Norfolk tends to have a reputation of being a bit behind the times compared to the rest of the UK, especially thanks to the rural atmosphere, old houses and lack of motorways. In fact, they still travel on steam trains here! Read on to discover how to experience the best of the old fashioned North Norfolk coast.
Riding on the North Norfolk Railway
It’s true, you can still travel by steam train in Norfolk. That’s because between the towns of Holt, Weybourne and Sheringham, lies a so-called heritage railway, where you can travel back in time – quite literally if you’re heading towards Sheringham.
Starting your journey from Holt is best, as the station has a free car park (they ask for a £1 donation, so that depends on your moral compass), and is slightly easier to get to than going straight to Sheringham.
As a historic Georgian-era town, Holt has a handful of attractions you may want to visit including a castle, military museum and several churches, however the town centre is a bit of a walk from the station itself. Despite being a heritage railway, the station isn’t actually original – the first station was bulldozed to make way for the A148. As a result, the new station is on the outskirts of the town, so we decided to hop straight on the waiting train instead of trekking into town.
The train itself is a far cry from modern rail travel – no delays, disruptive drunks, and plenty of seats available. The only downside was the £12 for a 10 mile round trip wasn’t exactly cheap, but the railway itself is basically a huge museum and it’s not exactly cheap to run these old trains.
The carriages themselves may have been over 60 years old, but they were more comfortable and nicer to be in than modern trains. The carriage walls were panelled with wooden veneers, adding a touch of class, and the seats all lined up alongside huge windows unlike today’s trains, so no matter where you sat you’d get a great view of the coastal landscape. Even the toilets were good – unlike today’s vandalised aluminium contraptions, the ones on this train looked like they were taken straight from your gran’s house.
After chugging down the tracks at a leisurely 25 mph you’ll reach Weybridge, where you can get off and explore the countryside, or instead stay on and head straight to Sheringham at the other end of the line.
Here, you’ll discover a faithfully restored village station in the mid 1950s, complete with authentic baggage, station cafe, and even a ladies’ waiting room, which really makes you think how much times have changed!
Our train pulled in around midday and so we headed straight to The Sheringham Trawler, one of the town’s most highly rated fish and chip shops, for some traditional cod and chips. The reviews were not wrong, the food here is awesome, and luckily we got in just before it started to get really busy!
Once we’d devoured two large portions, we took a short walk to the beach. Despite it being a warm 25°C day, as soon as we reached the beach, it felt like -10 due to the cold ocean breeze – this is the north sea after all! The weather has to be really hot to make it truly beach weather, so it wasn’t that busy, just a handful of brave people sheltered behind windbreaks.
After strolling down the length of the beach, we headed back inland, and found that as soon as you get behind a row of houses, you’re protected from the cold breeze and so somehow it’s hot again. Following a few rounds of Time Crisis in the arcades and spending around £5 in the 2p slot machines, we headed out and grabbed a monster helping of Ronaldo’s ice cream, made from local ingredients. My double scoop helping was so large the original cone split, and so had to be doubled up. All in all, truly delicious.
Unfortunately at this point, we were running low on things to do – we couldn’t go to the pub as I’d have to drive home from Holt, so we headed back to the station and got in the next train back.
Once we arrived back at Holt station, we explored the small museum next to the track, which details the history of how the local holiday industry was built up 100-150 years ago thanks to the train, which was as much interesting as it was ultra nerdy.
It was now about half 4, so time to head back home and binge watch Better Call Saul.
Should you visit the North Norfolk coast?
North Norfolk is one of the most beautiful places in the UK, and not as busy as the south coast as it’s a bit more out of the way for most people. However, it’s well worth a visit, provided you follow these points:
- Is the weather hot, and are you planning to take a dip in the sea? As we found, even on a reasonably warm 25°C day, the North Sea was way too cold at this time of year
- Are you driving? There’s plenty of pubs, so consider taking the (regular, modern day) train from Norwich to Sheringham
- Do you like old stuff? The North Norfolk Railway put on various events, such as themed murder mystery evenings while dining on one of their trains, as well as 1940s weekends
There’s also a lot more to see than just Sheringham, including Cromer, Holkham, Wells-Next-The-Sea and Fakenham, which you can explore by foot, bike or car depending on how lazy you are.
Whats your favourite part of the Norfolk countryside? Let us know in the comments!