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  • Writer's pictureGabriella Walker

Back to nature in Norfolk - Totally unique accommodation

When I started the series of back to nature accommodation blogs in July, I mentioned how hard it was to neatly fit everywhere into different buckets. I tried my best though and managed to fit 12 amazing places into three categories:

There’s four left though and these ones are so so worth the wait. My husband jokes I use the word dreamy too much. I probably do. I AM dreamy. I fall in love with places and people’s stories and they leave an imprint on my heart. Moving to Norfolk was my dream and every day here exploring and getting to share so many amazing small businesses with you who have followed their own dreams is DREAMY too. If you visit any of these next three places, I think you’ll be hard pushed to not use the word repeatedly as well, because there’s no other word for them. They’re D-R-E-A-M-Y!!

Barn Drift, Cley-next-the-Sea 🐶

Set off a long private lane high in Cley-next-the-Sea (one of our absolutely favourite places in the whole of Norfolk) is Barn Drift. If you’ve heard the name before, you’ll probably be familiar with it as an absolutely exquisite 8 bedroomed holiday home. The thing most people don’t know though is that Barn Drift is hiding the most incredible, secluded secret.

3/4 of the way down the lane to the house, the fields open up and get the most spectacular view of the North Norfolk Coastline. I could’ve stood for hours looking at that view. It genuinely took my breath way. What took my breath away more was what was to come next. Through that field and along a gorgeous little path is Barn Drift’s answer to off-grid “back to nature” accommodation and my word it delivers.

Alice (the wonderful lady who is the brains behind Barn Drift) stumbled across her late father’s old farm trailer that he’d bought at Swaffham auction house back in the 80s. It was dilapidated, kneeling on a flat tyre for over 15 years. I know what you’re thinking…this doesn’t sound very luxurious, but just you wait until you see what she’s done. She’s created something truly wonderful.

Now situation at the edge of the wood, directly looking over that stunning view of the Norfolk Coast with absolutely uninterrupted views, this trusty old farm trailer of her dad’s has been converted into the most wonderful couples retreat. Clad with pine inside, the wonderful aroma of the wood hits you as you open the shutter door. The world’s most comfortable kind sized bed fills the space and as you lay on that cloud of heaven, the views of that coastline are perfectly framed in the huge window that frames the bottom of the bed.

Alice has a skill for dressing properties (you need to see inside Barn Drift itself, it’s simply divine) and she’s not cut corners with the farm trailer either. All the bedding is sumptuous linen with loads of cushions and there’s a gorgeous table and chairs. Outside you’ll find the perfect stargazing area, with a table a bench and a fire pit.

And the best news… get this literally all to yourself. There is only this one farm trailer here. Set on the edge of that woodland with the interrupted view and literally not a single other soul. Alice has most definitely created a little piece of heaven here.

Albion Nights, Woodton

I’ve always dreamed of living in a cabin in the woods. Totally off grid, absolutely in the middle of nowhere and completely secluded. Instagram is filled with stunning drone footage of places like this. Idyllic locations you can stay and be away from everything and totally immersed in nature. The ones I see are always in The Nordics, America or Canada. Up until last month I didn’t even know somewhere like this existed in Norfolk. Now I do know though, this place will have a little bit of my heart forever.

Set in 6 beautiful acres of wildflower meadow and hand-built using reclaimed and repurposed materials, Albion Nights is absolutely breathtaking. As you walk through the woodland from the carpark and through the meadow, your eyes meet this beautiful off-grid cabin, and you’re instantly stopped in your tracks. Facing a beautiful lake, with reeds swaying in the wind outside the veranda, I’m not sure I’ve found anywhere as utterly magical as Albion Nights for a couples retreat in all my travels (not just in Norfolk but the world).

Helen who is the mastermind and absolute dream-weaver behind this incredible place is a huge inspiration. She had a dream that many may have thought was crazy; leaving the rat race of London to find some land in Norfolk, uproot her husband and teenage children and live in a Caravan while they went “grand-designs” on building their own family home and then this off-grid holiday home retreat. Not only did they do it but they did it so beautifully that they’ve been featured in Elle, Grazia and The Time to name a few.

Inside the cabin is like stepping into a 5 star boutique hotel. Not only is the decor sumptuous yet sympathetic to this rustic style of living but, and this is going to sound slightly weird, it smells absolutely incredible. Having such an eye for detail and design that you even think about how somewhere will smell as guests walk in, gives you an idea of just how special this place is.

The absolute joy of this place though isn’t just in the interior. It’s in the outside too. Not only is the cabin set in the most secluded and beautifully stunning surroundings but every detail has been thought through in terms of how you can enjoy that and immerse yourself in it too. When Helen planned the outdoor space at Albion Nights, she didn’t do it by halves. There’s dining and chilling places a plenty, including an outdoor bath tub, set on the covered veranda. Imagine a warm bubble bath as the sun sets over the lake, glass of Champagne in hand, as your mind slows, your body relaxes and you realise nothing else in the world matters right now but this moment.

