We take a trip to The Hoste, a regal inn where Admiral Lord Nelson would still feel at home
If you’ve ever wondered what’s behind the front door of a lovely Georgian town house, try a stay at The Vine House, part of The Hoste in Burnham Market, a Regency village on the north Norfolk coast. You have your own front door key, which opens onto a perfect little house furnished with beautiful antiques. Beyond a small drawing room and pretty courtyard garden is the bedroom – huge, decorated in 1800s Empire style, with stunning grand ornate mirrors, chandeliers and even a freestanding roll top bath with clawed feet in a most luxurious bathroom. Have a soak and channel your inner Emma (Lady) Hamilton, or there is a separate shower if a quick Nelson refresh is needed.
The set of rooms has thoughtful touches, like homemade petits fours and tea-making facilities. From the large bed you can look across the beautiful pan-tiled roofs of the rural barns and see the rooftops and courtyards of one of Britain’s most charming villages.
Meals are served in the main Hoste Inn, which awaits you across the road – originally a manor house, built in 1550 and an inn from 1651. Nelson was known to frequent this alehouse. He was born just a stone’s throw away in Burnham Thorpe and is very much the son of the village. The hotel even has an exhibition space dedicated to him, with letters, memorabilia and paintings. Trafalgar Day is celebrated here annually, with a dinner and sea shanties. If you want to enter completely into Nelson’s world you can stay in Room 5 where he also stayed: a delightful room with a four-poster bed.
The name Hoste originates from William Hoste, who was given his own command by Nelson while he was still a teenager. A tactical genius, he was the inspiration for Jack Aubrey, hero of the Patrick O’Brian ‘Master and Commander’ naval novels.
The Hotel has two dining areas. One is by the cosy front bar, where locals come with their dogs to enjoy the convivial atmosphere and to sit by the welcome log burner. The other is in a gracious double dining room with oak panelled walls. Here Head Chef, Trevor Clark, along with David and his twelve-strong team, preside over the kitchen, producing delicious meals made from seasonal Norfolk produce. Starters might include sweet potato soup with pesto and pickled walnuts (a British speciality), or seared scallops, followed by a main of line-caught sea bass with bacon, green beans and endive. Save room for a dessert of rosé wine jelly with fruit salad and orange sorbet, or perhaps a Grand Marnier parfait, with raspberry sorbet and meringue shards.
Then there’s the chance to catch the night’s film in the cinema room, down in the basement. The cinema has large comfy chairs, on a gentle slope so everyone gets a chance to see the surprisingly large screen.
In the morning a full English breakfast is served in the conservatory, which opens up onto a pretty sun-trap courtyard, where you can eat lunch alfresco in the summer. There is also a very smart spa on site where the massages are first-rate, popular with guests and locals alike.
If you can drag yourself away from so much luxury, the Hoste is found to be at the very heart of Burnham Market. The sweetest of 18th-century villages, beautifully kept, it has a lovely village green surrounded by traditional independent shops: a family butcher and fishmonger, gentleman’s outfitters, bookshops, art galleries and tea shops.
For the more energetic Burnham Overy Staithes, a nearby village with its own millpond, working watermill, windmill and National Trust cottages, is the start of a fantastic walk to one of the longest and loveliest beaches in Norfolk: Holkham beach. It’s 1.5 miles firm walking on a well-made coastal path, up above the marshes, with boardwalks and dunes – a magnificent spot. At low tide the wide sandy beach stretches out of sight, merging with the sky. Often the only sound is the seabirds.
The beach is part of the Holkham Estate and the stately home Holkham Hall, a must-visit on any stay. The elegant 18th-century Palladian mansion, with one of the most stunning entrance halls in Britain, has magnificent state rooms displaying paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck and Gainsborough, along with ancient statuary and original furniture.
This is an area rich in stately piles: Houghton Hall, a fine Palladian house, and Blickling Hall, a National Trust-run Jacobean House that was the birthplace of Anne Boleyn, are both close by. Sandringham, the Queen’s country home, is just a short drive away and is partly open to the public.
The Hoste is run superbly, and it is well worth visiting this unspoilt and most beautiful part of Britain, with its huge open skies. Wherever you wander you know you’ll find a warm welcome, and a cosy log fire will be waiting for you. Perhaps you could even squeeze in an afternoon tea – Regency-style of course.
The Hoste, The Green, Burnham Market, King’s Lynn, Norfolk