Bought by the local Harrold farming family, this iconic Norfolk country pub takes full advantage of their home-grown produce. The vine-covered terrace is just made for summer alfresco enjoyment.
The Gunton Arms Thorpe Market, Norfolk, NR11 8TZ
The personal touch
Take the gravel drive off the A149 south of Thorpe Market and expect the unexpected – a chic, hunting lodge-style inn set within a stunning 1,000-acre country estate. Chelsea art dealer and Gunton Park resident, Ivor Braka, snapped up the once faded hotel at the end of the drive in 2009, renamed it the Gunton Arms and lavished money on the place, totally restoring the 18th-century building, with the help of some well-known designer friends, Robert Kime (bedrooms) and Martin Brudnizki (bar & restaurant). If you’re lucky, your arrival will coincide with deer roaming freely past the inn, a sight to behold and best enjoyed from one of the vast chunky tables on the open parkland beside the inn, or in the comfort of the bar on cooler days. Bar and dining rooms exude a baronial feel, with warm red hues, antique furnishings, blazing log fires and wooden floors, but the vibe is relaxed and informal, and there are soothing parkland views from every window. The eagle-eyed will spy the risqué Tracey Emin sketches behind the bar, and some other fine artwork dotted around the walls. The elegant Stamp Rooms and lounges offer residents a peaceful refuge away from the bustling bar.
Dogs are always very welcome in the bar and overnight in two of the rooms (£10 per night).
Children can stay overnight, there’s a cot and fold-up bed available. Under 3s stay for free; older children £15 a night.
With (thankfully) no fencing around the inn, the mown area naturally blends in to the vast parkland, allowing uninterrupted views of open parkland and roaming deer. So, arrive early in summer to bag one of the vast tables (designed to share) and soak up the view over lunch or supper. With removable sides, the Garden Room, replete with stone floor, fat candles on rustic tables, and open fireplace, offers extra summer alfresco dining space. Braziers and blankets allow you to stay outside until late.
What’s the Damage?
8 doubles: £95 – £220 (Sunday – Thursday); £99 – £240 (Friday & Saturday). Minimum stay two nights at weekends.
- All credit cards taken
- Alfresco dining
Waitrose Good Food Guide
The Gunton Arms Thorpe Market, Norfolk, NR11 8TZ
Do not disturb
What’s for Breakfast?
The Gunton Arms Thorpe Market, Norfolk, NR11 8TZ
Mastering the menu
On the menu
Time to Eat
Local, local, local
Behind the bar
Time at the bar
Take it back home
Tour the brewery that brewed your favourite pint, visit the shop on the farm that reared your delicious Sunday roast beef, and seek out the roadside stalls selling the local crab and samphire on the inn’s menu, the Food Trail features the local artisan producers and suppliers where you can buy to enjoy at home.
Change of scenery
Looking for a pub for lunch following a country walk, a different venue for dinner, or a good café for coffee, light lunch or afternoon tea, then the best in the area are listed below. If you find a new and exciting eatery in the area that’s worthy of a mention on the Food Trail, then please to do let us know – email@example.com.
1 Inn Location - The Gunton Arms
A traditional Norfolk freehouse-restaurant in a lovely estate village with the requisite green and church for a picturesque setting and Heydon Hall and grounds worth exploring before or after.
Winner of the UK's British Cookery School of the Year title, this is a culinary gem for all those amateur food lovers who aspire to be a chef for the day. Restaurateur Richard Hughes is a very familiar face on the Norfolk food scene.
Wroxham Barns, Tunstead Road, Hoveton NR12 8QU
Open all year and situated not far away at Hoveton, Wroxham Barns is a complex of former farm outbuildings that have been imaginatively converted into a varied range of shops. Look out for the Norfolk Cider Shop and Gifts at the Gallery, with its designer-led pottery and fashion accessories.
This lovely hostelry on the coast road is being revitalised with passion and interest. Don't miss the Gray family's beef reared outside the windows on Salthouse marshes and the famous local Morston mussels.
This award-winning deli is situated in a former forge and has an impressive antipasti bar. It's the place to come for local cheeses, fruit and vegetables and speciality breads.
Cookies Crab Shop, The Green, Salthouse NR25 7AJ
The popularity of this seafood shack is legendary (after three generations). It's a simple place all round, quite set in their ways about how to do things but that's how they cater for so many. Family day boats bring in flapping-fresh seafood. Get there early!
A traditional real ale pub, local is key, including seafood landed on the beach nearby or smoked fish from Cley Smokehouse. The village sits on the North Norfolk Coast path, so The Ship makes a great relaxing stop-off.
Gangway Crab Shop, The Gangway, Cromer NR27 9ET
Marty Rowlands lands crabs and lobster daily in his own boat during the season and is one of the more-established long serving fishermen. Selling to restaurants like the Arms, they also have a seasonal shop for dressed shellfish in The Gangway (call 01263 515744 to check opening hours).
Loved by the Gunton Arms chefs, free range Norfolk charcuterie such as different salami, coppa shoulder, and lomo loin made with Blythburgh Free Range Pork from just over the border as well as beef braesola. Find it in local delis and farmers markets. Claxton-based Jackie Kennedy also runs courses and sells online.
Quality, regional award-winning family butcher's who source local quality meats and also can supply plentiful game birds when in season. Their sausage recipe has been handed down three generations.
Outside Wiveton to the north off the A149 coast road is this a hidden Norfolk gem, full of Jacobean architecture, charming walled gardens and productive fruit farming in the grounds. PYO or buy berries and other crops in the shop. But main attraction is the farm café with beautiful views and fabulous rustic ingredient-led cooking.
Mary Jane's Fish Bar, Garden Street, Cromer NR27 9HN
After a bracing walk down the Pier, what’s better on the coast than proper fish’n’chips. Always freshly fried and be ready to queue, good things are worth the wait. 01263 511208.
