On our winter weekend escape to the north Norfolk coast I wanted to stay somewhere that was a complete retreat, where we could cosy ourselves away as the early winter evenings set in and from which we could make easy forays into the local countryside to blast away the winter gloom. It went without saying that our accommodation needed to be family friendly.
Brackenhurst fitted our criteria – a two-bedroom property in West Runton village managed by Norfolk Country Cottages. Set at the end of a quiet residential lane and backing onto National Trust woodland, Brackenhurst has the rare advantage of a countryside setting but with all the amenities of a large villag plus the added bonus of West Runton beach within a twenty minute or so walk (or a few minutes drive).
We arrived at Brackenhurst in the late afternoon of a December weekend. Finding the property in the twilight proved tricky but once there we were met with a warm welcome -both from the owner, who lives next door, and in the form of a generous welcome basket including cake, wine, eggs, milk, bread and butter. Tea and coffee were also on hand. Had I known, I would not have needed to call in at the village store to pick up supplies on our way there! It was a promising start.
Brackenhurst is a semi-detached property, joined on to the owner’s house next door. It has a shared driveway (busy during our stay so we parked in the lane just outside) but separate entrance, keeping the accommodation feeling quite separate. Brackenhurst also offers a small private patio complete with barbecue and garden furniture for the warmer months and logs are provided for as many winter fires as you fancy during your stay.
Brackenhurst’s front door opens into an open plan kitchen/living space with a small dining room table. The ‘L-shaped’ layout means that the living area still feels quite separate from the kitchen whilst remaining in view – something I appreciate with small children as it’s good to keep an eye on them whilst sorting out supper.
The living area is cosy with a large, comfy L-shaped sofa, wood burner and fireside chair complete with footrest. Once the children were in bed that evening and before my husband joined us I took full advantage of the latter, lounging blissfully by the roaring fire with a glass of wine. There is a decent TV and some DVDs as well as a selection of board-games for indoor entertainment and a wireless connection. Information on the local area has also been left – always a good feature in my eyes.
The kitchen is well kitted out with oven and microwave and includes that wonderful luxury for families on holiday – a good-sized dishwasher and tablets!
Upstairs accommodation offers one double bedroom with plenty of wardrobe space and a twin bedroom into which we were able to also include a travel cot. There is a small family bathroom with a decent shower. Both bedrooms have lovely leafy views in different directions.
The village of West Runton is located on the north Norfolk coast, just short drive from both the Victorian seaside town of Cromer and neighbouring Sheringham. A short drive meaning in practical terms that your fish and chips from Cromer’s excellent No.1 Cromer chippie are still warm when you get back home!
In the wider area there are several very grand National Trust properties and estates to visit, many days out for the kids and some brilliant wildlife spotting opportunities – from birds to seals. It goes without saying that any location we stay in has a good offering of family walks too! You can read all about what got up to during our weekend at Brackenhurst here.
In the village itself there are several facilities including a handy little grocery store, a butchers, a pub, an outdoor shop and even a toy shop! The wild little sandy beach of West Runton is close by with a pay and display car park to make access even easier (fees during warmer months only).
Brackenhurst and West Runton is easily accessible by public transport. Buses run frequently from neighbouring towns and West Runton has its own train station in the centre of the village – about a five minute walk or quick cycle from Brackenhurst cottage, meaning if you want to, you can explore locally without relying on a car. My husband made it all the way to holiday home by public transport from central London during Friday night rush hour – it took him 3 hours and included just one quick change of train. The train station and bus connections also mean that you can take a lot of lovely walks from the village with the option to return by train or bus – always handy when walking with little ones.
From the holiday cottage itself it is possible to walk directly onto lovely woodland footpaths on National Trust managed estate. Within ten minutes you can wander gently uphill to Roman Camp on Beacon Hill – the highest point in Norfolk at all of 103m high. From this point there are excellent views down to the coast.
It is perfect walking for small families and our two loved exploring the woods. The options to continue your walk are many – return on a 20 minute loop directly to Brackenhurst, extend along the ridge making an hour long loop or even continue all the way down to Sheringham and get the train or bus back. You can find details of a simple hour long wander we took with our little ones right from the door of Brackenhurst here.
Family Friendly Factor:
One of Brackenhurst’s advantages is that young families are catered for. When we called the owner to arrange our arrival time he also checked what baby kit we would need, providing both a travel cot and high chair for the cottage which avoided us bringing our own. We did need to bring our baby bedding for the travel cot but to be honest we often prefer that. In the kitchen there was a small selection of child-friendly crockery – something I find is often overlooked in otherwise family-friendly properties.
Just a short time after arrival the owner popped round to check we had everything we needed. He helped put up the stair-gate (the stairs are quite steep) and having taken a look at our energetic one year old, quickly went back next door to fetch a second gate for the top of the stairs too. Both girls settled to sleep quickly and it was nice not having to rely on monitors in an unfamiliar place with them – the house is set out so that it is easy to hear if children are stirring upstairs from the comfort of your fireside chair.
The only thing that remained to be watched out for with young children was the flagstone floor in the living area. Our one and four year old had no issues with it and I would have hated to have lost the effect of the lovely floor with the wood burning stove and cosy decor in exchange for something more ‘bounceable’. If you do have babies who are on the verge of walking though you will need to keep an extra eye out.
Finally, it would have been nice to have had a bath for the little ones but the shower is large enough to get parent and tiny child in together so not a major issue. It’s probably also more practical for post-beach rinse-offs too.
Brackenhurst is a lovely holiday property for short-breaks on Norfolk’s north coast. The setting is peaceful, secluded and quiet yet the village of West Runton and its beach and so many of Norfolk’s many attractions are within very easy reach. With a week long stay starting from £344 Brackenhurst offers good value for money given its popular location and pleasant setting.
The space throughout the property is on the cosy side but is plentiful for up to a family of four looking for a short break. Young families are welcome. The opportunities for outdoor adventure from the door are also a massive bonus – from the woods to the beach, this is a great spot for plenty of fresh-air family time, whatever the time of year.
Having the owners of Brackenhurst next door was really handy – they were on hand throughout our stay to help answer our questions on the local area, fix the stair-gate for us and pop in to help with any queries about the property. This was especially useful given mobile phone signal is a bit patchy here, as you’d expect for a secluded spot! The only things that would have made my life easier arriving alone at dusk with two little children would have been a slightly more obvious sign and for the stair-gates and cot to have been put up for us ahead of arrival. Otherwise we had a lovely winter weekend break here and were made to feel very welcome. I’d be keen to revisit in the springtime and early summer when I imagine the woods surrounding Brackenhurst must be bursting with colour and bird-song.
Our complimentary two night December stay at Brackenhurst was arranged through Norfolk Country Cottages as part of a press trip to north Norfolk. All thoughts, views and words remain as ever entirely my own, unlike the welcome cake left for us which I begrudgingly had to share with the girls and my husband!