Cromer in its hey day was one of the premier seaside resorts on the East coast. Beautiful sandy beaches, unspoilt countryside, peaceful woodland walks filled with wild flowers, and wonderful villas of grand proportions providing accommodation for the great and good of Victorian England.
To be honest nothing much has changed. The villas have mostly been turned into airy apartments but the architecture is still in tact and can be seen today. A walk around Cromer gives you a wonderful sense of history, you can almost see the Edwardian ladies and their parasols walking along the Promenade to the spectacular pier and hear the hiss of the steam train as it brings more visitors to sample the bracing and healthy fresh air.
In later years Cromer’s popularity declined, as we all jetted off to sunnier climes in the summer. Now there is a huge resurgence in its popularity. The town is always busy with visitors and locals alike. It really is fast becoming the Gem of the Norfolk Coast it once was. People are starting to wake up to this fact and the houses are getting snapped up as those in the know turn away from the more well known hot spots such as Wells next the Sea and Blakeney. Visitor numbers are up year on year and holiday cottages in Cromer are in high demand during the summer months. The beach is stunning, with miles of sand, the highlight being the pier. Cromer Pier was voted Pier of the Year, with the only remaining end of the pier show in Europe still going strong. Summer and winter.
The Pier was erected 114 years ago and designed by John James Webster. Originally it cost 2d to walk to the bandstand at the end, 4d when there was a concert on. The theatre was once a roller skating rink, later covered over to make the auditorium it is today. Astonishingly the first concert at the new theatre was by an up and coming band called The Rolling Stones! At the foot of the pier is the spectacularly named Hotel De Paris. A most splendid structure inside and out and worth a look into the reception area to see the incredible stained glass and staircase. It is not hard to imagine this in Victorian times at all. A young Stephen Fry once waitered here.
Children love to Gilly, as crabbing is known in Norfolk, from the pier’s decks and there is nothing like the thrill of landing a crab (without a net that is cheating!) up the long haul to the safety of your bucket. Sitting observing families gillying is hilarious, with the fathers usually becoming the most competitive! At the head of the pier is a RNLI station which is a great place to visit with lots of information and history. If you are very lucky you may see the exciting sight of the lifeboat hurtling down the chute into the sea and off on an exercise (usually on a Sunday morning) The brave people are all volunteers and put their lives at risk every time they launch. So if you feel inspired after your visit do give generously to the collecting box on the way out! Especially as they have been at the fore front of all the rescues in flood stricken Cumbria in recent days.
The pier sustained severe damage in the tidal surge of 2013 but the District Council has worked a miracle getting it back to its former glory so it can still be enjoyed today.
Restaurants are springing up to cater for every discerning foodie guest, including No 1, owned by Morston Hall’s celebrity chef Galton Blackiston, recently voted 6th Best Place to Eat by the Sea by The Times newspaper. The fish and chips are sublime with arguably one of the best views in Cromer from the restaurant upstairs.. The newest arrival is Rocky Bottoms, a quirky restaurant overlooking the sea with amazing views. Head chef James Fitzpatrick, formerly of Wiveton Hall Cafe fame serves fresh seafood with lots of twists served in generous portions, grab a table while you still can! The crab and lobster served here really are from pot to plate with the owners being Richard and Alison Matthews. Richard has been the local fisherman for 35 years; his faithful Anna-Gail fishing boat is a traditional double-ended crab boat and is just one of very few traditional fishing boats on our waters today. On return from fishing Richard boils the crabs and lobsters and Alison prepares the produce, namely dressing crabs which involves removing the ‘dead man’s finger’, at their nearby home. At this point the crabs and lobsters are Rocky Bottoms ready.
Another exciting place to eat is The Rocket House Cafe . Again with spectacular view of the beach and sea. If the wind is not too keen you can sit outside on the balcony and enjoy your brunch!
Cromer is well served for the independent traveller with its train station connecting to Norwich. The bus service will take you right along the coast to Hunstanton and all stops in between.
I adore Cromer and it’s surroundings, it truly is still a place you know is Norfolk, unspoilt, but with an air of grace still about it. A seaside town that has a bit of aloofness, it has not bent to the whims of second home owners, it has kept all its charm, character and traditionalism, whilst giving you the impression that it is biding its time before everyone rediscovers this beautiful enigmatic town.