10 of the best cottages for birdwatching in Norfolk holiday cottages

10 of the best cottages for birdwatching in Norfolk

Clare Willcocks 17 April 2023

Norfolk is a county that will delight and titillate birdwatchers of all ages and levels of experience. Showcasing a diverse coastline of creeks, salt marshes, nature reserves, sandy habitats and the largest protected wetland in Britain - the Norfolk Broads - there are plenty of habitats to explore. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatching enthusiast, or a novice on the lookout for some unique wildlife, Norfolk has something to offer all year round.

Norfolk is home to a number of wildlife parks and RSPB reserves, with well-maintained walkways alongside rivers inhabited with a variety of ducks including mallards, moorhens and coots, and all manner of geese on the banks, including greylag, Canadian and Egyptian geese. Soaring high up in the skies above, you might spot a marsh harrier, sparrowhawk or even a kestrel before they divebomb down onto their prey. You may even catch a sighting of a solitary heron in amongst the reeds, wading in shallow waters and picking out small fish and frogs with its distinctively long bill.

Whether you’re an amateur enthusiast or a seasoned birdwatcher, our self-catering cottages below will suit your needs.

RSPB Snettisham, near King’s Lynn

Gannet’s Rest | Sleeps 5

Gannet's Rest near RSPB Snettisham - best places for birdwatching in Norfolk

This aptly named, off-grid beachside bolthole couldn’t be better located for those wishing to add to their birding life list. The attractive single-storey beach house features a fabulous decked area where you can enjoy balmy summer evenings. Gannet’s Rest is just a few hundred metres from RSPB Snettisham, a short stroll will take you to a choice of birdwatching spots, and you’ll be back in time for sundowner drinks!

RSPB Snettisham spoils its visiting birdwatchers with three observation hides, two of which are wheelchair and pushchair friendly. Lagoons, tidal mudflats, shingle beaches and saltmarsh ensure a diversity of species, with highlights including avocets, bar-tailed godwits, knots, shelducks and pink-footed geese depending on the time of year.

From late summer, the biggest high tides see huge flocks of wading birds soaring into the air as the mudflats are engulfed by the sea. It’s a unique spectacle, not to be missed if you’re lucky enough to be visiting at the right time.

RSPB Titchwell Marsh, near King’s Lynn

The Roost – Norfolk | Sleeps 4 + 1 dog

The Roost near Titchwell Marsh - best places for birdwatching in Norfolk

Just 1 mile from RSPB Titchwell Marsh, The Roost – Norfolk is a delightful property which sleeps up to four guests. A warming wood burner will thaw you out after winter romps to see the migrant birds from Scandinavia and Northern Europe. The dog-friendly cottage features a fully enclosed lawn, where you can sit and tick off some garden bird species in comfort.

RSPB Titchwell Marsh is well known for its wading birds, wildfowl and geese, and an array of habitats ensure that you’ll spot a good selection of feathered friends. The flight of the marsh harrier is a sight to behold; you may see them gliding low on autumn evenings or circling high in spring. Keep your ears open for the orchestra of bird calls that you may even catch from the garden of the cottage.

Follow the trails through the reserve to take in saltmarshes, reed beds and freshwater lagoons, before reaching the unspoilt Titchwell Beach where you can appreciate the expansive views across The Wash.

Holkham National Nature Reserve, near Wells-next-the-Sea

The View | Sleeps 8 + 2 dogs

The View near Holkham National Nature Reserve - best places for birdwatching in Norfolk

With views directly over the salt marshes on the Holkham Hall Estate, The View is a superb choice of accommodation for keen birdwatchers. Birdwatching in Norfolk doesn’t get much more luxurious than kicking back in a 5-star holiday property, keeping warm by the wood burner while you train your binoculars on the birdlife beyond the huge windows. Sleeping eight guests, even the non-birdwatchers in your party will be more than happy to linger in this luxurious lodge-style property.

Managed by the Holkham Estate, the Holkham National Nature Reserve encompasses around 10,000 hectares of land which includes areas of coastline, salt marsh, sand dunes and pine woods. Supporting a wealth of wildlife, the reserve is an important site for conservation.

