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Norfolk Now

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What the Hamptons are to Manhattan, North Norfolk is to London—a getaway of soft sand beaches fringed with dunes and grass, surrounded by big skies, slender spires, and windmills. But North Norfolk is less populated, protected by wandering, single-lane roads leading to this quiet spot on the east coast of England. Nor does it follow such a strict summer season—there are few places on this gray isle as beautiful as Norfolk's dramatically windswept beaches in winter. The prettiest part extends south from the moody wetlands on Hunstanton, the northern tip, to the flint-and-brick village of Cley. Explore Burnham Market, a picture-postcard town of antique shops, delis, and 18th-century architecture; Holkham, with its golden sand backed by sweet-smelling pine forest; and the bucolic fishing villages of Brancaster and Blakeney (the coastal path meanders among the bulrushes). A literary, artistic set (more recently, their Kensington and Chelsea neighbors—power brokers, bankers, and politicians) frequents the area, welcoming houseguests including the Rockefeller and Van Buren families. Most stay in private homes (hence the considerable hike in coastal real estate prices over the past two years), though there are some good hotels—the best of them the unpretentious, impeccably run Morston Hall, with its simple, comfortable rooms and Michelin-starred restaurant (44-1263-741-041; doubles: $155 per person). The Landmark Trust $, overlooking the marshes (44-1263-740-209; $150 per person). The point, though, is to get here before the Mercedes-Benzes outnumber fishing boats, while a pint of beer in front of a roaring pub fire remains a peaceful moment to savor.

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