Let's staycation in...GREAT YARMOUTH 

Fire on the Water at The Venetian Waterways in Great Yarmouth

Fire on the Water at The Venetian Waterways in Great Yarmouth - Credit: Danielle Booden

The spectacular Fire on the Water festival is lighting up Great Yarmouth every evening – and is just one of the fabulous features of the fun-filled seaside resort. 

The new festival of blazing art installations reflected in the Venetian Waterways runs until November 6 and is helping bring visitors to Yarmouth beyond the traditional summer season. 

Wintry Yarmouth is different from the sea, sand, sun and thrill rides of the summer – but there is still plenty to see and do. 

The golden sands are still there – and gloriously empty for bracing winter walks. Yarmouth is also overflowing with history, from the Hippodrome Circus to the grand architecture along the river quay. 

Great Yarmouth beach 

Great Yarmouth beach - Credit: Malcolm Bubb

And winter in Yarmouth will one day include the impressive Winter Gardens which are due to be restored to their former glory.   

There’s plenty of art and literature too – from the Banksy’s which appeared this year after the painter’s east coast Spraycation to the chance to follow in the footsteps of Charles Dickens, whose character, Peggotty, calls Yarmouth “the finest place in the universe.” Not to be outdone Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe said the South Quay was the “finest in England if not the world.” 

The Imperial Hotel, Great Yarmouth

The Imperial Hotel, Great Yarmouth - Credit: Chris Herring

Where to stay  

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The 39-bedroom, 4-star, Imperial Hotel has been owned by the Mobbs’ family for three generations. From the outside it’s a beautiful Victorian building with a fabulous fully glazed terrace. Inside, it’s a comfortable fusion of traditional and modern, renowned for superb food and exceptional customer service. 

Hotel proprietor Aileen Mobbs said: “North Beach is beautiful, and Imperial Hotel really takes full advantage of being on the quieter side of Great Yarmouth’s seafront, opposite the Venetian Waterway Gardens. Many of the bedrooms have a nautical nod in terms of decoration, with cosy comfort a main aim so guests can really relax when they stay with us. 

Afternoon tea at the Imperial Hotel, Great Yarmouth

Afternoon tea at the Imperial Hotel, Great Yarmouth - Credit: Keiron Tovell

“The Terrace restaurant witnesses stunning sunrises at breakfast and sea views over lunch. And in the evening, our intimate, 2 AA Rosette Café Cru Restaurant comes into its own, with a delicious menu which we change regularly to reflect the season and local produce. Our autumn menu currently features pan-seared scallops, wood pigeon, chicken ‘Breton style’ and roast venison with pumpkin pie and a trio of apple. Our chefs cook with great flair and passion and really love creating new dishes.” 

What to do 

“We're huge fans of playing golf when on a staycation, and Great Yarmouth doesn’t disappoint, with the Great Yarmouth & Caister Classic Links course next to the racecourse, and the course at Gorleston as well,” said Imperial proprietor Nick Mobbs. 

Where to shop   

“It’s a little-known fact that Great Yarmouth has more independent retailers than it does chains, which add to the town’s charm,” said  Nick. “Some of the more unusual shops which always draw our attention include the local haberdashery and independent clothing boutiques tucked away down the Rows near the market, and the independent fishing tackle shop, sandwiched between seasonal retailers on Regent Road. 

“Both Yarmouth and Gorleston have surprisingly beautiful architecture on many buildings above shop signs, and it’s a fascinating walk from Gorleston cliffs to the high street, with some interesting independent retailers and restaurants.” 

Where to eat  

Whether you like the simplicity of fish and chips or are feeling slightly more adventurous in your seafood selection, Chico’s on Marine Parade is a popular choice with lots of delicious Mediterranean-style choices. Serving British and Greek cuisine it is family-friendly with dishes including lobster, steak and deliciously hearty desserts. 

The White Swan on North Quay has a great riverside setting beside the historic north-east tower. It specialises in fresh fish and the specials board changes daily, depending on what has been caught – yes it’s that fresh. Think smoked cod, spinach, and wholegrain mustard Scotch egg with samphire and hollandaise sauce or tempura king prawns, Thai noodle salad and chilli dipping sauce. 

Café Ocean on the seafront alongside Hotel Ocean will feed you all the way through from breakfast or brunch to dinner – with light bites for snacking too. There’s lots of seafood, as befits a stylish seaside eaterie, but plenty of pizzas, burgers, veggie options, pastries and classic family meals too. 

Nearby  

10 minutes away 

Out on the marshes beyond Yarmouth lies Burgh Castle. Three sides of a massive Roman fort remain, the fourth tumbled into the river centuries ago. It’s an atmospheric place which, almost 2,000 years ago, housed a garrison of elite cavalry troops. After the Romans left it was used first as a monastery and then a castle (now almost entirely destroyed) was built within its walls. The fort is reached by footpath from the village of the same name and is open any reasonable time. 

The ruins of the Roman fort at Burgh Castle

The ruins of the Roman fort at Burgh Castle - Credit: James Bass


15 minutes away 

Filby Broad is one of the Trinity Broads – and despite the name there are five, not three: Rollesby Broad, Ormesby Broad and Filby Broad, plus tiny Lily Broad and Ormesby Little Broad. The wide open expanses of shallow water are surrounded by reeds and woodland and hugely important for rare wildlife ranging from a teeny tiny snail to bulrushes and bittern. Soak up the scenery with a short walk from Filby Bridge car park which has paths to Ormesby Little Broad and a walkway overlooking Filby Broad.  

20 minutes away 

Horsey 

Horsey Windpump stands tall between coastal dunes and marshes to the north of Yarmouth. Owned, and recently restored, by the National Trust it is a great place to start a walk around Horsey Mere or to the beach, and can sometimes be climbed for amazing views. The sails still turn and the tearooms are open on some days right into the winter. Internationally important wildlife here include over-wintering wildfowl and there are autumn activities for families. 

And finally... 

Why is it called Great Yarmouth? 

More than 700 years ago there were two settlements known as Yarmouth, at either side of the mouth of the river Yare, which were eventually distinguished from each other by calling the biggest one Great and the smallest one Little Yarmouth. Great Yarmouth stayed great and Little Yarmouth is now all grown up and known as Southtown. 


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