With miles of unspoilt countryside, big skies, and broad, empty beaches, Norfolk has all the ingredients for a relaxing rural escape. Talking of ingredients, you’ll find a fabulous food scene here, too, with pubs and restaurants making the most of the county’s bounty of locally grown, reared, and plucked-straight-from-the-sea produce. Graze your way between historic market towns and nostalgia-steeped seaside resorts, or head into Norwich for a shot of creative energy and culture.
The best hotels in Norfolk are:
Best for a theatrical city break: The Assembly House, Booking.com
Best for boating on the broads: The Norfolk Mead, Booking.com
Best for birdwatching and beach walks: The Lifeboat Inn, Booking.com
Best for fabulous local food: The Dial House, Booking.com
Best for unusual artworks: The Gunton Arms, Theguntonarms.co.uk
Best for vintage village vibes: Byfords, Booking.com
Best for four-legged friends: The Globe Inn, Expedia.co.uk
Best for holiday spirit: The Gin Trap Inn, Booking.com
Best for a theatrical city break: The Assembly House
This 15-room Georgian boutique is practically next door to Norwich’s principal play house, Theatre Royal – and it’s not lacking stage presence of its own. Set back from the street, its horseshoe-shaped driveway is a prelude to the period drama you’ll find inside. Rooms are a riot of colour, a debutante ball’s worth of eccentrically-clashing patterns, texture and furniture styles. Peacock-green four-poster beds are juxtaposed with powder pink walls, and bright floral-patterned window blinds. But don’t mistake it for chintz: there are gilded Art Deco mirrors, 1960s coffee tables, and contemporary-feeling, marble-clad bathrooms to add variety to its act.
Price: Doubles from £170, B&B
Best for boating on the broads: The Norfolk Mead
The Broads are Norfolk’s signature landmark: a labyrinthine network of waterways that vein the eastern part of the county. This quiet country house hotel on the banks of the River Bure not only puts you in the heart of this serene, watery world, but has its own yacht that you can borrow for a day of exploring. Its 16 rooms and accommodations are split across the main Georgian building, and standalone brick cottages and timber summer houses, which are ideal if there’s a boat-load of you travelling together. Across the board, the decor is calm and comforting, with muted colours, velvet bedspreads and homemade brownies on arrival.
Price: Doubles from £135, B&B
Best for birdwatching and beach walks: The Lifeboat Inn
North Norfolk’s coast is a dreamy sweep of wide-open sands, shimmering dunes and salt marshes teeming with birdlife – and the Lifeboat Inn is just the kind of beachside bolthole that you’ll be aching for after a day of sea air. Rooms are cosy and cabin-like, with thick stone walls for keeping out the chill, rustic timber panelling and sink-in soft beds. Downstairs, the pub-like bar is lit up in the evenings by antique lamps and flickering fireplaces, while the kitchen serves up classic coastal grub with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. Mussels are plucked from the sea off Brancaster Staithe, seven minutes’ drive away, and the venison sausages hail from the Holkham Estate, 10 minutes further.
Price: Doubles from £185, B&B
Best for fabulous local food: The Dial House
The Dial House does things differently when it comes to food – using a charcoal barbecue to impart smoky, earthy flavours into their all-local ingredients. The Sunday ‘Host Your Roast’ order is a sharing-size loin of pork, or dry-aged sirloin, large enough for the whole table to tuck into, with the cuts supplied by top Norfolk butchers. Start with the red onion marmalade and goat’s cheese tart, and you’re tucking into creamy Norfolk Mardler made by a third-generation Norfolk dairy farmer, 10km away. Not local enough? The fruit and veg is picked by school children at the village’s own allotment. The eight travel-themed (but far from tacky) rooms are just as carefully curated, with vintage furniture, artwork, and fabrics.
Price: Doubles from £130, B&B
Best for unusual artworks: The Gunton Arms
Location: Thorpe Market
It’s not so much that the artworks themselves are unusual, but that this rustic pub, housed on a sprawling country estate, is an unusual place to find them. Pieces by major-name players such as Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Lucian Freud are dotted around the dimly lit dining room and bar, where fireplaces flicker and pool cues clack. This style clash is artfully deliberate, and extends to the rooms, which are atmospherically decorated in traditional country style – all heavy curtains, Persian rugs and antique furniture. Beyond the windows, views across the misty deer-grazed estate, studded with pieces of sculpture, are romantically melancholy.
Price: Doubles from £99, room only
Best for vintage village vibes: Byfords
Norfolk is speckled with pretty market towns, but none have quite the same steeped-in-nostalgia feel to them as Holt, with its butchers, greengrocers and hanging flower baskets. At the heart of it is the handsome flint brick building that houses Byfords, a cafe-restaurant, deli, and boutique B&B, where the 16 rooms lean into the lost-in-time look, with squishy leather arm chairs, hefty wooden bed frames and panelled walls. Breakfast on smoked kippers from nearby Cley and a pot of Darjeeling, before heading out to catch the steam train that puffs across open countryside to the seaside town of Sheringham.
Price: Doubles from £135, B&B
Best for four-legged friends: The Globe Inn
The beaches of north Norfolk are special, and nowhere more so than the stretch between Wells-next-the-Sea and Holkham, where a flat expanse of blonde sand meets powder-soft dunes and aromatic pine forest. It is, understandably, a paradise for dogs, with more stick-throwing space than you can throw a stick at. This glammed-up pub with rooms, overlooking a leafy Georgian square in the centre of Wells, isn’t worried about a few sandy paws on the bed – and will even stock your room with doggy treats ahead of your arrival. It’s a pretty plush set up for humans, too, with wooden parquet floors, velvet bed frames and a fresh, relaxing coastal colour palette.
Price: Doubles from £220, B&B, with a £25 surcharge for dogs
Best for holiday spirit: The Gin Trap Inn
There’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit than by checking into a pub with rooms that stocks over 100 varieties of gin. But the Gin Trap Inn’s appeal isn’t limited to those who like their booze with a twist of botanicals, as it also has an adventurous outdoor play area, complete with treehouse and slide, that the kids won’t want to leave. Talking of kids, if you want to bring the brood, opt for one of the three standalone two-bedroom cottages, each gorgeously outfitted with designer kitchens, plush furniture, and top-notch appliances
Price: Doubles from £110, B&B
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