Everybody knows one of the best modern day Christmas flicks is The Holiday. It’s the movie I most want to snuggle up to in the week leading up to the festivities – with a glass of Bailey’s and a plate of warm mince pies balanced on my lap.

As we trundled down a quiet, tree-lined private drive, the threat of snow in the air, I could imagine my nearly 16-year-old daughter lugging her fancy suitcase, a la Cameron Diaz, up the road towards our recent accommodation for the weekend. New Lane Cottage.

Immersed in a clearing on the Worstead Estate, the cutesy ‘gingerbread’ cottage, with its thatching and shuttered windows, has a touch of Hansel and Gretel about it.

Eastern Daily Press: The sitting room at New Lane CottageThe sitting room at New Lane Cottage (Image: JamesRouse Photography)

Built in the late 1800s, and sympathetically renovated to join two other rentable properties at Worstead, an aura of toasty cosiness envelopes the diminutive lodging.

And while it wasn’t made of candy, and Jude Law wasn’t inside to greet us with a cup of mulled wine, we instantly took a shining to the place – not least because of the enormous welcome hamper laden on the dining room table, filled with local goodies from sourdough and jam, to Grey Seal coffee, Norfolk tea, Crush granola, even dog biscuits.

The dining space leads into a petite but well-equipped contemporary country kitchen, and in turn to a bathroom – a rainforest showerhead hanging over a deep, rolltop, Hollywood-style bath, made for filling to the top with bubbles.

Over in the living area squishy sofas look to a brick hearth and wood burner, with everything you need to get a fire going. There are board games and a Smart TV too.

The only challenging part of our stay was my navigation of the short, but steep, oldy worldy staircase. For someone who stands on the second rung of a ladder and sees a precipice, and who once begged her mates to leave her between two escalators at Stansted when the lift was out of action, looking up at the route to the bedrooms was...frankly terrifying.

Hubby and kids thought it was great fun to hang onto the handlebars like mountain climbers. But I was forced to shuffle up and down, unbecomingly, on my bottom - although I did bravely walk down on the last day (yes, I do want a medal).

Eastern Daily Press: New Lane Cottage's master bedroomNew Lane Cottage's master bedroom (Image: JamesRouse Photography)

Both bedrooms (which can be made up with king sized or twin beds) were more than comfortable. Simply appointed. And with decent beds and soft, tufty pillows.

Luggage flung onto said beds, and we were off out the door again, on a 20-minute journey to The Bucks Arms at Blickling. There are plenty of dining options in the area. And, it’s worth noting the property is in a really good position for days out in Norfolk. It's close to the east coast, to Norwich, Aylsham and the Bure Valley Railway, the Broads, Bewilderwood.

The Bucks Arms is a very traditional, large pub, with a great selection of real ales, and a menu blending classics with a touch of Asia and America. Had we known the portion sizes were going to be so ginormous, we might have steered away from the starters. Cajun steak with chips and Caesar salad. Cromer crab thermidor with scallops, chips, samphire and tomatoes. Ribs. A burger towering with onion rings that looked like they should be orbiting a planet. We ate like kings and none of us could clear a plate.

Eastern Daily Press: Crab Thermidor with scallops, samphire and chips at The Bucks Arms, BlicklingCrab Thermidor with scallops, samphire and chips at The Bucks Arms, Blickling (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

The following day I was given a tour of the Worstead Estate by one of the family owners Bruce Paterson - pockets of arable and grazing land, interspersed with wood and parkland. Pride of the estate are the Wagyu cattle, with cuts sold at the farm shop and available on the menus of local restaurants including Farmyard and The Recruiting Sergeant.

Moving around the estate ‘belt’ from field to field using the mob grazing system, ensuring minimum impact on the landscape, and maximum sequestering of carbon in the ground, the cattle are raised not on a sake like their Asian counterparts, but on grass and natural feed. This includes spent grain from beer making and rapeseed oil production. The result is meat that’s high in nutrients, including Omega fatty acids, with buttery ribbons of fat running through every cut. But more on that later.

Eastern Daily Press: Worstead Estate wagyu beefWorstead Estate wagyu beef (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

Plans are afoot to build a new restaurant and accommodation (with a walled kitchen garden), alongside the Worstead wedding venue – it’s Bruce’s dream for the place to serve food largely reared, grown and shot on their grounds. Could it be Norfolk’s answer to Hampshire’s Pig?

