THE CHEQUERS INN AT THORNHAM, NORFOLK
WHAT’S THE SCOOP? This rustic village inn dates back to the 16th Century but has been tastefully refurbished by Agellus Hotels. It is named after a rare tree, whose berries were used to flavour beer in the Middle Ages, so whether you’d like to cosy up with a pint of real ale by the fire, enjoy fine dining in the contemporary restaurant or sleep in style, a stay at The Chequers will not disappoint.
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? Of course – this is North Norfolk, where you’re in the minority if you don’t have a dog! In fact, the first question we were asked when we checked in was: “How many dogs do you have with you?” All visiting pooches should have some treats and a blanket waiting for them in the room, and there’s a well-stocked treat jar on the bar, too. Pets are charged at additional £10 per night.
Dogs are not allowed in the main restaurant, with its feature skylight, but there are plenty of tables in the lovely country-style bar area or outdoor courtyard. Alternatively, cosy up with your dog in front of the wood burner in the snug. If you’re travelling in a group, ask to eat in one of the cool outdoor pavilions, which have been weatherproofed for year-round use. These are reserved for private dining and seat up to 14 people.
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? Head up to one of The Chequers’ 11 bedrooms, all named after trees, and relax. They range in size from Small Good to Good, Better and Best but all are incredibly stylish and come with complimentary tea and coffee-making facilities, as well as homemade biscuits, sloe gin and upmarket magazines.
We were lucky enough to stay in Aspen – a spacious upstairs room overlooking the courtyard, which made access to the outside easy. With its on-trend grey and white colour scene, soft carpet underfoot and standalone bathtub next to the bed, it was absolutely stunning. I loved the retro light fittings and furniture, while the free WiFi, DAB radio and smart TV meant we had all the mod-cons we could possibly need.
The bathroom was also a real treat, with a large walk-in rainforest shower and luxurious ESPA toiletries. Matching grey robes were hidden away in a cupboard in the bedroom and thanks to the room’s sloped ceilings, there was also a little cubby-hole that was just the right size for a dog bed.
HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? Delicious. The Chequers’ a la carte menu is packed full of traditional dishes with a modern twist, such as slow-roasted pork belly served with quirky black pudding bon bons. There’s a real emphasis on local produce too, and seafood fans will love the Brancaster mussels, caught just up the road.
Vegetarians and vegans are well catered for, thanks to a separate menu, and there are also a range of gourmet pizzas on offer. We loved the insanely cheesy Mrs Temples pizza which was smothered in three locally-produced cheeses – Binham Blue, Wells Alpine and Gurney’s Gold. Diners can also enjoy a trio of tapas, Norfolk-style, which includes a local take on patatas bravas.
ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? No, but you’re sure to come across several other visiting dogs, both in the courtyard and bar area.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? Hit the beach! Whether you’re looking for sand, shingle or rocky coves to explore, North Norfolk has you covered – and many of its beaches welcome dogs all year round. The vast sands of Holkham, which backs on to a pine forest, is probably the most famous but we also loved Old Hunstanton, above, which is popular with kitesurfers.
Don’t miss out on a stroll through the lovely village of Thornham itself, though. Head to the marshes, where you can see the iconic Coal Barn, then pick up the Norfolk Coast Path. Turn left and you can walk to Holme-next-the-Sea, around three miles away, via the Holme Dunes. It will take around an hour, depending on your walking speed.
Turn right, however, and you’ll rock up at RSPB Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve. Dogs on leads are welcome to follow the West Bank Path, which takes around an hour to complete. For more information about it, click here.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: Having so many great walks on the doorstep, the fuss from staff, the breakfast sausage
WHAT I LOVED: The stylish rooms, the village location, the fantastic food (and wooden pavilions for private al fresco dining, above)
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: Stays at The Chequers start from £120, including breakfast. It’s well worth checking out the pub website to look for special offers, too – visit during the quieter winter months, for example, and enjoy up to 50% off the published room rates. For more information or to book, call 01485 512229 or visit The Chequers Inn at Thornham website.