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An outing to the increasingly trendy North Norfolk coast (aka Chelsea-on-Sea) generally involves a few trips to the area’s splendid country boozers – dogged survivors at a time when many of their kind are going to the wall. Some have been given the gastro-treatment; others prosper thanks to good beer and ancient pubby virtues.
Given that much of the county’s agricultural affluence is down to barley, it’s no surprise that the craft-brewing movement has taken hold in these parts, with young contenders such as the Brancaster Brewery and Jo C’s Norfolk Ales (based in Wells-next-the-Sea) joining more established names including Woodforde’s and Yetman’s (founded by one-time Holt restaurateur Peter Yetman).
Many hostelries match their enterprising, locally based food with well-chosen wines, but the cocktail scene has yet to infiltrate the region – so head to Norwich for sexy sips and clubby nightlife.
Stanhoe’s village local (formerly the Crown) has been freshened up and re-launched by the folk who also own the well-regarded Wiveton Bell a few miles along the coast. Open fires, Elgood’s ales and a large outdoor garden are plus points, and the kitchen is keen on Norfolk produce. There are also a couple of bedrooms if you want to stay the night.
North Norfolk’s most famous bird-watching pub is within spying distance of the marshes and even sports its own ‘bird bible’ detailing significant sightings. Rustic-chic interiors are matched by some zesty cosmopolitan cooking and a roster of regional ales. In fine weather, take your pint to the pub’s garden across the road and enjoy the views.
Built in 1667 and still going strong, this cosy hostelry is a regular pit stop for tourists and holidaymakers exploring Norfolk’s local sights. East Anglian ales hold sway in the bar, while satisfying pub grub brings crowds to the conservatory dining room. Regular live entertainment and pleasant accommodation too.
Standing proud on Hunworth’s village green, this gussied-up 18th-century local has forged a good reputation for its cheery ambience and honest cooking – no wonder walkers, cyclists and holidaymakers throng the place. At lunchtime, Norfolk-brewed ales go down well with hefty, thick-cut sandwiches, while dinner brings more ambitious stuff.
‘Eat, drink and be jolly’ is the motto at this terrific village local – and you can get in the mood with a pint from the on-site Brancaster microbrewery. Seasonal beers such as Oystercatcher and the richer, fuller Wreck are good calls, while wine buffs might fancy something fairly priced from the short wine list. Good for kids, too.
There’s plenty of porky goodness on the menu at this bucolic pub and dining room, and Norfolk’s food heroes contribute to a line-up that runs from tapas-style ‘iffits’ to hefty pies and casseroles. Under-age ‘piglets’ are well looked after – just add pints of Edgefield Old Spot for the grown-ups, and bedrooms for everyone.
This much-extended medieval cottage pub now spreads itself generously in rustic-chic style – think bright colour schemes, heavy beams, log fires and blackboard menus with an Anglo-Mediterranean flavour. Norfolk beers sit alongside some quaffable wines by the glass, and there’s a great garden for sunny days. Classy accommodation too.
A genuine old-style boozer in a village with a colourful past (ask about its famous defrocked vicar), the Red Lion dispenses hospitality, East Anglian ales and hearty pub grub – including Sunday roasts – in a setting of wooden pews, settles, bare floorboards and roaring fires (four of them). Bedrooms are in an eco-friendly extension.
An extraordinary 1920s time-warp, complete with gas lighting and a shove ha’penny board inlaid into one of its creaky tables, the Three Horseshoes lives and breathes the past. Ales are drawn direct from the cask and the food is staunchly traditional stuff for big appetites. Accommodation is in the former village post office next door.
Splendidly revitalised in contemporary-rustic style, the Wiveton Bell stands bang on the village green, with an unexpectedly chic garden at the back. Ales from Yetman’s are always on draught, as are Woodforde’s and local guest ales. There are some good picks from the wine list too, and the food is upmarket without being prissy.