Let crab battle commence…
Words by Helen Dorritt
Cromer and Sheringham are two of Norfolk's premier seaside destinations, separated only by six miles. Well-known for their crab and lobster, on 18-19 May the two fishing towns join forces to celebrate these seafood delicacies at the three-day Crab and Lobster Festival, with celebrity and local chefs cooking their favourite recipes.
The reason that the crabs are so tasty and succulent in this part of the world is down to the Shoals Chalk Bed – Britain’s answer to the Great Barrier Reef. At over 20 miles long, this 100-million-year-old chalk reef is the longest in the world, and has over 350 species living in it – meaning that the crabs have plenty of food to scavenge. Unbelievably it was only discovered in 2010.
So what are the strengths of each of these resorts? What makes them unique and, most importantly, where can you sample this world-famous crab? Read on to find out our top tips.
A quintessentially traditional seaside town, Cromer is famous for its Victorian pier that still hosts the only end-of-the-pier show in the UK.
What to do
Cromer’s Blue Flag beach is made up of sand and shingle, and is the perfect spot to build sandcastles and explore the rock pools. Catching a crab off Cromer’s pier is also a must-do – you can buy everything you need from shops in the town. The pier also has a number of kiosks selling traditional seaside treats such as ice creams, hot doughnuts and candy floss.
Away from the beach, check out the RNLI Henry Blogg museum, which is named after the most-decorated RNLI crewsman who saved over 870 lives from the North Sea. Cromer’s parish church is worth a visit to see its beautiful stained glass windows and to climb to the top of its 50m high tower for magnificent views. For something completely different, head to Amazona Zoo, which is home to over 200 South American animals including jaguars, squirrel monkeys and anacondas. And if you visit in August, be sure to check out the Cromer Carnival, celebrating its 50th year in 2019.
Where to eat and drink
Brownes on Bond St is celebrated for its crab sandwiches and cuisine in general, while No 1 Cromer and Ice Cromer has an excellent selection of fish and chips to eat in and take away, plus lots of ice creams for pudding. The Wellington Pub and Smokehouse has a great range of beers, which you can sup while listening to live music from local bands.
Where to stay
The Red Lion is right on the seafront and offers 14 rooms, some of which enjoy gorgeous views of the pier. Your stay also includes breakfast, where you can tuck into delights such as kippers, kedgeree and spiced apple pie porridge. Or for a traditional Victorian experience, head to the Grade II-listed Hotel de Paris, built in the 1830s during the town’s heyday.
If you visit in the summer, check out the herd of Bagot goats who arrive each year to manage the grass on Cromer’s cliff.
Home to the North Norfolk Railway, this compact seaside town has an excellent beach and offers an exciting opportunity to snorkel out to the famous chalk reef.
What to do
Sheringham’s beach is also Blue Flag-rated, and like Cromer is a great family-friendly place for a paddle and a poke among the rock pools. Budding Cousteaus can view the chalk reef straight off the beach via a buoymarked trail that uses an old Victorian water pipe as a starting point. The promenade runs in and out of the cliffs, making it a great place for a wander. If you’re feeling energetic, continue along the cliff path to climb the ‘Beeston bump’, a hill overlooking the town. On rainy days, learn more about the town at the Sheringham Museum.
From April to October you can jump on board the North Norfolk Railway and journey along a 10.5 mile loop around some stunning Norfolk countryside. The station at Sheringham also has a children’s activity coach, souvenir shop and buffet. Just outside the town you’ll find beautiful National Trust property Sheringham Hall and the gorgeous Priory Maze and Gardens, which features Norfolk’s only traditional hedge maze.
Where to eat
Pop into Whelk Coppers café on the West promenade for crab sandwiches with a view. For a stylish dinner, head to Marmalade’s Bistro for seasonal British cuisine made with locally-sourced ingredients, or enjoy tasty fish and chips at the Sheringham Trawler. There are only a handful of pubs in Sheringham, so you could feasibly sample a pint in each over a long weekend, but if you have to pick one, we’d say go for The Lobster – an appropriately-named beach side pub that has a good selection of real ales.
Where to stay
The gloriously-named Burlington Berties is a boutique hotel right next to the beach. Unique décor mixed with some nice touches such as homemade treats means that it’s rated the town’s number one hotel on TripAdvisor. Or for something unique, how about a stay in the Wee Retreat, a former toilet?
Sheringham is home to the Peter Coke Shell Gallery, which displays the numerous quirky shell sculptures created by this local artist.