B&B and Beyond: Montague House, Sheringham, Norfolk
Mary Novakovich discovers a smart hideaway that's the perfect base from which to enjoy the charms of Sheringham
Sunday 18 November 2012
There is a pleasantly old-fashioned air about Sheringham – a sense that this Norfolk seaside town refuses to embrace modernity. Any town that fought off an invasion from Tesco for 14 years has to be applauded, even if it finally relented two years ago. Its high street still has a healthy number of butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, seafood shacks and the superb Blyth & Wright ironmonger that puts B&Q and its ilk in the shade. There's even an authentic steam railway – the Poppy Line – that trundles along the coast. The feeling of timelessness extends to Montague House, a 1904 villa that harks back to the leisurely days of the Edwardian era when breakfast lasted more than an hour.
Two spacious double rooms and one deluxe suite are on the first floor of the house, all en suite and full of character. Antique mahogany beds are piled with thick duvets and embroidered cushions. Both the Pink Room and the Garden Room, with tones of cream, pale green and grey, face the tranquil garden, and unfussy bathrooms have showers rather than baths. The Gold Suite is sumptuous and romantic, with a large four-poster, fireplace, separate dressing room with an enormous gilt mirror, and large bathroom. Thoughtful touches include complimentary bottles of wine and water, a hairdryer and straighteners, chocolates from the Norfolk Truffle Company and toiletries from local company Aroma Natural. While there's a flat-screen television and Wi-Fi in each room, there's no kettle to make tea or coffee, but just say the word and a freshly brewed pot will be brought up.
Don't be in a hurry to rush out of the door. The first course could be a tropical fruit salad or berry compote, followed by a homemade smoothie as well as organic juices and toast with homemade jams. Then a cooked breakfast ranging from the traditional full English or omelette Arnold Bennett (topped with smoked haddock) to eggs Benedict or Spanish eggs with chorizo. Or you could choose from bacon quiche, smoked kipper, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or a wild mushroom omelette. When it's not warm enough to have breakfast in the garden, the meal is served on the large refectory table in the handsome book-lined dining room.
You're well looked after by Fiona and Tom Carville. Tom was a lecturer and Fiona used to run a travel PR agency until earlier this year. They're a warm, convivial pair, immediately offering guests drinks in the garden or the dining room. A glass of wine can easily stretch to three.
The North Norfolk Railway (01263 820800; www.nnrailway.co.uk), nicknamed the Poppy Line, evokes the golden age of rail travel with its vintage steam locomotives and carriages. The line puffs along from Sheringham's 125-year-old station to the equally beautifully restored stop at Weybourne before ending in the Georgian market town of Holt. Events throughout most of the year include Sunday lunches or evening meals in the North Norfolkman dining car, themed murder-mystery specials and Christmas rides. Passengers can buy day tickets that offer unlimited travel on the line for £10.50 (children £7).
You can see the train go past from the treetop-height Gazebo tower at Sheringham Park (01263 820550; nationaltrust.org.uk), a National Trust estate of woods and heaths a couple of miles outside the town. From here you can take the "Ramblers' Route" that eventually joins the Norfolk Coast Path that passes through the golf course back to Sheringham and its Blue Flag beaches. On the seafront is the Mo Museum (01263 824482; sheringhammuseum.co.uk), built in 2010 to tell the town's seafaring history. Its tower has views of the North Sea coast.
The Pit Stop
On the cliff overlooking the eastern end of Sheringham beach is the Funky Mackerel (07887 676649; funkymackerel.com), a pleasantly ramshackle café that claims to serve the best bacon sandwich in town. (For the record, it does.) If you want a simple taste of the sea, try Joyful West's shellfish bar (01263 825444) on the high street. An unusual option for dinner is the Nepalese menu at the Bank Restaurant on Church Street (01263 824500; thebankrestaurantsheringham.com). Around the corner on Augusta Street, more expensive plates of scallops, sea bass and swordfish are on offer at the classy No 10 (01263 824400; no10sheringham.com).
Montague House, 3 Montague Road, Sheringham, Norfolk NR26 8LN (01263 822510; montague-house.co.uk). B&B doubles from £80.
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