Best Places To Stay UK: The Fife Coast

Do you ever get stuck in a holiday rut where you end up packing your suitcase to head back to the same places over and over again? When it comes to UK staycations we have fallen into the habit of heading South-West in search of Cornish beaches, cream teas and the opportunity to potentially spot Poldark indulging in some topless farming. However this Easter we headed North rather than South of the border after a chance conversation with my Sister lead me to discovering a secret the Scots have been keeping under their Sporrans: the East Neuk of Fife. This stretch of coast between Leven and St Andrews is where well heeled Edinburghers come to spend their Summers drawn by the miles of sandy beaches, gorgeous little fishing villages and some of the best food and drink in Scotland.

Beautiful Elie our base for the holiday

Beautiful Elie our base for the holiday

The harbour in Pittenweem

The harbour in Pittenweem

Granted you may have more chance of spotting Gordon Brown paddling in the sea with his trousers rolled up than Poldark tending a field with his top off but that is pretty much the only drawback of visiting this beautiful part of the world. We travelled up from London by train (which takes about 4.5hrs) and then hired a minibus from Edinburgh for the final hour or so of the journey. Before you start thinking that I am a secret mormon with enough children to fill a bus I should point out we were travelling with friends so there were 12 of us in total. I would highly recommend getting the train as the stretch of the journey north of Morpeth runs alongside the sea and includes coastal views stunning enough to cause kids to look up look up from their I Pads.

Ruby Bay beach in Elie which our holiday house led directly out onto

Ruby Bay beach in Elie which our holiday house led directly out onto

Where We Stayed

There are four or five different places to choose from as a base on this stretch of coast. St Monan’s, Elie, Anstruther, Crail, Pitenweem and St Andrews itself are all charming.  We chose Elie after I lucked out and found a stunning contemporary house right on the beach.  For all of you who asked for the link  click here.  Midrock House sleeps up to 12 and has a wonderful open plan layout downstairs with floor to ceiling windows to take advantage of the stunning views out over the beach. 

The entrance to Midrock House with bags of coastal kerb appeal

The entrance to Midrock House with bags of coastal kerb appeal

The design of the house maximised its stunning coastal location

The design of the house maximised its stunning coastal location

The back of the house and the path down onto the beach

The back of the house and the path down onto the beach

This side of the house has a bedroom with 4 beds for kids and a separate living space and TV to keep them entertained

This side of the house has a bedroom with 4 beds for kids and a separate living space and TV to keep them entertained

There are polished concrete floors throughout, an open plan kitchen/diner, five double bedrooms, three bathrooms, three living rooms, a utility and boot room. Everything is built around the stunning views which in the Winter you can enjoy snuggled up inside in front of the beast of a log burner.

I loved the concrete seating bench which also housed a woodburner

I loved the concrete seating bench which also housed a woodburner

Plenty of room on the sofa for six

Plenty of room on the sofa for six

We lit the woodburner one of the colder nights and cosied up watching the sea as the sun went down

We lit the woodburner one of the colder nights and cosied up watching the sea as the sun went down

There is an amazingly well equipped kitchen at the centre of the living space that had every pot and pan you could ever desire and then there is a gorgoeus (and enormous) vintage farmhouse style table for dining at. This is positioned to take full advantage of the views and in the Summer there is an outdoor seating area on the terrace that runs the width of the house that is steps from the beach.

There is a huge island in the centre of the kitchen which makes it a really sociable space

There is a huge island in the centre of the kitchen which makes it a really sociable space

We easily fitted all 12 of us around the vintage farmhouse style table

We easily fitted all 12 of us around the vintage farmhouse style table

The open plan living/dining space. There is a further seating area with TV beyond the wall behind the table

The open plan living/dining space. There is a further seating area with TV beyond the wall behind the table

When the sun was shining you could open up the doors and eat outside on the terrace

When the sun was shining you could open up the doors and eat outside on the terrace

Upstairs the bedrooms have been designed to take full advantage of the view. The decor is fresh, white and neutral but huge picture windows flood the rooms with light and offer an outlook over the bay and beyond. I can’t tell you how soothing it is to fall asleep at night with the blinking light of a lighthouse reflecting at you over the sea. There is almost an annex/separate wing of the house that is designed as a cool kids crash pad with four single beds and a separate living space with its own tv.

One of the bedrooms with views of a lighthouse

One of the bedrooms with views of a lighthouse

Another bedroom which had an enormous picture window running the width of the room

Another bedroom which had an enormous picture window running the width of the room

Five things to see and do

Exploring Elie

We chose Elie as our base mainly because the house just completely bowled me over but when we got there I realised it was actually a great choice for a number of other reasons as well.  If you come out of Midrock House and turn right you come to the huge, flat main beach and, most importantly, The Ship Inn.  This lovely pub has great interiors that have just the right amount of nod to the nautical and is the place to eat in Elie.  The menu majors on amazing locally caught seafood and they have just added a new outdoor Gin Bar for 2019 which means that you can sit outside, drink in hand watching the sun go down whilst the kids play happily on the beach just metres from you. 

