Cley, pronounced 'Cly', is situated on the North Coast Road (AI49), about a mile inland from the sea on the east bank of the River Glaven. This picturesque little hamlet was once a busy fishing and trading port until its river silted up to form an area of salt marshes.

Cley next the Sea
Cley next the Sea © Travel About Britain

A prosperous port in medieval times, it once exported tons of wool and grain and was more important than King's Lynn. The 18th-c square-fronted Custom House still stands beside the river in red brick with fine Georgian windows. The nearby Maison de Quai (house on the quayside) is of traditional brick and cobblestone construction with a 15th-c doorway. The medieval Church of St Margaret's, south of the village, was rebuilt in the 14th-c on a grand scale and is very impressive for such a small settlement.

The village has narrow streets of attractive flint houses, many with Dutch style gables. There is a traditional smokehouse, bakery, delicatessen, pottery and art gallery.

Cley Windmill

Cley Windmill © TAB

Cley's fine windmill, built in 1713, is now a classic North Norfolk landmark. Visible for miles across the flat salt marshes, it has been the subject of thousands of paintings. It closed as a flour mill in 1921 and is now a small guest house. During the season visitors can climb to the top to enjoy a spectacular outlook from its upper floors.

A shingle beach can be reached at the end of a long road across the mud flats and marshes. Cley Marshes, the oldest nature reserve in the country, is one of the best bird-watching sites in Britain. Run by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

Cley is located on the 'Norfolk Coast Path', which runs west from the village to Blakeney Point, where the Glaven Estuary reaches the sea. The sandbanks here are a popular spot for seal watching.

Map of Cley next the Sea


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