Wide open skies, large sandy beaches and miles of unspoiled countryside are some of the reasons visitors flock to Norfolk in the east of England.
It’s also why the British Royal Family are so beloved of Sandringham Estate, their summer country retreat, in the county’s coastal AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
Mix in some of the best links golf courses in the east of England and Norfolk comes close to the perfect British golf escape.
We chose Congham Hall Hotel and Spa, a Georgian manor house set in 30 acres of parkland and herb gardens, as our rustic bolt-hole from which to explore some of England’s most under-rated links golf courses.
Congham’s elegant white stone manor house, gardens, orchard and spa are located in a small village, six miles north-east of King’s Lynn; near Sandringham Estate, the seaside village of Hunstanton and Norfolk’s sprawling sandy coastline.
There is debate about when Congham Hall was originally built. Historical records from cartographers and surveyors suggest its founding stone was laid sometime between 1794 and 1826.
Regardless of its exact origins, present-day Congham Hall is doing a fine job of putting itself on the map for quality and luxury.
It helps that the hotel is brilliantly located, less than 10 minutes by car to King’s Lynn, 20 to Hunstanton and 25 from Brancaster – cutting down on time spent navigating country roads and freeing you up to make the most of your stay.
Congham has a delightful tucked-away feel. The gravel driveway leads to a stately whitewashed building, looking out across orchards and well-manicured lawns.
The lasting first impression was not the pillared portico or well-appointed entrance and public rooms, it was the warmth of the welcome.
The hotel’s staff, many of whom live locally, treated us with a level of kindness and professionalism that was authentic and understated.
We checked into an Orchard Cabin, one of five self-contained suites set amongst heritage apple trees and the hotel’s prize-winning herb gardens.
The cabins opened in 2022 and complement Congham’s 26 individually styled rooms and suites, including twins, in the main house.
Our cabin was tastefully furnished with the work of local artisans and artists. It was light and airy with just the right blend of minimalism and comfort.
The floor-to-ceiling doors provide beautiful views of the orchard, across private decking with a free-standing outdoor bath. A perfect place to soak aching limbs fresh from the links.
After unpacking, we headed straight to the Secret Garden Spa.
There are five treatment rooms together with a 12m swimming pool, thermal suite, outdoor deck and hot tub.
The seasonal herbs and fresh blossoming flowers grown outside the spa windows are used in its treatments and oils and add to the natural relaxing vibe. The pool is small and some of the surrounds look ripe for refurbishment, in contrast to the impeccable standards of interiors in the main hall.
After playing a round at Hunstanton earlier that day, a 60-minute Aroma massage perfectly loosened our tired muscles and helped restore us ahead of dinner in the 2 AA Rosette Samphire Garden.
Expectations were high after browsing the menu, which was imaginative, delicious sounding and packed with locally sourced dishes.
Congham says it aims to source 80% of the ingredients for its menus from within a 20-mile radius, including some of the 400 varieties of herbs grown in its own gardens.
I had Beetroot salad with ewe’s curd to start. Slow braised blade of beef with horseradish, heritage carrots and creamed potato to follow and some wonderful local cheeses to finish. The wine list is excellent and extensive. There was also Woodforde’s Wherry, a ‘Supreme Champion Beer of Britain,’ on tap.
It wasn’t difficult to fall asleep in the supremely comfortable bed despite the melodic hoot of a nearby owl and the unfamiliar feeling of sleeping in a ground-floor bed.
There were no other wildlife serenades through the wee hours and waking to a coffee on our private decking with an orchard view was blissful.
Breakfast was another celebration of fine Norfolk produce. I unashamedly ate my way through treacle smoked bacon, black pudding, free-range eggs and sourdough toast.
For healthier options, you can choose the Spa breakfast with its vegan alternatives to the full English, plentiful avocado and portabello mushrooms.
It strikes me that in both golf and hospitality, the best players are distinguished by having great touch.
Congham has it, in spades. There are lots of well-thought-out touches that make for a pleasant stay, from EV (electric vehicle) charging points and a helipad, to a library full of board games, tennis courts, croquet on the lawn and binoculars in your room; should you fancy a spot of ornithology before setting-off to make actual birdies.
Congham is best suited to small groups of friends or couples looking to enjoy time away playing golf, rather than set-up to cater for larger golf groups.
The majority of rooms are doubles with some twins available. Rates are room only or DBB (dinner bed and breakfast) based on two people sharing with breakfast and a three-course dinner from the house menu.
Congham’s Golf Coast Package
Congham is popular with walkers, foodies and people looking to escape modern life’s exhausting rhythms.
More recently, the spa hotel says it wants to welcome golfers for extended stays.
It has launched ‘Congham’s Golf Coast’, a useful online guide to some of Norfolk’s best golf courses, written by Michael Whitehead, author of Golf Lover’s Guides to England and Scotland.
This downloadable guide contains useful information on courses including Sheringham, Hunstanton, Royal West Norfolk (Brancaster), Royal Cromer, King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth and Caister Golf Club.
Book a tee time at any of the courses listed on Congham’s Golf Coast and the club will provide a discount code worth 10% off best rates to stay at Congham Hall Hotel and Spa.
Our stay will live long in the memory, for the warmth of welcome and the secluded, soothing rural setting.
The links on Norfolk’s coastline are some of the most unheralded golfing landscapes in Britain and are well worth the visit. As with the East Course at Saunton, Royal Dornoch, Porthcawl and Royal County Down, it is remoteness and lack of infrastructure that holds back any idea that a Norfolk links might one day host The Open.
Norfolk and the county’s capital city Norwich are well served by a regional airport that links to KLM and its worldwide hub at Schipol Airport in the Netherlands, plus Greater Anglia trains leave London’s Liverpool Street Station every 30 minutes daily to Norwich, from where you can easily hire a car.
Congham’s Golf Coast package is a great way to enjoy a luxury golf break in Norfolk with the fresh scent of herbs and the gentle hoot of an owl to lull you off to sleep.
Congham Hall Hotel & Spa
T: 01485 600250
Orchard Cabin Stay
Based on two people sharing, one-night dinner, bed and breakfast is £475* (rates subject to change, correct at time of publication).
Book with Congham’s Golf Coast
- Book a tee time at any participating golf course & request a discount code
- Call 01485 600250, quote ‘Golf Break’ and use the code to claim discount
- Offer valid September 4 to October 19, 2023.