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This former coaching inn in the pretty North Norfolk town of Wells-next-the-Sea has been given a glam makeover. Tamsin Burnett-Hall finds it full of style and delicious food...
‘Ah, you made it to Wells! Now you can switch into relaxation mode,’ comes the friendly greeting from duty manager Lewis as my partner Pam and I arrive somewhat frazzled and late, due to lost keys and a stranded car. He whisks us through the cosy bar, via the courtyard, to our room in the recently converted former coach-house. With a vaulted ceiling and vast en-suite, the room is washed with light. It has been ‘made-over’ by owner Antonia Bournes who, with husband Stephen, took over the former coaching inn in 2013 after moving on from their previous project, the revamping of Suffolk’s Southwold Pier. Each room has a feature wallpaper injecting a touch of glamour; our kingfisher print gives the room its name.
The dining room has a relaxed maritime feel, with panelling painted in soft seagrass tones and striped linen cushions. The menu is built around local produce, especially seafood, as well as saltmarsh beef and game in season. Pam plumps for a light and bright wild garlic and mushroom soup to start, while I’m won over by the cod cheeks with chorizo and white bean purée with preserved lemon and harissa dressing – bold flavours but well matched. Our mains are a fragrantly spiced Keralan Malabar curry and an irresistible crab, chilli and lime pappardelle. We share a pud, pastry chef Nikki’s cheesecake of the day – a wonderful red velvet concoction – before drifting back upstairs where our divine super king-sized bed is calling.
After an excellent night’s rest and breakfast in the sunny restaurant, we step out to explore the town. The Globe Inn is set on The Buttlands, a green surrounded by elegant Georgian houses (one is owned by The Globe and available for holiday lets – a dream home-from-home). It’s only a short walk to the quay, but we are distracted by the variety of shops lining Staithe Street. There’s a quirky mix of hardware stores (I succumb to a locally woven log basket) and typical seaside bucket-and-spade shops, as well as more upmarket boutiques and delis.
There’s no shortage of things to do in and around Wells – including the chance to take an alpaca for a walk! The nearby marshes are a stopping-off point for migrating birds, so it’s a popular destination for birdwatchers, while train enthusiasts are spoilt for choice with the world’s longest 101⁄4-inch narrow gauge light railway to Walsingham, plus the North Norfolk steam railway on the doorstep. There’s even a miniature railway that will take you down the mile-long sea wall from harbour to beach. And that’s where we’re heading today, to the well-equipped beach hut that can be hired by Globe residents. We walk through pine forests that fringe the shore, pop the kettle on and open our picnic basket, then sit back to survey the wide expanse of golden sand – these Norfolk beaches rival those of Devon and Cornwall. If you’re feeling energetic, the coastal path leads to the country estate of neighbouring Holkham, where the famous last scenes of the film Shakespeare In Love were shot.
On Sunday, after coffee on the residents-only roof terrace, we opt to take a long, meandering route home along the country lanes. It’s a short drive to Morston Quay, where we can take a boat trip to the seal colony at Blakeney Point (and buy a dressed crab to take home). Riding the wave of our seaside weekend, we round things off with a visit to the wonderful Eric’s Fish & Chips in Thornham before heading home. Norfolk might seem rather out on a limb, but then isn’t that exactly what makes it such a great escape from everyday life?
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