Rather than buy each other traditional Christmas presents, Gaz and I treat ourselves to a mini break each January. It’s a great way to beat the winter blues.
We had been on a lot of city breaks so decided to head for somewhere a bit more relaxed this year. I had heard great things about Norfolk – beautiful coastlines and a great food scene. Then I found Cartshed Cottages at Sharrington Hall at my mind was made up.
The pretty cottages are set in the grounds of a Jacobean manor house where the lucky owners live. The cottages are named Seal, Samphire, Sky and Shell and are stylishly decorated in accordance with their name. We decided to go for one of the larger cottages, Shell.
We arrived on Monday afternoon and couldn’t believe our luck. The cottage was super stylish and felt really spacious. It had 2 big bedrooms, both with en-suite bathrooms. The master bedroom had a four-poster bed and a roll top bath.
There was a cosy lounge with a log burner – an essential in the English winter!
The kitchen was stunning too!
The cottage comes with cute little added extras such as a bundle of towels to take home with you at the end of your stay, REN toiletries, a bottle of red wine and welcome snacks. It is also equipped with scented candles, hot water bottles and snuggly blankets.
We cooked dinner in the cottage on the first night and relaxed by the fire with a bottle of wine.
The next morning, we headed to Blakeney Point to explore the cost and the marshes. In the summer, you can catch seal watching boat trips from here – something I definitely want to come back and do.
We stopped for a mid-morning coffee at Stiffkey Stores. I discovered the stores on Instagram ages ago but didn’t really know where Stiffkey was (other than really far away from Bristol!). I couldn’t believe it when we drove right past the stores on the way to Blakeney! As well as being a Post Office, village stores and cafe, the shop has an incredibly well-curated selection of gifts and books. Everything is beautifully presented in vintage wooden crates, decorated with dried flowers, eucalyptus and fairy lights.
Attached to Stiffkey Stores is The Barn, selling gorgeous homewares.
We spent the afternoon in Holt, a small Georgian town close to our cottage, mooching through its many antiques shops. I bought a few vases which are a lovely souvenir of our time in Norfolk. There are also a few decent clothes shops and several chic interiors shops.
On the way back to the cottage, we stopped for a late lunch at Back to the Garden – a farmshop, deli and restaurant set in a huge barn.
The food was incredible – the best lunch we had all week. And the farm shop was packed with so many gorgeous things, I wanted to buy it all!
We rolled home, our tummies full, to loll on the sofa in front of the fire.
That evening we headed to the Gunton Arms in Thorpe Market. The building was incredible – so grand yet cosy, I wanted to move in. In the dining room, there was a huuuuge open fireplace where the chefs cooked the meat being served in the restaurant. It had a country-gent vibe mixed with lots of cool artwork (a Damien Hirst hung in the loo!) For what it was, the food wasn’t cheap. However it was worth it for the surroundings. I really want to stay here next time we come to Norfolk.
On Wednesday, we got up early to head to Horsey Gap Beach to see the seals and their pups. It was about an hour’s drive from the cottage but so worth it – my highlight of the holiday. The beach has a number of viewing points where you can watch the seals on the beach. The pups were so cute and the adults were really funny, happily lolling around in the sand. The seals come onto the beach in December and January to have their babies – over 1,000 had been born there this season!
After Horsey beach, we drove to Burnham Market – a quaint village centred around a small green. We had lunch at the Hoste Arms (which had a great fish menu) and pottered around the shops.
We stopped at Wells-next-the-Sea on the way home. A typical seaside town filled with fish and chip shops and amusement arcades. A lot of the shops were shut however John’s Rock Shop provided lots of amusement. We bought a fabulously tacky box of fudge emblazoned with ‘thanks for looking after the pets’ and a stick of rock for our friend who was rabbit-sitting for us.
After a stroll along the seafront, we made our way back to the cottage for a Bailey’s coffee by the fire and a bubble bath.
We had planned to go to the Kings Head in Leatheringset for dinner but after several days of excess eating, we couldn’t face another meal (very unlike us, I know!). Instead, we decided to go to an old school cinema in Fakenham to watch a movie. We ordered far too much popcorn and had a really fun evening watching the new Star Wars film.
On our penultimate day, the rain set in! We had a lazy morning at the cottage then headed to a local pub, the Wiveton Bell, for lunch. Despite its numerous awards, the food was slightly lacklustre. This was probably highlighted by the fact we had experienced so many incredible meals during the week and it just didn’t live up to the same standard. A bit of a shame because there were so many other pubs and restaurants I wanted to try but didn’t have enough time to do so.
After lunch we visited Bakers & Larners in Holt – a very old fashioned department store. Surprisingly, it had a wine and spirits room to rival Harvey Nichols, in fact I would say it is better. We wanted to purchase some Norfolk Gin, an artisan gin that is made in Norwich. They launched the gin in 2015 and our bottle came from the first batch. Back at the cottage, we poured a large gin and played chocolate scrabble by the fire.
For our last dinner in Norfolk, we drove to the Orange Tree in Thornham. The interiors are slightly mad (not in a good way) but all is forgiven by the absolutely incredible food and friendly service. This was our food highlight of the week!
We were so sad to leave the cottage on our final day. Fortunately the sun was shining and we headed to Holkham beach – the enormous beach that was used in the final scene in Shakespeare in Love.
We started at Lady Anne’s Drive and walked along the beach to see the beach huts at Wells. There were hundreds of them, all individually decorated. I’d love to come back and see them in the summer when you might be able to get a peek inside!
We took the path through the pine forest back to Lady Anne’s Drive.
Our final stop was for fish and chips in Wells-next-the-Sea before making the journey back to Bristol. A perfect end to a brilliant week.