Off The Beaten Path: The Harper, Norfolk

Name a coastal destination in the UK and most would say Cornwall or Devon, but a stone’s throw to the east coast and you will find some of the most breathtaking beaches you have ever seen in your life, all mixed in with some of the most picturesque villages, just for good measure. And where is this place we speak of you ask? Well, North Norfolk. Known as the champagne coast, and for good reason, the coastline of Norfolk is littered with wealthy Londoners who have migrated from the big city searching for the ‘country lifestyle’ and buying up homes to develop them into their own take of what modern-day country estates should be. But yet, somehow, it’s not overly populated. One such place is the quaint village of Langham which is a short drive from the picture-perfect sand dunes of Holkham beach, which was voted one of the best beaches in the UK as well as taking centre stage in Shakespeare in Love. But Langham is our place of focus because in this quaint little village sits what was once the local glass blowing factory with rugged workshops and old stone walls this was the hub of the village for many, giving the locals stable jobs and skills. But this is no more a factory, closed long ago the villagers were made to look elsewhere to find work and it became an empty shell of its once former glory days. But, like a Pheonix from the flame’s the old factory has risen again thanks to a small team and been given a beautiful new lease of life, all whilst still retaining some of that old exterior charm and character. Its name is now The Harper, a gloriously beautiful boutique hotel that elevates the charm of the local area and its surroundings. And like the factory that once stood before it the hotel provides jobs for people in the local area and once again becomes a shining beacon in this quiet little village.

The Venue: The Harper,
North St, Langham, Holt NR25 7DH

This beautiful building was once the heart and soul of the local village as a glass blowing factory. Locals will tell you they remember the brick and flint-built barns just off North Street as home to Langham Glass, a cottage industry that outgrew its premises as glassblowing blossomed many years ago. After several years passing and a small team later sees the reboot and remarkable transformation of the premises, with the main barn now home to one of the most distinctive luxury hotels in Norfolk. Retaining the fabric of the building and retelling its story with a bold, industrial aesthetic in its public areas, The Harper complements modernity with continuity of history, marrying past and present without a single ounce of country house gluttony. It’s a look that’s something of an homage to the hotel’s namesake, Stanley Harper Cutmore, who was apparently Norfolk through and through. Grandfather to the Cutmore-Scott family who owns and run The Harper, Stanley was a mechanic by trade. He ran Cutmore’s of Barrack Street, Norwich, with his brother Jim, together keeping the business in the Cutmore family for four generations. He and his wife Ivy loved the coast and came here often. Fittingly, the iron, copper, oak and slate of The Harper’s interior today lends it an unfussy, faintly mechanical air that evokes not only the building’s industrial past but also Stanley’s life and work. We found this beautiful property just the right combination of rough-hewn and refined elegance, and yet pleasingly harmonious feel. The Harper is a simple recipe for recharging the batteries that make this North Norfolk hideaway one of the best coastal hotels in the UK.

Location & Arrival: 

Driving down the long lanes towards the village Langham you’re flanked either side by what seem to be endless rolling fields, busily being worked on by the local farmers. You’ll approach a very typical crossroads which the village itself is based around, to your left a dabble of houses here and there that seem to be something from a postcard or country life advert. Ahead is the old glass blowing factory and its new name, The Harper which is elegantly displayed on an easy to see hanging sign at the entrance to the property car park. The entrance isn’t vast or overly impressive like a stately home, no, this is subtle and unassuming, deliberately melting into the village around it. Once you’ve chosen your spot in a spacious car park outside the main building (Tesla Chargers are available) you are greeted by the barn-like frontage of the main house which seems to be draped in the native stones of the area brilliantly framed by modern brickwork and olive window frames.

