With the wider family spread across 5 counties it’s increasingly difficult to get everyone together for Christmas, so it’s become something of a tradition to spend a few days in Norfolk in the run up, catching up with parents and childhood friends. Too many of us to fit comfortably anywhere but a well-sized holiday home, we have been lucky enough to stay in some wonderful places over the past few years. Part of me wants to keep them a secret, but a few are too good not to share. So a couple of our firm favourites, distinctly different and equally good.
Having enjoyed Swallows & Amazons-esque holidays on the Norfolk Broads as a child, it was wonderful to return to this part of the county for a family gathering at Backwater. A stunning, contemporary private holiday home designed by Platform 5 Architects, with panoramic views over a private lagoon with easy boat access to Wroxham Broad.
The Broads are ‘a breathing space for the cure of souls’, according to naturalist Ted Ellis, so arriving during a wide Norfolk sunset, we knew we were in for a very special few days. The setting is serene, the wrap around deck allows you to get up close to the local wildlife, from otters and egrets to cuckoo and kingfisher. It’s tempting not to go far after arriving at Backwater, so conducive is it to gazing out of the window and simply drinking in the surroundings.
An easy drive to the nearby coastal villages of Happisburgh (pronounced Haysborough) and Horsey where there are mile upon mile of unspoilt dunes, from which you can spy on the colony of grey seals that nurse their pups here through the winter months.
We loved this sleek modern comfortable home with its beautiful architectural elements and warm, textural finishes. Highlights were the picture window framing the view from the first floor bedroom, the spacious kitchen-dining room perfect for entertaining and the secret daybed in the office, the perfect place to squirrel yourself away amidst the design books and architectural tomes.
Bear’s Cottage, Guist
Even though I grew up in Norfolk, I’d never heard of Guist (pronounced Geest), before staying at Bears’ Cottage. Situated in a quiet clearing in the middle of a secluded woodland, it was once home to the Woodsman of nearby Holkham Hall. With its own private driveway Bears’ Cottage is not easy to find, especially if arriving in the dark. But that’s part of its charm. Hidden, isolated and immeasurably tranquil. Surrounded by specimen trees, ancient oaks and an abundance of flora & fauna, it really is like being in your own private fairytale.
The original redbrick house maintains its cosy charm, while the adjoining stable block has been converted into a large open planned kitchen-diner with floor to ceiling glass doors leading out into the garden. Perfect for large family gatherings.
Plenty of period features are juxtaposed with modern conveniences for a relaxed stay. Most of the family want to return as we didn’t quite have our fill of board games around the open fire, telling tall tales in the woods and winter walks under the big wide Norfolk skies. A major highlight is that (well-behaved) dogs are welcome, which only added to our wonderful stay.
I may be biased but Norfolk is a beautiful county and if you are considering a staycation this year, I would urge you to check out both of these fabulous holiday homes.