I visited The Hollies B&B in Snettisham, West Norfolk, as Silver Travel Advisor’s guest blogger, and had the most splendiferous time. Travelling by train to King’s Lynn gave me time to watch the passing fields, flat and green and decorated with creamy white and pale yellow flowers; and wonder what lay ahead. The website promised cotton sheets and 21st century mod cons. But I was looking forward to the building itself: Mid 18th century, Grade II listed special architectural and historic interest, with Grade I decor throughout. Could it really be so impressive?
The bus (frequent service, close to King’s Lynn Rail Station) wends through pine forest, rhododendrons, and pretty villages, and stops thirty seconds from the buttercup-scattered lawn and matching-yellow front door of The Hollies. A gentle rat-tat-tat brings Andrew, to welcome me into a new and more-perfect world. I am won over instantly: by the pitch-perfection of his welcome and the joy of the decor. It seems that online photos and pretty words cannot fully convey the ambience and character that Shaun Clarkson’s artistic vision has created. Please excuse me while I wax lyrical about the heady mixture of designs, colours and textures, of papers and paints, of Grade II listed untouchability with modern designer sweeps and flourishes, the grandiose mirrors and cleverly clustered vases; the way he has met the challenge of listing restrictions and used them to elevate The Hollies into something I can’t properly describe without fluent ‘designer-speak’, a master of which I am not. Anyway it’s inspirational. And not at all the overworked over-arty overdone concoction I’d feared. This is, perhaps, a demonstration of what an interior designer can do when given a free hand.
Andrew showed me around. I am to make myself at home, ask for anything I need. I could watch a film, loose myself in TV back episodes. The second reception room, he told me, is generally used for quieter activities. I dubbed it the Norfolk Blue Room, although the wallpaper parrots are also pink and green.
The Chinoiserie Room, with its fabulous features and decadent decorations, feels as though it was designed with me in mind: deep reds enriched by greens and turquoise; metallic leaves, carved wood leaves; sash windows; richly decorated ceiling; en suite with white roll top bath with claw feet. And on a practical level, a welcome tray with fresh milk in a real jug and choccy biccies; the most gloriously comfortable beds; heated towel rail, ample hot water, exclusive toiletries, hairdryer.
I made tea and sat on the antique French chair, admiring the glorious garden with its stupendous copper beech. I watched the light drizzle grow steadily into a scene from a black & white film before rain machines were properly invented: someone just off shot chucking buckets of water in front of the window. I gave up on the gentle evening stroll exploring the village, and went downstairs to explore The Hollies instead.
In the lush and plush Green Leafy living room I put a match under the logs, and sank into the sumptuous well-cushioned sofa, watching tiny flying sparks and letting the crackling lull me towards sleepiness.
I slept like a lamb, and woke refreshed. In the opulent dining room with its sensational mirrors there were cereals, juice, yogurt on the sideboard, and a 20-place table. Andrew served fresh strawberries and blueberries, a pot of tea, hot toast. Chef expertly managed my slightly-awkward soft egg and well-cooked mushrooms, with the near-impossibility of perfect vegetarian sausages. When I reached the marmalade stage, a fresh pot of tea and more toast appeared. I might not need to eat again this week!
There were newspapers, but instead I buried my nose in a booklet outlining the Snettisham and The Wash Coast walk, full of instructions I knew would have me lost within minutes. Again Andrew’s instincts cut in, and he suggested an easier option. His route took me through pretty lanes, past houses built of the dark reddish-peach local carrstone, which lends character to the preposterous prettiness of it all. Inside the 14th century church I found an explanation of locally-excavated torcs: neck or arm ornaments. A pheasant on the wall set the scene.
I returned just as daughter and grandson were parking. They got the royal welcome and full tour. Grandson loved his Bijou room, especially the ‘den’ for his cuddlies: red bedside cabinet matching the huge red bed he deems ‘fit for a king’. He found a secret reading nook behind the curtain.
Back from local exploration we relaxed in the Green Leaves living room and dipped into the shelf of board games. Grandson gave in easily to bedtime, and daughter and I found glasses for our bottle of red. We passed a happy evening glorying in the delights of the room, delving the mysteries of our favourite points of The Hollies, its decor, its unique charm, the comfortable beds.
During my visit I learned more about the Hollies. It began life as a two-room house, the remainder added with its owner’s improving fortunes. Later a doctor used the two front rooms as his surgery and waiting room, and the rest of the house as the family home. Andrew remembers attending the surgery as a child. Part of the charm of The Hollies is that it’s retained the essence of the family home it was built as. The house is now owned as a joint venture with a split personality, explaining The Hollies’ non-availability at weekends. It becomes Carrington House, taking self-catering parties: the lid comes off the jacuzzi and the basement ‘clubroom’ is opened. Suddenly the cocktail cabinet in the ‘quiet’ Parrot room makes sense.
My other great discovery is that Andrew’s CV boasts ‘Royal Butler’ as an early entry. Perhaps this explains his apparently-effortless ability to treat us in a manner fit for the Queen. He clearly has many stories hidden away, but discretion demands that they remain so.
Next morning chef repeated his brilliance, even pandering to grandson’s fond wish for scrambled and fried egg. Andrew was his usual attentive self.
Eventually we could escape the truth no longer: it was time to leave.
The Hollies Bed & Breakfast
12 Lynn Road