Seven-room Vine House hotel near the North Norfolk coast has a little garden, a pretty drawing room and French-influenced decor. Walls are dressed with delicate pastel shades, the furniture is decadent and vintage, and there are touches of gold leaf. For food, drink and spa treatments, the Vine House’s sister – the Hoste – is just across the road, all crackling fires and attentive barmen.
Peaceful rural setting, close to the beach
Small, elegant hotel, with a very relaxed feel
The Hoste, just across the road, for food and spa treatments
The Hoste's cookery book, A Hoste of Recipes
In the know
The important thing is that you’re relaxed: corduroy and cashmere will do very nicely. Splashes of field-green and Broads-blue will match the setting.
Leave your wellies behind – the hotel has its own stash hidden in the cupboard under the stairs. Bring slippers or bed socks to truly feel at home. And, remember your swimwear for the hot tub at the Hoste Beauty Spa across the street.
Also need to know:
The Hoste has the world’s largest Aga residing in its kitchens – it was designed specially for the hotel and boasts built-in smokers and high-temperature planchas (most importantly, it means the food is very nice).
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
It’s a Saturday morning in April. We wake up in Vine House in Norfolk to see sunlight peeping through the sides of the beautiful linen curtains, and the sound of happy people. My heart leaps. It has been months of Narnia-like weather in England – has spring finally arrived? I hop out of the deliciously cosy bed, pull back the curtains and roll up the pale blue blind of room 54, one of only seven.
The pretty Farrow & Ball-painted village of Burnham Market is a hive of activity; a couple hugging, a mother and daughter eating pastries from local bakery, dogs pulling their owners along, and a hopeful ice-cream van. I pull up the sash window and inhale deep breaths of fresh Norfolk air.
‘Quick! We’re going to miss breakfast!’ exclaims the one-track minded Mr Smith. The delicious meal we’d had at the Duck Inn, Stanhoe, the night before has given him a taste for local delights. After a quick shower in a lovely warm bathroom tiled with Fired Earth dragonflies, and we leg it across the village green to the nearby Hoste – owners of Vine House – for a delicious feast of pastries and fruit, followed by poached eggs, smoked salmon, mushrooms, and locally sourced kippers.
Norfolk is, of course, Nelson’s county. So we check out the nearby village of Burnham Thorpe, where Nelson was born and where he lived as a boy. His father was the rector of the church so Nelson and his family lived in the rectory (the spot on which it once stood is now marked by a plaque). Cotton-wool clouds scud across a bright blue sky as we let ourselves into the church – making sure to follow instructions and latch the door, so that birds don’t follow us inside.
The church is stuffed full of artefacts for this national naval hero: a marriage certificate witnessed by a 10-year-old Nelson – then going under the name of Horace, rather than Horatio; a prayer Napoleon’s arch rival wrote at seven o’clock on the morning of the Battle of Trafalgar; a hidden treasure looked after by the warden – Nelson’s medical chest.
Having written a book called The Secret Museum, about treasures in the world’s most interesting museums that are too precious to display, I was delighted to discover the church looks after its own hidden prize. In my book, I describe an enormous ensign flag flown at the Battle of Trafalgar, which was hung at Nelson’s funeral. It is kept in storage at the National Maritime Museum in London because it is too big to display. Standing in the church he visited, walking through his childhood village, surrounded by fields and filled with the sound of songbirds – just as he would have done – gave me a different feel for the hero who now stands triumphantly on top of Nelson’s Column.
Mr Smith by now hungry (again), we headed next to Wells-next-the-Sea, for a crayfish sandwich at the Beach Café, and a wander along the beach with its colourful beach huts. Back home to Burnham Market, a pot of tea, a bubble bath, and a relaxing massage in the Hoste Beauty Spa.
The interesting local shops were buzzing still as I put on a neon-pink-striped jumper I’d bought that morning in Anna, a boutique on the village green. I could hear the music of an ice-cream van outside our window and looked out to see a man in an open-topped vintage car drive past with his labrador peeking out from the back seat. Mr Smith (hungry again) and I were quickly coaxed out for a drink at the Nelson, before a wonderful supper of fresh fish at the Hoste.
Sunday morning is sunny and the village is filled with the sound of church bells. By now Vine House is a little like our own home, with the benefit of hotel service. That’s the beauty of this hotel. Given a key to the front door of Vine House – which blends in perfectly with the other houses on the village green –the place was ours for the weekend. Reading the papers, listening to music in the pretty blue sitting room downstairs, and helping ourselves to wellies and popping in and out of our beautiful cream and blue bedroom all weekend has been a delight. It is so pretty and well located, I wouldn’t mind moving in.
Breakfast over and Mr Smith can’t resist stocking up on potted shrimp from Gurneys Fish Shop, before we set off to visit nearby Sandringham. We nip into the church on the estate, attended by the royal family at Christmas, and we are amazed by the shining silver altar inside the church. The warden tells us it is only polished once a year since the air is so pure the silver doesn’t tarnish. (Later, when we’re back in London Mr Smith even clocks photographs in the press of the Duchess of Cambridge furniture-shopping in nearby Holt for her new home on the Sandringham Estate.)
After stopping for lunch at the White Horse in Brancaster, we dip into the miles of honey-coloured sand at Holkham Beach. It is so beautifully sunny that Mr Smith is inspired by a local skinny dipper, and he rips off his clothes for an exhilarating swim (lasting all of eight seconds). He dries off in moments in the strong wind whipping across the beach, and the season’s first swallows swoop above us.
We walk barefoot, from the shore through the sand dunes, and then wander into the beautiful woods filled with pine and holm oak trees. Pausing at a hide to watch birds heading back to their nests at dusk, we then flop on a bench overlooking the sand and sea wishing we could stay in Norfolk. If only we could head back ‘home’ to Vine House…
Vine House, C/o The Hoste Arms, The Green, Burnham Market, King's Lynn, Norfolk PE31 8HD, United Kin
32.2 mi / 52.0 km from city centre
- Internet services
- On-Site parking
- Room service
The Hoste over the road performs dining duties with several different areas serving lunch and dinner, including a wood-panelled restaurant, snug bar, conservatory, lounge and a lovely walled garden. There’s also a private dining room downstairs in the wine cellar. Head chef Aaron Smith turns out very pretty plates that feature the best of local produce, be it grass-green asparagus – cooked with risotto, local wild garlic, saffron, and a poached hen’s egg – or Norfolk pork, served with truffled black pudding and artichoke purée.
Take afternoon tea in the conservatory for a quieter dining experience, or grab at table in the Hoste's wood-panelled restaurant.
At the Hoste, breakfast is available between 7.30am and 10.30am; lunch is plated up between 12 noon and 2.30pm; dinner is served between 6pm and 9.30pm.
Drink where Lord Nelson used to (regularly) whet his whistle, in the Hoste’s cosy bar. You’re unlikely to see off-duty Continental conquerors here these days, but you will find expertly mixed cocktails, plenty of local ales, shelves full of books, a working fireplace and nut-brown leather seating. You can also request pre-dinner drinks in the Vine House’s elegant drawing room.
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