We love Wells-next-the-Sea (find out why in my guide to North Norfolk). Most families heading here for their holidays, us included, will rent a cottage, and there are some lovely ones right in the town (check out Norfolk Hideaways). However, last summer we were only able to spend a few days on our annual pilgrimage and needed somewhere that would offer us the option of a 3-night booking (impossible for cottages in the height of the season). Enter The Crown.
What was good?
1. The accommodation. What makes The Crown unusual for a hotel, and a great option for families, is that it has two suites, Room 1 and Room 8. Each of these has a large bedroom with King bed for Mum and Dad and a separate smaller kids’ bedroom with bunk beds (plus room for a cot / space for Brio train tracks on the floor…) and a bathroom (ours, Room 1, had a lovely roll-top bath, separate shower cubicle). You get the feeling of being in an apartment, with the obvious omission of a kitchen (preventing you from doing chores). Tastefully decorated (think Farrow and Ball), the room felt luxurious and was well equipped with kettle, DVD players and so on. Best of all, it was within baby-monitor range of the restaurant, meaning we could pop down for dinner each night once the kids had gone to sleep. Perfect.
2. The restaurant. There’s no point being able to steal downstairs for a romantic dinner a deux if the restaurant’s rubbish. Fortunately, at The Crown, this isn’t an issue. The restaurant is great. Buzzing and candlelit at night, it serves up modern British dishes with an emphasis on Norfolk provenance (Wells-dressed crab, locally-reared steak). Mains are around £15, starters and pudding about £6. You can feed the kids earlier from the children’s menu and, if the weather’s nice, sit outside in the beer garden and let them run around afterwards. Breakfast is served in the same restaurant and has a good buffet selection of cereals, breads and so on – useful for starving children to chow on whilst you wait for your full English or kippers to cook. There’s also a box of toys to keep roaming children occupied.
3. The location. The Crown is located slap bang in the centre of Wells, on a green called the Buttlands. This is a nice place for a lunchtime picnic (procured from the fabulous, if pricey, Wells deli), or just a kickabout if the children need to release some energy. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the quay – considerably longer with a dawdling toddler.
What wasn’t so good?
Parking can be a pain, especially in high season. There’s no car park, you just have to nab a space on the road. Once you’ve got a spot, you are tempted not to leave it! The beauty of Wells is that can do just that. Everything is within walking distance.
You probably wouldn’t want to spend more than 2-3 nights here with little ones, as you would start to miss a kitchen. Eating out all the time is expensive and can actually become a bit of a chore with kids. But for a short break when you really don’t want to be cooking and scraping spaghetti off the floor, it’s great.
There’s no playground in the beer garden, so you’ll need to rely on hide and seek if you are set on having a few beers there.
With only two family suites, you are unlikely to be able to book at short notice – unless you fancy a mid-week jaunt in November with your pre-schooler. If The Crown is fully booked, it’s worth noting that its sister hotel, The Ship in nearby Brancaster, also has a rather splendid suite with a kid’s bedroom that you could check out.