BEAST & beyond places to stay

Valentine Escape

Just a short jaunt from East London, The Fritton Arms is ready to welcome you for a cosy weekend getaway you won’t want to leave…

Two hours northeast of London lies the beautiful Somerleyton estate, sitting proudly on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, at the edge of the Broads National Park. Ideally positioned as a weekend getaway, it̓ s hard to believe you’re still in England. The vast rural county of Norfolk, with its gentle rolling landscape, feels a far cry from the bustling streets of the city. Time seems to slow to a snail’s pace, giving one the space to relax among the lazy inland waterways and unwind beneath the vast open skies. It is here that Lord and Lady Somerleyton have created an exclusive private members’ retreat. Bespoke luxury lodges are being discreetly dispersed through the silent, wooded banks of Fritton Lake. Hot tubs sit on verandas, ready to dissolve the stresses of the city. Not far from the lodges, you’ll find The Fritton Arms – the estate’s historic pub and heart of the resort.

It̓ s here that we stayed for the nightwhiling away a winter̓s evening in front of a roaring fire with a pint (or three) of local craft something. We were also tempted by the dinner menu, packed full of seasonal delicacies, sourced locally from the estate and turned into the likes of Carpaccio Welsh black rare beef, fresh leaves, toasted seeds and truffle oil, or Swanningtons fillet of beef, hand-cut chips, with classic Béarnaise sauce. Afterwards, as we played pool to an audience of giant fish in glass cases, we reflected on local lore. The Fritton Arms is meant to haunted. William, the multi-tasking manager was holding court at the bar. Oh, but there he is taking a dinner order. There he is serving meals, clearing tables. Suddenly there he is again, a sartorial silhouette, black against a flash of orange sparks, as he throws logs onto the fire. Perhaps the spectre is he! Calm your nerves with a Peat Monster malt whisky, he suggested. Time for bed.

As we woke the next day, there was nothing to do but experience the absolute silence that only exists miles from anywhere. That and sleep in late, get up later, and then enjoy a late breakfast at The Fritton Arms restaurant, now bathed in morning sunlight. Again, we were spoilt with another generous selection of local fare; eggs Benedict for the sophisticated, Lowestoft kippers for the bold. Lord Somerleyton’s breakfast for the hearty and Lady Somerleyton’s breakfast for the saucy. All washed down with a selection of Tea Pigs or a freshly brewed coffee, as we gazed down across the lawn to Fritton Lake and beyond. By next spring the pasture will contain tennis courts, an adventure play centre and a swimming pool – perfect if you decide to bring your kids along. You could wake yourselves up with a game of tennis while the little ones make friends. For now though, we were quite happy with a weekend away, just the two of us.

After lunch, there was the option to explore the lake in a Canadian canoe but we opted to simply explore the ancient gardens on foot. The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing around contently on one of the lodge’s verandas. We sat reading and watching fish jump to catch insects as the afternoon faded, before feeling the lure of The Fritton Arms drawing us back. Luckily, there’s plenty on the menu to offer you a totally new dining experience second time round. The oxtail and mash was simply ten-out-of-ten. We wanted to recreate it at home, so the chef came out and lovingly described the recipe. His attention to detail was impressive and I began to wish I’d recorded it on my phone. But then again the whole process, from farm to fork, takes a week – so best to come back and eat it here again!

Exploring a little further afield, as we did, will take you to Somerleyton Hall. On the far side of the lake, this stunning 19th-century country house occupies 12 acres of formal gardens, where you’ll find an arboretum, an aviary and one of the finest yew hedge mazes in Britain. Be sure to visit Fiona, just across the way at The Calf At Foot Dairy for some raw whole milk and honey. And, if you’ve got time still, visit Beccles. A wander through this medieval market town will take you in and out of boutique fashion stores, but for me, it was the Victorian Twyfords Café where I wanted to spend my time.

A single weekend here is nowhere near enough. There’s so much to see and do, and it really does feel like the sort of place to come back to – time and again. From the rural city of Norwich to the expanse of the beaches; from sailing on the Broads to crab fishing from Southwold Pier; from trying on hats at Burnham Market to watching seals at Blakeney and celebrities at Walberswick.

You could fill a weekend with so much, or – if you prefer – so little. And if you’re anything like us, you too will want to return. Which begs the question: why rent a lodge when you can design and buy your own? (Lodges on Fritton Lake are indeed for sale, too). So, naturally, we checked the broadband (about 4 Mbps when I measured it), and decided it was enough for Netflix and work, and both left in the knowledge we’d be back. Ready for another evening in The Fritton Arms. See you there? William will be serving drinks, taking orders, delivering food, clearing tables, stoking fires…

A stay at The Fritton Arms is from £100 per night, with breakfast.
For lodge rental and information, call 01493 488666 or visit: somerleyton.co.uk

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