Seals at Horsey, Norfolk – a guide to visiting

by Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders
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The seals at Horsey!

What a sight and a privilege it is to view the seals at Horsey. Seals are quite a common place view around the coast of North Norfolk. You will often see a seal or two bobbing off the shore of a beach on a summers day. And, if you want to see even more, the seal trips from Morston are famous for getting you close to the seals. However, seeing the seals during seal pup season is quite something! I cannot recommend this experience enough, it truly is a sight to behold.

image of the seals at horsey

When to see the seals

The seal pup season is the time to come and see the seals up on the beach. The female seals give birth to their pups in the winter time. From late October through to early February at Horsey. So, if you want to view this incredibly impressive spectacle, make sure this is the time you are in Norfolk! Do remember it gets dark early at this time, so make sure you are there early enough in the day.

If you are visiting out of this season, and the summer months are very lovely in this part of the UK, and want to see the seals. Then do book yourself onto a seal trip from Blakeney or Morston – it is always lovely to venture out in to the Blakeney Pit. I recommend taking a look at Beans trips. However, even these amazing trips are not as dramatic as during the seal pup season.

Where is Horsey?

Horsey beach is located about 10 miles from the town of Great Yarmouth, and 25 miles from the city of Norwich. If you are visiting from Norwich, take the A47 towards Yarmouth, before turning off towards Acle. Then follow signs to Horsey.

Take a look at the map HERE to find out the location

Car parking for seals of Horsey

Horsey Gap car park is definitely the best place to park, and it is very simple! During the winter months there is also an overflow carpark to accommodate the extra visitors who come and view the seals. There are over 70,000 people who come and visit the seals each year!

Both this overflow car park, and the main carpark, are manned by volunteers, so please be kind to them!  If you are told to park in the overflow carpark, please do so. It is only a 5 minute walk to reach the main beach car park.  If you have accessibility issues, you’ll be able to park near the beach.  

Payment for the carpark is in cash, and there are attendants at the entrance to take your money. It is £3 for 2 hours or £5 for all day.

To reach this car park, you need to turn off the B1159 on the very sharp corner which is about a ¼ of a mile west of the village heading towards Sea Palling.  You’ll easily spot it.

How to see the seals

The beach is completely closed off to the public during this time, and for good reason as it is covered in seals! So to see the seals there are two options. There is a roped, one way, walkway from the car park. You walk along the back of the sand dunes for about 10 minutes before turning left to walk along the top of the dunes. From here, you can then walk along and have the most amazing views all the way along. Seals to your right and left as far as the eye can see. Literally!

image of seals on horsey gap beach

On the way back, at the end of the loop, you walk past the older pill box. Which is a structure constructed in WWII. The year I visited, two seals had made this a home!

image of seals in pill box at Horsey Gap

There is another option to view the seals. And it has been said the second viewing area to see the seals at Horsey is the better one as the seals are huge in number compared to the area closer to the car park. However, there were so many when I was there, I didn’t end up walking to this second location. You approach this by walking from the car park along the sand path all the way to the steps which take you over the dunes.  This will should take around 20 minutes.  The viewing platform a metal structure with a roped off area on the top of the dunes and much longer than the first viewing area, so is worth the extra walk if there aren’t a huge amount of seals from the dunes walkway.

What seals will you see?

There are two types of seals who make their home on the beach. The grey seal are the ones who giving birth at this time. The cow will arrive on the beach first, about a day before giving birth. They will sniff the new pup in the first 30 minutes of it being born, to form an association between the mother and pup.

image of a grey seal pup

The beach will have bulls, cows and pups. The bulls have a continuous dark background colour, can grow to up to 3.3m long and weigh up to 300kg. The cows are paler in colour, up to 2m in length and weigh between 100 and 150kg. The pups, when they are born, weigh around 15kg, have poor coordination and their fur is not waterproof. They are weaned after around 21 days, and remain on the beach for around 3 weeks after this. Until they loose the pale fur they are born with. They final enter the sea and have to learn how to eat and fish for themselves!

There are also common seals on the beach, which are smaller and tend to rest on the beach in a ‘banana’ shape. They have their pups in the summer months.

Things to be aware of!

There will sometimes be seal pups alone on the beach. Do not approach them. If they are disturbed the mother may not return, and the pups will die. Equally, if you see an adult seal, do not approach. They need to be left alone to recover from feeding at sea and to put weight on for the winter.

image of the viewing walkway at horsey gap

You can take dogs when viewing the seals, but they must be kept on a lead. To protect both the seals and the dog. A seal will bite if threatened and they are vicious!

If you are visiting in winter, to see the pups, wrap up warm. It can be blustery and windy on the top of the dunes.

Friends of Horsey Seals

The Friends of Horsey Seals, a volunteer seal warden group, took over from Natural England in 2012 (after funding ended) and now monitor the seals and the area every day.  They are always looking for new volunteers, so if you are interested in helping, then do visit the Friends of Horsey Seals website here. 

image of the friends of horsey seals

These volunteers are the ones who cordon off the beach during the pupping season so you can’t go onto the beach.   The Friends of Horsey volunteers also man the car parks and are along the paths. They are incredibly knowledgeable so if you have any questions and they’ll hopefully be able to answer them! They pointed out a seal pup to me that had been born that day! And knew because it still had it’s umbilical cord. Have a look at how small it is! I feel so lucky to have seen this.

image of newborn seal pup at horsey

Visiting the seals at Horsey, a highly highly recommended activity to do in the winter months in Norfolk!

If you are visiting Norfolk, do take a look at this post which has some amazing things to do in the county: Things to do in Norfolk, UK


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2 comments

Nic | Nic's Adventures & Bakes December 9, 2020 - 10:49 am

Thanks for sharing, these seals are so cute, great tips to see them 🙂

Reply
Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders December 31, 2020 - 9:54 am

They are amazing! Thank you for reading 😀

Reply

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