Cromer crabs may be a little on the small side but they are universally loved for their plump, sweet meat.Read more...
Norfolk - Eating and sleeping
As any chef worth his or her (course grain sea) salt will tell you, good food is as much about quality ingredients as it is about cooking. Norfolk has quality ingredients in spades. With such a long coastline, it is hardly surprising that seafood features prominently on many Norfolk menus. From Cromer crabs to Brancaster mussels, and from ‘Stukey blues’ (a type of cockle) to Yarmouth’s ‘silver darlings’ (herrings), the North Sea provides a rich bounty, while the briny mudflats along the north coast also provide delicious seasonal offerings like marsh samphire – the perfect accompaniment to fresh fish.
For carnivores, there are excellent pickings too, with quality organic beef and meat from rare-breed pigs featuring on many a menu. Distinctive local cheeses are produced by Mrs Temples Cheeses and Ferndale Norfolk Cheeses both based in north Norfolk, while gourmand vegetarians are also in for a treat as the county has excellent strawberries and soft fruit and some of the finest asparagus in the land.
For drinkers, although vineyards are a bit thin on the ground this far north, as Britain’s premier barley growing county beer has always been big business. Norfolk now has more than 40 independent breweries producing a wide range of fine real ales. For its size, Norwich has arguably the best selection of real ale pubs in the country. If all this fine food and drink were not enough in itself the county is also home to the annual EDP Adnams Norfolk Food & Drink Festival, which takes place at various venues in Norfolk throughout September and October.
For our author’s selection of recommended places to eat see Slow Travel: Norfolk.
The following places to stay in Norfolk are extracted from Slow Travel: Norfolk. They have been selected for their good location and because they embrace the Slow mindset, either in terms of their overall feel or because they embody a ‘green’ approach.
Greenbanks Main Rd, Great Fransham NR19 2DA; 01362 687742; www.greenbankshotel.co.uk. Greenbanks has been involved with green sustainable tourism for over 20 years, pioneering the original Green Tourist Scheme back in 1999. Consisting of a main building and converted farm buildings set in delightful surroundings, there are a variety of rooms to choose from, some of which are wheelchair-accessible and able to accommodate disabled guests. Other rooms are pet-friendly, and self-catering apartments are available in the Greenbanks Barn.
Gunton Arms Cromer Rd, Thorpe Market NR11 8TZ; 01263 832101; www.theguntonarms.co.uk. Situated on the edge of Gunton Hall’s private deer park in picturesque north Norfolk just four miles from the sea, this country inn has plenty of eccentric character. Restored by art dealer Ivor Branka in 2009, the Gunton Arms proudly displays its owner’s taste for modern art. How many pubs can claim to have artwork by Tracy Emin and Damien Hurst (even in the toilets)? In keeping with the inn’s retro style there are no TVs in the comfortable, spacious rooms but Roberts radios instead. Room prices vary depending on size and facilities ranging from moderate to expensive.
Norfolk Mead Hotel Coltishall NR12 7DJ; 01603 737531; www.norfolkmead.co.uk. On the edge of the Broads, this country house hotel is set in an acre of private grounds that extend to the banks of the River Bure. There’s a variety of stylish modern rooms to choose from, ranging from standard to luxury.
Strattons 4 Ash Close, Swaffham PE37 7NH; 01760 723845; www.strattonshotel.com. It might come as a surprise to find one of the country’s most eco-friendly boutique hotels tucked away just off the marketplace in Swaffham but Strattons has been flying the flag for green tourism and Slow travel for more than two decades and has the awards to prove it. This stylish but informal country house bursting with eccentric art has impeccable organic credentials and some quirkily themed rooms. It’s a little on the expensive side but worth it, with excellent locally sourced food and welcoming staff.
Cley Windmill The Quay, Cley-next-the-Sea NR25 7RP; 01263 740209; www.cleywindmill.co.uk. Set in a Grade 2 listed building, one of the most photographed in north Norfolk, and with superb views across the reed beds, this is more expensive than most but the location is faultless. Home-cooked candle-lit evening meals can be booked in advance. Self-catering is also available in the converted stable building.
38 St Giles St Giles St, Norwich NR2 1LL; 01603 662944; www.38stgiles.co.uk. A good choice for Norwich, this very central boutique B&B in a renovated Victorian building is close to all the major sights so a car is unnecessary. Stylish rooms, all individually decorated, homemade cake on arrival and delicious breakfasts made with the freshest local ingredients. This is quite pricey for a B&B but well above average in terms of décor and attention to detail.
Bagthorpe Treehouse Bagthorpe Hall near Burnham Market; 01275 395447; www.canopyandstars.co.uk. Rather more luxurious than it sounds, this is a comfortable wooden cabin with a veranda perched beneath an oak in the grounds of Bagthorpe Hall. With a king-size four-poster, two single bunks and a large copper bathtub, the treehouse sleeps four.
The Gamekeeper’s Hut Westfield Fram, Foxley Rd, Foulsham NR20 5RH; 01275 395447; www.canopyandstars.co.uk. This tiny shepherd’s hut in a meadow at Westfield Farm, halfway between Aylsham and Fakenham, is a snug place for two to bed down. Don’t imagine this as slumming it, though – the hut costs about the same as a fairly upmarket B&B. A small mattress for a child can be supplied if necessary and there’s another hut – a Victorian gamekeeper’s – available too.
The Summerhouse Heacham. This vintage chalet is situated on a privately owned site just ten minutes from the beach at Heacham. Sleeping four, the chalet is traditionally furnished and has carefully chosen vintage bits and bobs to create a seaside feel.
Waveney River Centre Burgh St Peter NR34 0BT; 01502 677343; www.waveneyrivercentre.co.uk. Located on the Norfolk bank of the River Waveney at Burgh St Peter in ‘The Triangle’ this has an idyllic setting across the river from Suffolk’s Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve. The centre has family-oriented camping and caravan pitches, as well as ‘glamping pods’ and well-equipped holiday lodges and cottages. There’s also a pub, a marina and boatyard, and a ferry across to the Suffolk shore.
Deepdale Backpackers & Camping Deepdale Farm, Burnham Deepdale PE31 8DD; 01485 210256; www.deepdalefarm.co.uk. This highly recommended, eco-friendly enterprise idyllically situated on the northwest Norfolk coast offers a backpackers’ hostel and a campsite as well as the opportunity to overnight in more unusual accommodation like tipis, yurts and shepherds’ huts. There’s a helpful information centre with maps and books on site and a good café that serves breakfast. Unusually, the site is open all year.