“I promise I won’t use my passport for the next piece Ed” I said as I quietly checked out the superb restaurants in North Norfolk online. “Back in a few days” I shouted as I left the office. I saw the Editor scratching his head as I started programming the SatNav. No airports for me on this trip, just a lovely drive in the country.
Where better to head off to as the autumn draws in than a comforting country cottage in Norfolk. We decided to have a couple of days R & R over half-term in an extremely well appointed 3 bed bungalow with a roomy kitchen diner, 2 doubles (one with en-suite) and a twin and a family bathroom. This is modern holiday cottage par excellence. Great space for all with a football pitch sized garden out the back with swings, a slide and tree house, all a discrete distance from the properties. Ours was one of eight, converted from old farm buildings set around a courtyard. There’s an indoor pool, and it’s so, so quiet.
It’s green too, water comes from a bore hole, the electricity is harvested from photovoltaic panels on the roof providing all the hot water and right at the end of the ‘playing’ field is a wind turbine. The owners are part of a government environmental stewardship scheme that encourages flora and forna across their land. You can spot 60 different types of bird. Tennis courts, archery, live Cluedo, cookery classes and even upholstery lessons are available to residents. This is a perfect multigenerational location with various sized options to suit the needs of an extended family, great for a big get together.
When we arrived, we were greeted with what every driver from London would love – a freshly baked Victoria Sponge Cake, waiting on a cake stand on the kitchen table and a voucher for Walsingham Farm Shop, this is no ordinary husbandry outlet, think Fortnum & Mason crossed with Waitrose. Superb local produce, meats, cheeses, preserves, bread you name it they stock it. We enjoyed a splendid lamb and mint pie fit for a king. Getting out and about in the region is a joy, it’s so beautiful, unspoilt and free of traffic (a boon for the jaded London driver like myself).
Cromer is not far, a typical untouched seaside town (with a reputation for excellent crab) that boasts a wonderful 500ft iron pier dating from 1901. There’s a theatre on the pier that hosts a variety of household names throughout the year. The town is full of quaint little independent shops and cafés and plenty of pubs. A short drive away is Sheringham, another winner with a wide beach front, more unusual shops like Miss Madeleines that sells all sorts of interesting bits and bobs including a large selection of classic Tin Tin posters. And there’s even a steam railway to add to the nostalgia.
The jewel of the inland villages has to Burnham Market, a kind of fully preserved community with grand Georgian houses, antique shops and a handful of super restaurants. We dined at Hoste, an award-winning hotel and eatery offering great value, a roaring fire and tasty food. Another notable restaurant in the area is the Gunston Arms, run by a husband and wife team who worked for Mark Hix and offers a kind of high-end pub with exceptional gastro experience. The food is all cooked on a large metal plate that sits above an open food fire. Large chunks of meat, the best Cauliflower cheese I’ve ever tasted and candle lit tables with modern art adorning all the walls. Not to be missed, go hungry as you’ll want to eat everything on the menu. The staff are lovely too, if you’re after a weekend table be sure to book well in advance as it’s very popular.
North Norfolk was only three hours away from South East London so it’s easy to go for the weekend. we only scratched the surface and it rained quite a bit on our visit, but it didn’t matter. Walk on the wild beaches and get the wind in your hair, snuggle up in a cosy pub or two and head back to the uber comfortable cottage for a farm shop pie for supper. Pretty much the perfect weekend.
Cranmer’s Garden House, Fakenham, Norfolk, NR21 9HY, England.
Tel: +44 (0)1328 823135
Type of Accommodation: 5-Star Luxury Eco-Barn
Premier Cottages’ features almost 1,000 four and five-star self-catering cottages across the UK. Properties range from small, romantic bolt holes to large family-friendly country estates. The collection includes pet-friendly accommodation, baby friendly properties and widest range of accessible properties in the UK. Many holiday homes have onsite facilities like swimming pools, gyms, spas, indoor games rooms and children’s play areas.
A week’s stay in Cranmer’s Garden House for up to six guests starts from £895 and a three-night break starts from £635.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Neil Hennessy-Vass is Contributing Editor for Our Man On The Ground as well as a widely-published globetrotting food and award-winning travel writer and photographer.
Photographs by Neil Hennessy-Vass