Roadtrip: Dublin to North Norfolk, UK


We had to have the car serviced and MOT done and Nils needed to be in London for a few days, so we chose to join him on this trip.   While he is in London from Tuesday – Thursday, the kids and I will stay back in North Norfolk and visit our friends there and do things together.  Providing the weather is okay, there are lots of things to do like:  playgrounds, walk the Cromer Pier, and during the day after school, we’ll try and visit some of his friends, especially his UK BFF Blake.

He was so excited about this he told his teacher he was seeing his “best friend ever!”  So sweet – I’m sure he’ll be sad when we have to leave but I need to remind him that he has a best friend in Dublin too – and great school, etc.  Speaking of school, I was thinking about bringing them by one day to the school, but then the more I think about it, that might make the emotions run higher as he loved that school – especially the forest school aspect, the chickens, open fields, free time at lunch, the independent learning and mixed age classes – all the things I loved about the school.  As I mentioned before, there is a pretty big difference between the attention you get being 1 of 11 kids in a mixed age class (1st – 3rd) in a small village school, than 1 of 25 kids in a city school with only concrete and a lot of rules on the playground.  If I could box up the teachers and the physical school with grounds and all the extras and put it in a worldly, more international place like Dublin that would be amazing.  There are loads of great things about their current school just UK and Ireland are different – not sure why people often think they are the same – perhaps that they both speak English?!

To get there, we’re taking the Stena Line from Dublin Port to Holyhead, Wales. Thankfully it’s only a 3 hour, 15 minute sailing so no need to book a cabin and spend the night like we have to do when going to The Netherlands.  But that is pretty fun and easy! The longest part is the drive from Holyhead to North Norfolk, UK – that takes about 6.5-7 hours, but we will take our time and not drive too fast and stop for lunch somewhere. The forecast is calling for milder temps (still cold but not freezing or big ice/snow storms are forecasted as it was before).   The wind and rain are in the mix so it might be a bit choppy – we’ll see.

Last year, we bought the kids portable DVD players which connect to the back of our seats so that will keep them entertained.  I really want to surprise them with the movie Inside Out – hope I remember.  They are pretty sick of their current DVD collection. Though we just watched Frozen (AGAIN!!!) last week and she was very much into it.

As Nils doesn’t have to be in London until Tuesday early afternoon, so our plans are that we’ll spend some time on Saturday & Sunday visiting friends and doing some stuff together as a family – we have some favorites in the area. I hope Sunday is a dry, sunny day so we can have a nice walk at Holkham Beach then to the pirate ship playground in Wells Next The Sea and dinner in a pub.  Soren has his heart set on an arcade for gaming on his birthday but perhaps I can take them to the Sealife Centre in Hunstanton and then perhaps a pop into Oasis.First stop is to go to Mountain Wearhouse in Holt or Cromer as they have the BEST clearance deals – I want to get Maebh warm skip pants and winter boots – her feet freeze with just wellies when we’re at the beach. Soren is in need of some shoes too and these winter boots are a great deal at 14.99.

We must have mussels in the Red Lion Stiffkey!!  For my 40th birthday in June, we were dying for them only to be told, upon arrival, that they are only in season from September to April – months which contain “R” – so we’ll now never forget mussel season. This is one of our favorite pubs in that area.  It’s child friendly, dog friendly and muddy boots friendly!  Perhaps this will be Soren’s official birthday dinner with the family – as he real birthday is on Wednesday.  The kids have also asked to go to The Pigs in Edgefield – I’m sure for their broad beans snacks and their zip line so that might also be a place we have a pint.

I’m sure one day I’ll take them up to Cromer, a pop in the lifeboat station, Henry Blogg Museum. Sadly the Amazona Zoo is closed for a few weeks in the winter so we’ll have to skip that otherwise, I’m sure they’d ask to visit there.  There will be plenty of beach walks searching for sea glass too – as the tides will low during the day when there so that is very convenient.  A walk in Sheringham Park is a must too.

