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Best Norfolk hotels 2023: Where to stay for food, luxury and beach walks

From plush pubs with rooms to period properties, these are the best places to stay

Alex Allen,Martin Dunford
Friday 16 June 2023 14:07 BST
<p>After a long walk along the beach, rest your head at one of these fantastic options </p>

After a long walk along the beach, rest your head at one of these fantastic options

One of the largest counties in England, Norfolk is a lot more diverse than you might think, with a wide range of landscapes and some of the most unspoilt countryside in Britain. Wherever you go, you’ll always be aware you are in one of the country’s most rural and unique counties.

The renowned North Norfolk Coast is perfect for seaside breaks, with tremendous beaches and a hinterland peppered with places to eat and drink that make the most of the county’s bounty of locally grown, reared or plucked-straight-from-the-sea produce.

Inland, the scenic network of rivers and lakes that makes up The Norfolk Broads is the county’s National Park and probably its most visited region, yet even there it’s not hard to avoid the crowds, escaping into a reedy wilderness that is unlike anywhere else in England.

As for the county’s capital, Norwich, it’s an alluring and underrated city that is about as perfect a place for a city break as you will find anywhere. You’ll discover a fabulous food scene here with pubs and restaurants as well as some fantastic places to stay.

Best hotel for a city break: The Assembly House

Location: Norwich

This is a great spot for art and culture

Run by revered local chef Richard Hughes and his wife Stacia, the Assembly House occupies a beautifully renovated Georgian building bang in the centre of Norwich – a boutique hotel, restaurant and cookery school that is one of the country’s best places for an indulgent and cultural short break. Occupying two wings flanking the garden and entrance, the guest rooms are light and spacious and decorated in a contemporary yet classic style. Each one is different but all come with high-quality beds and linen, good wifi, flatscreen TVs and Bluetooth speakers. There’s a carpark next door, and you can start the day with one of Hughes’s superb breakfasts, served in the elegant ground-floor restaurant, where you can also enjoy afternoon tea. You couldn’t be in a better location for exploring central Norwich, which is literally on your doorstep.

Best hotel for the broads: The Boathouse

Location: Ormesby Broad

The Boathouse is located on the calm waters of Ormesby Broad

This Broadland pub and restaurant makes the most of its location right next to the tranquil waters of Ormesby Broad, with boutique rooms, a handful of well-equipped lodges in the garden and a nice restaurant and bar on the ground floor, with tables overlooking the water. The guest rooms are cosy and affordably priced, and include two suites, one of which is on two levels. Most have views or partial views over the water, wifi, tea- and coffee-making facilities and nicely turned-out en-suite bathrooms with showers. The lodges in the grounds are mostly two-bedroom affairs, with a sitting room and kitchen and decks to sit out and watch the sun set over Ormesby every evening. The restaurant is large but has a few cosy corners and a roaring fire in winter, while there’s also a self-contained wedding venue with its own waterside gazebo – great if you’re getting married, even better if you’re not and don’t want to be surrounded by wedding guests at the bar.

Best for walkers: The White Horse

Location: Brancaster Staithe

The White Horse has spectacular views of the North Norfolk coast

Looking out over the marshes and creeks of the North Norfolk Coast, the White Horse has long been a special place to eat, serving excellent fresh fish and seafood, including local mussels, crab and lobster, which you can enjoy in a lovely glass dining room that makes the most of the sea views. But it’s a special place to stay, too, with 15 beautifully decorated guest rooms split between the pub and the unique sedum-roofed extension at the back, where dog-friendly rooms blend into the marshes beyond – no small bonus when you can step right out onto the Norfolk Coast Path and stride off in either direction. All the rooms have large comfy beds, smart TVs, wifi and tea- and coffee-making facilities, most have sea views of some kind and some have their own terrace. The top-of-the-range ‘Room at the Top’ is split over two levels and has its own viewing telescope to take in the best of the abundant local birdlife.

