It's been a long, long time since the UK first went into lockdown and there's nothing better to lift the spirits than a fun and stylish change of scenery. Renting a holiday cottage is one way to do it, but if you're feeling like you need a complete break then a hotel is a fantastic option. No bed making, no cooking - that's a real vacation. And after a weekend at the Westleton Crown in Suffolk, the whole family felt completely refreshed and relaxed, whilst also reassured that we were in a very Covid-safe environment - a depressing but necessary consideration in this weird new world.
The pretty beach huts at Southwold
Suffolk - the perfect staycation destination, a short hop from London
Living in South East London, we've previously headed down to Kent or Sussex for short breaks when craving a spot of country fun, but Suffolk is a fantastic discovery. So easy to reach (a quick hop onto the A13 then pretty much straight there) the countryside and beaches of this corner of Suffolk completely blew us away. From the quaint beach huts of Southwold to the space and natural beauty of RSPB Minsmere, not to mention the gloriously unspoilt beach at Covehithe, this is stunning part of the world and ideal to discover in the crisp autumn sunshine - we had most of it to ourselves.
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The Westleton Crown
Situated in the heart of Westleton village, this 12th-century coaching inn has just had a very modern makeover, creating some gorgeous family suites that feel more romantic boutique hotel than family-friendly pub. The rooms are all situated in out buildings around the property's perimeter meaning you feel nicely isolated from other guests - no bumping into strangers in corridors or lifts, you come out of your front door, into the garden and walk in the fresh air to breakfast or dinner.
Some serious luxury for mum and dad - with a roll top bath in the bedroom
The makeover has been very stylishly done. The kids' room had sturdy built-in bunks which were an instant hit, their room situated on the ground floor of our little property with an area to chill in front of the TV and with direct access to the shared shower room. Upstairs, mum and dad felt utterly spoiled in a huge bedroom taking up the entire top floor, featuring a super-king bed and a roll top bath, plus a second smart TV meaning upstairs and downstairs Netflix session can go on whilst recovering from hearty country walks or when taking a bath before bed.
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The Crown's main building is a quintessential old country pub, with low ceilings, wooden beams and big roaring fireplaces. The modern, glass-ceilinged dining room in contrast is bright and spacious, and on summer days can be opened up entirely to flow into the courtyard where outside dining is offered. During Covid times, a one-way system is in operation with multiple sanitising stations meaning your arrival to your table, and exit out, is swift and germ-free.
Bunk beds for the kids - they'll be fighting over who gets the top
The food at the Westleton Crown
Our meals at the Crown were a real treat and got a big thumbs up from all the family. Vegan and gluten free options were available and delicious - the vegan vanilla rice pudding with poached fig, pistachio and blueberries was a particular favourite and made our vegan diner feel like they weren't just an after thought. Great home-cooked, local fare was on offer - including traditional offerings like beer battered haddock and chips, and a sumptuous roast pork chop, alongside some more adventurous options like Jerusalem artichoke risotto and a celeriac schnitzel.
The dining room has a one way system for health and safety reasons
Breakfast was big - there's no way you can manage a proper lunch after a lie in and a full Westleton Crown breakfast (something we discovered even after attempts at a hearty post-breakfast stroll!). All brought to the table, there are juices, toasts, pastries and yoghurt to start, followed by a la carte cooked options, including a full English to eggs royale via a vegan French toast with berries.
Things to do near Westleton
This small Suffolk village is very well set for some on-foot exploration - the coast at Dunwich is within reach (with the delights of the Westleton's sister property The Ship a reward for your efforts). The coast at this point of Suffolk is very beautiful - pink sunsets and endless walks along the long, pebbled beach. One word of warning: if you do walk across the fields for a nice dinner, bring a torch with you for the journey home - it's very dark under the starry country skies and the lanes are very narrow.
RSPB Minsmere is fun even for non-twitchers. The walks and coastline are beautiful and the hides across the wetlands allow for a lot of bird spotting with no expertise required.
The beach at RSPB Minsmere is quiet and peaceful
Nearby Southwold is an upmarket example of a classic English seaside town - complete with pastel-coloured beach huts and a high street that boasts a Joules, a Jack Wills and a White Stuff amongst an array of small independent shops. Don't miss out on fish and chips from the Solebay Fish Co., and apparently the Two Magpies Bakery sells the best bread in town. It was sold out by the time we got there!
Our favourite beach was at Covehithe - so unspoilt and perfect for a bit of a social distanced coastal walk. You park on the road leading into the tiny hamlet - at the centre of which is an atmospheric ruined church (a smaller version is still standing). The stroll to the beach is via a track along the fields, through sand dunes onto the most stunning, wild and open stretch of sand. A blissful afternoon spent blowing away all the cobwebs.
A stay at the Westleton Crown over the Christmas holidays in a family duplex will cost £150 a night including breakfast - or £230 for the festive package which also includes a welcome drink and dinner. Bookings can be taken into 2021.