Amongst the creatures that thrive here are numerous species of birds including avocet, lapwing, redshank, curlew and oystercatcher in the saltmarshes and mudflats, and treecreeper, goldcrest and firecrest within the pine woods. Migratory species arrive in autumn, making it a dynamic and exciting destination for birdwatchers.

Cley Marshes, near Cley-next-the-Sea

Hole Cottage | Sleeps 3 + 1 dog

Hole Cottage, near Cley Marshes - best places to go birdwatching in Norfolk

Cosy up in this wonderfully welcoming cottage, where you can wake up to views out over Cley Marshes before you even get out of bed! A former fisherman’s dwelling, Hole Cottage sleeps three guests and is under 1 mile from the Norfolk Coast Path – perfect if you like to combine birdwatching with rambling.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley Marshes has been a sanctuary for birds since 1926. With six bird hides and a visitor centre, it’s well equipped to welcome the thousands of birdwatchers who come to spot species including spoonbill, snow bunting and marsh harrier.

Add to your birdwatching book collection with a purchase from the on-site bookshop, and pop into the cafe for a post-twitching treat. You can even perch on one of the seats by the window which offers uninterrupted views over the marshes, so you can chalk up some more sightings through the free mounted telescopes while you tuck into your slice of cake!

Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, near Fakenham

Tone’s Cottage | Sleeps 4

Tone's Cottage, near Pensthorpe Nature Reserve - best places to go birdwatching in Norfolk

Set in the lively community of Great Ryburgh, Tone’s Cottage is just 3.5 miles from Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, a magical destination for nature lovers young and old. The characterful interior is a lovely place to relax after days out birdwatching, and you can continue to listen out for the sound of birdsong as you sip your evening tipple over an al fresco dinner in the charming, enclosed garden.

At Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, you’ll find bird hides (including the Heritage-Lottery-Funded Wetland Hide), a beautiful wildflower meadow, a wetland discovery area with family-friendly activities such as pond-dipping, a selection of inspiring gardens, and indoor and outdoor play areas.

In terms of birdlife, you’ll be able to spot plenty of wading birds at the wader scrape, an area of shallow water and shingle islands, as well as some fascinating rare species in the wader aviary. When watching from the bird hides, keep your eyes peeled for fieldfare, sedge warblers, cuckoos, wigeon, chiffchaffs and more. If you’re after yet more adventures in nature, head for nearby Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, home to the Hawk and Owl Trust.

Pigneys Wood, near North Walsham

Knapton Hall Cottage | Sleeps 6 + 1 dog

Knapton Hall Cottage near Pigneys Wood - best places to go birdwatching in Norfolk

Just 1.5 miles from Pigneys Wood, a refuge for myriad birds, Knapton Hall Cottage is a real gem of a property, within easy access to the coast and Norfolk Broads. The cottage’s beautifully furnished interior makes it a fabulous base for a family, but it’s the use of the owners’ outdoor swimming pool in the summer months that’s the real icing on the cake. The pretty, enclosed patio is perfect for relaxing upon after days at Mundesley Beach or spotting birds in Pigneys Wood.

Pigney’s Wood is home to a 450-year-old ancient oak tree, and with over 40 different species of trees, it’s a sanctuary for birds including goldcrest, nuthatch and Cetti’s warbler.

Enjoy strolling along the woodland trails, and if you’re lucky enough to be visiting in spring, you’ll be dazzled by the soft carpets of bluebells which flood the woods with colour.

Hickling Broad, near Stalham

Sunset Cottage | Sleeps 4

Hickling Broad is a wonderful destination for a family holiday, and a stay in this gorgeous property, Sunset Cottage, just a short walk away, is the cherry on top. A traditional brick and flint cottage in a beautiful leafy setting, its features include a crackling wood burner for warming up after days out on the Broads, a delightful courtyard to enjoy morning coffee outside, and a bucolic outlook making the most of those big Norfolk skies (perhaps you could get a bit of twitching in before you set out for the day!).