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Best boutique hotel: Titchwell Manor

Location: Titchwell

Rooms feature super-king-size beds and private patio areas

Looking out over the the salt marshes of the North Norfolk Coast, Titchwell Manor is one of the best places to stay – and to eat – in an area that’s not exactly short of contenders. Divided between a main building, cottage annexe and stable block, it houses 26 individually styled boutique rooms ranging from the cheapest ‘Good’ doubles through ‘Better’ up to ‘Best’ and ‘Signature’ rooms, featuring super-king-size beds, private patio areas, freestanding baths and separate showers. A couple even have their own terraces with private hot tubs, but if that’s not quite private enough, you can always opt for a shepherds hut in the garden, with its own shower room, living area, hot tub and wood- burner. All the rooms have good wifi,  smart TVs, robes, tea- and coffee-making facilities and recently updated bathrooms. You can have an in-room massage, and a third of the rooms are dog-friendly – nice to know, given the excellent walks in all directions. Work up an appetitie on the Norfolk Coast Path before dining at the hotel’s renowned 3-AA-rosette restaurant – or just pick up some fish and chips from its well-known sister business, Eric’s.

Best for couples: The Ironmongers

Location: Aylsham

The Ironmongers’s rooms are spacious and welcoming

Located in a historic Elizabethan house right at the heart of the small Norfolk town of Aylsham, The Ironmongers is a perfect spot for a couple’s tryst: totally private, with no reception, just a code to gain entrance, and eight beautifully designed guest rooms inspired by the town’s historic tradesfolk – as well as ironmongery, the building has hosted a wine merchant, tailors shop and all sorts of different businesses over the years. 

The large Haberdashery room has a four-poster and lots of fancy silks and satins, but all of the rooms are spacious and welcoming, with solid oak floors, smart TVs, good wifi, tea- and coffee-making facilities and en-suite bathrooms with good-sized showers, fluffy towels and toiletries. Heat and hot water are provided by air-source heat pumps, and dogs are welcome in two of the rooms. It’s a B&B without the breakfast, basically, but don’t let that worry you – Norfolk folk swear by the local Bread Source bakery chain and, handily, there’s a branch right downstairs, serving delectable croissants and other pastries. Meanwhile, the Black Boys pub across the road does an excellent full English breakfast.

Best budget hotel: The Cliftonville

Location: Cromer

Most of the Cliftonville Hotel rooms have sea views

Situated right on top of the cliffs in resurgent Cromer, The Cliftonville is a landmark building that, until recently, was in need of a bit of TLC. Luckily for us, it has been renovated by the City Pub Company, who have turned it into an affordable and thoroughly up-to-date place to stay, just minutes from the town’s beach. Most of the rooms have sea views and it’s nice to know you can leave the car at home and come here by train from Norwich, leaving you free to focus on the seaside attractions of Cromer. The beach and the pier are right there, and there’s another beautiful beach at Overstrand, a short walk away, where you enjoy crab sandwiches in the clifftop café. Alternatively, enjoy Cromer crab or some of Norfolk’s best fish and chips in No.1 or Mary Janes before following the Norfolk Coast Path to Sheringham, where you can try some of the county’s best ice cream at Ellie’s.

And the hotel? It’s an Edwardian gem – think sweeping staircases and stained-glass windows – that has been sensitively restored. It boasts a cosy bar; a contemporary restaurant that makes the most of the sea views and serves decent modern British food; and 30 guest rooms and suites with en-suite bathrooms, good wifi, flatscreen TVs and tea- and coffee-making facilities.

Best beach hotel: The Grove

Location: Cromer

The Grove is a family-run hotel with homely rooms

Situated between the Norfolk resorts of Cromer and Overstrand, this is not a beach hotel in the traditional sense – there are no sea views. But it has a tucked-away feel that is irresistible, and you can walk to the beach in a matter of minutes, escaping through the trees of the hotel’s secluded garden as if en route to your own secret place. A family-run hotel, it has a welcoming and comfortable feel that can only be achieved after years in the business, with 16 well-appointed guest rooms split between the main house and the Orchard Rooms in the grounds, supplemented by a scattering of self-catering cottages, glamping yurts and a giant shepherds hut. The rooms are simple, understated and homely, with up-to-date furnishings and well-appointed en-suite bathrooms. There’s a consistently good restaurant, open for lunch and dinner, and service is terrific. The grounds are also home to a heated indoor swimming pool and a funky ‘massage hut’ offering various treatments.

Best luxury hotel: The White House

Location: Burnham Market

The White House has the feel of a luxury country pad

You couldn’t imagine a better location for a Norfolk B&B than this – midway between the hotspots of Brancaster and Burnham Market but in a gloriously peaceful location, plumb in the middle of some of the county’s most unspoilt and tranquil countryside. Not only that, the 12 guest rooms at this lovely Georgian mansion are enticingly luxurious, with ultra-comfy large Hypnos beds, smart TVs and Roberts radios, super-fast wifi, tea- and coffee-making facilities with Nespresso machines, and indulgent bathrooms with underfloor heating and (mostly) spacious walk-in showers.

