Christmas in Norfolk is an irresistible medley of charming market towns lit up to the nines, superb seasonal food in couldn’t-be-cosier country pubs, and the sweeping beauty of the ‘Champagne Coast’ for those bracing, cheeks-aglow beach walks.

Harper guests looking to experience the best of both worlds, the calm and relaxation of the hotel combined with the excitement of the glitteriest of seasons, will not be disappointed.

A few miles inland, in the sleepy village of Thursford,  for six weeks from early November, The Thursford Christmas Spectacular is the place to be. A show where a cast of over 120 performers, plucked from the West End stage, produce a spellbinding spectacle unfolding in and around a huge museum housing the world’s largest collection of vintage fairground attractions and sundry steam engines.

With a duration over 3h, it’s no exaggeration to say this is quite unlike anything else you’ll experience this Christmas. The festivities begin on the 8th November with two shows daily until the 23rd December, at 2pm and 7pm.

Back to the coast, and to the beautiful port town of Wells-next-the-Sea, famed for its colourful beach huts on stilts (backed by dunes and pines, Wells beach is one of Britain’s best and worth a trip whatever the season). Here, beholden to the timings of the tide, Santa arrives by boat (naturally, for North Norfolk) to the delight of the crowds gathered on the quayside. Ushering in the festive season, Wells Christmas Tide is as magical as it is unique, featuring all manner of street entertainers, a festive procession through town, and fireworks lighting up the night sky over the marshes and the sea beyond. This year’s event takes place on Saturday 30th November.

With two nearby locations having acquired ‘Dark Sky’ status, December’s son et lumière events in Norfolk are about as close to light pollution as it gets. The skies above lovely Wiveton Downs and Kelling Heath, in North Norfolk’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are among the clearest in the country, so glance up after dark and you might just catch the winter Orion constellation, or even the Milky Way – nature’s light show. For a slightly more reliable spectacle though, head to Sandringham, one of Norfolk’s country house heavyweights (along with Houghton and Holkham). The royal estate lights up every December for Luminate Sandringham, a captivating affair combining a mile-long light trail, immersive installations, trees bedecked with huge, illuminated baubles, and bird’s eye views from the top of the big wheel (or a good, old-fashioned helter-skelter). Luminate Sandringham runs daily in December until Christmas Eve, from dusk until 8pm.

If a sleigh ride is hard to come by, the Norfolk Lights Express is surely the next best thing. Hop on a full-size steam train aglow with Christmas lights at Sheringham station for the magical 5.5-mile journey to Holt – one of England’s loveliest small towns, taking in a series of magical lineside scenes. It’s the kind of heart-warming experience kids (and, secretly, grown-ups) will love. Leave time to explore Holt’s many (and beautifully decorated) independent shops, too – it was voted one of the UK’s seven prettiest towns for Christmas shopping in a list by The Times last year.

A little way west along the coast from Holt, magnificent Holkham Hall should also be on your yuletide itinerary. The lake-studded, 25,000-acre estate, where deer roam and a boardwalk takes you through quiet pines to a swathe of pristine sand, hosts a popular Christmas market (14th – 16th December this year). With live cookery theatre featuring acclaimed Norfolk chefs, it’s a showcase for the area’s artisanal food and drink – and for the discerning gourmand in your life, a great place for Christmas shopping in Norfolk. The house itself also hosts tours of the state rooms by candlelight (featured in a 2021 Channel 4 documentary you might remember) – utterly magical, and with a glass of bubbly to boot.

Whether it’s the bright lights of Thursford, the all-year-round allure of the coast, or simply the appeal of pottering around for the perfect present (so much more relaxing than Regent Street), there’s much to love about Christmas in North Norfolk.

With the coast path just up the road at the National Trust’s Morston Quay, and Holt, Holkham, and Wells-next-the-Sea a short drive away, The Harper is particularly well placed for your festive plans. Enjoy the season well ahead of the crowds, or get right in the midst of it, but make sure to come back to your peaceful Harper base, for a restful night and a dip in our pool.