England may be small but if you take the time to travel just 3 hours out of London you get an experience akin to visiting the Carolina Coast after a trip to New York City.
While rarely listed as the top places to visit in England, Norfolk County is as authentic ‘English’ as Alabama is ‘American’. The pace is slower, the people are friendly and there is a good chance you will be the only foreigner in the village.
Locals speak with the “Norfolk Drawl” a twang distinctly different from a west-end-London accent. You will hear people greet each-other with “yah’ al ‘rite buoy?” and when someone agrees with you they’ll say “thas rite that is”. The Norfolk dialect is the British equivelent to the American Southern accent, it grows on you.
The county capitol of Norwich is a medium size city easily explored in one day. It has an airy Cathedral, recently remodel with an additional museum, if cathedrals are your thing it is definitely worth a stop. Pubs are more my thing and around the corner is Norfolk’s oldest pub aptly named The Adam and Eve, built in 13th century to house and refresh Cathedral laborers.
There are several river channels through the city reminiscent of the Dutch towns directly across the North Sea. I enjoy the downtown pedestrian area and open air market with several stalls selling the national breakfast-of-champions The Bacon Buddy — white bread roll with locally made Coleman’s Mustard or HP brown sauce and 2 pieces of bacon — my husband’s favorite snack.
Weaving around the farms are The Broads — 200 kilometers of navigable man-made rivers and lakes. Excavating started in the middle ages and officially with an act of parliament in 1670 and continues today.
I come to Norfolk for the empty sandy beaches, there are several adorable coastal towns and one crappy one. Sorry Great Yarmoth your waterfront mini-arcades and abandoned pubs aren’t my cup-of-tea — but hey the American South isn’t prefect either.
The Norfolk coast is home to a variety of mobile-home ‘resort’ communities. These homes aren’t really mobile – it’s not a gypsy commune – more like a community of immovable trailers that people own as second homes on the coast. Jeff Foxworthy joked “If you have a house that is mobile and 10 cars that aren’t, you might be a redneck” England does have red-necks, they live in Norfolk and I married one.
Try This… Beer, Fish and Chips
Good thing red-necks are honest, welcoming, people who work hard and enjoy a pint of warm beer at the end of the day. In Norfolk you drink Adnam’s Coastal Beer or my favorite Old Rosie, a local cloudy apple cider — it’s strong (9%), flat, and bitter, completely different from the sweet bubbly stuff you get a home.
I have yet to visit a popular coastal local pub that didn’t make great fresh fish and chips. The other menu items may leave something to be desired, like the world’s worst burger and pasta beyond recognition, we have been burned a few too many times, so now I stick with the fish and chips. For a change I like Shrimp Scampy — breaded and fried shrimp balls.
Over the past 8 years I have fallen in love with un-touristy Norfolk county. My husband is from, Winterton-on-sea, a picturesque community voted “Prettiest Village” several years in a row in the annual county counsel Village-in-Bloom contest.
Winterton-On-Sea has is one store, one pub, one post office, one fish and chip shop, and one holiday cabin ‘resort’ (though the term ‘resort’ is used loosely here). It’s isolated, and until last year the pub didn’t even have Wifi.
Norfolk Country Walks
Norfolk is great for walking as it is flat with a variety of nature to view from beaches to broads. You can explore abandoned saxon abby’s, rolling sand dunes, country pubs and historic churches all while getting fresh air and exercise. No walk is complete without a stop at a pub for lunch and a warm pint of pulled bitter beer.
Do NOT walk on the road. They rarely have shoulders and cars drive inches from hedges. Walking paths cris-cross the villages separate from the roads. The whole county is made for walking, so bring your boots.
Where to Stay
- Winterton-on-sea — Get a room for one night at The Fisherman’s Return (the one pub) or rent a cabin at Hermanus Leisure Holiday Park (the ‘resort’ has cute circular cottages photographed).
- Wells — harbor town where kids can pull crabs right out of the water to eat or release
- Cromer — traditional beach town famous for small sweet crab. Listed 2013 top 10 beaches by Conte Naste Traveller
- Sheringham — surrounded by a national park and home to rhododendron garden
Stay in any highly rated B&B and wake up to a traditional English breakfast, or Bacon Buddy and put on your walking shoes.
Norfolk County Cottages are an easy way to stay like a local and save money cooking at home.
Try This… Boat the Norfolk Broads
For a complete Norfolk holiday experience Hire a boat from Wroxam Broad (get there by train from Norwich) and travel along the rivers and lakes stoping in Hickeling Broad and other local pubs along the calm river-ways. The broads are easy to navigate so you can be your own cruse director along these man-made waterways.
Next time you travel to London TRY THIS… spend two nights on the relaxing Norfolk Coast.