You won’t be spending much time at the property though, with Hickling Broad right on the doorstep. Enjoy balmy summer walks on the peaceful trails, take to the water on one of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust boat tours, or delight in the transformation of the waterways in winter. Among the bird species you may spot on your tour are the common crane, bittern, and marsh harriers. You might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a kingfisher and keep an eye out for barn owls too.

There are a number of accessible trails on a hard surface or boardwalk, which include access to bird hides. Don’t forget to pop into the visitor centre, where you’ll find Detective Explorer Packs to hire for children, as well as refreshments, WCs, and a gift shop.

RSPB Berney Marshes, near Great Yarmouth

Red Mill | Sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Red Mill, near Berney Marshes - best places for birdwatching in Norfolk

Red Mill, a unique converted windmill surrounded by marshland, is a birdwatchers’ paradise. One of ten windmills whose original function was to power the drainage system for the surrounding marshland of Haddiscoe Island, it is now a delightful holiday home with four levels. The charming curved stairs and original features add to its allure, but it’s the views from the windows and garden that are this property’s crowning glory. Right next to the River Ware, you can see many different birds and animals, all the while sitting back with a drink in hand, with dinner cooking on the BBQ!

RSPB Berney Marshes is a tranquil reserve with little in the way of amenities. While you won’t find a visitor centre or bird hides, you can be assured of bird sightings aplenty, with up to 64,000 wintering wildfowl finding their way here every year. Pink-footed geese, wigeons, lapwings, redshanks, avocets and even raptors flock here for the colder months.

Berney Marshes and Breydon Water consist of a number of habitats, including wet grassland, intertidal mud, and salt marsh, managed by the RSPB to optimise conditions for the wildlife.

RSPB Surlingham Church Marsh, near Norwich

Green Farm Barns – The Old Stables | Sleeps 4

Green Farm Barns, near Surlingham Church Marsh - best places for birdwatching in Norfolk

This single-storey barn-style property is perfect for a family or a group of friends looking to balance their time between making the most of Norfolk’s great outdoors, and visiting some of the city attractions in Norwich (8 miles).

From the doorstep, you can wander down to the River Yare and RSPB Surlingham Church Marsh, or head for Wheatfen Broad, a wetland nature reserve. Other nearby reserves offering birdwatching opportunities are RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, RSPB Buckenham and Cantley Marshes, and RSPB Rockland Marshes, all of which lie along the River Yare.

A circular walk leads around RSPB Surlingham Church Marsh, allowing for sightings of marshland birds amongst the reedbeds, fens and pools. A host of species can be seen at different times of the year, including hobbies, kingfishers, marsh harriers and sedge warblers. Winter sees the reserve flood, and this event attracts yet more birds such as bitterns and gadwalls.

Frenze Beck Nature Reserve, Diss

The Cottage | Sleeps 6 + 1 dog

The Cottage, near Frenze Beck Nature Reserve - best places for birdwatching in Norfolk

Sleeping six guests and one canine pal, The Cottage is a gorgeous space, packed with traditional features and an attractive garden room which is sure to delight birding and nature fanatics. The large family home has the added benefit of a den for kids, ideal for when you want 5 minutes’ peace to tot up the day’s bird sightings!

The Cottage is just 1 mile from Frenze Beck Nature Reserve, a 15-acre site with wetland, meadow, pasture and scrub habitats. Follow the network of paths and pause every now and again to catch sight of species such as red warblers, barn owls and woodpeckers amongst many more.

For more days out in nature, explore the local Roydon Fen Nature Reserve, Quaker Wood and Redgrave and Lopham Fen.

View the best birdwatching spots in Norfolk on a map

Take a look at the best places to go birdwatching in Norfolk on this handy map.

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Book a cottage to experience the best birdwatching in Norfolk

Pack your binoculars and get set for a holiday exploring new and exciting birdwatching spots in Norfolk. Stay in one of the cottages above, close to some of the best places for birdwatching in the county or browse our entire collection to find your perfect base.

With cottages tucked away amongst the Broads, along the coast and throughout the countryside, you’ll have a good chance of finding your perfect retreat somewhere you’ll be able to tick off some more species on your birding life list!

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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