Many tourists pass through the ever tightening immigration checkpoints at United Kingdom points of entry, only to spend their entire visit to the UK exclusively in London. Fair enough, I guess, as there’s never a shortage of things to see in London, and most the museums are free to enter. But if you’re in the area (I mean, the broad area of the British Isles), why not step off the beaten path for a bit and visit the North Norfolk Coast?
This less touched region of England has much to offer in the way of quaint villages, quiet scenery, and delicious food. Keep reading so I can convince you that you have got to leave London and visit this place!
Deepdale: a village, a farm, a hostel, a campsite, an information center, and a café
Deepdale is the reason I fell in love with this area. I worked at the hostel, campsite, and info center for just three months, but three summer months is plenty of time to fall in love with a place, isn’t it? It was a calm setting, maybe because the hostel attracts lots of coastal-walkers who are all gone during the day and tired in the evenings after a day of walking, or maybe because the rule of no noise after 10pm was well followed and enforced. I can also attest that the hostel is clean. We dusted the door frames, removed “debris” from the toilet brushes, and scrubbed the first signs of mold from the showers, even those on the campsite. These days, the hostel is popular because instead of just regular old camping or hosteling, it’s also possible to rent a teepee, a yurt, or a shepherds hut.
There’s also a café in Deepdale, located right next to the information center. I ate there once and only once when I lived next door because I found it a bit pricey for underwhelming food. But that was in 2008. A couple years later the reviews on Trip Advisor and Facebook went way up. What caused the change? I’d say it’s probably 100% due to the fact that my friend Sophie took over and made the place amazing. They’re dog-friendly, they serve pasta on Thursdays, there’s live music on Sundays, and the pictures of their fruit scones have left me drooling. What more could you ask for? Well, in case you are asking for more then I’ll also add that all their produce is locally sourced, and their fish finger sandwich is so good that one regular customer will travel an hour to come have a taste.
Deepdale Pubs: these are definitely not tourist traps like what you could possibly find in London
There are two pubs in Deepdale, both of them excellent and award winning, but quite different from each other. The Jolly Sailors is family/kid/dog friendly – they have a play area, and an ice cream hut outside in the summer. The ambiance is rustic, and they serve stone-baked pizzas as well as typical pub food. The White Horse is more posh with their two rosette awards and romantic garden seating with a view of the tidal marsh. They pride themselves on dishes made with fresh seafood. The seafood is so fresh, in fact, you may see from your table the fishing boats bringing in a harvest from the sea, or even the “mussel men” who grow and harvest the mussels just outside The White Horse garden. Of course both pubs are proud to serve beer brewed at the local Brancaster Brewery which is just a stone’s throw away from The Jolly Sailors.
The Coast and other quiet places to walk
As I mentioned earlier, Deepdale hostel is a popular stop among people walking the coast. This several-day excursion is great for people who like walking flat, quiet trails at sea level. The coastal path stretches from Hunstanton to Cromer, and passes close to or through 18 villages dotting this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. For those who are more interested in exploring cute little villages and less interested in walking 72 km of beautiful scenery, there is a coast hopper bus. In case you’re not familiar with bus etiquette on the coast, take note that it’s typical to engage in brief small talk with the driver as you buy your ticket from him, and don’t forget to say a friendly “Cheers” as you exit the bus.
In addition to the coastal paths, it’s also possible to walk on Deepdale farm, along the perimeter of the fields. The folks at Deepdale information center can give you all the up to date details of where to find the paths, when they’re open, and what you might see growing along the way.
The Beaches: Does London have beaches? I don’t think so.
Naturally, there are many beaches in the area: some are wide and sandy, some are rocky, narrow, and backed by cliffs, some are quiet, some have crabs, some have pebbles, some have mud, and some have piers. I won’t pretend to be an expert on each; instead I’ll tell you about the two I know best. Brancaster beach is just a couple kilometers west of Deepdale, and right next to a golf course. I found it to be generally less-occupied than some of the other sand beaches, and another plus is that dogs are allowed there. (Dogs aren’t allowed on every beach on the coast because they want to protect some special coastal birds that breed in the area.)
Another sand beach that I love is Holkham, which has been declared to be the best beach in Britain. Since it’s the best, you can expect it to be crowded with families and holiday-makers, but ironically, when I visited, I hardly saw a dozen people. Want to know my secret? (Well, on my second visit, the weather was windy and drizzly, so it’s no wonder almost no one was there. That’s not the secret.) The secret is, I went to the Naturists section of the beach! Not quite as popular. Happening into this area was an accident, of course. I walked with a coworker from the gardens of Holkham Hall to the nearby beach. He had been the summer before, and knew it was “in this direction.” We took a trail through a long stretch of greenery that was by the main road, then passed through the pinewoods, and finally climbed up and over some sand dunes before we saw the flat sand and sea stretching in front of us. It was a long walk and we were exhausted before we saw anyone who was wearing a “peach swimming suit…oh wait, that’s not a swimming suit!” Although we were young and fit, especially compared to the older people around us, we decided to stay and act unaware of where we were rather than run away or participate in the culture that surrounded us. To sum it up I’ll say that you’re sure to find some amusement on Holkham beach, no matter on what end of it you find yourself!
To sum it up…
The North Norfolk Coast is a beautiful area, full of things to do for outdoor lovers, families, and anyone who enjoys a break from the big city. Besides the things already mentioned, other popular activities include:
- Crabbing and fishing
- Picking samphire in the summer (and eating it!)
- Visiting the nearby lavender fields
- Visiting the seals
- Taking boat rides and visiting the harbor
- Eating fish and chips
- Exploring Roman ruins
- Peeking in at the lighthouse in Cromer
- Seeing the windmill in Horsey Mere
- Perusing the boutiques and farmers markets featured in the villages
- Watching birds
So, go visit, and enjoy your vacation away from your vacation in London!