Cley on the North Norfolk coast is a small fishing port and town 4-1/4 miles from Holt and 25 miles from Norwich. The main route of access is the A149 road.
Cley has a wonderfully long shingle beach, surrounded by salt marshes and mud flats, typical to this area. Cley Harbour itself is very shallow but links to the sea by way of the narrow Blakeney Channel.
However, Cley port was once one of the biggest ports of East Anglia, exporting wool and grain. Large ships were able to carry great quantities to ports in the East Indies and the East Coast of America. This was possible as, at the time, the port could be accessed via the estuary channel just north West of Cley.
Cley is distinct as it has some 400 acres of marshland. The original Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve and a blueprint for nature conservation that has since been replicated across the Country, Cley Marshes is regarded as one of the UK’s best bird watching sites. The types of birds that make Cley their home include Bitterns, Avocets, Spotted Redshanks, Marsh Harriers and several other types of marsh birds.
Sites of interest include Cley’s Customs House. Found on the High Street, this impressive symbol was built in an effort to uphold the law and eradicate smugglers from the area, but to no avail! Cley Harbour was allegedly awash with Pirates and Smugglers for many decades. The Customs and Excise building has now moved to Wells-next-the-Sea.
St Margaret’s Church at Cley Church is another a noteworthy local building, defined by its vast size and fine architecture. Set back from the road and overlooking the village green, the church overlooked the Harbour in medieval times.
Accommodation-wise, there are a number of self catering cottages, hotels and Bed and Breakfast’s at Cley to stay at; you can even stay at the historic Cley windmill. There are a handful of places to eat along the main street as well as independent shops and galleries to peruse. You do not have to travel far outside Cley to find several other very good places to dine, whilst Holt, which is due South, offers an excellent selection of facilities and shops.
Alongside its marvellous history, Cley is the setting of a few near-legendary tales. For example, story tells that in 1406, James, son of Robert the Bruce of Scotland and heir-apparent to the crown, was driven by stress of weather into Cley Harbour whilst on his way to France. Apparently, marines situated there caught him and sent him as prisoner to London. James was subsequently sent to prison for the next seventeen years, until the third year of Henry VI’s reign, when the Prince immediately ascended the throne of Scotland.
The Great & Good in Cley: