Great British boltholes: The furnace has gone but this former glass-factory-turned-hotel in Norfolk is still smoking hot
- The Harper in Norfolk has 32 bedrooms, with oak floors, and beautifully-thought-through interiors
- On the food front, the lobster and samphire mac ’n’ cheese was one of the standout dishes for Jane Knight
- A ten-minute ride away on the hotel’s free-to-use bikes takes you to the cute village of Blakeney
A furnace used to rage at 1,350C in the brick-and-flint barns in this little Norfolk village to make Langham Glass’s vases, bowls and a menagerie of animals.
Now, after the firm moved on to larger premises, the factory has been transformed into a beautiful boutique hotel. And it’s smoking hot.
The old workshop, now the lounge, is heated to a more comfortable temperature by a wood-burning stove, with seating made for slouching as you sip a glass from the wine-vending machine.
A new lease of life: The lounge at The Harper with ‘artfully mismatched’ furnishings
In a nod to its past, a huge stained-glass window portrays an array of Norfolk’s birds (plus a couple of canaries representing Norwich City FC) while more birds bedeck a window in the adjacent dining room.
Even though the restaurant, quietly buzzy bar and cosy den are more recent additions to the original building, you can still feel the character of the place everywhere, with exposed brick walls and wood or slate floors.
Furnishings are so artfully mismatched – an old car seat for a chair here, a statement light there – you feel a top designer must have been called in. But no, this is the work of owner Sam Cutmore-Scott and his parents, who until now have been in the weddings venue business.
The opening of their first hotel last month hasn’t been painless. When they bought the property in 2016, it needed a considerable amount of work. Then, as they were finally due to open last year, Covid hit.
The handsome exterior of the former glass factory, which is now welcoming guests with 32 bedrooms
The hotel is close to the sweeping sands at Holkham, which Jane Knight says is ‘surely Norfolk’s best beach’
Rooms at The Harper in Norfolk cost from £175 a night on a B&B basis. For more information visit theharper.co.uk.
Now, though, an air of relaxed refinement runs through the place, making it the perfect base to explore this lovely part of Norfolk.
A ten-minute ride away on the hotel’s free-to-use bikes takes you to the cute village of Blakeney, where crab sarnies from the deli will fuel you either for the coastal walk to Cley, with its windmill and smokehouse, or for a boat trip to spot seals slumbering on the shores.
The sprawl of sand at Holkham, surely Norfolk’s best beach, is a short drive along the coast. And there’s Langham’s new glass factory at Fakenham. Here, you too can twist the gathering iron with its lump of molten glass that gloops downwards like syrup from a spoon as you fashion a coloured tea light – the perfect souvenir.
The USP: Laidback luxury near the Norfolk coast doesn’t get much better – and when you’re done exploring, the spa awaits with pool, thermal cabins and blissful, reasonably priced massages.
The food: There’s plenty of seafood and local produce on the menu, with a standout lobster and samphire mac ’n’ cheese on the all-day dining list, and I had a tasty but slightly over-twiddled venison main in the restaurant.
The rooms: The 32 bedrooms, with oak floors, have been beautifully thought through. The categories of Big, Bigger and Biggest are exactly that – our Big twin was spacious, with two small double beds. Complimentary cocktails, beer and snacks are in the mini-bar.