salt marshes to Blakeney. (5 miles each way).

Two of the counties most beautiful beaches are a 10 minute drive – Holkham and Wells-next-the-Sea. If you head up to Holkham, visit the hall and gardens – great for kids with a brilliant play area, bike hire and boating options.

Holkham beach sand child bucket and spade

You are five minutes from sailing at Morston and exploring the Blakeney Point nature reserve and 15 minutes from the stylish shops of market towns Holt and Burnham Market.

For those who fancy a little spiritual escape, visit Walsingham. The village is famed for it’s religious shrines in honour of the Virgin Mary and is a major pilgrimage centre.

The garden and grounds surrounding Walsingham Abbey are famous for the spectacular ruins of the mediaeval Priory and if you visit in February you’ll see the most spectacular fields of snowdrops.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Families & dog owners – a great village pub that’s retained it’s local identity and serves simple good value pub grub.

For those interested in the stories behind places there are nods to local history throughout the place – such as the framed newspaper cutting on the Stiffkey Naughty Vicar and his clerical carryings-on!

Not For: Those expecting a gastro pub or fine dining experience.

And unless you’re lucky enough to be local, this is a ‘drive-to’ pub so best combined with an overnight stay.

If there is a down side to this pub, the alfresco area is a bit limited in space and feels a little tired. For families with young children who might need a garden to escape to – this perhaps wouldn’t be my first choice.

Having said that, don’t be too quick to dismiss. After a long ramble in the surrounding countryside surely it’s completely justified to let the kids escape into their phones and tablets, whilst the grown ups enjoy a good catch up.

The Damage: Really good value – starters are all around £5.00, the most expensive main course on the menu is £14.50 and puddings are all £6.95.

The Stiffkey Red Lion, 44 Wells Road, Stiffkey, NR23 1AJ. Tel. 01328 830552

 

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Norfolk