If I could book to stay at Albion Nights every weekend for the rest of my life, I would.

Round the Woods, Weston Longville 👨‍👩‍👧

Sometimes you meet people that you know will leave an imprint on you forever. Sometimes you find places that bring you so much joy and fill your soul, that as soon as you arrive, you know you’re just never going to want to leave. As soon as I pulled up at Round The Woods and met Set & Kate, I instantly knew that both those things were going to happen.

It’s hard to describe Round the Woods without getting emotional. There’s magic here that can’t quite be put into words. You feel it in your heart though, and if you stay here, you’ll somehow always have that magic with you. This is place is special. Super special.

In 2014, Seb & Kate realised they weren’t living the life they wanted. Having a baby in the rat race of London had flicked a switch in them and they knew they wanted something more for their family. Something that gave their children (and other people) a connection with nature that would make them feel alive. That would help them reset, recharge, slow down and appreciate the beauty of life. The simple life.

Together, completely by hand, with an amazing community around them, Seb & Kate built everything you see at Round the Woods. They created what I can only describe as a piece of art. Yes, this is a glamping site (and an amazing one at that), but it’s more than that. Every detail of this place has Seb & Kate’s stamp on it. It has their love of nature and the environment in it. It has their creativity in it. It has their heart in it. And you feel it; with every accommodation you walk into, with every tree you look at, with every place you stand looking out onto the nature reserve they’ve created.

There’s two Yurts here and one Roundhouse. It’s a huge plot of land and all three of the ‘buildings’ sit remotely, secluded and wrapped into the nature around them. Hazelnut Yurt is nestled amongst Hazel trees and get the beautiful afternoon sun and the most stunning sunsets. Oak Tree Yurt sits under a canopy of Oak tress at the edge of the meadow and is surrounded by daffodils and bluebells in Spring.

As I played on the tree swing that sits next to the Roundhouse at Round the Woods, chatting away to Kate, the thoughts “please can I stay forever” were just whirring through my mind. I even said it to her out loud. And I meant it. I’d move into that Roundhouse if they’d let me. But I can’t steal it all for myself. You need to experience the magic yourself.

Hilda the School Bus, Gresham Hall 👨‍👩‍👧🐶

I’m obsessed with van and bus conversions as back to nature accommodation. Covid gave lots of people across the world the time to reflect on what was important to them and what they wanted to get out of their lives. So many people realised they wanted nothing more to travel. Instagram accounts have started popping up all across the world. People selling their houses and possessions, buying a van or a school bus and converting them into the most incredible homes on wheels so they can explore the world on their own terms.

The honest truth though is that not all of us are able to just pack in our jobs, sell everything and become a nomad. And not everyone would want to even if they could. But imagine if you could get just a slice of that for a long weekend? Time free of cares and worries in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK on one of the most beautiful homes on wheels that I’ve seen in all my Instagram stalking to date. Enter Hilda the 40 foot converted American School Bus 🚌

I haven’t seen anything like this in Norfolk and you’re probably going to need to get in quick as bookings have just opened and she’s only available until 20th September.

Alex and Harriet who have lovingly converted Hilda are to me, the epitome of following your dreams and making it happen. During the pandemic, Alex saw Hilda for sale online. Up until 2019, Hilda was a working school bus, transporting kids to and from South Jefferson Central Junior School, near New York. Spending all of his savings on buying and importing her to the UK, they’ve stripped her back and rebuilt her piece by piece and created something spectacular.

Now an official “skoolie” (a school bus that has been retired from its school district and then gutted and refitted as a tiny home on wheels), Hilda currently sit in arguably one of the most spectacular glamping sites in Norfolk; Gresham Hall.

Bookable through Quirky Campers and sleeping 4, Hilda offers so much more than a quirky night away. She’s beautiful. She’s luxurious. She’s bucket list.

Totally off grid but with solar electrics, she’s eco back to nature like you’ve never seen before. Imagine dining under the stars in Gresham Hall’s wild flower meadow and then sinking into a warm, luxurious bath onboard Hilda as music plays on the radio. Waking up to freshly made breakfast using Hilda’s spacious and well-equipped kitchen or sitting on the custom-built 3-seater sofas, snuggly warm from the log burner as you watch deer dance across the fields.

We’ve not stayed on Hilda yet but I’m desperate to. I have a Norfolk bucket list and she is right at the top. Staying on Hilda feels like a once in a lifetime opportunity. She might pop up elsewhere after 20th September when she leaves Gresham Hall but I’m not risking it. There’s a short window on this one and I for one am not missing the opportunity. I love Norfolk too much to sell everything, convert a school bus and travel the world. But I’m so up for spending the weekend at Gresham Hall pretending!


Don't forget to tag us in your pictures on Instagram if you do end up booking and staying at any of these incredible places (especially if you find yourself using the word dreamy on repeat which I have absolutely no doubt you will) - @norfolkuncovered


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