Fritton Lake, Norfolk

Fritton Lake is a totally unspoilt and wholesome place to visit, on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk. It is a privately-owned, luxury holiday resort with clubhouse rooms, cabins and cottages for rent… there is something for everyone, whether you are a couple wanting a minibreak, a family seeking a summer holiday getaway, or a group of friends looking to celebrate an occasion.

The woodland cabins are, perhaps, the most idyllic option, hidden away amongst trees “in the heart of a pioneering thousand-acre rewilding project”. For something a bit more traditional, opt for the clubhouse, eight spacious bedrooms housed in the characterful 16th century manor house.

The Clubhouse is very much the epicentre of the Fritton Lake offering, with the restaurant and pool facilities both here. You can also find other activities like tennis and watersports all within a few minutes walk from the house.

We spent a couple of very comfortable nights in the homely Herringfleet Boathouse room. Our room was fully equipped with everything we needed for a weekend away; king-sized bed, bathroom with large bath, and the added bonus of verdant views of the estate.

There aren’t many notable restaurants nearby Fritton Lake so we had all our meals at the Clubhouse, from breakfast to dinner. With a very new chef in the kitchen it was apparent that the menu and concept was undergoing some changes and the dishes we chose definitely varied in style and standard. Highlights included recipes that showcased the hyper local produce, a wonderful steak with triple cooked chips, a beautifully presented summery Strawberry gazpacho, and perfectly cooked asparagus with artichoke hollandaise.

Those that are staying here for more than a night or two may wish to consider eating elsewhere for a few meals, as the concise menu (mostly repeated at lunch and dinner) doesn’t offer enough variety to have different dishes for more than two or three meals.

We were blessed with unusually sunny weather for our whole weekend at Fritton Lake, and it showed off the best of the area. When the weather’s good, there is no shortage of activities to entertain you, and I imagine it is a particularly perfect holiday choice for active families. Lake swimming, cycling and trail running are all popular here, and for spa fans you can hire out the architectural floating sauna!

A highlight of our weekend was a foraging tour we did with Matthew, the onsite horticulturist. His passion and energy for all things nature was inspiring and infectious… we spent a few hours zooming round the expansive grounds on a golf buggy as he pointed out interesting plant and insect species, and informed us about the history of the lake. At the end of the tour we even had a special private trip out on the lake, a rare opportunity to spot unique wildlife and see the incredibly beautiful landscape.

Fritton Lake is a fairytale setting for keen adventurers and those seeking an off-grid escape.

I was a guest of Fritton Lake, find more information here.

The Harper Hotel, Norfolk

Norfolk is an area I had often heard good things about, but previously had not had a reason to visit. When an invite to stay at the new Harper Hotel popped up, I decided it was time to explore this unspoilt British county. The after-work weekday traffic meant a two and half hour car journey from London quickly turned into a four hour slog, but when we arrived the staff were relaxed and quick to check us in (something I am particularly appreciative of now I have a baby).

The Harper Hotel opened in May this year, a comfortable bolthole just outside Holt in North Norfolk. The 32 boutique rooms vary a lot in size and design, we were in one of the smaller rooms so sadly missed out on a four-poster bed, but still benefitted from a big bed topped with an award-winning Casper mattress and luxurious Buffy bedding.

There is plenty of colour everywhere at The Harper, wacky artwork and vibrant furniture means that no space is without character. The rooms all feature indulgent bathrooms, but only a few have a bathtub. I was delighted to find Irene Forte products in the bathroom, gentle products inspired by the Mediterranean, they all smelt and felt delicious.

There is a lazy feel about the hotel, guests are very much left to their own devices to explore and use the space as they wish. This unpretentious atmosphere allows all visitors to feel welcome, and I noticed quite a few young families, groups of friends, and older couples enjoying the Harper when we visited.

After months in lockdown in the confines of my own home, it was the swimming pool and spa at the Harper which made me most excited. I spent a blissful hour swimming then relaxing in the sauna, it was such a novel and lovely experience despite the spa being half shut due to Covid restrictions.

I was lucky enough to also try one of the Irene Forte signature facials, a calming treatment that used a range of these natural products to cleanse, tone and deeply moisturise my face and scalp. There was nothing ground-breaking about the facial, but it did really improve my skin’s appearance and feel for a few days afterwards.

The Harper have two food options. Stanley’s is the more upmarket restaurant, on the first floor, where they serve breakfast and dinner. The alternative is an all da- menu that’s available to enjoy anywhere in the hotel, so you can choose to dine in your room, out in the courtyard or even in the bar area.

After our unscheduled late arrival the team kindly arranged  a late-night dinner from Stanley’s. A lavish platter of local Norfolk estate ribeye steak (cooked to perfection on the Josper grill) was demolished in silence, accompanied with grilled seasonal vegetables and moreish chips.

The next day we tried a few classic dishes that came recommended from the all day menu – ‘brisket burger in a marmite bun’ and ‘Lobster mac & cheese’ sounded like the ultimate treats, but sadly this food fell a bit short. I’m hoping with a bit of fine tuning they can improve this menu, as the dishes all have a lot of promise.

