Norfolk World Tour 2010: The Places

Smart cafés, ye olde pubs, refurbished bars and the largest beer shop in Europe. There were many places that made Norfolk drinking a fantastic experience; here's an in-no-order top ten;


Even just typing its name takes me back to balmy evenings and great, great beer. Sharing market-fresh food and stunning beers with head Humpty Dumpty, Stephen George, and his family at their home was an honour. And not only does Steve brew some darn tasty beers, he knocks up a mean guacamole too. The steep drop down to the riverside for beers at the Lord Nelson was only slightly buttock-clenching - perhaps moreso for Mrs Scoop as I was in 'control' of her wheelchair - and the reward was great Norfolk beers in one of those pubs that you dream about on summer evenings; cool inside, quenching beers, friendly locals. Just downriver is the Ship, a pub with great food and plenty of room outside where you can watch birds lurking at the water's edge and see the occasional train trundle across the swing bridge.

Berney Arms Inn

I can try and explain what it's like at the Berney Arms Inn, but it still feels slightly surreal. It's one of the remotest pubs in England, by virtue of there being no public road for four miles. You can catch a train to Berney Arms, half a mile away, which is (natch) England's remotest railway station. You can walk the Wherryman's Way to it from Norwich or Yarmouth. You could, of course, moor your boat right outside. And when you get there... tip-top beers from Humpty Dumpty, the breeze blowing off Breydon Water, room outside in the sun or inside in the wood-panelled bar. We did the obvious thing on a baking hot day - we sat outside and ate a huuuuuuuge mixed grill.

Mariners Tavern, Great Yarmouth

A pub that came to my attention as an ex-Lacons pun, current Good Beer Guide entry and a CAMRA branch pub of the year. After a morning enjoying the cheesy-seaside experience, albeit plagued by pollen beetles, finding a good pub was in order. The Mariners didn't disappoint; heaps of St Austell beers seemed odd but the Crouch Vale Sonnet was heavenly. Sat in a cool lounge, adorned with heaps of brewery memorabilia, far away from the braying bingo-wings, the Mariners was a true bolt-hole for an hour.

Adnams Cellar and Kitchen, Southwold

Having mentally spent my wages for the next three months whilst perusing the wine in their Southwold shop, I was ready for an Adnams beer in their hometown. So it was a pleasant surprise to find an airy café behind the store, especially when it had cold bottles of their decently-wheaty Spindrift on offer. The food looked gobsmackingly-fresh - I'm still not too sure how we avoided the cheeseboard - and the suntrap outdoor area gave me a chance to enjoy an Adnams beer whilst spending too long a time pouring over their catalogue...

Ugly Bug, Colton

We found this place last year after a visit to the Royal Norfolk Show; looking for a place to stay near Norwich this year, we were keen to return. It feels like it's in the middle of nowhere but it's only a ten minute drive from superstores and the Park & Ride. It's laid back and open plan. The landlord, John Lainchbury, actually brings the menu board over to you. The beer is local and top-quality (Humpty Dumpty's Little Sharpie was on whilst we stayed). The food is local, fresh and plentiful (with the likes of samphire, crab, fish, duck...). The room we stayed in was clean, comfy and a ten-second walk to the bar. No noise at kicking-out time, a relaxed vibe at breakfast and a mad-as-a-box-of-frogs-dog - Alfie - who never seemed to stop running. An absolutely outstanding pub.

The Plough, Norwich

Amongst the eclectic mix of music shops, chandlers and arts venues on St Benedict's Street in Norwich there's a sixteenth century pub serving twenty-first century beer with a timeless feel. The Plough offered whitewash and pine, chilled music, a cordial welcome and bloody good beer. The only thing that annoys me about Grain Brewery beer - the Plough is a Grain pub - is that I can't get enough of it. Major props to the barman who knows a knackered toper when he sees one - I ordered a pint of Harvest Moon and was offered a pint of iced water to go with it. The wander down to Norwich's legendary pub, the Fat Cat, was just worth it but... truth be told, I'd have rather stayed at the Plough and chilled a little longer.

Kett's Tavern, Norwich

When you've spent the morning meandering alongside the River Wensum, when Cathedral and Cow Tower have long since been lost to your sky-line, when you reach the medieval Bishop's Bridge and fancy a pint... keep walking a wee while longer. At the base of Kett's Hill, there's a rangy multi-level pub that serves bacon buttys all day, good value nosh at lunch (fish finger sandwich: top nom) and Indian food from a nearby curry house in the evenings, alongside an impressive array of the counties best beers. Wolf Golden Jackal is a staple offering - it appears on their very competitive meal deals at lunch - just another reason why the pub is well worth seeking out.

The Three Horseshoes, Warham

Another of my all-time favourite Norfolk pubs. Why? Some of the best pub food I've ever tasted - their pies, puddings and flans are superlative. Some of the best draught cider I've ever tasted - from just up on the coast at Whin Hill. By far and away the best pint of Woodforde's Wherry that I've ever tasted - straight from the barrel. No chips, no screaming kids, no hassle. It's a bit of a Bagpuss pub, frayed around the edges, but I can think of no finer place in North Norfolk in which to drop down a mental gear or two and enjoy some of the finest beer and food that the county has to offer.

The Bull, Little Walsingham

Yes, it serves Suffolk cider (Aspalls). Yes, it's slightly pricey. Yes, it's often full of clueless pilgrims from the nearby shrine. Just imagine this; a pub you visit every year on holiday where, shortly after you've ditched your luggage, you're sat outside in the sun with a cool pint, the weekend papers and a bag of crisps. Drudgery drops from your shoulders. Everything slows. Time becomes elastic. That's what the Bull means to me. No photo required.

Beers of Europe

The biggest beer store in Europe. Local beers. European beers. US beers. World beers. Bargain beers. Brews as rare as rocking-horse-shit. I bought bottles of beers I'd been drinking all week (Humpty Dumpty Little Sharpie). Bottles I'd had sips from once before (De Molen Mout & Mocca). Bottles that I've writhed around in ecstasy over before (Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise). Bottles for friends, bottles for neighbours. And I always end up buying another ruddy glass that I really have no room for but, hey, it looks cool. A photo doesn't do the place justice, so watch their video instead:

A fantastic trip; generous people, beautiful scenery, superb food and drink, relaxing and invigorating times. Bottomless thanks to Stephen and Lesley George of Humpty Dumpty, John and Alison at the Ugly Bug, Glynis and Richard at the Old School, East Barsham and countless others who made it this a Norfolk (and slightly-Suffolk) World Tour to remember.