Why west Norfolk is the perfect place to visit for a mini-break away

Congham Hall Hotel will launch five romantic orchard cabins next year as part of its 10 year anniversary celebrations.

Congham Hall Hotel will launch five romantic orchard cabins next year as part of its 10 year anniversary celebrations. - Credit: Supplied

David Powles heads to west Norfolk to see what the region has to offer for those looking for a short two-day break.

It's shortly before 7am, on a clear and crisp February morning, the temperature just under freezing.

My wife and I really should be snuggled under cover, making the most of our annual mid-winter break without the kids by having a lay in, followed by a cup of tea in bed.

Instead, we're wrapped up as warm as possible, with hands clutching flasks as we stroll towards the beach in the hope of making it before sunrise. We're on a mission to see one of nature's most spectacular sights - and even our hotel's welcoming charms will not stop us.

Every winter for the past four years we've headed out to west Norfolk for a short break to explore the area and its many charms.

In my job as editor of the EDP I'm always after an excuse to get to know the patch more closely and this provides a perfect opportunity.  During this time we've become incredibly fond of this part of Norfolk, an area which often gets a little over-looked I feel, especially when compared to the high praise parts of nearby north Norfolk receive.

However, in all of those years, we've never quite managed to muster the energy to get out early enough to enjoy one of the region's highlights - the early morning flight of thousands of Pink Footed Geese, who call the RSPB site at Snettisham Beach their winter home.

Pink Footed Geese flying over Snettisham RSPB reserve at as the sunrises.

Pink-footed geese were among the most abundant birds spotted in Norfolk during last winter's Big Farmland Bird Count - Credit: Archant

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And it doesn't disappoint, as we are treated to an exclusive show of nature as thousands of the birds make their journeys inland to begin the day. It really is worth the early rise and there's no greater feeling than to be back at the hotel and tucking into breakfast by 9.30am, safe in the knowledge that whatever happens next you've already made the most of the day by witnessing something incredibly special and truly beautiful.

But don't be fooled into thinking that is all west Norfolk has to offer those looking to make it their base for a few days of exploration. As we've found out, this is an area rich in options, no matter what your particular preference.

Our location for these short winter breaks remains the same every year - the splendid surrounds of Congham Hall Hotel, just a few miles from King's Lynn and Sandringham.

Congham Hall Hotel. Picture: Ian Burt

Congham Hall Hotel. - Credit: Ian Burt

The 26-bed Georgian manor hotel is the perfect place to stay. Small enough to feel exclusive and special, but big enough to house an excellent swimming pool and spa, welcoming bar and the most exquisite of restaurants.

It's also in a great spot to enjoy the many nearby walks, nature reserves, head to King's Lynn, the beach at Hunstanton or Heacham or to take a look around the Queen's estate at Sandringham.

This year we've been fortunate enough to secure a stay in one of its brand new Orchard Cabins, opened in 2022 to mark the hotel’s 10th anniversary under the management of hotelier Nicholas Dickinson and his team.

Inside one of the five new orchard cabins at Congham Hall Hotel.

Inside one of the five new orchard cabins at Congham Hall Hotel. - Credit: Supplied


The new rooms are quite simply stunning, each with a freestanding outdoor bathtub and each spacious enough to feel that you could always just hole up here for a day or two if you really wanted to.

The problem is, I always like to get out and about, and that's just what we do on the first day of our mini-break, to make a visit to the county's newest nature reserve Wild Ken Hill.

You'll probably know its name from the popular TV show Winterwatch, as this is where Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and their team base themselves for the duration of the show.

Chris Packham and Machaela Strachan on the set of Winterwatch at Wild Ken Hill in Snettisham. Pictur

Chris Packham and Machaela Strachan on the set of Winterwatch at Wild Ken Hill in Snettisham. - Credit: Danielle Booden

But what you may not know is that the 4,000-acre farm offers a wide variety of pre-booked tours to give you the chance to learn about the plethora of innovative and exciting things going on here, such as the reintroduction of beavers to Norfolk, its rewilding programme and its many thousands of species that inhabit the reserve.

The rewilding area at the Wild Ken Hill estate in west Norfolk

Guided tours have been launched for visitors to explore the rewilding area at the Wild Ken Hill estate in west Norfolk - Credit: Wild Ken Hill

We spend an incredibly satisfying three hours at the site, which makes us more than ready for a few hours lounging around the spa, during which time the other half also enjoys a relaxing facial massage, while I make the most of the hotel bar.

There's just enough time for a bit of relaxation back in our cabin, before we head to the hotel's plush 2 AA Rosette restaurant, which has also recently enjoyed a redesign as The Samphire Kitchen, with a long leather banquette at its heart, around which are set intimate individual tables. 

The food here is truly delicious, always unique and always interesting, my only advice would be to try and leave enough room at the end for Congham Hall's Mini Puddings, which deserve to be known as legends of the area in their own rights.

Congham Hall is a luxury hotel near Grimston. It boasts a luxury spa and swimming pool. Photo: www.c

Congham Hall is a luxury hotel near Grimston. It boasts a luxury spa and swimming pool. Photo: www.conghamhallhotel.co.uk - Credit: Archant

If you can't stretch to a stay, the restaurant and the spa can be booked for day visits, breakfast, lunch or an evening meal.

But if you are looking for an intimate little break, which mixes plenty of adventure, but still allows plenty of opportunity to relax, then this is very much the trip for you.

We can't wait to be back in 2023 to find out what other west Norfolk delights we've yet to discover.

FACTFILE

Prices for the Orchard Cabins at Congham Hall start at £399 per room per night, including dinner and breakfast. Other deals are available, especially during the winter. For more information call 01485 600250 or visit www.conghamhallhotel.co.uk

Congham Hall interior of new Orchard Cabins

Congham Hall interior of new Orchard Cabins - Credit: James Powell

Wild Ken Hill has a number of experiences available to people of all ages, groups and schools. Visit https://wildkenhill.co.uk/

Woodlands have been returned to nature at Wild Ken Hill in west Norfolk

Woodlands have been returned to nature at Wild Ken Hill in west Norfolk - Credit: Wild Ken HIll/AW PR

Snettisham Nature Reserve is free to RSPB members with a small parking fee for non-members. More information at https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/snettisham/
 

Volunteers are set for Snettisham beach clean this weekend. Picture: Ian Burt

Volunteers are set for Snettisham beach clean this weekend. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt