THE LIFEBOAT INN, THORNHAM, NORFOLK
WHAT’S THE SCOOP? If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life, head to The Lifeboat Inn. This former smugglers’ haunt, overlooking the salt marshes of North Norfolk, dates back to the 16th Century. But these days, the dog-friendly inn – run by Agellus Hotels – is an oasis of calm where wellies, walking boots and the well-heeled sit side-by-side.
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? Oh yes. Dogs are welcome to stay in several rooms for £10 per night and will be presented with a good-humoured welcome letter when they check in. A ceramic dog bowl, some treats and a blanket were also waiting for Ernie in the room and we were advised that if it started raining, we could ask for a dedicated dog towel from reception.
Dogs are not allowed in the main restaurant but they are welcome in the cosy lounge, bar and conservatory, which is home to an impressive vine that’s more than 200 years old. A welcome letter advises visiting dogs to “sniff all the tables in advance to pick your favourite”, which Ernie duly did. Pet owners are also encouraged to email over pictures of their pooches so they can be included in a gallery of four-legged guests online.
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? Head upstairs to one of the 13 stylish bedrooms which range in size (and price) from Good, Better to Best. Each one is named after the crew members of Licensed Victualler’s III – the last pulling lifeboat at Hunstanton Lifeboat Station which features on the pub’s sign and logo.
We stayed in Rumbold, which had great views over the nearby marshes and a wood-effect feature wall running the length of the room. The soft grey colour theme was offset by subtle splashes of pink and although the room was quite compact, several clever storage solutions made the most of the space.
As well as a large flatscreen TV and DAB radio, there was complimentary tea, coffee, water and homemade shortbread, not to mention luxurious White Company toiletries in the bathroom. The thick window blinds meant we slept like logs so it was good to find the shower was powerful as we needed some help waking up in the morning!
HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? Excellent. Expect traditional comfort food, such as hearty pies with buttered potatoes and thick, creamy risottos. The desserts are also excellent and highly filling – make sure you leave some room for the sticky toffee pudding. Guests are invited to dine a la carte but there is generally a set menu which, as at the time of writing, was £21 for three courses. A vegan menu is also available.
Breakfast is a fine affair, too. Help yourself to the continental delights in the airy main restaurant, where you’ll find a table laden with goodies such as croissants, yoghurt, seasonal fruit and cereal. If you’re dining with your dog, staff will happily set a table for you in the cosy, oak-beamed bar area, where you can also place your order for hot food. Just look out for the “Duck or Grouse” signs on the low ceilings!
ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? No, but there are plenty of pooches who pop in to the pub for a pint and chances are, your dog won’t be the only one staying over.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? The Thornham marshes are a short walk from the Lifeboat – just head for the iconic Coal Barn then pick up the Norfolk Coast Path. Turn left and you’ll arrive in Holme-next-the-Sea, via the Holme Dunes, and a right-turn will take you to RSPB Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve. Dogs on leads are welcome to follow the West Bank Path – click here to learn more.
The pub staff also recommend several walks nearby, including one in Brancaster Staithe. The four-mile route is great for spotting the local wildlife and takes approximately two hours, depending on your pace. Look out for the snails living in cracks in the trees! The team also rate a five-mile walk in and around Burnham Market, where you’ll pass the remains of St Mary’s Carmelite Friary.
North Norfolk is best known for its beaches, however, and you will be truly spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding where to go. Holkham, which backs on to a large pine forest, is probably the most famous, but we also loved the genteel vibe at Old Hunstanton, which is popular with kitesurfers and has lots of colourful beach huts.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: All the great walks nearby, getting lots of fuss from both staff and customers, the sausage at breakfast
WHAT I LOVED: The tranquil location, the pub’s traditional feel, the stylish rooms
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: Rooms at The Lifeboat Inn start from £129, including breakfast. To get the best deal, make sure you check out the official website – here, you’ll find great offers such as 50% off winter stays and the best-priced dinner, bed and breakfast packages. For more information or to book, call 01485 512236 or visit The Lifeboat Inn website.