As Coco Chanel once said, ‘the best things in life are free - and the second best are very expensive’. As the nights draw in we all deserve something a little luxurious to look forward to, so in the spirit of all things decadent here is a glimpse behind the oh-so-plush curtains of some of the most extravagant places to stay close to the Broads National Park. So pour yourself a glass of bubbly stuff, recline back into your chaise longue and peruse these paragraphs of unadulterated luxury - or if you’re really posh get your butler to do it!
Just 20 miles out from the Southern Broads is the Wilderness Reserve. The sprawling acreage of a Brideshead-esque country manor complete with outbuildings that are restored so opulently you’re unlikely to be letting your gamekeeper live in them. Will you sink into the below floor level bath like a Roman god in the gardeners’ old bothies? Or maybe you’ll get cosy in the old forester’s cottage, complete with fairy-tale-thatch and wood burning range? There are loads of extras to take advantage of including the complimentary Pashley bicycles upon which you can explore the estate as well as the tennis courts, rowing on the lake, clay pigeon shooting and their on-site ecologist who can talk you through the outstanding wildlife which frequents this location. Dance in the orangery, sip a cocktail by the lake, watch your in-house chef chop the carrots… all these pleasures and more can be discovered in the oh-so-refined confines of the Wilderness Reserve.
In the heart of the ‘fine city’ of Norwich is the stately Assembly House, an establishment famed for its afternoon teas, proximity to the Theatre Royal and Georgian splendour. Whether you’re looking to lie back in crisp white sheets or to be dazzled by shimmering chandeliers, its contemporary nod to Jane Austen chic is sure to delight all audiences. Make sure you take the time to soak up the atmosphere of the grand hall, which saw a ball in celebration of Nelson’s victory at the Cape of Trafalgar hosted upon its glittering floors in 1805. If you listen very carefully you can still hear the swish of a ruche of taffeta and the chink of champagne glasses – although of course it might just be time for afternoon tea (again)!
If you just can’t understand why her majesty chooses Balmoral over Sandringham for the winter months then you’ll be sure to fall head-over-heels for the Gunton Arms. Surrounded by a thousand-acre deer park, you can open the front door to roaring fires, Egyptian marble bathrooms and stag antlers aplenty. There is a room that was slept in by historic actress Lillie Langtry as well as art by household names such as Lucien Freud, Damien Hurst and Tracy Emin. For brisk country walks where the marsh harriers fly and candle-lit suppers for two, the Gunton Arms is sure to blot away the cold-weather-blues. At only nine miles from Dilham Canal in the Broads National Park, you’re never too far from the waterside either.
If you’re the sort of person who craves more, more and more then you’ll be delighted to discover St Giles House, the luxury hotel that comes complete with decadent suites, fine dining and an on-site spa. While you ‘umm’ and ‘ahh’ over ‘energising’ your skin or ‘detoxifying’ it, you can sip your signature St Giles gin martini, swirling the olive around nonchalantly before sauntering upstairs to your walnut suite, where the bath could fit three comfortably and the chairs are swathed in silk. Beneath your window the city of Norwich will pulsate with theatre shows, art galleries and the River Wensum twinkling beneath the shine of street lights… but maybe you’ll just have a quiet night in (with a deep tissue massage) - obviously!
The Broads National Park is here and ready to be escaped to, and although the true luxury of the area can’t be bought (the glittering rivers, the dark starry nights) sometimes we could all do with spoiling ourselves a little, so… when the evenings are dark? Time for a candle-lit dinner! When the rain is pouring outside? A glass of wine by the fireside! When you need a little luxury in your life? The Broads National Park!