Thanks to its status as England’s first UNESCO City of Literature, and an impressive literary legacy, Norwich the City of Stories and bookworms are natural bed partners. With that in mind, Good Hotel Guide, the impartial hotel experts, have selected four of the best hotels to curl up in with a good book, from their carefully curated collections of hotels in Norfolk and Norwich.
1. Beechwood Hotel, North Norfolk
Agatha Christie was a frequent visitor to this small hotel, a creeper-clad Georgian house near the North Norfolk coast. She was good friends with the Mcleods who owned Beechwood for thirty years from 1936 – then a private house known as The Shrubs – and Agatha spent many hours writing in the summerhouse. Today’s guests can browse the Beechwood’s full set of Christie novels, and a collection of her personal letters to the McLeods. The hotel’s leafy garden, free-standing baths and leather couch-filled bar are all choice places in which to get lost in a crime novel, with the memory of Agatha smiling over you. The hotel’s restaurant, headed up by Steven Norgate, one of East Anglia’s leading chefs, serves a ‘Ten-Mile Dinner’, making the most of Norfolk’s remarkable foodie offering.
2. The Old Rectory, Norwich
Another beautiful, creeper-clad Georgian building, this time on the eastern edge of Norwich, The Old Rectory is well positioned for erudite nights out in Norwich’s world-class cultural venues and active days out exploring Norfolk’s waterways, byways and market towns – if you can drag you and your page-turner away from the big, squashy sofas and log fire in winter, and the outdoor pool in summer, of course. Bookworms should head to The Library Restaurant, Bar & Grill, a beautiful heritage building that was once Norwich’s municipal library. The original fittings remain, but, like the best plots, they’ve been given a few clever twists: funky lighting, a glass ceiling, gorgeous wallpaper and a cosy bar serving delicious cocktails. If you can’t take your nose out of your book, The Old Rectory’s award-winning 2 AA Rosette restaurant has a well-deserved excellent reputation too.
3. The Norfolk Mead Hotel, Norfolk Broads
The Norfolk Mead Hotel’s pretty gardens unfurl all the way down to the banks of the River Bure. Fans of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows & Amazons series should hire the hotel’s private boat and set off to explore the Norfolk Broads, where Ransome set Coot Club and The Big Six. You’ll experience the Broads much as Ransome would have done when he visited the area in the 1930s, sailing “through a country as flat as Holland, past huge old windmills, their sails creaking round, pumping the water from the low-lying meadows on which cows were grazing actually below the level of the river.” Book the Norfolk Mead’s Chantilly room and settle down with your book on the balcony, with views of the grounds and river to distract you. Or, if you visit from March 2016, try one of the new one-bedroom suites. Afternoon tea in the walled garden is another fine time and place to get lost in a book.
4. Byfords, North Norfolk
Posh B&B Byfords is the place to hole up in when you visit Holt, in North Norfolk. Don’t miss Holt Bookshop, which repeatedly ranks among the best independent bookshops in the UK. The annual Holt Festival (23-31 July 2016) brings poets, musicians, actors, dancers, artists and comedians to this arty Georgian market town. Byfords is a higgledy-piggledy affair, in a converted ironmonger’s in Holt’s oldest building. Upstairs, you’ll find beautifully furnished character rooms with comfy seating, bare brick walls, oak floors, fresh flowers, home-made biscuits and marbled bathrooms with under-floor heating; downstairs, an all-day café-restaurant and store-deli selling breads, pies, sandwiches, cakes, coffees and speciality foods. Breakfasts, as you might expect, are fresh, delicious and extensive. In short, Byfords has everything you need to enjoy a good book!
Serious bookworms should time their visit to coincide with one of these literary events:
Noirwich - Crime Writing Festival (15-18 September)
Britain’s boldest, bloodiest crime writing festival returns to the medieval lanes of Norwich and the atmospheric Dragon Hall.
UEA Autumn Literary Festival, University of East Anglia (September - November 2016, exact dates TBC)
Annual event which attracts the biggest names in the literary world thanks to UEA's world-leading Creative Writing courses.
Written by Emma Field for Good Hotel Guide.