An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

52.984663, 0.700457
Distance: 13.8 km
Difficulty: Difficult
Method: Walking
Wow Factor: 10 out of 10

Key Facts

  • Location: Norfolk
  • Size: 700 hectares
  • Terrain: Creek beds, sand and mud banks and beach
  • Access: Tidal creek crossing
  • Height gain: 243 metres
  • Map: OS Explorer 250 & 251
  • Starting point: Burnham Overy Staith Quay. Lat/Long 52.965203, 0.746128; GR TF 84525 44400
  • Accommodation/food:

    No facilities on the island. At Burnham Deepdale there is an excellent café, campsite and Nisa store. The Hero pub at Burnham Overy Staithe serves good food and has rooms.

  • Island Summary:

    Scolt Head Island is full of outdoor adventure, internationally important birdlife and vast sand or shingle beaches. It will appeal to adventurous families, birdwatchers and wild swimmers alike.

    The island sits between Brancaster and Wells-next-the-Sea in north Norfolk. It is only 1000 years or so old after being formed after a spit of land from the mainland was cut off by the creeks that run from Burnham Overy Staithe to Brancaster. Crossing these creeks and splashing around in their sun-warmed pools is a highlight for any trip to this island.

    Owned by the National Trust there are two buildings on the island, one at the western end and the other more centrally situated towards the southwest end of the dunes.

  • Look out for:
    • Exploring the wild creeks of the south shore
    • Walking the extensive sands of the north shore
    • Secret swimming in the warm pools of the creek and North Sea
    • Spotting the incredible variety of birds
  • Route description:

    There are a number of options for this walk depending on the level of adventure you’re after. The full circumnavigation is definitely for those who love mud and splashing around in water. You’ll cross two tidal creeks to get to the island then wade along the main channel around the southern length of Scolt Head. Most of the creeks will be water-filled even at low tide but are easy to wade through at ankle to knee height. The full route continues to the western tip (out of bounds due to nesting terns from April to August) before returning along the north shore with its miles of wild sand dunes and shingle. A shorter route, that one that has been written up here, cuts to the north shore before the western tip. To avoid wet feet completely, there is a seasonal ferry from Burnham Overy Staith for a beautiful and wild walk along the north shore.

    The full route can be found in “Islandeering; adventures around the edge of Britain’s Hidden islands”

  • Getting there:

    At Burnham Overy Staithe turn off the A149 at The Hero public house into East Harbour Way. Turn right at the bottom of the street into a large area of flat ground where it is possible to park.

    Getting to Scolt Head Island is a bit of an adventure. The island can be accessed on foot as described or buy seasonal ferry from the quay at Burnham Overy Staith. The times are posted on the door of the Boathouse. The ferry generally runs 1.5 hours before High Water to 1.5 hours after High Water during daylight hours between April and September. The ferry is operated by Mr Peter Bickell (tel. 07836 523396).

    Special notes: only attempt Norton Creek at low tide (passable 2 hours before/after). Beware of fast tides which flood E and ebb W in the creeks. Competent swimmers may swim back to the carpark only on a flooding tide. The carpark itself may flood on high tides. GPS thoroughly recommended.

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