The boat is scheduled to return on Sunday, the 31st of January – so we are looking at options for that Saturday somewhere closer to the boat.    N thought perhaps Bath and then take the Fishguard to Rosslare boat.  I thought perhaps Liverpool or in that area might be an option, but there is a game that night so hotels might be hard to come by in that area.  Nils has tons of points which we could use so we’re investigating our options….  we might just skip it all together and save those points for a break at Disney Paris in the future – that would be my preference!
From here down, I’ll post from our actual trip and then edit the post above to fit in.


First off, I just wanted to point to something so bad – safety wise that is.  Look at this HUGE opening on the left side of the ramp going on the boat. There was no worker there, no cones, barriers or warnings.  Thankfully we’re not stupid but this would NEVER fly in the US. ha ha

No ferry trip wouldn’t be the same with out a few mandatory photos of the kids.


As you leave Dublin port you go by the famous Smokestacks and the Poolbeg Lighthouse – where we have walked – a guy outside with me was suggesting never go at high tide as the first part gets cut off by the sea.  Never thought if that before but as you can see in the photos, you can.  Apparently he went out for lunch and got stuck for hours! 🙂




When we set, it as a relatively calm sea but about 1 hour in the boat was rocking – Soren and Nils were fine but Maebh and I were both a bit nauseous.  Anyway, we were not sick but some poor woman in the bathroom wasn’t so lucky.  The kids played in the kids area, did some word searches and played in Teen Town for a bit but as the sailing was only 3.5 hours – it was easy.



As you’ll see some a few of these photos, Maebh’s belly was a bit off.  I’m going to buy dramamine before heading back on our long car journey and boat trip.. clearly she needs something to help her.


As we got off the boat and started driving out towards Manchester, the plastic thing on the bottom of the car started to drag again, so we had to pull off the highway and find a garage to see if they can help us by removing it tor tying it up.  It has already been partially pulled off and partially tied up a few times.  But with the wind going under it at 80 mph on the highway was the catalyst and was so loud and annoying.   Anyway, thank fully the guys at Kwik Fit in Bangor, north Wales were so helpful, we were in and our before the kids could finishing using the bathroom.

The house we are staying in Gunthrope is a huge home with five bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms – perfect any large families/groups… and perfect for us as no one was using it this week, we were able to stay here.    The memories of our time in North Norfolk is nice.  The kids are very comfortable here and that is important.  The kids and I may sleep a night over at the Wilson’s house so that when we wake up the kids can celebrate Soren’s birthday.  I think they are going to keep Blake out of school – we’ll see.

On the wall in the kitchen, the kids heights were measured over the past three years and so they are excited to put their new markings up.


It’s very nice to be back in North Norfolk, UK.  After 1.5 years not much has changed! We drove past the old school and our old house….


Londoners are up for a gaming trip in the fields nearby the school.

Snowdrops, the lovely white flowers, are in full bloom. We will NOT go this time, but the Walsingham Abbey Snowdrop Walk is on this weekend.

One thing which changed a bit is the storm damage from the sea so they are doing repairs up in Cromer.  While everything was closed, there is still something about the Pier which we love!










We visited the Wilson’s last night and Soren and Maebh were thrilled to be there with their friends. Movies, games, toys, guns, piano playing, pizza – it was a blast.







Maebh has taken a huge interest in playing the piano.  She said to me “Mum, can you read me what the music says?” um, no! 🙂   We’re thinking about getting her lessons… Our neighbor is a music teacher and her son has a full music scholarship to the local private boarding school.





Our friend’s parents, who live just next door to them, have chickens and cows in their yard so it was a bit of fun to go feed the chickens – one day!!






One thing Soren loves most about this area is that he gets to do one of the 51 things to do before your’re 10 – Dam A Stream.   So as it was not too cold and dry, he and Nils set into the stream to do just that…. but the water was pretty strong, in the end the dam burst.   For him it’s now one more reason to come back in the summer!












Part of being a kid in the country is having a run-in with a sticky bur bush!  When he first came into the house like this I accused him of doing it himself on purpose 🙂



Another fun thing about here is the gate has a key pad to enter.  So Maebh had a chance Soren got out to “assist her” but funny enough she got it on the first try!  Excitedly, the kids were off running in front of the car as we were still waiting for it to open.




Another fun part of this trip was the time spent in the cheesy amusement halls.   These photos were all taken at Showboat in Hunstanton.  After dropping of Nils at Kings Lynn train station, it was a drizzly, cold windy day so we spent an hour inside playing.





