Barsham Barns: dreamy Norfolk rentals with Flora Soames interiors
Sitting serenely on a 3,000-acre estate that has been in the hands of the Soames family (descendants of Sir Winston Churchill) for three generations, between sprawling meadows, rolling farmland and the flint cottages of the north Norfolk countryside, Barsham Barns affords a slice of country living on modern terms.
Two decades ago, the collection of six 19th-century farm buildings were sold to a local architect but in 2020 the Soames family got their hands on them once more and, with a renowned interior designer among their ranks, who better to oversee Barsham’s beautiful new transformation?
Now they really are something quite special. Traditional brick and flint walls conceal the infusion of jewel-box patterned Flora Soames interiors inside, with chic living spaces designed for families and groups of friends who want to spill out with a five star hotel-level of comfort. Here is a utopian bubble you'll never want to burst.
Where is it?
In marsh’n’dune wilds of north Norfolk, a land of vast, open countryside peppered with rickety windmills, sleepy flint-built villages and higgledy-piggledy pubs. It is hardly surprising royalty has such an affinity for the area, it is one of England’s most serene spots, with a spectacular stretch of shore that has been named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Barsham Barns is located in North Barsham, just outside the picturesque village of Walsingham, a site of Christian pilgrimage where kings and queens regularly stopped by to visit its shrines, holy wells and priory.
You will want to bring your wellies because Barsham’s 3,000 acres are all yours to explore. From 140 acres of ancient restored woodland to family-friendly cycling tracks (you can rent a bike locally or bring your own), a visit is all about losing yourself in nature, plodding through fields, rambling across meadows and playing Pooh sticks on the River Stiffkey. Here, good old-fashioned Famous Five adventures await.
Featuring six self-catering barns, sleeping between four and 14 people, and the seven-bedroom Meadow House (where Flora and her family grew up), Barsham makes multi-generational holidays a breeze.
Long Meadow, the former milking parlour that sleeps eight, is a haven of modern, rustic style. With its exposed clunch walls, high ceilings and an open-plan design, it would be easy for this space to feel a little sterile but it’s far from it. From the oversized blue-striped lampshades to the Ikat foot stools, modern woodburner and just-picked flowers sprouting from jugs in every corner, there’s a real playful warmth to the place.
There is a soft, pretty palette to every room. Beds are decked out with pastel upholstered headboards, striped valances and coral woollen throws with chintzy curtains and grey-washed furniture. Even the kids room comes with a jaunty circus-striped curtain along the bottom bunk. It’s the home your Instagram feed always wanted.
You’ll be welcomed with a hamper groaning with some of the area’s best produce – local jam, Walsingham honey, Barsham Brewery beer (more on that later) and Fakenham sourdough, while bathrooms are stocked with gorgeous Holt-based Norfolk Natural Living products.
There’s a cupboard chock full of boardgames, pretty china for afternoon tea parties, plastic tumblers for picnics on the beach and stashes of books about the area and wildlife – every aspect of your Norfolk stay has been thoroughly considered.
If you want a little R&R, the barns share a mini spa complete with a hot tub big enough for 10, and a steam room that you block out for two-hour sessions.
There’s so much on your doorstep here. Wells-next-the-Sea, famous for its sorbet-hued beach huts and talc-soft sands, is an easy 10-minute drive from Barsham and is perfect for a spot of kite-flying or there’s the wild and unspoilt Holkham Beach, a scenic setting for picnics in the dunes, digging for cockles and wading in creeks.
While you’re there, don’t miss a tour inside the soaring 18th-century Holkham Hall, still privately owned by the Earl of Leicester, and one of the country’s finest examples of Palladian architecture, where rooms are lined with paintings by Van Dyck and Rubens.
Spend an afternoon mooching around the nearby cobbled town of Burnham Market, a genteel Georgian oasis of manicured greens, lifestyle shops, delis and a fishmonger by the name of Gurneys that’s famous for its potted shrimp and fish cakes.
Less than 30 minutes from Barsham is the charming coastal village of Blakeney, teeming with fishermen's cottages and old-world pubs. This was once a busy commercial port until the estuary began to silt up preventing all but pleasure craft from gaining access, leaving behind a sweeping landscape of marshes, sand hills and mud banks. It's also home to England’s largest breeding grey seal colony and more than 3,000 fluffy pups are born on the National Trust-owned Blakeney Point each year. Take a boat trip out from the quay, even better if it’s during the winter birthing season.
Food & drink
Whether you just want to play house for the weekend and get the caterers in (they’ll send you a guide to the best local private chefs in the area before you arrive) or fancy cooking up your signature bolognese for the entire brood, they have everything you need here.
Stock up on supplies at nearby Walsingham Farms Shop, where shelves are teeming with eggs laid that morning from the farm across the road to homegrown vegetables and meat from locally reared livestock. Fish-lovers will want to make a beeline for Cley Smokehouse, a traditional smokehouse offering hand-crafted smoked fish and meats (the kippers and smoked salmon should absolutely make it into your basket).
Don’t miss lunch at The Victoria, a stone’s throw from Holkham beach, where muddy boots and dogs are welcomed with open arms plus you’ll find a menu big on the estate’s own produce – from Holkham pheasant, sausages and venison to lobster from Wells-next-the-Sea. A gentle 30-minute amble from your barn door takes you to local watering hole The Barsham Arms where you can wash down proper ales and wine from nearby Cobble Hill vineyard beside roaring fires.
Of course, the great thing about Barsham is that it rather conveniently has its own brewery on site. The Barsham Brewery creates award-winning craft beers made from estate-grown barley, local malt and water sourced from Barsham’s own bolthole. Book a tour with manager Rob and you’ll see the entire brewing process, with plenty of tasting opportunities thrown in.
This is a getting-away-from-it-all escape to the north Norfolk countryside, no matter the season. Whether it’s for a week in July, when wild swimming in the river and barbecues under an apricot-washed sunset await or in the crisp blue skies of a blustery February, Barsham Barns offers a spoiling retreat far from the madding crowds.
A three-night holiday at Barsham Barns staying at The Loose Box (sleeps four) starts from £550; barshambarns.co.uk