Every child, teenager and adult dreams of exploring a windmill. So when Roots and Toots was invited to stay in a converted 18th century windmill in the village of Cley-next-the-Sea in North Norfolk, I knew this would be the perfect first mini-break for our newly formed little family. Although I must admit, I was feeling a bit apprehensive about how suitable this enchanting property might be for two tired new parents and our spirited young baby. Is it possible to have a romantic break with your 8 month old?
Well, as it happens, we did but before hand I’d envisaged a restless night, numerous interruptions from the baby monitor over dinner and scraping mashed potato from the sails. All of the above could have happened but it didn’t and even if it had, it wouldn’t have mattered – our hosts were incredibly accommodating and our surroundings far too beautifully distracting.
Our break at Cley Windmill was indeed very romantic. You can find romance anywhere given the right surroundings and company. So let’s start there, I’d like to get to the heart of our stay by telling you about the lasting memories that I’m left with. In no particular order but as they occur to me, a stream of consciousness if you like on our experience of the mill:
The peaceful views of the walled garden from the River Room, the reed and the saltmarshes towards Blakeney Harbour. The two large window seats, inviting bookends either side of our bedroom. The look of sheer joy on Evelyn’s face when we first arrived in our large, cosy room with a back door leading to the walled garden.
Having a soak in the lemon and cedar oil bubble bath left for us in our bathroom and reading a few pages of my book. Every encounter with one of our welcoming hosts from the windmill, everyone was so genuinely friendly – the old adage: “happy staff, happy guests” feels very true of Cley Windmill.
The circular bathroom window in our room with quieting views of a cornfield. Sinking into the bluebell-coloured throw and soft marshmallow-like duvet and pillows on our King-sized bed.
The anticipation of dinner as the smell of grilled goats cheese, beetroot reduction and micro greens on an oil-drizzled toasted bruschetta wafted into the room during our pre-dinner drinks. Playing scrabble in the circular sitting room surrounded by plump sofas, a roaring wood-burner and complimentary sherry.
Climbing to the third floor of the windmill to watch the sunset from under the sails on the balcony and stealing a kiss from my two loves.
The chocolate torte with homemade ice cream, mango coulis and boozy cherries to mark the end of a delicious meal.
Waking at 5.30am (by our 8-month old alarm clock) and enjoying a complimentary mug of hot chocolate and homemade gingerbread windmill-shaped biscuits cosied up and watching the views from our bed. The eggs at breakfast – orange yolks the size of small planets, oozing middles with a firm white.
The visceral dreams I had that night of Norfolk summers as a child (I’ve read that sleeping under a pyramid-shaped structure can effect your dreams so perhaps the windmill had similar powers). Walking around the walled garden and listening to the sound of corn rustling quietly; and lastly, the smell of crisp and clean linen on my cheek as I fell asleep with a full belly, making a drowsy wine-soaked sigh.
There’s something romantic and whimsical about windmills. Give me a property with soul and a story any day.
More about the River Room:
Originally used to store grain, the River Room is a spacious double bedroom. A comfortable double bed with white rattan headboard set in the centre of this painted wood panelled room. Views on three sides with a door opening directly onto the gardens. The room overlooks the River Glaven and the reed beds. It has an en-suite bathroom and a lobby.
The Windmill and other Rooms:
Cley Windmill dates from 1700s although the tower wasn’t completed until a while later. The upstairs rooms and galleries boast incredible sea vistas. A brick-built five-storey tower, with a domed cap and four, whitewashed sails. Apparently the building has been run as a non-profit making guesthouse since the early 1980s.
There are nine rooms in the mill altogether, including three in the circular tower of the mill: Wheat Chamber, Stone Room and lastly, the Wheel Room, which is accessed by a steep ladder. Other rooms are in the former store-rooms and miller’s accommodation. One of the largest is Barley Bin, a comfortable twin at the back of the mill with a sofa and spacious bathroom with stand-alone bath.
The River Room is possibly one of the most child-friendly rooms, with direct access to the walled garden.
Cley Windmill’s Food:
Dinner is served at 7.30pm: A pre-set three-course menu at £32.50 per head which changes daily. We had a delicious goats’ cheese bruchetta, a butternut squash and chickpea stew with hake and wilted spinach and a chocolate torte with homemade vanilla ice cream with minty chocolate pieces, mango coulis and boozy cherries.
There were several small candle-lit tables in the dining room but because our baby monitor wouldn’t work in the main room, we had our dinner cosied up in the circular sitting room. Dreamy!
Breakfast is served at 8.30am – 9.30am. My other half had a vegetarian fried breakfast and I had soft-boiled local eggs with soldiers. Guests can also pre-order locally smoked kippers or haddock for breakfast from the village smoker the night before.
Weddings at the Windmill:
If you are planning on getting hitched and want to take the magic even further, then you can actually book the windmill as a wedding venue. Ceremonies take place in the stunning circular sitting room which has a licence allowing 22 people including the bride and groom in the ceremony room. You can use the windmill for just the ceremony or for the reception also. If you book the windmill for both the reception and ceremony, the party can use the balcony or the garden – both beautiful backdrops for photography. You can also book all of the mill’s bed and breakfast rooms (which accommodate 16) or include its self catering cottage and take numbers to 18 or 20.
Things I love in the area…
Round the corner from the mill are some of my favourite little shops selling arts, crafts, pottery, smoked fish and a lovely little delicatessen. Or even closer to home, from the grassy, walled gardens, there’s direct access to the pebble and shingle beach of Cley, a 15-minute walk away along a raised sea wall.
The shops and beach in Wells-next-the-Sea are worth a visit as is Blakney point and the seasonal seal boat trips. But possibly my top three favourite things in the area are:
- Coffee, cake and a snoop around The Coop (second-hand furniture shop) at Wiveton Hall (a five minute drive)
- A 20 minute drive west of Cley: A walk on Holkham beach (pictured below) where the beautiful pristine beach, often very under-populated, is sheltered by the pine forest and rolling dunes
- And lastly, a 45 minute – but worth it – drive to Eric’s fish and chip bar, blog post coming soon.
For More Info:
A stay for two at Cley Windmill: Double rooms start from £159, including breakfast. Free Wi-Fi. For more info go to: www.cleywindmill.co.uk
A big thank you to Simon, Sarah and the lovely Trisha for looking after us so well and for having us stay, we had a such wonderful time!