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Dogfriendly Magazine Review
Read our comprehensive review of this listing printed in our bi-monthly magazine.
Haven Holidays, Hopton Holiday Village
Reviewer: Helen Steel
We are complete Norfolk newbies. So, when we booked to stay at Haven Holiday Village in Hopton, the first thought that came to mind was: ‘it’s flat’. However, the landscape might be, but our stay was quite the opposite.
Our second consideration was: ‘it’s a long way from Leeds’ – with our band of two under-fives, and the star of the show, Meg, the cairn cross. But if you’re travelling from west or north – we found the perfect place for a quick stopover. The farmhouse at Fincham is a Grade 2 listed barn conversion with spacious two-bed cabins, a garden area, a dog friendly pub down the road and just a short drive from Sandringham, which we visited en route the next day. Meg felt most welcome in the royal park there – and made the most of the drinking stations – even if they are overlooked by a 6ft squirrel, her nemesis in giant form.
We arrived for a Monday-Friday stay at Haven expecting huge queues to check in. But it took seconds, and we were quickly unpacked and ready to discover that Norfolk has some of the best beaches in Britain. Being such a child-oriented place, it was a pleasant surprise to have very little ‘dos and don’ts’ so often dotted about the place – plenty of dog bins but no signs stating the obvious ‘pick up’ message – and no instructions in the caravan instructing how our companions should behave and that they couldn’t be left unattended – common sense seemed to prevail. When Meg was invited into the on-site pharmacy, I realised she was going to fit right in.
I was slightly dreading a tight squeeze inside the caravan, but I was pleasantly surprised at the space – plenty of room for a travel cot and a dog bed in the main bedroom; and enough room to swing a cat (or indeed a Meg-sized dog) in the living area. While ‘value’ caravan parks of my youth are remembered fondly yet with a distinct smell of damp and mouldy windowsills, this was spick and span. Outside, the grass is kept lush, and any wayward crisp packet is pounced upon by keen staff. There are none of the niceties like dog welcome packs/messages, but I’d waiver all that for easy access to beautiful beaches and lead-free walks, which is exactly what we got.
Directly outside were plenty of grassy areas and footpaths between sections of the park. And you are never more than a couple of minutes from the most gorgeous beaches – I’ve never seen such golden sands or stunning sunsets. And far from the boring beaches of my imagination, they were curved enclaves, defined by rocky outlets, the sand felt like soft icing sugar rather than rocky and rough. Even in late October it looked bright and inviting – far from the dismal winter scene I’d prepared for. Crucially, dogs and their owners don’t suddenly become pariahs come May through to September. Yes, Hopton beach is the holy grail for dog owners – a restriction-free beach. And being a couple of miles from the most easterly point in the UK, Meg and I enjoyed many a glorious sunrise from the cliff top.
The beach is also very accessible, with a short tarmac path down. A favourite walk of ours became the three-mile walk north to Gorleston. You can either walk on that intensely golden sand, or for a buggy-friendly stroll, turn left where the cliff path ends, through a golf course then back onto the prom for a mile before reaching Gorleston pier. At Gorleston, there’s a huge stretch of beach (the May-September ban does apply here, though) and best of all a café which not only allows dogs but puts them at the forefront of their dining experience. The Gorleston Doggy Diner is very reasonably priced, but not shy on its cake portions. Since we visited, the owner had emergency surgery. Now recovering and with the café open again, she says they’d be grateful of support and new custom.
If you’re looking for a day trip, a couple of miles further north again, is Great Yarmouth. We caught the bus; one plus of public transport today is there’s never so much as a raised eyebrow at the non-paying pet passenger.
The town is like a mini-Blackpool, and many seafront shops didn’t bat an eyelid at Meg. It has a great selection of dog friendly places to eat too. Munchies is at the northern end, offering sausage specials on its menu for Meg and a few minutes further north is Lacon Arms, winner of a national award for its dog-friendliness.
Beach-wise they’re all dog friendly out of season, but the north and south beaches have no restrictions all year round. And the southern end of the golden mile is home to one of the only theme parks in the UK which accepts dogs. It’s not an adrenaline-fueled thrill fest, more an under -12s adventure, so dogs won’t be too startled at the noise. Meg seemed to enjoy chilling out while everyone else raced around. Next door is Sara’s tearoom – a huge pavilion café – where Sara says in more than 20 years, she’s ‘never sold a cake she hasn’t made’. Which is an achievement in my book. And even better, it even has a canine ‘wall of fame’ for frequent visitors.
Another more grown-up outing can be enjoyed at Burgh Castle, the remains of a third century Roman fort. If you complete a 4-mile stretch of the Angles Way from Great Yarmouth, you’ll end up here. It’s a haven for wildlife and has panoramic views across Breydon Water.
If you have any energy left, I’d encourage anyone to invest in a ‘stay and play’ pass. It includes swim sessions, entertainment in the Marina Bar and has plenty of other benefits. Meg wasn’t allowed in the bars or restaurants on site, but she was suitably shattered from the endless walks.
Finally, it must be said that Haven is brilliant value. For as little as £130 for a family of four and up to two dogs you can enjoy a Monday–Friday stay in June, including the entertainment pass. When it comes to choosing the caravan class the company has rebranded. It’s now saver, bronze, silver, gold and signature. A quick search showed bronze is around £80 more for our requirements, while silver sends the price up quite steeply. Paying the extra for bronze is probably the best added value. Just watch out – make sure the website states ‘dog friendly caravan’ when you book. It does claim dogs are free, yet you’ll pay a little more for the ‘dog friendly’ caravan, nothing that you wouldn’t pay elsewhere, and the charge is not per dog.
Heaven for kids, and an unexpected Haven for dogs. We will be back!
Haven Holidays, Hopton, review by Helen Steel and appears in DogFriendly magazine issue 70. For more information on the DogFriendly magazine visit https://www.dogfriendly.co.uk/magazine
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Listing Updated: 20/04/2022
Changes to businesses do occur. Please do double check this business is still dog friendly before you make a booking
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