There is lots to do in North Norfolk, from wandering round quaint towns to discovering independent bakeries and breweries… not to mention the expansive coastline and impressive historic National Trust properties.

The Harper is a welcome addition to the hotel scene here, and there is just about everything you need for a relaxing weekend away from the city.

I stayed as a guest of the hotel, more information about The Harper here.

A Weekend in Herefordshire

Travel right now is not easy, I am craving it desperately, but for the foreseeable future will be concentrating on exploring the best of Britain. Herefordshire is a county that I knew very little about, sandwiched between Shropshire to the north, Worcestershire to the east, Gloucestershire to the south-east, and Wales to the west. So when I was invited to explore its burgeoning independent food and drink scene I was intrigued and excited.

Herefordshire

Despite the relentless rain we trundled down the motorway, just 4 hours even in rush hour Friday traffic. Visit Herefordshire arranged a great itinerary for me, ticking off key restaurants, pubs and artisan makers across the county.

Herefordshire

First stop was Hereford, a cathedral town in the heart of the region. We were staying at the Green Dragon Hotel, charming accommodation that was a quiet and comfortable place to spend the night. Breakfast next morning was served downstairs in the light and airy dining room, a range of fresh seasonal dishes, including delicious mushrooms on toast, and granola with homemade berry compote.

Herefordshire

There are quite a few eateries in Hereford worth trying, The Bookshop was one which everyone raved about, thanks to their great steaks and lively atmosphere. We had a great dinner here, the service was super friendly and the meat was noticeably of a high quality (you must try Hereford beef while visiting Herefordshire). We stopped by The Bookshop the next morning too for a coffee (they use the superior beans from local roastery, Method) and the brunch looked very tempting too.

Herefordshire

After a brief walk around town, seeing the iconic cathedral and stopping by a couple of foodie shops (I recommend Fodder for bread & pastries, Mousetrap for local cheeses, and Sensory & Rye for coffee or brunch), we were on our way to our next destination…

Pensons is the only restaurant in Herefordshire to hold a Michelin star, which it was proudly awarded last year, less than a year after opening. Head chef Chris Simpson previously worked for Nathan Outlaw, and brings skill and a lightness of touch to the dishes at Pensons. The restaurant benefits from being located on the Netherwood Estate, which is surrounded by green pastures. There is also a bountiful kitchen garden which grows many of the vegetables and fruit you’ll find on your plate at Pensons! We devoured the three course lunch menu, memorable dishes included perfectly cooked Plaice with cauliflower, watercress and crab sauce, and Duck with beetroot and blackcurrant.

Herefordshire

At Pensons we tried a delicious apple mocktail, and learnt a little about the incredible apples of the area. So it seemed fitting to visit Little Pomona next, craft cider makers who are producing some wonderfully refined drinks with the famous Herefordshire apples. Autumn is apple picking season and to celebrate Visit Herefordshire have created two great cider trails (The Cider Circuits) as part of their #madforapples initiative. The self-guided routes, both around 50 miles long, can be followed by bike or car and are named after two of the county’s apple varieties: The Newton Wonder heads north from Hereford, while The Redstreak heads south. Glorious Little Pomona features on the southern route.

Herefordshire

Herefordshire is known for its striking black and white architecture which we were lucky to spy in many of the towns we drove through… Bromyard was a great place to admire the monochrome houses, and whilst in the area Bringsty Vintage shop is worth a visit for retro homeware and trinkets.

Herefordshire

As the rain worsened we headed to Crumplebury, a lovely luxurious event space, with restaurant and rooms, surrounded by woodland, fields and animals.

Crumplebury has just reopened for the season and we were delighted to be one of the first to be back at this idyllic place. At the heart of the property is Green Cow Kitchens, the on site fine dining restaurant. We enjoyed a lavish dinner here before a very restful night’s sleep in The Oakley Suite, the most spacious and decadent suite Crumplebury offer. The room was decorated to a very high specification with modern amenities, a giant bed and a copper bathtub to ensure the most relaxing of stays.

Herefordshire

We also had a chance to see some of the beautiful event spaces and wholesome wildlife, which is used seasonally in the restaurant. Crumplebury is a brilliant option for weddings and work functions, an isolated countryside escape with a five star feel.

Herefordshire

Next morning we woke refreshed and revitalised, and after a quick but very tasty Crumplebury breakfast we headed off for a final morning of exploring.

We drove South towards Ross on Wye, for a hearty Sunday lunch at The Greenman, the celebrated pub in Fownhope. A generous roast awaited, with all the trimmings, the perfect sustenance before a local walk and the drive back home to London.

Herefordshire is the ideal weekend escape from London… an array of foodie spots are dotted amongst the verdant and gloriously green countryside, so you can both eat handsomely and get a breath of fresh air before returning to busy city life.

In collaboration with Visit Herefordshire.