Well, places to stay don’t come much more unique than the absolutely wonderful Cley Windmill. If you’re looking for a completely different thing to do when visiting the UK, then why not choose to stay in a windmill?
Cley (pronounced cly like fly, not clay like way) Windmill is a grade II listed building built in the 1790s. Until 1921, it was a working mill and then it has passed to various families including the Blount/Blunt family from the 1930s until 2000s. Interestingly, you may have heard of James Blunt (a singer famed for his ‘you’re beautifullll’ warbles) – his father owned the mill, and he spent a lot of time as a child. It’s now a beautiful B&B and wedding venue, owned by the Bush family.
Cley windmill lies in the east of England, in the county of Norfolk. It’s right on the coast, close to some of England’s most beautiful sandy beaches. This area of England is well off the tourist trail, so it really is perfect to escape the crowds.
To get to Cley, you will need a car as there isn’t easy public transport access to the windmill or the areas surrounding it. To drive directly from London takes around 3hrs, from Birmingham around 3 hrs, and from Cambridge around 2hrs. The nearest main railway station is Norwich, which you could arrive at to avoid long drives (or driving in London if you’re visiting), and then hire a car from there for the 45 minute drive to the coast.
The windmill has a decent sized car park, and the windmill is walking distance to Cley village, meaning access to shops, a good pub and a nice village store. The windmill also sits right on a river so if you’re so inclined (unlike me), you could kayak or canoe down the river exploring the Norfolk marshes.
Well, the accommodation was something special. There are multiple rooms in the windmill across 5 floors. Starting with the common areas – there is a balcony which is perfect to sit on with drinks before dinner or to watch the sunset. There’s also two lovely gardens, complete with comfy chairs, tables and views out across the Norfolk marshes to watch the boats go by.
Inside the windmill, there is a cosy communal dining/sitting room. It has a gorgeous fire, which is lovely to sit beside of an evening, or reading a book. There’s also a nice reception area with plenty of chairs to browse all the guidebooks of things to do near the windmill (more on that later!).
As for the rooms, they are stunning. We had a comfy 4 poster bed, a nice sofa area, modern and clean bathroom and the TV was smart-enabled so we were able to watch Netflix, iPlayer etc easily.
It’s so much harder to comment on service in COVID times as restrictions means things don’t run as normal. That said, the windmil staff went out of their way to accommodate us. Latest check-in is at 8pm, but they accommodated our slightly later than planned due to traffic arrival. Even more nicely, they gave us some tasty chocolates and left a card in our room to wish us a nice stay.
Breakfast is served between 8.30-10am, either in the room, in the garden or in the dining room. On our first day, we had to be out for 8am and the staff came in early to provide us with home cooked sausage sandwiches before we had to leave which was truly lovely of them. On the second morning, we were served the most incredible breakfast of omelette, porridge, toast, a full English etc. It was so delicious that we didn’t want to stop eating.
Normally, the windmill would also serve dinner, but due to COVID restrictions on space couldn’t accommodate this while we were staying. It really doesn’t matter though as there is a pub within walking distance (The George and Dragon) which serves delicious food and wine.
Things to do nearby
One of the best things about the windmill is all the incredible things to see and do nearby. Of course there is Cley itself, right on the sea, but there are multiple other fun options to explore.
A lovely coastal town with one of the best beaches in England, Wells is home to the famous beach huts, a nice mini railway and traditional England crabbing spots. It’s a great place to spend half a day exploring.
B. Holkham Hall and beach
Just down the road is the wonderful Holkham Hall and its amazing sandy beach. The grounds are huge and home to a stunning walled garden, as well as multiple good walks to stretch the legs and get some fresh air.
C. Blickling Hall
Blickling Hall, the birth place of Anne Boleyn, is a special estate. The hall itself is picturesque and full of history, there’s a wonderful pub on site and there is a unique escape room in the church. The perfect day trip option!
D. Burnham Market
Burnham Market is one of the nicest market towns in England, with some incredible restaurants (if you want a traditional Sunday roast, then Number 29 is my favourite), pretty shops and cute cottages.
E. Blakeney Point
If you like animals or boat trips (or both) then Blakeney point is perfect – it’s where you can see the famous Norfolk seals in huge concentration on a nice hour long boat ride out to enjoy them. Again, a good choice for a half day trip.
The cute seals of Blakeney Point
And that’s my whistle stop tour of a stay in a windmill! It really was such a wonderful stay and I’m so grateful to be discovering wonderful places like this around the UK this year. What do you think? Would you like to visit on a trip to England? Stay safe and happy travelling everyone!