The Gunton Arms

Norfolk, East Anglia, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Cat Martin
Personality-packed rural pub with 12 rooms, stunning food and contemporary art, on a historic estate in north Norfolk
The Gunton Arms is a cross between a well-heeled private house and a supremely comfortable pub. The world-renowned art dealer Ivor Braka and his artist wife Sarah Graham used to call it their local, until they decided to make the arrangement a bit cosier, and bought the place. After a lengthy and impressive renovation, the pub remains popular with locals. In addition, there's an outstanding restaurant and 12 comfortable and characterful bedrooms; best of all, the whole show is run with a very generous spirit.

The exterior may speak of rural tradition, but inside this laid-back retreat is full of surprises. Over your inspirational, expertly cooked supper, there’s so much to talk about that your conversation will never run dry: from the incredible modern art lining the walls - Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Paula Rego - to the ancient elk above the fire. Come to relax in beautiful surroundings, eat a fine steak cooked on the fire, and get a great night’s sleep. Nearby you'll find ravishing scenery, historic parks and quiet beaches. Don’t tell everyone, but this part of the UK is fast becoming our secret hotspot.

Highs

  • A gloriously peaceful setting, adjacent to a 1,000-acre deer park. It's also near Norfolk's beaches and within easy reach of a train station for low-fuss weekends away
  • Fabulous well-priced food in hearty portions. It's locally sourced if possible, with venison from the estate and Cromer crab making an appearance
  • Charming rooms, with extraordinary attention to detail
  • Full of characterful features and provocative (sometimes shocking) world-class modern art. Works by Tracey Emin, Lucian Freud and Damien Hirst can all be seen
  • Young, friendly staff make sure you feel right at home

Lows

  • It's not a hotel, it's a pub with rooms, so the emphasis is on the food rather than providing service for those staying overnight
  • Rooms above the bar are a bit noisy (Superiors Langtry and Harbord)
  • The restaurant is deservedly popular, so booking dinner ahead of your arrival is vital
  • Hard to find in the dark

Best time to go

Norfolk is great to visit at any time of year. In the winter it’s frosty and flat and perfect for wintry walks; in the summer it’s warm and the nearby beaches are a big draw, and in spring and autumn the countryside is in bloom or in leaf and lovely to see.

Our top tips

Guests have the use of The Stamp Rooms, 2 private sitting rooms downstairs, along with a private dining room, where you'll find an original Lucien Freud on the wall.

When you arrive, go to the Residents Only door on the left hand side to check in.

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Pub with rooms
  • 12
  • Restaurant (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Pool Table
  • Dart board
Room: Coach House Room

Rooms

There are 12 rooms, four of which are in the converted coach house next to the pub.

The Coach House Rooms are newer and benefit from being further away from the noise of the busy pub. We enjoyed staying here during our last visit. Our room, Walpole, was beautifully decorated with an enormous antique bed and a vast bathroom complete with rolltop bath and separate shower. Nothing is standard or rolled out en masse - it’s all been carefully chosen. You’ll find Chinese bedside lamps, pretty patterned wallpaper, prints of butterflies, DAB radios, mahogany side tables, elegant bathrooms and cheery antique runners. We loved the in-room guide to the art in the pub - a fascinating read from the art collector owner.

All bathrooms are stocked with luxurious Noble Isle products and we found a fluffy robe tucked into the wardrobe. The Small Standard and Standard rooms have shower bathrooms; the Superiors have rolltop baths, and a couple have showers, too.

Superior rooms Ellis and Parkin were our favourites in the pub itself: both are quiet and a good size with nice views. Ellis has a kingsize four-poster bed. Standard Thurston and Superior Ward are also peaceful and a good size. Superiors Langtry and Harbord have good views but are noisier, being above the bar.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

As well as being a fully functioning pub with local ales on tap, the excellent restaurant is the main reason to visit (it's vital to book ahead). In the warm and characterful dining room, there's wooden furniture and open fires. The seasonal menu often includes their home-smoked venison and salmon; the wine list is extensive. If food miles are an issue, you'll love that the Gunton Venison has travelled under a mile, and fish is from the coast 4 miles away. You might also see the likes of nettle and leek soup, linguini with Brancaster mussels and clams, and steamed treacle sponge with a shot of sloe gin jelly.

The pub is a curious place, collecting a mix of people and furniture. A 13th-century coffin table sits alongside modern pine, 17th-century wood panelling, silver plated cutlery and original modern art. All the more to talk about over dinner!

In the morning, the buffet breakfast table has Dorset cereals, homemade granola, potted yoghurts, juice, bread to cut and jams and marmalade. Coffee or tea is made to order, as are a selection of hot items: kippers, full English, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. During the day, guests have use of the tea and coffee facilities in the pub (there are none in rooms).

There are also bar snacks and sandwiches available all day, including a Gunton venison sausage roll and parsnip crisps.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Enjoy the views of the stunning Gunton Estate, with its big herds of deer
  • Head to Cromer, a traditional Victorian seaside town with a pier and sandy beaches. Mundesley is also lovely
  • Visit the stunning 18th-century Holkham Hall near Cromer, or the stately home and magnificent 5-acre walled garden of Houghton Hall, former home of Great Britain’s first prime minister
  • Blickling Hall, once home to the Boleyn family, is now a large National Trust estate with a magnificent library and Second World War history. Or visit stately Felbrigg Hall, one of the finest 17th-century houses in East Anglia, now run by the National Trust
  • Take a trip to the Sainsbury's Centre of Art in Norwich, which includes work by Henry Moore, a silver Inca llama dating back 500 years and a wonderful bronze Degas dancer. Check out the lovely cathedral while you're in town
  • Go seal watching at Blakeney and Morston quays. Boat trips run regularly during the season (April to October), to visit the colony on Blakeney Point
  • Play golf in Cromer, Sheringham and Mundesley
  • There are tennis and squash courts within 10 minutes’ drive
  • Hire a boat and cruise the Norfolk Broads for the afternoon

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Pool table
  • Tennis
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children are welcome; it probably wouldn't be considered overtly family friendly but there are provisions such as high chairs, baby changing facilities and a kids menu.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Two of the Superior rooms can interconnect, unfortunately they're above the bar so what you gain in space you might lose with a little noise in the evenings... Extra beds and baby cots are available in the larger rooms.

Children's meals:

The pub has highchairs and a kids' menu, adapting dishes from the main menu where possible. Our son had delicious homemade pollock fish-finger butties with minted peas and chips when we lasted visited.

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Cromer and Mundesley beaches, both sandy
  • South American-themed Amazona Zoo near Cromer, with flamingos, jaguars and monkeys
  • Seal watching tours from Blakeney Point are great for kids

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
9/
Food
8/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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Rates for The Gunton Arms