Charlotte Moore enjoys a country break in a stylish Georgian manor
Why go: North Norfolk is the place for anyone who likes their countryside lite. While there are plenty of rural pursuits to enjoy (walking in the vast grounds of Holkham Hall, posh dog-spotting on Brancaster beach, wandering through the pine woods to Wells-next-the-Sea), you’re never more than hop, skip and a stile from a skinny latte. And if you can’t last a weekend without a decent shopping fix, there are some properly chic boutiques in Burnham Market, such as Anna (shopatanna.com) and Urban Armour (urbanarmour.co.uk), not to mention the preppy heaven of Jack Wills. Add in newly refurbished Congham Hall – a small luxury hotel six miles northeast of King's Lynn that definitely knows how to mix a cocktail or two – and there’s every reason to head this way.
Country comforts: take it easy in a garden room at Congham Hall
Best for: Romantics. With lilac wisteria drooping from the old garden walls, a perfectly teased lawn, and the scent of the herb garden wafting through the air (the hotel has 400 different herbs growing), this largish Georgian manor house is pretty, unpretentious and undeniably stylish. Recently refurbished, many of the ground floor rooms have their own paved outdoor sitting area – perfect for lazy Sunday mornings with just the papers and the sound of birds tweeting. If the weather's not co-operating, an outdoor hot-tub overlooking the garden and meadow beyond offers a fine way of spending the afternoon.
The look: Contemporary country with flagstone floors and shabby chic furniture updated with retro 50s fabrics. There are 15 bedrooms in the Grade II listed main house and another 11 in the garden, the latter ideal for a summer break.
I’m hungry: It might not be the most imaginative menu in the world but the duck and chicken liver parfait (£6.95) served in the restaurant is rich and tasty, and the roasted Norfolk plaice (£15.95) cooked to perfection. Alternatively, if you don't fancy a formal meal, have fish and chips on the beach in the evening then sink some G&Ts in the buzzy bar.
Splashdown: spare some time for the hotel spa
While you’re there: Pop over to HRH’s. The Sandringham Estate (sandringhamestate.co.uk), where the Queen gets some Norfolk air, is five minutes' drive away. Congham Hall is offering guests who book a two night midweek break a pair of complimentary tickets to this majestic house and garden (offer valid until the end of July). Another stately home nearby is Houghton Hall, where a formidable collection of art treasures from The Hermitage in St Petersburg, which originally hung here, is on show until 29 September (houghtonrevisited.com).
Save some time, too, for a treatment in the hotel’s luxurious Secret Garden Spa, which has a 12 metre pool. Using the divinely scented Elemental Herbology range of products, the 60 minute rosemary muscle melt massage (£65) is an unmissable indulgence at less than a pound a minute...
Royal retreat: hobnob with the neighbours at Sandringham House Photo: By gracious permission of H.M. The Queen
Dress Code: Relaxed – although flip-flops and shorts would be a little too high summer for the semi-formal diners in the restaurant, who are mostly clad in jackets and strappy dresses.
Book now: Congham Hall, Grimston, King's Lynn, Norfolk PE32 1AH (01485 600250; conghamhallhotel.co.uk). Double rooms start at £125 with breakfast. The drive from London takes around four hours, or take a train to King's Lynn – taxi transfers take 20 minutes and cost around £12.
Info: Norfolk & Suffolk (£12.99; Rough Guides) covers the area in depth, and see visitnorfolk.co.uk.