We had a few days on the Broads ahead of us but before we climbed into canoes and set sail we visited The Old Red Lion in Castle Acre and we’re glad we did. The landscape of Norfolk is ancient and very different to the never ending hills of our base in the Peak District, but our wonderful host Alison made us feel right at home nonetheless.
We arrived at Castle Acre late afternoon, making our way under the Bailey Gate it was hard not to be reminded of Conwy. There’s hardly a more rock and roll mark of heritage than an actual castle gate as your entrance. It also seems that Castle Acre’s gate predates the walls of Conwy by at least 200 years, being built some time in the 1100’s. Before heading to the Old Red Lion we noticed the sign for Castle Acre, sat happily in the centre of the village.
We couldn’t hang about for too long though, as lovely as the sign was. It was time to see the Old Red Lion and meet Alison. We were warmly welcomed, Alison has run The Old Red Lion for over 20 years. Whilst showing us round the charming building and garden she told us about how she came to the Old Red Lion and her time as a teacher before that.
Walking through the garden it was easy to see how you could lose days here. A calm atmosphere was omnipresent as I stood admiring the owl carvings along the path. Surrounded with green, the courtyard was prime for sitting with a mug and drinking in the ambience. But we had been given a mission by Alison, to get a good look around the castle before the light went. So off we set… and arrived. We had stumbled across a place where “just round the corner” meant exactly that.
Ruinous but still with its basic shape, the castle was fun to explore. While yes it had certainly had better days it was amazing to see it still standing after all this time. Now countless rabbits and other small furry things roamed the castle grounds. Bouncing around without a care. We had to get back however as we had brought some dinner to prepare.
Sam had let us know that in previous stays Alison had always cooked a hearty plant based meal for her. She suggested that this time we should bring something ourselves and get more of a chance to speak to Alison. She has such an energy and enthusiasm, it was infectious. So much so that we were almost persuaded into a morning yoga session. If we hadn’t booked the canoes for tomorrow I’m sure we would have gone. We ate in the yoga space however as a compromise. A vegan chilli with guacamole and rice was our offering.
Washing up we heard the history of the Old Red Lion, its journey from pub to hostel, providing rest and repose for travellers on the historic Peddars Way pilgrim route. We even visited the old cellar, and while we were without fellow guests this night I could picture the social atmosphere of trekkers and those looking for a break from a hard day’s travel, all enjoying the log burner in this well loved hostel. Full up and bed time rapidly approaching we got ready for the next day. The process of packing and repacking our dry bags making sure we hadn’t forgotten anything. One last shower, as we’d have 3 days on the water before we met our next one.
The next day we sipped coffee in the courtyard, Alison had very kindly presented us with a help yourself breakfast which we gladly accepted. It wasn’t long until the first yoga pupils arrived. The class got to it, while we had to make the final checks before setting off on our own adventure. It was a shame we had to leave so early, not only was The Old Red Lion such a wonderful place, we probably could have used a bit of limbering up before days of paddling. But we said our goodbyes to Castle Acre and thanked Alison for a lovely stay.