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A unspoilt and delightful British seaside resort
Member Name: dee778
Advantages: Relaxed atmosphere, traditional fun
Disadvantages: Perhaps a bit run down and seedy?
Having spent a lot of time in Southwold on the Suffolk coast, we decided to move further northwards this year, to visit Cromer in Norfolk. Tempted by the many good reviews of Cromer Crabs and an unspoilt coast, we set off with our tent to explore.
When we arrived, we were not disappointed. Cromer is a small seaside town that has kept much of its character and charm. This very traditional town manages to combine the conventional seaside attractions with Victorian appeal. Perhaps a little seedy and run down, it has none of the big, glaring amusement arcades or loud funfair thrills of bigger and more popular resorts, but offers a more sedate type of holiday.
I love it for its unspoilt Victorian cottages which line the promenade with no road separating them from the seafront. I also love the small streets and the way that the whole town is suffused with the history of brave men and lifeboat rescues. The strength and power of the sea is all around you, from the Lifeboat Museum, to the statues of courageous lifeboat men which stand in tribute, to the shops which all seem to mention life at sea.
The most famous of the lifeboat men was Henry Blogg - a Cromer hero who received the RNLI gold medal for heroism three times, and the silver medal four times. Blogg was a member of the Cromer lifeboat crew from 1894 to 1947, and the town honours him with a statue on the cliff top with the inscription "one of the bravest men that ever lived". The east end of the promenade has an impressive modern building with cream coloured walls and a blue balcony. This is the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum which illustrates the history of Cromer's lifeboats and tells the story of Blogg's most famous rescues. Blogg's lifeboat, the HF Bailey, is the centrepiece of the museum and this, together with historical photos, interactive activities, readings and artefacts, make the museum an interesting place to spend an hour or so.
As well as bringing historical perspective, the museum offers a welcome break from the beach - having one of the nicest seaside cafés that I have been to for a long time. The Rocket Café is on the first floor, on top of the museum, and has a curving chrome and blue balcony that you can sit on and look along the beach and out to sea. Inside, it is spacious and calm, with artwork and photography on the walls - and you can still see wonderful views from the huge balcony windows or the large porthole style windows. We sat safely inside for hours during an amazing storm out at sea, watching the lightening forking down to the water from a huge black cloud. The café offers excellent coffee and cake, as well as more substantial fare such as Oak Smoked sprats, Calamari, or Cromer lobster. The café turns into a restaurant on Friday and Saturday evenings, offering larger versions of their delicious main courses, with half price versions for children.
Westwards from the Museum, the seafront is dominated by the stunning Victorian Hotel de Paris, which stands just in front of the pier. The pier itself, dating from 1901, is nice to walk out on to look back and view the town, but ultimately disappointing with only a small café, a souvenir shop and large theatre at the end. The 510 seater Pavillion Theatre was showing the rather dubiously titled 'T Rextasy' but has been one of the most famous and successful Pier theatres in the past.
The attractive Victorian pier is somewhat spoiled by the modern lifeboat house which is perched behind the theatre. A lifeboat station has been situated at the end of the pier since 1920, but this 1999 replacement looks a little too large and out of character to fit in with the Victorian architecture. The lifeboat house is open during the day so that you can look around it and remember the long history of Cromer lifeboat men.
Further west again from the pier is the slightly tacky end of Cromer, containing a small fun fair, crazy golf, and a canoeing pond. This end is full of character and does not overwhelm. I like to walk around and buy fresh prawn, cockles and mussels from the stalls that abound in the area.
Cromer itself is famous for the Cromer crab, which forms the major source of income for the local fishermen. On a lesser scale, children follow this tradition by hanging over the side of the pier with their crabbing lines, and on a larger scale, shop, restaurants and stalls around the town sell dressed crab and crab sandwiches - all delicious!
The beach itself is long and slightly sandy and a very good swimming beach. There is a popular surfing school at the beach, with the usual collection of body boarding novices alongside. A small space on the beach which is lifeguard protected and showers and beach huts make this a very nice family destination for the day.
The beach is much lower than the town, but the promenade has been made very accessible for the disabled through the building of ramps which allow access to the museum, the pier and the funfair. We stayed at the nearby Manor Farm campsite, but there are many well located bed and breakfast accommodations through the town.
Overall I thought that Cromer was a lovely destination. It has not turned its back on the Victorian day trippers that provided it with its history and architecture, but it has moved nicely into the twenty first century with the addition of stylish cafés and modern museums.
Good fun for all ages.
Summary: A lovely place for a break