Stay the night: Hill House, Norfolk
Elizabethan style, but with all the modern gadgets
Sunday 21 June 2009
The leafy village of Saxlingham Nethergate provides the pleasant setting for this great hideaway for a group "staycation". The humble name belies the quality secreted behind a screen of trees – for Hill House is a Grade II-listed Tudor manor house with Victorian additions, sitting in a glorious six acres.
Inside, contemporary style and an excellent period restoration blend well to create a house with atmosphere. You can lose each other here: climb the higgledy piggledy Tudor staircase (with a rope for a banister) by the kitchen, and you'll find that toddler you're pursuing has descended by the grander, more modern staircase at the opposite end of the house. In fact, it will be hard to keep the kids downstairs – on the top floor is a games room complete with pool table, PlayStation and home cinema.
The grown-ups can enjoy their own home cinema, too, in the comfy sitting room, as well as a fully integrated audio system in all communal rooms. There's a beautiful formal living room and a mahogany-furnished dining room where the table seats 12. But the kitchen-diner is likely to become the social hub in this spacious retreat.
There are plenty of beds to choose from here. The house sleeps up to 13 in six doubles (and a study) – two of which have zip-and-links for converting into twins. The two first-floor suites have six-foot beds and individual en-suite bathrooms, with a further family bathroom serving other rooms. Indulgent smellies are from The White Company (our toddler loved the duck-shaped soap left just for her). While the first-floor suites are stylishly simple, there is a romance about the rooms in the rafters – try the one with the four-poster with large adjoining bathroom and free-standing tub.
The food and drink
A generous welcome pack will get you going, but guests are also allowed to harvest produce from the orchard and organic vegetable garden – a nice touch. The smart state-of-the-art kitchen has a choice of Aga or electric oven, as well as every other mod con. Outside catering can be organised or dine out at The Wildebeest Arms (01508 492497; thewildebeest.co.uk), an award-winning local restaurant.
Guests can have a go at playing croquet or tennis. If you feel the need to go off-property, there are plenty of local walks. Norwich is 15 minutes' drive, the Norfolk Broads are 30 minutes away, and you can reach the Suffolk and north Norfolk coasts in just under an hour. Beauty treatments at the house can be organised on request.
Babies and children are welcome, as are well-behaved dogs, which get their own gated ground-floor room with dog bowl.
Minimum stay is three nights from £1,623; seven nights from £2,681.
Hill House, Saxlingham Nethergate, Norfolk NR15 1TE (01386 701177; ruralretreats.co.uk).
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