69A High Street
Tel: 44 1263 741 773
Aptly named, this company rents out some 40 self-catering cottages in or near the pretty harbor town of Blakeney, on the desirable north coast. The houses, available by the weekend (three-night minimum) or the week, are far more luxurious than your average English rental: Most have dishwashers and washer/dryers in fully equipped kitchens and extras like DVD players with movies. Many are built of indigenous flint—like the adorable three-bedroom Hideaway Cottage overlooking the salt marshes, freshly renovated with cream linen sofas, white-painted farmhouse tables, and brass beds. None of the mod cons come at the expense of charm—any one of these houses, whether it sleeps 2 people or 16, would fit perfectly well on a picture postcard. And if you disagree, drop in on the staff at their Blakeney High Street offices—they're also there to answer your queries and generally help out.
England NR25 7RP
Tel: 44 1263 740 209
This 18th-century windmill, standing just outside the flint town of Cley next the Sea (pronounced "Kly," and actually about a mile away from the sea), is one of the most recognizable structures on the North Norfolk coast. Inside, there's a charming, traditional dining room (nonguests can reserve for dinner) and an almost circular lounge crammed with grain-colored sofas, Windsor chairs, and black-stained oak beams: the very definition of cozy. The English country signifiersmore oak beams and Windsor chairs, plus wainscoting and whitewashed wallscontinue upstairs in the six sweet rooms, which have names like Wheat Chamber and Barley Bin, reflecting their former grain-processing lives. Enormous families can rent out the entire place, including two cottages converted from the former stables and boathouse. In summer, the gardens and views over the marshes to Blakeney Harbor come into their own. This place is always booked solid, by families and romantically minded couples alike, so think ahead.
Tel: 44 1328 738 777
Dating from the mid-16th century and operating as an inn since 1651, this ridiculously picturesque stone manor house is best known as the gastronomic destination of North Norfolk. But the accommodations here are nothing to sneeze at, either. The interiors of the 43 rooms are exuberantly decorated in wall-to-wall toile de Jouy, tartan, or Regency stripe, with beamed ceilings and opulent bathrooms. Four of the rooms have four-poster beds. The eight rooms in the African Wing are done up in earth tones with chocolate leather headboards, dark wood furniture, and Zulu artifacts—an homage to the Zululand roots of the owner's wife. Another set of rooms, five minutes' walk away in the old railway station, are small and they lack tubs and phones, but the rooms are a bargain and decorated with great care. (This Georgian village is often accused of being the prettiest in the county, by the way.)
Tel: 44 1553 772 675
No, it's not false advertising: These two self-catering accommodations actually sit on the Queen's country estate, providingin addition to washing machines, microwaves, and all possible linenssupreme bragging rights. The Granary, a spacious converted barn, has three bedrooms (each with its own bath), a wood-burning stove in a cozy living room, and a private patio and lawn. Garden House, once occupied by the property's head gardener, is a bit more grand, with a gabled roof, climbing ivy, and many windows overlooking an ornamental garden. In addition to four bedrooms, it has a dining room, a sitting room, and a full kitchen. The rental period for both lodgings is in one-week increments, Monday to Monday. Note to honeymooners and king-sizers: The largest available beds in both cottages are doubles. Note to everyone: Don't expect royal appointments. The furnishings are on the modest side.
4145 St. Giles Street
Tel: 44 1603 275 180
Until this 23-room independent boutique opened in 2005, the county capital had been sorely lacking in notable hotels. The landmark 19th-century building—a former telephone exchange—stands handsomely on a street about the width of a scarf, a brisk five minutes' walk from the market square, and ten more to the cathedral. Inside, Art Deco–meets-Versace decor (with the odd nod toward Louis XV) reflects the glitzy taste of its Russian owner, although overall, the look radiates calm and comfort. Rooms vary in size; those in the original part of the building (as opposed to the modern extension) benefit from higher ceilings that make them seem roomier. The best bathrooms are in numbers 15 and 16 (with fireplaces and claw-foot tubs) and 23 and 24 (marble-clad with claw-foot tubs). The Elysium spa is catching on with the local high rollers as well as guests. Ditto for the Champagne and caviar bar, Mishka, and the rather overwrought Franco-Russian food of Dimitri's restaurant: Sweet-and-sour fish soup with mushroom piroshki and filet steak with horseradish–foie gras creamed potato are typical dishes.
4 Ash Close
Tel: 44 1760 723 845
Set back from the wild mayhem (we're kidding) of Swaffham's market square, this garden-surrounded Queen Anne house is a real labor of love. Les and Vanessa Scott have decorated the ten rooms with gusto, and they're stunners. One (the Red Room, which sleeps a family of five) has a museum-worthy Jacobean four-poster, rich silks and embroidered velvets, and a secret panel opening to the Moroccan bathroom with its giant claw-foot tub; another (the Linen Room) has a private balcony almost as big as the room itself. A few rooms have Lloyd Loom chairs, brass bedsteads, and antique linens, while others dispense with the Victoriana and Georgiana in favor of more contemporary modernism. The place is greener than an emerald, down to the electricity-saving windup radios. A brood of bantam hens on the front lawn welcomes guests to the hotel, a decanter of Madeira to their rooms. The restaurant, which uses local game and produce in most of its recipes, is the best for miles around; if it's available, try the slow-cooked Castle Acre leg of lamb with roasted root vegetables.
Tel: 44 1328 711 008
Viscount Coke—or Tom Coke, as he calls himself—and his wife, Polly, joined forces with two brilliant designers to renovate this Victorian-styled brick lodge on the Earl of Leicester's ancestral estate in 2001. It was an instant hit, not only for the deliberately faded opulence of the British Raj–meets–Primrose Hill boho interiors, but also for the first-class food in the restaurant. Ten rooms with names like the Wash, the Stone, the North Sea, and the Colonial mix mahogany pieces specially commissioned in Rajasthan with flea-market antiques and crisp linens. Some are madly colorful, others muted, all with shades from the National Trust color wheel you see in every hip home in London: leaf green, burnt orange, shell pink. Such was the demand for the rooms, the Cokes have just renovated three fabulous family-sized self-catering lodges on the grounds—a couple of arched gateways and a gamekeeper's cottage. They're the opposite of IKEA—one kitchen has handcrafted wood cabinets and an Aga (so much better than a Wolf stove, darling); another has flagstone floors and a winding stone stairway. Guests can hike the surrounding forests, visit 18th-century Holkham Hall, where Tom Coke lives, and bird-watch on the endless strand of Holkham's beaches 15 minutes west. Along with the restaurant, there are lounges and pub rooms with Labradors dozing on faded velvet couches—or guests snoozing over the Sunday papers.