The Harper, Norfolk

This new boutique hotel is perfect for exploring the north Norfolk coast


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I spent many happy childhood holidays in Norfolk, enjoying all the traditional delights of a stay-cation, from paddling to ice-cream on the beach. So, with endless restrictions on travel abroad, this summer felt like the perfect time to indulge in some nostalgia. 

Those childhood memories can’t compare to a sneaky adult-only break somewhere like The Harper though. Yes, after a year of being locked down in a house with my children, I managed to break away for a night of thoroughly grown-up luxury. 

This stylish boutique hotel in Langham, Holt, has 32 rooms — quirkily categorised as big, bigger and biggest, as well as an interconnecting family suite — plus flexible dining options and a spa set in a former glass-blowing factory.

After a bit of a false start getting there (there is little signal outside Holt town centre so I couldn’t open Google Maps to guide us down the narrow country lanes), we pulled up to a building made from those beautiful flint walls you see throughout North Norfolk.

With a queue to check in, we waited outside in the sun of The Yard, where we had our pick of stripy deckchairs, rattan sofas and armchairs, a lovely balance of English seaside and relaxing luxury. On chillier days, Ivy’s bar offers tastefully mismatched and oversized velvet sofas instead.

Once we’d checked in, all I wanted to do was head straight back there to enjoy a drink in the sun, but it was already time for our swimming pool slot, a reminder we were holidaying in Covid times. 

Access to the pool is granted in 45-minute slots that need to be booked, although I was glad we were limited to swimming in our bubble as the pool seemed a bit small to comfortably fit many more.

Nonetheless I got some strokes in while my husband relaxed in the Jacuzzi; there is also a sauna and steam room, which will be opened once restrictions ease.

Next on my make-the-most-of-it whirlwind itinerary was a visit to the spa. I had the Harper’s signature Irene Forte facial, which left me so relaxed that I could barely answer my therapist’s post-treatment offer of a drink.

I also had a back, neck and shoulder massage the next morning which was so thorough I felt like I was having a physio session — after more than a year of working at the kitchen table, I mean that as a heartfelt compliment.

Dinner and drinks followed in Stanley’s restaurant: Norfolk asparagus, Norfolk samphire, a fresh whole fish. Many restaurants claim to cook local produce, but this meal genuinely felt like it had been sourced from down the road.

All meals are served with white glove service, whether you’re in Stanley’s or having a snack in The Yard, which adds a sense of luxury to the otherwise laid-back atmosphere.

If you can drag yourself away to explore, the hotel has bikes you can book out and we enjoyed a ride through the poppy fields into Stiffkey, a few villages over, with the seals of Blakeney also nearby. 

And if there were a few teething problems — The Harper had been open for only three weeks when we stayed — staff were always lovely and helpful, finding solutions to any issue or hunting down someone else if there were questions they couldn’t answer. By the time you can next get a reservation (they’re fully booked until September), I suspect any last bumps will be ironed out.

When it was time for us to leave, after a lunch of samphire macaroni cheese and a smorgasbord of salads in the sun, I was reluctant to tear myself away.

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