It was great to be back on the road again, and our first post-lockdown tour last autumn made us appreciate our freedom more than ever. Never having had the slightest chance of an Oxbridge education in the dark ages of the 1970s, and living in South Wales at a bit of a distance from Cambridge (if not Oxford), I have always had a hankering to visit the university towns. And so came an eastern adventure to Cambridge, though we decided to pair this visit with a holiday extension to the North Norfolk coast, another new destination for us.

We booked two Camping and Caravanning Club sites for our week-long holiday: Cambridge and West Runton. The Cambridge site is just outside the town, a 20-minute bike ride from the centre. Being Cambridge, it is totally flat and although we have electric bikes, we had no need to switch on the power assistance. There is also a regular bus service about 200m from the site, so access to Cambridge and its surroundings is easy.

Magnificent colleges

The colleges have fine architecture and fascinating history
The colleges have fine architecture and fascinating history

We love a good museum, so our first tourist stop was the Fitzwilliam Museum, graced at the time with a giant pineapple outside the entrance, to mark an exhibition celebrating food and culture.

Eye-catching pineapple outside Fitzwilliam Museum
Eye-catching pineapple outside Fitzwilliam Museum

This museum was well worth the wait. It has an excellent gift shop, too. Walking around Cambridge, there is so much to see: the splendour and history of the magnificent colleges, the pubs and lanes by the Cam, people-watching from a street café. One of the more memorable sights was the town’s famous busker in the bin (aka Charlie); he is a popular draw for tourists, who snap away in exchange for a few coins in the hat. Elsewhere, the Corpus Clock, by Corpus Christi College, is fascinating. Inaugurated in 2008 and plated in gold, it features a time-eating monster, the Chronophage. It is designed on the ;grasshopper’ escapement devised by 18th-century horologist (and inventor of the marine chronometer) John Harrison.

Punting on the river

Colin enjoys a trip by punt, a great way to see the sights
Colin enjoys a trip by punt, a great way to see the sights

No visit to Cambridge would be complete without a punt on the River Cam. There are options: you can hire a punt yourself (you can easily spot them, they are the ones bumping into everyone or even falling in!), hire a pinter and travel with others or hire one just for the two of you. Our guide gave us a running commentary on the colleges we passed.

Cambridge was a delight and has been added to our ‘visit again’ list, which grows only a little slower than our ‘places to visit after Covid’ list!

After three nights in Cambridge, we set off to the east coast and the West Runton campsite. With a few rest stops, we arrived at the campsite in the late afternoon. Our pitch wasn’t the flat hardstanding we had hoped for, but a sloping grass pitch – luckily, we were enjoying fine weather. As dog owners, we prefer hardstanding, to save on the dog’s muddy paws.

Into the woods

Take a gentle stroll around the beautiful gardens at Felbrigg
Take a gentle stroll around the beautiful gardens at Felbrigg

The entrance to West Runton Camping and Caravanning Club Site is unlike any other I’ve seen in the UK, although some Spanish aires and small campsites can have ‘different’ access.

The site is set in a clearing in woods that you access via a one-way, twisting lane, about 800m long.

This is made clear on their website, but it is a bit of a shock when you see it. There is also a restriction on incoming and outgoing traffic for certain times of the day, to avoid the gridlock that would otherwise ensue. If you’re going there, you’ll need to stick to the arrival times.

Unlike the Cambridge site, which has easy access and links to the surrounding area, West Runton does not. It is a 1.7km downhill walk to the beach in the fishing port of East Runton and 1km walk along the beach to Cromer and its pier. So a 5km round trip to Cromer and back.

There is also a walk to West Runton (1.8km), across the local golf course and into the village, where a tearoom and pub await weary travellers. Further on still (700m), you can access the coast.

Public transport would be difficult from this site – it is a 1.5km walk to the nearest train station at West Runton, and you would need to be relatively fit if you planned to explore the area. Luckily, we are healthy and active, and enjoy walks with our dog, or using our electric bikes to travel further.

From Cromer, there are fine views along the shoreline to East Runton
From Cromer, there are fine views along the shoreline to East Runton

We enjoyed days out, on foot, to West and East Runton and along the coast to Cromer. The latter is a traditional seaside resort with a magnificent old pier. The most popular activities on the pier are sitting doing very little, or catching crabs!

We ate crabs later in the day, but they weren’t caught off the pier by tourists. And as in Cambridge, one highlight was a pint of the local brew.

As members of the National Trust, we are always keen to visit nearby properties and closest to us was Felbrigg Hall. This is 4.5km from the site, so an opportunity to use our bikes. The Hall was closed, but the grounds, shop and café were open. There are some lovely walks around the estate and a well-stocked shop for gardeners to enjoy.

The drive back to South Wales took more than eight hours, with plenty of stops on the way. This is a distance I wouldn’t dream of doing when in Europe, so I am not sure why I felt it appropriate in the UK – I won’t be driving for that long again.

All in all, we had a really great week away and it has encouraged us to think about exploring more our our wonderful country in the future.

TOUR ESSENTIALS

Where we stayed

Cambridge Camping & Caravanning Club Site

Bailey Autograph pitched at the Cambridge C&CC Site
Bailey Autograph pitched at the Cambridge C&CC Site
  • 19 Cabbage Moor, Great SAhelford, Cambridgeshire, CB22 5NB
  • Web campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk
  • Tel 01223 841185
  • Open 12 April – 1 November 2021
  • Pitches 160
  • Charges From £7.35

A 20-minute bike ride from the centre of Cambridge, or there’s a regular bus service about 200m from the entrance.

West Runton Camping and Caravanning Club Site

Site access is via one-way lane. Restriction on incoming and outgoing traffic for certain times of day, so stick to the arrival times.

Find out more

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