Mention Cromer and somebody inside earshot will assume “crabs”. Cromer crabs, a cheerful little bit of alliteration which sticks within the thoughts and conjures visions of vast seashores, seaside enjoyable and healthful seaside fare, with or with out mayonnaise.
And that’s just about how it’s. The brown crab – Cancer pagurus – is found throughout the UK, however right here off our stretch of Norfolk, within the shallow water on the chalk reef, brown crabs are sweeter than anyplace else. Men had been launching boats to carry them in lengthy earlier than guests started to unfold the phrase.
The guests started with the railway, in 1877, additional induced in no small half by one Clement Scott, theatre critic for the Daily Telegraph, who in 1883 arrived on a press freebie and waxed lyrical in regards to the then small fishing settlement and the poppy-covered cliffs. He dubbed the realm “Poppyland” in his poem The Garden of Sleep, written in Sidestrand churchyard a few miles to the east. And if its doggerel, shot by way of with exclamation marks, aspires to birthday card lyricism, it nonetheless went Victorian viral and the punters rolled in.
Cromer turned modern. Visiting notables included a 10-year-old Winston Churchill who in 1885 famously wrote in his diary: “I am not enjoying myself very much”. The quote is right now inscribed on the promenade. Later, as a household man, he holidayed in close by Overstrand, and in 1914, by then First Lord of the Admiralty, borrowed the Sea Marge Hotel cellphone to liaise with London on the looming battle.
Along the strand … the views from Cromer’s clifftop path stretch for miles. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
And in 1901, there was Conan Doyle, for whom the 19th-century “Tudor Gothic” (so described by Pevsner) Cromer Hall was the inspiration for Hound of the Baskervilles – that and the truth that his coachman’s title was Baskerville, and the legend of Black Shuck, a ghostly hound roaming the marshes, was effectively established.
The pier opened that 12 months and nowadays the Pavilion Theatre claims the world’s solely end-of-the-pier present, staging a summer season Seaside Special, Christmas Special and any variety of gigs and festivals, not least Folk on the Pier and the Cromer half of the Cromer and Sheringham Crab & Lobster Festival, each in May. In August, there may be the World Pier Crabbing Competition.
Relative claws … crab fisherman John Davies. Photograph: John Worrall
But this can be a city to stay in as a lot as go to, a spot of native merchants whose earnings are usually not sucked away into distant shareholders’ pockets. Many crabs are dressed and bought to native outlets and eating places, or direct to daytrippers. The Davies Fish Shop on Garden Street is provided by John Davies, crab fisherman and Cromer lifeboat coxswain. The Norfolk Food and Drink Company on Tucker Street, going through the church, buys all its seasonal produce from north Norfolk suppliers; its strawberries and asparagus specifically from Sharrington simply west of Holt. Seventy per cent of all the pieces else is made within the county, together with toothpaste and a exceptional vary of gins and beers.
Under the pier. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
And that ethic runs by way of the 20-odd unbiased cafes, espresso outlets and eating places: Huckleberries reverse the church; Henry’s additional up Church Street; Café Main on the primary drag. Breakers on Garden Street does good household meals, Mary Jane’s throughout the road conventional fish and chips; and Upstairs at No 1, on the cliff and owned and run by Michelin-starred chef Galton Blackiston, obtained a rave evaluate from Jay Rayner within the Observer this month. It does fish and chips on the bottom flooring and a world menu upstairs, each with sundown views.
Or for sea vistas together with your crab salad, strive the Rocket House Café, above the lifeboat museum, with its balcony trying down on the seaside the place crab boats are hauled up by venerable and rusting tractors.
Upstairs at No 1 restaurant. Photograph: Chris Ridley for the Observer
But that is all scrumptious element. For the complete Cromer take, park in Runton Road automotive park and stroll the few hundred yards down the cliff-top path into the coastal dip which first attracted settlement. You can see from one facet to the opposite of this city of nonetheless fewer than eight,000 – sufficiently small to know individuals, large enough to grant area. And come the night, if you’ve accomplished the seaside or the footpaths or the rolling hinterland, take a pre-dinner G&T on the pier and lookup on the city’s Victorian and Edwardian convolutions unfold alongside the low cliff, their centrepiece the Hotel de Paris, a grand Victorian substitute for a so-named earlier mannequin developed by a refugee from the French Revolution.
And if the temper takes you, write a poem. Some will have accomplished worse.
• The Grade II-listed Cliftonville Hotel, on Cromer’s west cliff, affords large sea views and genuine Edwardian model, to not say quirkiness. Doubles from £120 B&B