Walking through the front door is like coming home. Soft colours and fabrics make the entrance to the hotel a warm and inviting place to be as the subtle aroma of the Harpers signature scent slowly entices your senses – this scent will follow you around the whole hotel, which is incredibly brilliant. To the left is a very simplistic front desk which appears to be some kind of antique side table that displays nicknacks and the like in the glass-fronted case. Behind it is the ever-smiling front of house staff who quickly tell us to take a seat in armchairs provided whilst they see to another guest. Do we wait for long? Absolutely not. After a beat of a moment and enough time to appreciate our surroundings a fine young gentleman takes our names and quickly checks his MacBook before whisking us away to our room. On our journey, he informs us about the hotel, our information and what room we’ll be staying in. No complicated check-in, no faffing around just customer service in its sleekest form. Just how we like it.

Location & Arrival: 5*
Front of House Staff: 5*

Accommodation & Interiors: 

A quick tour of the main building and you’ll be greeted by warm, cosy interiors that make you feel right at home, something we’ve never truly experienced when staying at a hotel before. Wonder through the double doors that lead into The Bar and you enter a casually cool area with its slate floors and inky blue walls, there’s a homely, down-to-earth appeal about the space which lasts from morning for coffee until the evening where you’ll be served the best Negroni outside of Italy – even the barman doesn’t know how he manages it. Upstairs, the mood dials down a little in Ivy’s, a laid-back loft lounge for quiet drinks, afternoon tea, tucking up with a book beside the warming glow of a wood-burning stove. Beyond Ivy’s you’ll be greeted by the hotel’s main restaurant, Stanley’s, which is the perfect blend of fine dining and relaxation.

On arrival to our room, which is coined the ‘ biggest’ – the largest out of three options, big, bigger and biggest. On swinging open the door to the room you’re greeted by warming oak floors (literally as all rooms have under-floor heating), original art, a modern four-poster bed and extremely spacious and high-spec bathrooms perfect for pampering yourself. A welcomed addition was a mini-fridge, pre-mixed cocktails and a selection of Nespresso coffees. Another welcomed plus was the double door balcony which overlooks the courtyard, where they serve drinks and food in the summer months as well as the spa building. At night the courtyard is lit with a congregation of light bulbs that move seamlessly from one side of the courtyard to the other, creating a sense of sophisticated calm. Overall, as with the rest of the hotel, walking into the room felt like coming home. It’s a strange sensation to feel walking into a hotel room, feeling as if you’re at home even though you’re not. But that’s what a great hotel is all about, making you feel so comfortable with your surroundings that you just want to kick off your shoes and walk around the place in your socks or slippers. We’re happy to say we did both and no one batted an eyelid, in fact, the staff loved that we felt so relaxed.

Accomodation & Interiors: 5*

Amenities & Offerings:

Stanley’s is the main restaurant for the Harper. Relaxed fine dining is the only way to describe the space which offers diners beautiful nooks and corners as well as longer tables for larger gatherings. A mixture of rustic chairs and tables with pops of the original building and modern artwork follow the general theme for the rest of the hotel, allowing you to feel as if you’re in a luxurious restaurant but also feeling cosy and homelike at the same time. We were placed on a table next to the hotel’s fantastic stained glass window and enveloped in two high-backed thrown type chairs – something everyone should experience. Stanley’s serves a mixture of traditional dishes that make use of the local produce, something we were very pleased to see and to be honest there wasn’t one thing on that menu that we didn’t want to try and our saliva glands went into overdrive. Ultimately we decided on the Chateaubriand with thick-cut beef dripping chips, a beautifully roasted bone marrow accompaniment and panfried broccoli. Now, this is probably one of the more expensive options on the menu, but coming in at £79 between two it’s perfect and was completely worth the money. The steak itself was beautifully prepared and tender, but one thing we would do advise is asking for this piece of meat at medium rare as it really allows you to appreciate it for all its worth and you get an incredible depth of flavour. And it actually comes medium-rare, unlike a lot of places. So well done chef. On the topic of the restaurant staff, should you be lucky enough, you’ll have a wonderful woman called Hollie look after you throughout your stay. Now we try to make a point of excellent staff in our reviews and this woman deserves all praise. To describe her as excellent simply doesn’t do her justice. Everything from the dinner service to breakfast each morning was a delight when being served by her. The most important part was her personality that shines throughout, Hollie didn’t try too hard and she certainly wasn’t a robot, everything she did would appear effortless and as if she actually cared about the experience you had whilst staying at the hotel, which is refreshing. So here is our note to the managers and hotel owner… Give that woman a promotion! Because a restaurant staff under her captaincy would be a force to be reconned with, outshooting most of the luxury hotels in the likes of London, Bath and other major cities.

