Much though we all love our homes, we have all seen a bit too much of them in recent times. So, as lockdown eased and hotels, self catering and B&Bs all started to open up, it was time to escape!
Trips within an hour or so of home are sensible for so many reasons – not least because you have more time at your actual destination rather than on the road, stuck in the inevitable traffic jam.
My husband and I were on the lookout for somewhere easy going, casual and near the coast for a couple of nights – without breaking the bank!
So we headed west, to The Ffolkes, a part of Iain Wilson’s empire – he also has, amongst other interests, Byford’s in Holt and the Pigs at Edgefield, near Holt.
The 300-year-old pub is in Hillington, near Sandringham and the coast at Snettisham. It is a biggish place, with 24 bedrooms in a courtyard complex, a function suite and a large restaurant, complete with a games room and a big garden, with a very impressive play area.
It’s all done out very tastefully, with bold colours, lots of quirky artwork, plenty of vintage finds (I love the line up of old saddles in one of the eating areas), and the bedrooms have great facilities, with big tellies (Sky included), fridges, decent pillows and power showers.
Food takes a centre stage and we enjoyed a House Feast where you get to help yourself to a wide selection of starters, sides and desserts, while staff serve you the main courses. I enjoyed a real pick and mix of starters including calamari and whitebait, and my gammon steak main course came with all the trimmings, including lashings of my guilty pleasure: cauliflower cheese. Puds includes Eton Mess, tiramisu and more – I even spotted a DIY sundae machine.
It was all very jolly, with the young staff lively, and plenty of – socially distanced – tables all having fun. It was almost like old times!
Breakfasts are equally generous – I enjoyed the freshly-made omelettes – and I loved the endless hot drinks, as I need a good two mugs of coffee to get going in the morning.
The Ffolkes is a great base to explore the area – and explore it we did. We walked at Snettisham beach, watching the boats leave the sailing club; we shopped in Hunstanton and walked up and down the seafront, admiring those stripey cliffs; we sat in the dunes at Old Hunstanton, soaking up some of the glorious sunshine we’ve enjoyed recently, and watched some daredevil kite surfers in the sea.
We had lunch at the beach cafe at Old Hunstanton, which does great salads, and sarnies – plus cake. And it is super dog friendly, and has lots of outside seating so is perfect for a late summer visit. Special mention must go to the extensive vegan menu.
We also visited Sandringham, to walk in the woods. We didn’t fancy looking around the house or formal garden, but instead took the longer of the two waymarked trails around the grounds, with their mature trees, wide pathways and viewing platforms.
Locals don’t much like the newish car parking charges but, hey, it is a lovely spot – well run, with a good visitors’ centre, with shops, a cafe, loos and more. I didn’t begrudge my £3.
You can also, until November, visit the sculpture exhibition at Houghton Hall by Anish Kapoor. With 24 pieces in and around the house and gardens, it’s a reflective show: the ultra modern pieces contrasting sharply with the formality of this Palladian house.
On our second night we drove about 15 minutes to the Dabbling Duck, at Great Massingham, a pretty village, in the middle of nowhere, really, for supper. It’s one of those villages which has somehow got it right. There are great facilities like a GP surgery, a school, a shop, a smart village hall and the pub itself, plus several ponds – with ducks, of course.
Several footpaths criss cross the village so it is an ideal spot for a pre-dinner stroll – and it is lovely to look at the charming cottages and their gorgeous gardens – some of them straight out of a glossy magazine.
The pub is all wooden floorboards, book lined shelves, board games, interesting nooks and crannies, and has, even in its current reduced form, an exciting menu. We opted for Kerala curries – hot, with prawns, which came with rice and naan bread – and were very tasty indeed. The wine list is good, too – I enjoyed my Chateau de Campuget rosé very much. There is a barn out the back with a huge pizza oven, and a garden,and this looked like where the cool kids hang out! We just peeped in!
So this is a lovely area for a mini break. There is so much to do in a small area, from beach walks to stately home visits – and you’re never far from some very good food, too.