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Fritton House Hotel, Fritton, Norfolk
David Smith and family enjoy family friendly boutique luxury at lovely Fritton House

The 5,000 acre Somerleyton Estate straddles the border between Norfolk and Suffolk. Lord Crossley and his family run the estate as both a working farm and an imaginative collection of visitor attractions. Situated on the Norfolk side of the border is one of East Anglia’s best kept secrets: Fritton House Hotel, which the Crossley family opened in the spring of 2006.

A boutique hotel of just nine rooms and suites, Fritton House is a wonderfully family-friendly base for a holiday at home. It looks after the children but doesn’t stint on adult luxury. The hotel dates back to the 15th Century when it was a smugglers’ inn. Charming and eccentric rather than architecturally formal, it offers a very cosy, comfortable welcome, with an enticing lounge (complete with board games, jenga and TV for rainy days), a formal dining room, a very contemporary bar, and an elegant restaurant (70 covers) leading out to a large sun terrace with its own bar. Upstairs the rooms are all individually furnished to a high standard, and the superior rooms are large enough for a family. In addition there is a junior suite with a day room where the children’s sleeping area is slightly separated from the main bedroom, but if you can run to it we would recommend the larger attic suite, with day room, double bedroom, twin bedroom and huge bathroom. All bedrooms have plasma televisions with free-to-air digital channels and DVD players. There are no tea- or coffee-making facilities but a quick call to the efficient room service more than makes up for this.

The food is uniformly excellent throughout the day. There are splendid breakfast choices – cereals, toast, full English, kippers, boiled eggs and more – and a nicely varied brunch menu. The evening menu is equally varied and supplemented by several specials. The battered cod and chips was a real winner, with some of the best chips we’ve ever tasted, but the more adventurous dishes were just as successful. Portions are generous and everything we had was delicious. Most of the produce used in the kitchen is local – much of it grown on the farms of the Somerleyton Estate itself. The kitchen staff are entirely flexible over children’s meals – small portions of main menu dishes are offered but if you’re looking for something that’s not on the menu then they will happily prepare something to suit younger tastes. The hotel has a policy of requesting that children under 5 leave the restaurant by 8.00 pm, but they are still welcome to eat in the bar area – however in practice this policy doesn’t seem to be strenuously enforced, and we were happily accommodated with our 5 year old and 2 year old until we finished dinner at 9.00.

But that’s just the hotel – and only the beginning. The hotel is situated in the grounds of Fritton Lake park, a visitor attraction and adventure park which is open to paying visitors, but free to hotel residents. Just a few hundred yards or so from the terrace bar is a superb children’s playground, with an aerial runway, swings, a huge wooden fort with two ‘snake slides’ (twisting chutes that are big enough to carry parents) and the ‘Jumping Pillow’ – a giant inflatable pillow (a cross between a bouncy castle and a trampoline) which proves an irresistible draw for children and parents alike. For a more sedate pastime, there is a giant draughts set and a giant chess set, plus a putting green and pitch and put. A few yards further is the lake itself, where rowing-boat and pedalo hire is free. There are also marvellous nature trails through the grounds of the estate, and even pony rides. A short drive away from the hotel, Somerleyton Hall and gardens are open to the public on Thursdays and Sundays from April to October, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in July and August and on bank holidays. The hall is a grand early Victorian mansion and the grounds, complete with a beautiful maze, are glorious.

We had marvellous weather when we visited, but the climate in this part of the UK is generally quite kind. Even if the sun isn’t blazing there’s plenty to do on site. Sarah the manager, her assistant Camille and all the staff are extremely friendly and helpful, ready to suggest activities and trips, and even provide maps. The whole operation is over-seen with unobtrusive attentiveness by Hugh Crossley, the heir to the estate and the driving entrepreneurial force behind the Somerleyton’s current prolific programme of development.

Our two night stay was regrettably short, but made a perfect end to the Easter holidays. It’s hard to say who had the better time - our children or us. We would whole-heartedly recommend Fritton House hotel for a short break or even a full-length holiday. No airports, no baggage reclaim, no security, no transfers, just beautiful countryside, friendly staff, great food, lots of fun and genuine comfort.

David Smith, 2007

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