It took 20 years for a pub to get me to make a pilgrimage to Little Walsingham.
If the Black Lion is an upmarket dining pub for Old Boys in Pringle jumpers (nowt wrong with that, says my Dad), the Bull is an altogether more down-to-earth affair.
Walsingham is a scarily quiet village of 800,
bolstered by a steady influx of coach parties from Grimsby and Gorleston to the Priory.
Actually, they’re on their way to the Thursford Christmas Spectacular, an annual event that sees the OAP population of the Fens travel en masse to a Garden Centre in the middle of nowhere to hear a Christmassy version of the Black & White Minstrel Show.
As we arrived the peace was rudely interrupted by what sounded like a call to prayer booming from a loudspeaker weaving through the streets, but which I now suspect was a mobile fish and chip van.
Set against the serenity of the tiny streets, the pirate flag and lobsters at the Bull are a little jarring,
but the beer range is a little shrine to Boring Brown Bitter.
Just two local lads at the bar discussing the many faults of Dereham.
“What’s wrong with Dereham ! ” I pipe up, hoping for some human conversation.
“That weird Scottish bloke who lives there and survives on curry” (private joke)
I return to my Ghost Ship, which is so unexpectedly good (NBSS 3.5+) that I tell the landlady, who seems pleased.
One lad gives me an insight into the many student performers at Thursford who get drunk post-show at the Bull, showing me a video of youthful high jinks that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Newmarket Race Course. I urged him to upload it to YouTube, but I don’t think YouTube has reached Walsingham yet.
It’s the sort of North Norfolk pub you hope to find for lunch, but more often find overrun by North Londoners without a clue how to behave in a pub. Not here.
No diners at all on Saturday lunchtime, the pilgrims instead eating pasty and chips at the other village ale outlet. That’s the café bar for the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, which welcomes pilgrims, whether Beer Guide carrying or not.
I wager I’m back there next November.