Review by Fiona Duncan, published 28th January 2012.
I am best suited to the simple life, I've decided. Last week found me in the gilt-edged, Arab-friendly lap of lavish luxury (once I'd persuaded the doorman to admit me) that is 45 Park Lane. But though my bedroom there (which cost hundreds of pounds a night) was the last word in contemporary comfort, when it came to turning on the bedside light in the middle of the night, I was forced to fumble about in the dark looking for my glasses before I could operate the touch-screen lighting control panel, which rather lessened its appeal.
At the £90-a-night Rose and Crown, Snettisham, things went better. I didn't need to find my glasses because the bedside light was operated by a good old-fashioned switch, right by my hand. Which room, I mused, would I return to first: Park Lane or pub? As I listened to the wind whipping across the coast and snuggled down into my cosy, white linen bed, I knew the answer. If you read this column regularly, so do you.
The point is this: I lacked for nothing in that fresh, white, candy-curtained Norfolk pub bedroom, and it had an extra element, something that ultimately I much prefer to ostentatious gloss: uncomplicated, simple charm. The room had a pretty chest of drawers and dressing table with mirror, a good bed, a tray for tea, coffee, water and biscuits, a phone, television, decent radio, free Wi-Fi and selection of books, plus absorbing, in-depth information about the pub, which dates back to the 14th century, the village and the many highlights of the local area that made me want to start exploring straight away.
I'd have removed the bolted-on Molton Brown shampoo and bath gel from the bathroom wall and there was noise from the bar at times, but I was perfectly content and, best of all, I had a bird's-eye view (forgive the pun) of Snettisham's famous pink-footed geese massing on the meadow below.
Talk about charm: The Rose and Crown is drenched in it, part of a village on The Wash that once had its own moment of ostentatious wealth when its medieval wool trade caused the church to be embellished with a jaw-dropping great west window and a soaring spire lancing nearly 200 feet into the sky. Locals gather (all day, it seems – this is Norfolk, after all) for pints of ale in the centuries-old, flagstone bars, one with original penny seat and bread oven, the other home to the Snettisham Cricket Club, complete with honours board.
Corduroy-trousered toffs feel equally at home in the three attractive dining rooms, all different. "It was important not to upset the rhythm of the place," say Jeanette and (corduroy-trousered) Anthony Goodrich, who bought the pub 18 years ago. "It's always been a successful, much-loved place, so why change it? We've updated of course, and made it more stylish, but carefully. We've even been known to source paint in a suitable shade of nicotine white for the bar."
And the food – The Rose and Crown's biggest draw? The menu is a match: traditional, locally sourced, served with a gently modern and stylish touch.
- Old Church Road, Snettisham, King's Lynn, PE31 7LX (01485 541382;roseandcrownsnettisham.co.uk). Doubles from £90 per night, singles £75, including breakfast. Access possible for guests with disabilities
Where to eat and drink
Norfolk has plenty of good places in which to eat and drink. For other pubs try The Lifeboat Inn at Thornham, recently acquired by Marco Pierre White, and The Nelson at Burnham Thorpe, both of which are well-known. Good places to eat include the famous Hoste Arms in Burnham Market, The White Horse in Brancaster Staithe, The Victoria at Holkham, The Crown Hotel in Wells and, closer to home, The Gin Trap Inn in Ringstead. Morston Hall has long held a Michelin star for its cooking, and has smart country house surroundings.
Where to walk
The Rose and Crown will advise and provide directions for walks from the door; if you want to go farther afield and walk back, or do a chunk of the Peddars Way, they will arrange a drop off/pick up. The nearest beach is Snettisham, a combination of one of the country’s great wild places and a community of eccentric, weather-battered beach houses and caravans. It’s famous for its masses of birds; the RSPB organises regular birdwatching walks, including its Big Pink Breakfasts in winter, to see the dawn flight of thousands of pink-footed geese, plus its Snettisham Wader Spectaculars from August to February. Further details at rspb.org.uk.
Places of interest
There is lots to keep you busy: Snettisham Church (it is said that The Rose and Crown was built to provide accommodation and refreshment for its builders in the 14th century), Sandringham House, Houghton Hall, Holkham Hall and Castle Rising. Less well-known is Courtyard Farm at Ringstead, a working farm that has been set up as an ecological charity, full of wild flowers and lovely walks. Nearby Ringstead Downs is a magical hidden valley belonging to Norfolk Wildlife.