The Bar is a place of modern chic and subtle luxury. Open all day this is one of the main hang out spots for a lot of hotel residents. It doesn’t matter if you’re just finishing up in the spa and want to cosy down with a coffee and a book or are looking for a midday tipple, this is the place that has it all. Find yourself one of their magnificent sofas, benches or corner tables and simply slink down into a stoop of utter relaxation. But beware, at night you’re guaranteed to have a good time as this place comes alive with a multitude of cocktails, laughter and vibrating energy.

The Den is something of a uniqueness to The Harper and never have we seen such a space pulled off so well. Essentially this is a space to come and treat just like your own living room, lounge around and read the morning paper or how about a game on the pool table? It has wine on tap (literally) and a 120″ projector screen for movie nights where you can snuggle down under a blanket and watch a host of classic movies. This was one of our favourite places in the hotel and we spent many hours playing games of pool and reading in this wonderful and pragmatic space. There’s also more than meets the eye to The Den’s full-size pool table; for private dining, it becomes a dinner table for ten, with doors opening onto The Yard for drinks on summer evenings. This truly is the perfect space for those long lounging summer evenings.

The Spa at the Harper is something of a refreshing concept. It’s not over the top with dim lighting, spa music or teaming with endless amounts of non-residents all battling with hotel guests for poolside beds. Instead, it’s an inviting pool draped with natural light and cool colours with a simple steam room, sauna, and a jacuzzi just for good measure. The best bit though? Apart from only being available for hotel residents, the pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna are all yours and only yours for 30-minute slots thanks to the genius that came up with the idea of booking your pool sessions. At first, you ask yourself if 30 minutes is enough and that surely it’s a pain in the ass to book? But it’s actually a lot easier and a lot less effort than you think. You instantly don’t have to compete with others for space and you and your other half can talk at ease without feeling awkward about your conversation or feeling as if you are disrupting others. Beyond the pool and amenities offering if you feel a need for deeper, more profound relaxation, there’s a range of tension-melting massages among other treatments created for The Harper by Irene Forte Skincare and we highly recommend the full-body massage. So, whether you’re a spa aficionado, or simply in search of something a little more simplistic and relaxed, you’ll be wonderfully surprised at the Harpers offering.

Amenities & Offerings: 5*
Staff: 5* – A special mention to Hollie and her fantastic customer service.

The Gear

Jacket: Barbour Explorer Chop Wax Jacket: £239.00, Available Barbour.com
Boots: Le Chameau Vierzon Jersey Lined Wellington Boots: £150.00, Available Lechameau.com

Conclusion

Norfolk to some, cannot and will not ever compare to the Cornish or Devon coastlines. With their abundance of chic hotels, trendy coffee shops and miles and miles of beautiful beaches. But we’re here to tell you that thanks to extraordinary hotels like The Harper Norfolk is quickly becoming the new Cornwall and they’ve got the beautiful beaches to boot. But, having looked back on our time at this residence what can more can we say about The Harper? Quite simply, nothing. Because to truly appreciate the beauty and divinity of this home away from home you really have to experience it for yourself. Yes, we can gush about the incredible interiors, luxuriously comfortable four-poster bed with Casper mattress and all the other bells and whistles that go along with it. But like arriving home from a far and distant land how do you verbalise that feeling of returning to your own comforts? You can’t. And that’s exactly how it feels walking through those double doors to The Harper hotel. You simply can’t explain the overwhelming emotions that take over your body or the immediate cascade of relaxation that comes over you. And to us, that’s certainly the calling sign of a perfect hotel experience. Bravo.

Rooms start from £190 per night for a ‘Big’, bed and breakfast.
Treatments start from £30.

Book Your Stay Now: Theharper.co.uk | @Theharperhotel

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