On Soren’s actual birthday, Soren’s friend was kept out of  school and we headed to Hunstanton to go to the Oasis indoor play space as Playland, in Wells, is only open on weekends and school holidays during the Winter months.


He requested chocolate cake!



Another day we spent some time walking on Wells Next The Sea – home of The Buttlands (Soren finds that funny!)



After our walk, we stopped at the Beach Cafe at the end for some hot chocolate to kill time before we met our friends at the Wells playground.   The place is very popular for dog owners, if fact, you are the odd man out if you are not with a dog.




The kids took photos on the beach huts which we found so cute.  The yellow one with the wheel was my favorite one.




As this is our last day here, we’re off to walk Sheringham Park today!  While it was chilly, it was a nice sunny day so we headed out down the main path took a right onto the orange path, across to the temple, down the field, up to the house and back around on the blue bath – a pop in the Bower and then headed out!
























It was a nice couple hours – and surprisingly a few things were in bloom and as always, amazing trees!





I have tons more photos to upload and will when I have more time.  For now, I’ll end with the fact that I am confident that this trip has brought a lot of closure to Soren – specifically in that he felt a big void not living in the UK.  Now that he spent a week there, I think he now realizes that Dublin offers a lot!

Though I still struggle with the desire to return to the US to have the kids closer to my parents! But the idea of starting all over – new house, new school, new everything is daunting!  We have nothing left from our live there except friends and family.   Plus, it’s really hard to explain but if you move away from America for a while, (for us 3+ years already) there are parts of it that make you crazy.

For now we visit and one day, perhaps they’ll visit!?!?! – are you reading this? 🙂


1.  Wide, sandy beaches with colorful, cute beach huts like at Wells-Next-The-Sea

2.  Crabbing on the Cromer Pier

3.  Big open skies

4.  Walking Paths

5.  Festivals: WorsteadCromer & Sheringham Crab @ LobsterDeepdaleDubs at The Hall, etc.

6.  Seafood: Cromer Crab, Stiffkey Mussels, Brancaster Oysters & fresh Samphire

7.  Cozy, British Gastro Pubs featuring beer gardens with kids playgrounds

8.  Barn Owls

9.  Tacky Arcades and Fun Fairs

10. National Trust Estates – Felbrigg HallSheringham Park & Blicking Estate 

11. Military Influences:  RAF bases, airfields and fighter jets in the sky.

12. Fish & Chips at the seaside

13.  RNLI in Cromer & Sheringham

14. Car Boot Sales & Charity Shops – hidden gems waiting to be found

15. Seals – between Horsey Mere and Beans Boat Trips to Blakeney there are plenty of seals.

This is just a short list as I’m sure we can go on and on with what great things we can find there. Here is an A to Z list of things to do in Norfolk!

Our family really misses our time in North Norfolk & I look forward to returning for a week-long vacation one year!



National Trust: Geocaching at Sheringham Park

As the weather was a bit warmer we set out to Sheringham Park to try geocaching.  I had already done it before, so I knew where each of the four listed on the sheet were, but let Soren & Maebh (with N’s help) find them by using the machines which we checked out for FREE at the Visitor Center.


the outdoor sport or game of searching for hidden objects by using Global Positioning System
(GPS) coordinates posted on the Internet.

Once the device lead us to the area, there were a few “clues” to help us locate the exacts spot where we had to find the hidden item.  When found, they opened it and signed the log book and left a penny from the USA.

While you are supposed to stick to the trails, we did venture off one where we found a few huge dens which clearly took someone a long time to build.
We walked and walked and walked…

While Nils searched the logs near the Temple for the last one (which was missing), the kids played “Temple Ice Hockey”.
Soren had a great time doing it, and we’ll definitely try doing it again soon as there are a lot around North Norfolk.  We’re going to try Orienteering at the park next.

Holkham Estate Scooting & Play Area

On Saturday, which happened to be my 40th birthday, we set off for day at the beach, but it proved far too chilly so instead we headed over to Holkham Estate where the kids could first scoot and then play in their playground.

