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Muddy stays: The Boathouse

When it comes to places to stay for the night, a watery setting is hard to beat – ever wondered why Venice is so popular?

But you don’t need to get on a plane to get your dose of watery wonderland – Britain’s largest protected wetland is right here in Norfolk. Ta-dah! The third largest inland waterway in Britain, The Norfolk Broads is home to a quarter of the UK’s rarest plants and animals, and is a veritable playground for kayaking, canoeing and boating – many forming unique places to bed down for the night.

If all that sounds very well but, er, you’re allergic to cramped conditions and get *just* that little bit seasick, there’s a more stylish way to be in the company of water without dealing with the downfalls – and that’s to book yourself in for a night at The Boathouse.

As you can see, it’s quite a setting.

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Unsurprisingly, many guests get married here, honeymooning in one of the hotel’s separate lodges which they get to via row boat. As you do…

lodges collageWith the winter sun shining on our day of arrival, we dump our bags in reception and order chilled glasses of white wine to have outside, making the most of the spectacular view. The large garden has plenty of benches for drinkers and diners, while a walkway on the water provides a drop off and pick up point for those arriving or leaving by boat – much to the confusion of the ducks! And if all this water puts you off bringing children, think again: a sophisticated playground sits to the right of the garden with swings, a wooden house and, of course, a boat to play in. It’s within safe distance so you can supervise while enjoying your drink – very civilised.

If you can tear yourself away, the inside of the hotel is lovely too, with rooms continuing the boating theme – our Paddle Away room has a headboard made of paddle boards and a separate room with bunk beds. Mention must be given too to the wonderfully oversized bathroom.

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There are just six rooms in the hotel in all – ask for Crows Nest if there are a lot of you as it is over two floors, while stargazers should opt for Captains Cabin which has a brass telescope for watching the night sky.

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A quick refresh and it’s down to the restaurant for dinner. Anyone can eat here, so it’s pretty popular and, without a booking, we choose pub grub in the lounge area. But the hotel does fine dining pretty well too.
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Being a Saturday night, the pub soon fills up with locals – the venue was once called The Eels Foot and still has regulars who just have to show their face to get their tipple of choice poured.

We play Backgammon by a fire and make our way through a bottle of Chianti before calling it a night. It’s hard to sleep in a strange bed – forced to play hunt the final light switch before it is dark enough (why do hotels do that?), and then its generally too hot or cold – but there’s something about being next to water that makes everything still – just the odd ripple to peacefully send you away.

The restaurant looks very different in the light of day and, with a day at nearby Hemsby beach ahead, we stock up on the hot breakfast buffet and bid a fond farewell to wonderful The Boathouse.

The Boathouse, Ormesby Broad, Norfolk NR29 3LP. Tel: 01493 730342.






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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Norfolk