Harriet Shephard headed to Norwich for a stately golf break at Dunston Hall.
From the pictures I’d seen of Dunston Hall, I expected it to be hidden away in the countryside, miles from civilisation.
But this Elizabethan-style mansion, surrounded by 150 acres of beautiful Norfolk woodland, is surprisingly just a 15-minute drive from Norwich train station and the city centre.
The way the English country manor comes into view as you wind along the driveway is really quite impressive.
With grand turrets and an ornate fountain right in front of the entrance, sweeping up to this hotel really makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a period drama.
It’s an exceptionally pretty course, and yes, there is quite a bit of water in play, but as someone who isn’t an expert or super competitive golfer, I didn't find it ridiculously difficult.
If you’re not a big hitter, there are some really enjoyable par 3s and manageable par 4s. In fact even I got two back-to-back pars (just had to fit that in somewhere, #sorrynotsorry).
The 6179-yard, par 71 course winds around the estate and brings with it lots of dog legs, narrow tree-lined fairways and pretty ponds to hop over. I may have got wet more than once but it's all good fun...
However, the first nine doesn’t loop back to the clubhouse, so make sure you use the facilities before you head off…
It’s pleasant to walk if you prefer stretching your legs to renting a buggy, and there’s relatively little distance between most of the holes (except for one lengthy stretch on the back nine).
If it’s your first time the layout can be a little confusing, and at one point we had to ask some members to point us in the right direction.
The curse architects seemed to love a big bunker, too. The one in front of the fifth green was possibly the biggest I’ve ever seen, so if you’re not too skilled at getting out of the sand you might have to be prepared to do a few drop shots. Also be careful not to walk straight off the side of the 5th green and fall into the bunker like I almost did (there’s always one, isn’t there?)
One of the most Instagrammable scenes of the round is the 18th, with the gorgeous house providing an absolutely magnificent backdrop as you approach the final green. This ensures that, however well or badly you played, you’ll definitely end the round on a high.
If you have time to linger afterwards, The Bunkers Bar offers a lovely outdoor terrace near the 1st tee and overlooking the course (perhaps one for the warmer months though), and a casual and relaxed indoor area too.
I have to admit, the inside of Dunston Hall wasn’t quite as plush and manicured as I imagined from the outside.
This characterful building is certainly due a revamp, and until the pandemic got in the way this was planned for the summer just gone.
But it’s not shabby by any means, just a little dated.
The dark wood furnishings and high windows are still exceptionally impressive, and once it’s been given a makeover (keeping these key features), I imagine it will feel as exclusive and stylish as any of the most luxurious golf resorts in England.
In the evening you can grab a drink in the comfortable and sophisticated bar (where I can confirm they have a great selection of fruity gins), before enjoying a fine-dining style meal in the venue’s main restaurant, The Brasserie. Whether you want a classic like a hearty steak or a more inventive plate such as seabass layered on roast cauliflower and dahl, you’ll be left extremely satisfied.
There’s no need to feel guilty either as you can work it all off the morning after in the HUGE multi-room gym, or in the indoor pool (if you’re not desperate to get straight back out onto the course that is).
The hotel was absolutely filled to capacity when I was there (but it didn’t feel too cramped and crowded), and this is mostly because it offers such exceptional value for money.
While it will doubtless be more pretty once it gets a revamp, it will also become more expensive.
So, if I were you, I’d go and experience this affordable (yet luxurious) staycation option as soon as you can.
The Autumn offers are valid on bookings until March 2021 and they include a one-night stay with dinner and breakfast for £58.50, or if you’ve got a sweet tooth, a one-night stay with a fancy afternoon tea and breakfast for £57 per person.
You can find out more at www.dunstonhallhotel.co.uk.