1 Inn Location - The Gunton Arms
Operating both steam and diesel trains, the North Norfolk Railway runs between Sheringham and Holt and is a great way to see the local countryside. There are catering facilities on board and numerous special events throughout the year.
Watching seals at home in their natural environment on Blakeney Point (also a well-known breeding ground for waders and terns), is a popular boating excursion. Boats leave from Morston Quay and the trip lasts for one hour, but if weather conditions are favourable, boats will land on Blakeney Point for an additional 30-60 minutes.
Between April and October you get the chance to experience the thrill of North Norfolk's spectacular tides and waves, with lessons provided by Glide Surf School. By contrast, the region's rivers offer the chance for various exhilarating adventure sports, including kayaking
Golfers are spoilt for choice in North Norfolk. As well as two Royal courses, at Cromer and West Norfolk, there is the chance to play at Fakenham, Hunstanton, Heacham Manor, Sheringham and Searles.
Expect to find British nautical clothing brand Quba & Co at Ship-to-Shore, the company's first outlet in Norfolk. Clothing, jackets, bags and accessories are all expertly crafted using traditional sail-making skills. There are even marine-themed homewares from deckchairs and bean bags to sofas and cushions.
Artworks that reflect Norfolk's diverse wildlife are on display in the excellent gallery at Glandford, near Holt. Expect some striking and very distinctive pieces, including paintings, prints and sculptures.
North Norfolk's stunning wildlife has long been immortalised by well-respected East Anglian-based artists and at this Cley-next-the-Sea gallery you'll find everything from abstract artworks to traditional watercolours.
A small but smart market town, famous for its main street of Georgian buildings, fascinating galleries and wonderful independent retailers, there’s good shopping to be had in Holt. Among the delights is the Mews Antiques Emporium, where even Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, has been spotted buying gifts.
This award-winning deli is situated in a former forge and has an impressive antipasti bar. It’s the place to come for local cheeses, fruit and vegetables and speciality breads.
Good old-fashioned sweets, upmarket Belgian and English chocolates and a fine selection of greeting cards and gift boxes make up the stock at Digby’s.
Places to visit
Fellbrigg Hall's splendid park is one of the highlights of a visit to this popular National Trust visitor attraction a short distance from Cromer. Here, you can explore over 500 acres of woods and miles of waymarked paths where nature and wildlife are much in evidence.
Expect to see a wide variety of trees and shrubs surrounded by a splendid medieval moated manor house at Mannington Gardens, situated in glorious countryside to the south-west of Thorpe Market. There are classic roses, scented plants and herbaceous borders.
Blickling Hall, Blickling, Aylsham NR11 6NF
Catching sight of Blickling Hall for the first time takes your breath away. The turreted Jacobean mansion stands proud in the Norfolk landscape and surrounding it is a beautiful 500-acre park. Blickling, near Aylsham, is widely believed to be the birthplace of Anne Boleyn.
Famous as a pilgrimage centre and for its religious shrines in honour of the Virgin Mary, Walsingham lies just to the south of Wells. Apart from its historic abbey, known for its dazzling carpets of snowdrops, there is a wealth of historic buildings to see and a museum. And wander through the delightful wildflower meadows.
It's probably not what you'd expect to find in the depths of North Norfolk, but lovers of musical instruments will be quickly drawn in. Among the treasured items here at Fakenham are a Wurlitzer cinema organ, fairground carousels and various barrel and street organs.
The North Norfolk Coast has been described as a long way from anywhere and that is certainly the impression it gives, especially when you stroll its many miles of deserted beaches. The region offers enormous scope for all kinds of walking – long, short and medium. One of the most popular haunts of walkers is the region’s remote Holkham Beach, immortalised in the film Shakespeare in Love. It’s just the place to enjoy wild beauty and stunning wide skies. If you enjoy sampling long-distance paths, however, try the 93-mile Peddars Way and North Norfolk Coast Path. Following ancient tracks and Roman roads and consisting of two paths joined together to form one route, the Peddars Way and North Norfolk Coast Path offers a great blend of pastoral Norfolk hinterland and magnificent coastal scenery.
The region’s relatively flat terrain makes this part of the country ideal for cycling. There’s a wide choice of undemanding cycle rides, but for something more ambitious, try the Bure Valley Railway, a nine-mile trail running from Aylsham to Wroxham. If you prefer, you can return to the start by train. For the really adventurous, there’s the Norfolk Coast Cycleway between King’s Lynn and Cromer.
Among the area’s host of entertaining events is the Norfolk and Norwich Festival in May, a flagship event for the East of England and one of the largest arts festivals in the country. The North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival at Holkham Hall in August celebrates all that is good about local produce, while the Hill House Inn at Happisburgh, between Cromer and Caister, has its own annual Solstice Beer Festival in June. Sherlock Holmes fans should note that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a short story, The Dancing Men, after visiting Hill House in 1903. Norwich City of Ale Festival, is a treat for all ale-heads – here is a distinct scent of malted barley in the air for 10 days in May across this fine city, celebrating local ales and breweries in an array of pubs and other venues.
Location, Location, Location
The Gunton Arms is signed off A149 just south of Thorpe Market between North Walsham and Cromer.
Cromer Road, Thorpe Market, Norfolk, NR11 8TZ
The Sunday Times, 100 Ultimate British Hotels, 2013, Posh Pubs
‘The rooms are bright, stylish and comfortable; and downstairs, when the fires are lit, the place glows. The woodburning range, where they cook venison sausages and steaks, is the focal point of each evening, but pretty soon the soon the sense of warmth it generates spreads through the entire building and out into the deer park beyond. By bedtime, you’ll be utterly bewitched.’