Life&Style Editor Frankie Rhodes shares her top spots and local activities to explore at Christmas in her home-town Cromer
‘The gem of the Norfolk coast,’ states the road-sign that greets you as you enter Cromer. While I have lived in this quaint seaside town for over 3 years now, each Christmas still feels like a holiday getaway. With its string of independent eateries, fascinating lifeboat heritage, sea views and quirky obsession with crabs, there’s never a dull moment.
Summer is undoubtedly the busiest time of the year, when tourists flock from all over the country for beach days, fish and chips and a spin at the arcade. But I’ve grown to love winter in Cromer, with its own unique experiences. As many of us are hoping for a covid-free Christmas next year, perhaps a seaside retreat will be the thing to do, supporting a local economy and being kind to the environment. Here’s a run-down of the top things to do in Cromer over Christmas, because after all, there’s only 11 months to go…
1. Visit a café
Cromer is renowned for its independent cafés, stretching across the teeny high-street so that you could (probably) attend a different place for a month and never go to the same café twice. So if there’s one thing you take away from this article, please don’t go to Costa. Each independent café has a slightly different speciality and ambience, and here are a couple of my favourites as a starting-point:
This cosy café offers a range of food, including soups, paninis and jacket potatoes. There are plenty of vegan options, such as pulled jackfruit fillings and vegan cakes, as well as a huge menu of speciality hot drinks. Downstairs, there’s a lovely seating area lit with fairy lights, perfect for reading or some light holiday studying.
The Lifeboat Café
This eatery is known for being a fisherman’s haunt, and as a result you can expect hearty food at a reasonable price. It’s right on the sea-front, and my favourite location for a cooked breakfast. Visitors will have to arrive promptly to secure a table and wrap up warm if you fancy sitting outside. I promise it’s worth it!
2. Go to the end-of-the-pier show
The town takes pride in having the only full-season end of the pier show in the world, which has been running for over 40 years. Previous stars have included actor and presenter of The Chase Bradley Walsh, and the show is now a fantastic variety performance with dancers, musicians, and magic acts. Attending the show on Christmas Eve was the highlight of lockdown Christmas – albeit in masks – before the production had to close once again. In a normal year, there are shows almost every day over the festive period, and mince pies and mulled wine act as the perfect refreshment.
3. Enjoy a cosy pub evening
While lacking a lively night-life, one thing that Cromer does excellently is pubs. My favourite has to be the Red Lion, situated atop a hill with stunning sea views, and a tasty seafood menu, if you’d also like to dine. It’s great for an evening of playing cards with the family, and in the winter a huge fire and Christmas tree helps to lock in the festive spirit (and the warmth).
4. Celebrate the humble crab
Famous for its local fishing industry, a trip to this town wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the Cromer crab. Most cafés sell dressed crab and crab sandwiches, or you can pick up your very own from Davies fishmongers. If like me, you aren’t too keen on eating crab, the award-winning No.1 fish and chip shop (ironically ranked sixth in the world by the Times) offers a range of other seaside classics. All throughout the year, tourists can be seen huddling on benches with their fish and chips, creating a delicious aroma as you wander down to the sea.
You can also go crabbing by the pier, or visit the historic lifeboat house. The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) is run entirely by volunteers, and was originally fronted by Cromer legend Henry Blogg. If you’re lucky, you might see the lifeboat run a test-launch, or hear a few sea shanties from inside the building.
5. Go for a walk
Of course, there are plenty of beach-walks to be had in Cromer. When the tide is out, there are miles of beautiful sandy beaches, which are brilliant for dog walks and some brave paddling. Boxing day sees thousands of people chuck themselves in the sea for charity– a tradition that sadly had to be cancelled for 2020 as the lifeguards couldn’t be on-hand to help during the pandemic. But next year, who knows, if could be you joining in the fun.
There are also many other great walks in Cromer, including my favourite jaunt up to the lighthouse, which takes about 20 minutes from the town. You can venture 4 miles to the nearest seaside town Sheringham, or enjoy a wooded walk along the old railway line. Cromer is notoriously windy, and has some fantastic winter fog, making for some dramatic and picturesque scenes.
6. Shop local
Cromer has a brilliant community aspect, with a summer carnival each year, and hundreds of local businesses. That’s why it’s important to shop local, perhaps buying your groceries from Lizzie’s Fruit and Veg or the farm shop, and browsing the gift shops. There are also plenty of charity shops to explore on rainy days, and lots of second-hand books shops, with my favourite being the delightful Bookworms. I find that Cromer is a great place for finding weird and wonderful gifts, (although I do often end up treating myself as well).
I still managed to have a fantastic Christmas this year, despite the restrictions, but I can’t wait for Cromer to open up again properly. In our ever-changing, ever-updating society, this town is a welcome constant, with a local feel that needs to be preserved. Why not make Cromer your holiday destination next Christmas?
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