Stressed out? This 17th Century pub with rooms in Norfolk could be just the tonic – it offers more than 100 varieties of gin
- Jennifer Cox checks in to The Gin Trap Inn, which lies in the ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ village of Ringstead
- There are 13 rooms and suites, plus three self-catering cottages all with a mix of antique and modern decor
- For dinner, she feasts on ‘delicious’ oysters followed by halibut with caramelised cauliflower
Sprawling Norfolk is best discovered along the lanes that meander past hedgerows and headland, revealing impossibly cute flint cottages, ancient abbeys and tiny harbours where fishing boats tilt drunkenly in the mudflats.
But, arguably, Norfolk’s real superpower is its abundance of wildlife. The whole county is a mosaic of nature reserves, crowned by a brilliant halo of pristine sandy beaches, and all bursting with a raucous who’s who of migrating and domestic birdlife.
No wonder Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan once again hosted Autumnwatch from the rolling 4,000-acre Wild Ken Hill reserve in West Norfolk.
Handsome: Jennifer Cox visits the village of Ringstead and checks in to The Gin Trap (pictured)
Above is The Gallery, ‘a tiny but perfectly formed two-storey suite of rustic chic’ that Jennifer stays in
The bedroom in The Gallery is tucked into the eaves
We base ourselves at The Gin Trap, a handsome 17th Century coaching inn in Ringstead – a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village on protected chalk grasslands, four miles from Wild Ken Hill.
There are 13 rooms and suites, plus three self-catering cottages, all with a pleasing mix of antique and contemporary furnishings with nice touches such as jigsaws, wildlife-spotting books… and gin, just one of the 100 varieties on offer.
We are in The Gallery, a tiny but perfectly formed two-storey suite of rustic chic, with original wooden floorboards, rough whitewashed walls and exposed brickwork.
Downstairs is dominated by a huge squashy sofa, but there’s also a kitchen and seating area. Upstairs the cutest bedroom is tucked into the eaves, along with a roll-top bath and en suite with shower.
The Gin Trap is popular with locals – some even appear on the menu, including lamb from the Sandringham estate ten miles down the road, and Brancaster oysters harvested by a 70-year-old fisherman called Cyril.
Award-winning chef Gareth Rayner specialises in seasonal British dishes with a twist, and as we head through the spacious bar with chunky beams and comfy chairs around a roaring fire, we dither whether to eat there, in the informal glass-walled conservatory or outside in the stylish garden’s wooden cabanas, but settle on the cosy library-restaurant.
The oysters are delicious (nice one, Cyril), as is the halibut with caramelised cauliflower, and venison saddle with hedgerow blackberries and parsley root.
Blackberries reappear in the 1970s tribute dessert – a decadent rum baba with tangy poached blackberries and sorbet. Amazingly, next morning we manage to polish off a spectacular breakfast of kippers from Staithe Smokehouse with lightly poached farm eggs and doorsteps of granary toast.
The spacious bar has ‘chunky beams and comfy chairs around a roaring fire’
The picture on the left shows the fire in the bar and on the right is one of the wooden cabanas in the garden
Outside The Gin Trap Inn’s front door, you can immerse yourself in the glorious landscape.
We stroll to Ringstead Downs and follow the trail to Hunstanton, accompanied by a rich chorus of birdsong. At RSPB Titchwell Marsh, five miles along the coast, guides point out glossy ibis, red-throated divers and marsh harriers.
To enjoy a pure blast of uplifting nature, it’s fair to say that a stay at Gin Trap Inn was a complete tonic.