Great British Boltholes: Byfords Hotel in Holt is a truly mammoth treat
- Byfords is a 16-bedroomed boutique B&B and cafe delicatessen in Holt, Norfolk
- All the rooms are designed with a nod to a local site, story or area of interest
- Dinner in the restaurant is ‘wholesome and unfussy’ says Lizzie Enfield
The name Holt derives from the Anglo Saxon word for woodland. There are a few scattered around the country but I’m in the one in North Norfolk – a pretty market town on the wooded high ground of the Cromer/Holt ridge. It’s notable for its abundance of elegant Georgian buildings but its origins go back much further. Holt gets a mention in the Domesday Book but most of the medieval timbered houses that existed then were destroyed by fire in 1708.
One of the few to survive is Byfords in Shirehall Plain. At first glance, the ivy-covered brick building is a cafe delicatessen, but enter via the back courtyard and it’s a 16-bedroomed boutique B&B with a wealth of exposed brickwork, wood panelling, leather armchairs and period fixtures.
All the rooms have a local theme and ours is the Deep History Coast: the 22-mile stretch of coastline between Weybourne (just down the road) and Cart Gap which has revealed the oldest archaeological site in northern Europe, at Happisburgh, and the most complete fossilised mammoth skeleton ever found in the UK, in West Runton. This mammoth is evoked in broad brush strokes on the wall of our room, and a glass cabinet displaying a selection of fossils adds a museum like touch to the country house style.
Home from home: The exterior of Byfords in the market town of Holt
After tea and cake in the cafe, we wander around the town with its art galleries, antique and bookshops, cafes and artistically arranged delicatessens strung along the High Street and tucked away down alleyways and plantstocked courtyards.
Dinner in Byfords restaurant is wholesome and unfussy, with a selection of grazing dishes, salads, sharing platters and mains that include a signature kedgeree made with local smoked haddock, fresh mussels and pork belly with roasted root veg and kale.
Portions are generous and the free nibbles station, from which you can help yourself to as many marinated olives, nuts and as much bread as you like, leaves me debating whether I have room for the toffee pecan cheesecake. But I find myself finishing it all – and the remains of my husband’s almond and plum tart. There’s a choice of cooked breakfasts in the morning and a dazzling array of pastries, croissants and scones all made on the premises.
We head for the seaside town of Sheringham to walk it off along the coastal path, keeping our eyes peeled for fossils along the way. The beauty of the North Norfolk Coast is that it’s not en route to anywhere. It’s a great place to get away from it all.
One of its 16 bedrooms, which are individually designed with a nod to a local site, story or area of interest
The USP: It’s the oldest building in Holt but, with its contemporary period makeover, it exudes comfort and quirky charm.
The rooms: All 16 are individually designed with a nod to a local site, story or area of interest, and the spacious ensuites invite relaxation with supersoft towels and tealights arranged around wallowingly deep baths. An abundance of wood panelling, leather armchairs and artfully placed piles of books create a cosy atmosphere.
The food: With the emphasis on local sourcing and baked goods made on site, Byfords deli/cafe/restaurant combination is a draw for locals and hotel guests. Eating in makes you feel instantly at home.
Byfords, Holt, Norfolk. Double B&B from £140. Two nights with dinner on the first night from £250 per couple (byfords.org.uk). For more about the Deep History Coast see visitnorfolk.co.uk.