Some rooms look out over the gardens, others over the countryside or tennis court, and there are a couple of rooms large enough for a small family. All rooms are super-comfy and match perfectly with the house. This country pad includes a sitting room full of books, an honesty bar, a tennis court and walled gardens, while evening meals are now offered at the Acre restaurant (Thursday to Saturday evenings). Budding plein-air painters can even sign up for ‘Big Sky’ art courses.

Best hotel for groups: The Norfolk Mead

Location: Coltishall

Comforting decor stands out at this Georgian building

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 accommodation is split across the main Georgian building, 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.

Best for birdwatching: The Lifeboat Inn

Location: Thornham

The Lifeboat Inn serves up some fantastic food

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 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.

Best hotel for foodies: The Dial House

Location: Reepham

Grab a Sunday roast while you’re here

The Dial House does things differently when it comes to food – using a charcoal barbecue to impart smoky, earthy flavours into the 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.

Best for art and culture: The Gunton Arms

Location: Thorpe Market

Rooms have views right across the peaceful grasslands of the Gunton estate

Situated in the 1,000-acre deer park of Gunton Hall in North Norfolk, the Gunton Arms describes itself as a traditional pub, which isn’t really true – but in a good way. Owned by London art dealer Ivor Braka, not only are the walls covered with the work of some of British art’s biggest names – Tracy Emin, Gilbert & George, Damien Hirst, et al – but the food is also rather special too – much of it cooked in front of your eyes on a large open fireplace and based around the produce of the estate. There’s lots of venison, beef, lamb and Blythburgh pork, and plenty of locally sourced fish. The atmosphere is super cosy and you’re additionally comforted by the fact you only have to stagger up to one of the country-style rooms afterwards. With heavy curtains, traditional rugs and antique furniture, rooms have views right across the peaceful grasslands of the estate.

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Best for vintage village vibes: Byfords

Location: Holt

Byfords is a cafe-restaurant, deli and boutique B&B

Norfolk is speckled with pretty market towns, but none have quite the same steeped-in-nostalgia feel 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.

Best for four-legged friends: The Globe Inn

Location: Wells-next-the-Sea

There’s no need to leave your dog at home to stay here

The beaches of North Norfolk are special, and nowhere more so than the stretch between Wells-next-the-Sea and Holkham, where one of the country’s largest sandy beaches sits in front of powder-soft dunes and an unusual and aromatic pine forest. Not surprisingly, it’s a paradise for dogs and their owners, and The Globe is a terrific place from which to enjoy it. This beautifully updated inn is situated on a pretty Georgian square at the top end of Wells’ workaday high street. ​Its 19 guest rooms vary from regular doubles to self-catering suites with kitchenettes and even a single room for solitary birdwatchers – roughly half of the rooms welcome dogs with all sorts of treats. Humans aren’t forgotten either, and rooms come with high-quality mattresses and duvets, luxurious bathrooms, flatscreen TVs and tea- and coffee-making facilities, while the restaurant serves seasonal Norfolk delights, with sea-based goodies such as local bouillabaisse, beer-battered fish and chips, seafood platters and crab salads, and even wood-fired pizzas – all at moderate prices.

Best family hotel: The Gin Trap Inn

Location: Ringstead

There really is no better place for gin-lovers

Just a mile from Hunstanton and the North Norfolk Coast, the Gin Trap is an ancient inn with 13 comfortable bedrooms and a trio of cottages, for those who prefer to self-cater. The guest rooms are eclectically – and very stylishly – furnished, with real character and lots of modern amenities: wifi, smart TVs, Roberts digital radios, tea- and coffee-making facilities, luxury bed linen and spacious bathrooms with robes and toiletries, while the cottages have contemporary fitted kitchens, plush furniture, balconies and smart TVs – great for young families. Dogs are welcome and breakfast is included in both room and cottage rates – which is nice, as the food is excellent, and just what you need after a day at the beach, or one of the many walks you can do from the doorstep of the pub. Kids will enjoy the outdoor play area, complete with treehouse and slide, while grown-ups are not forgotten either – in keeping with the pub’s name, it serves around 100 different varieties of gin.

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