They really love the playground areas – which is great as it’s all shade so on sunny days, the kids stay out of the sun.  While geared towards 5+ Maebh, for the most part, gets on fine.  A few things, she asks for help but, by far, their favorite thing is the zip line.  Soren likes it so much, he decided to be called Soren “Zippy”.
And Maebh takes it all in and with a little help here & there, enjoys the zip line too.
A few other favorites things around the park including this giant double swing which our big kid at 38 enjoys along with his Quik Milk T-shirt!
After we decided to head to a pub for lunch, so made our way to the Jolly Sailor in Brancaster Staithe.  Turns out that the 5th Annual Norfolk Ale Festival was happening, so it was packed.  We had a beer and watched the Sheringham Shantymen play a few sets, but opted for not eating there…  instead we headed to The Red Lion for Stiffkey mussels.  BUT turns out you can only get them in months which include an “R” so no mussels for us until September – but we’ll NEVER forget that again! 😦

Ferry from Harwich, UK to Hoek Van Holland and back again

We set off on our family’s second adventure onboard the Stena Line from Harwich, UK to Hoek Van Holland.  The first trip, we took the day boat both ways so the kids (and myself) were very much looking forward to the night boat on the way over.  While it costs more money, it makes traveling for all of us so much easier where we can sleep and wake up and start the day.  

When we got on the ship, we went straight to our room to check it out… the kids were psyched for the bunk beds and immediately climbing up to check them out.

But after some thought, we decided that only Soren would sleep at the top – as Nils is too heavy in my opinion and did’t want to risk him above anyone. (Sorry Nils) and then Maebh and I slept in the two-person bed.

Finally settled, we all went to bed quite late.  The next morning, well before the wake up call, I was showered, dressed and out looking for some coffee.  As I knew the others were fast asleep, I took about 20 minutes to myself and went over to the slot machine room… where 20 euros became 43 and of course the 20 went back in. 🙂   I love to play roulette and slots a bit but always am prepared to lose what I play.

All in all, we loved the night boat and were looking forward to starting our weekend in Holland.  We are visiting the Appenheul, Nils & I are attending Liberte & Niels’ wedding and then we’re celebrating Nils’ grandmother’s 90th birthday!

++++++++++++++++++++  THEN THE RETURN JOURNEY +++++++++++++++++++++++++

As we had to get back by Tuesday morning, we had no choice but to take the day boat on the way back… it meant a fast drive from Friesland to Hoek Van Holland hoping we’d not hit traffic in Zwolle, Utrecht or Rotterdam but it also meant a LONG 6.5 hour trip.  I ended up getting a cabin for Maebh to take a long nap.. while it was manageable with the kids, I much much prefer the night boat.  They played in the kids club for a bit, ate a bit, watched Dutch cartons and played in windows of the cabin and boat.  I was tempted to take them to the movies but it was nearly 10 euro each for Rio 3 or Captain America.

Holkham Nature Reserve & Holkham Beach

Today we took advantage of the amazing weather and low tide on a Sunday and headed over to Holkham Nature Reserve & Beach   We were not the most prepared with our Wellies, but we had a great time anyway.  Another reason why we must buy four pairs and leave them in the trunk of our car.

The beach at Holkham is one of the most unspoiled and beautiful stretches of sand in England. They have several beach walks and it is just gorgeous    It is the beach in which actress Gwyneth Paltrow walked across during low tide in the closing scenes of the film ‘Shakspear in Love’.   Just opposite the beach is the Holkham Estate  – which to me is like Crane Estate on steroids.  Take a few minutes to look over the links to see how unreal it is.

“Four miles of white-gold sand, with shells to collect and pine woods to explore.”  The Times


Binham Priory, North Norfolk, UK

After we had a drink and a basket of chips in the Checkers Pub, we headed over to the Binham Priory for a viewing of the ruins.  It was a beautiful sunny day, we thought we’d take advantage of the weather.

Among the most complete and impressive monastic ruins in Norfolk of a Benedictine priory with a well-documented history.  Founded in about 1091!!!  The construction of the church spanned close to 150 years.   The buildings were adapted and extended throughout the medieval period, but life at the priory changed dramatically in 1539 when it was closed by King Henry VIII at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. The nave, with its splendid 13th century west front and great bricked-up window, is now the parish church, displaying a screen with medieval saints over painted with Protestant texts.