After a sunny start to the day, the heavens opened so our plans to explore Blickling were cried off. Instead it was into nearby Aylsham, where guests at New Lane will find plenty of amenities, including two supermarkets. This classic Norfolk market town, set around a market square, has several independent shops and places to eat – including an outlet of Bread Source bakery, a chocolate shop, gift stores, and Charlie Hodson’s impressive cheese shop and deli. We popped in for supplies from this floor-to-ceiling foodie mecca - where local Baron Bigod sits shoulder to shoulder with pecorino coloured by ribbons of truffle – and left with more dairy than we could possibly consume in a weekend.

Afterwards, on a mission to make a dent in our Christmas shopping list, we headed for Holt, which positively shimmers at this time of year, the main shopping thoroughfare linking via little lanes and offshoots to pockets of fairylight-strewn independent shops.

Lunch was pizza, massive cheese scones and cured meat platters at Holt institution Byfords (we’d just missed its ‘hot plate’ fancy carvery-style options) with big mugs of milk and dark hot chocolate, billowing with cream and marshmallows.

Eastern Daily Press: Inside Norfolk Natural Living in HoltInside Norfolk Natural Living in Holt (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

Around the town you won’t fail to be inspired for gifts. The huge, multi-roomed antiques store opposite Byfords brims with ideas. There are gorgeous eco-friendly candles, fragrances and beauty products at Norfolk Natural Living’s two stores. Music booming out the door will draw you into Holt Vinyl Vault. And Make Holt has a delightful collection of tableware, soft furnishings, prints and much much more.

You cannot leave without a trip to Bakers and Larners – a multi-shop department store that sprawls the town centre. Especially swoon-worthy at this time of year is the food hall, where the epicurious can get lost in a world of wine, cheese, cake, chocolate, preserves and candy.

The storm lashing the Norfolk coast didn’t make us relinquish our tickets for Canadian artist Chris Levine’s 528Hz Love Frequency exhibition at Houghton Hall.

On until December 23, it’s a mesmerising collection of holographic artworks, tricks of the light and lasers, combining almost 3D portraits of the Queen and Banksy, with large scale outside installations.

We were all stunned by the ‘blips’ in one of the galleries- where you stare into the light and move your eyes to see a picture.

And couldn’t fail to be impressed by the centrepiece of the show. Molecule of Light’s orb, balanced on a tripod, is flooded with motion, colour and light, while low DB vibro acoustics play out from underneath at 528Hz – the ‘love frequency’, said to bring feelings of calm, alleviating anxiety.

Our favourite piece was 135.1Hz - apparently set for Glastonbury next year. Lasers and the form of a cross spill out of a VW van along one of the gardens long shrubbery avenues. With specks of rain falling into the light, this was an unforgettable attraction – well worth the wet socks and soggy jackets we returned to the cottage with.

Eastern Daily Press: A cheese feast from Hodson & Co in AylshamA cheese feast from Hodson & Co in Aylsham (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

Eastern Daily Press: Ella Jarvis warming up by the fire at New Lane CottageElla Jarvis warming up by the fire at New Lane Cottage (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

We ended our evening in true style. With a cheeseboard warming in the glow of a fire, tender slices of Wagyu (we all agreed it’s the best beef we’ve ever eaten) smothered in garlic butter, crusty bread, mulled wine....and Strictly.

No visit to any part of Norfolk is complete without a trip into Norwich, where the Christmas jollity was in full swing, and the Tunnel of Light was back.

Norwich’s city centre and Lanes are a shopper’s paradise, combining high street favourites (largely across the two malls) with brilliant independents – including Jarrold.

Ignore the chain restaurants and cafés. Norwich is just fantastic for eating out – in fact there’s too much choice. We were able to get a walk-in table at bar/street food pop-up Mysabar in the grounds of the Castle Quarter (open Wednesday to Sunday until January 2, 2022) for katsu curry fries and legendary Fupburgers.

And our final indulgence was slices of layered chocolate cheesecake, churros, creamy hot chocolate, and warm brownies smothered in molten chocolate from H&J – the Suffolk-based coffee roaster, chocolate and gelato maker which has outlets across the two counties.

The perfect finish to a wet and windy, but wonderful weekend.

A two-night stay at New Lane Cottage averages at about £340 for four sharing (December 17 to 19 is currently available). worsteadestate.com

Reader offer

We are offering our readers a 20% discount on holidays in Estate Cottage (sleeps 6), New Lane Cottage (sleeps 4) and Holly House (sleeps 15) taken between January 1 and February 28, 2022 when booked through Worstead Estate’s website using code WORSTEAD-20

Terms and Conditions

  • Stay must take place between January 1 and February 28, 2022

  • Dependent on availability

  • Minimum stays will apply