The famous  Ship Inn  which was just 3 mins from the house

The famous Ship Inn which was just 3 mins from the house

The house itself looks over the second beach which is the more sheltered Ruby Bay (so called because garnet stones have been known to be found on the beach). And beyond Ruby Bay you can follow the coast around to the lighthouse and explore a ruined temple. For the more adventourous (who do not have a toddler hell bent on throwing himself in the sea) there is the Elie Chain walk. We didn’t do it because of aforementioned toddler but is basically a bit like coasteering but with chains to help you navigate the rocks.

We loved doing the walk around to the lighthouse from the house

We loved doing the walk around to the lighthouse from the house

Even if it was a little windy

Even if it was a little windy

There is also the option of further exploring the coast on the Elie Chain Walk

There is also the option of further exploring the coast on the Elie Chain Walk

upload.jpg

The Bowhouse Market

Ten minutes up the coast from Midrock House is the Bowhouse.  A monthly food and craft market in a super cool converted agricultural building that gathers together some of the best local food and drink producers and adds in some great local designers and makers so that you can chow down on a freshly baked Creme Egg Brownie whilst perusing locally made ceramics and jewellery.  There is a brilliant atmosphere with lots of great stalls.  The are big communal wooden tables to sit, live music and some great food demonstrations.  It is an absolute must visit

I loved the concrete planter in the entrance to the market

I loved the concrete planter in the entrance to the market

Just some of the great stalls to peruse

Just some of the great stalls to peruse

I loved this jewellery stall

I loved this jewellery stall

There is a great and lively bar area

There is a great and lively bar area

And a separate barn with huge communal wooden tables and more great food trucks

And a separate barn with huge communal wooden tables and more great food trucks

When at a farmers market dress like a footballing farmer?!

When at a farmers market dress like a footballing farmer?!

St Andrews

Hands up anyone born between 1983 - 1986 who considered popping St Andrews on their University application form to have a go at #WinningaWindsor.  Prince WIlliam is long gone but this great little town is definetely still worth visiting.  It has great beaches, oodles of lovely architecture, golf if you are that way inclined but most importantly of all in Janettas potentially the best ice cream parlour I have ever visited (and I am a veteran #parlourpurveyor). 

upload.jpg

Scotland’s Hidden Bun ker

Whilst the Fife Coast is Scotland’s sunniest spot this is still Scotland so you will get the odd overcast/rainy day.  In which case this place is defo fun to visit.  Declassified in the 90s it turns out that in a non descript field in the middle of nowhere there is in fact a huge underground bunker built to withstand a nuclear attack from which the cold war was being fought.  Well I say fought, it mainly seemed to involved lots of men looking at maps and practising their morse code every now and again.  If you are used to London Museums where the cafe is part of the attraction you may want to adjust your expectations before visiting though as the err facilities are more of the formica table and vending machine than avocado on toast and filament bulb variety.  Although the vending machine did sell Wham bars which I am pretty sure may have been outlawed some time around 2003 on account of their e-number account but which I would still happily lose a tooth to eat.

upload.jpg
The err retro cafe which looks like it is still trapped in the Cold War era

The err retro cafe which looks like it is still trapped in the Cold War era

Young secret agents in the making

Young secret agents in the making

Craigtoun Country Park

If you are, like us, in possession of kids who seem to share their DNA make up with Labradors and thus require exercising everyday in wide open spaces then Craigtoun Country Park is great.  It is about 30 mins from the house and great to combine with a trip to St Andrews.  There are loads of different adventure playgrounds and activities to choose from as well as the park itself being rather beautiful and it is the number 1 visitor attraction in Fife for good reason

A couple of soft southerners struggling with the Scottish breeze at Craigtoun Park

A couple of soft southerners struggling with the Scottish breeze at Craigtoun Park

Anstruther

There are lots of lovely villages to explore on this stretch of coast with lovely fishing harbours, sandy beaches and pastel and sand coloured houses but Anstruther might just edge prize of the prettiest.  It has some nice indepdent shops and an award winning fish and chip shop (the Anstruther Fish Bar) right in the beach to round off your visit. 

upload.jpg

Best Places to Eat and Drink

I should probably caveat this heading as best places to eat and drink if you have kids with you who have a maximum restaurant concentration time of 25 mins.  Any meal that takes long than that to arrive  and be eaten usually ends in carnage so unfortunately I am not able to offer my review of some of the more fine dining establishments ( Seafood Restaurant and Craig Millar @ 16 West End  both look amazing).  However the beauty of this stretch of coast is that there are loads of great farmshops so even if you are not eating in restaurants you can still fill you tum with fabulous food.  One of the best is Adross Farmshop and it is just five mins from Midrock House.  Here is my round up of my favourite places we chowed down

Cocoa Tree in Pitenweem

It doesn’t look very promising from the outside and the decor does have a slight feel of Mystic Meg’s dressing room but this is the best place for a Hot Chocolate for miles around.  It is part chocolate shop part cafe run by the Pitenweem Chocolate Company so you are guaranteed an amazing chocolate experience.  They have a stove in the winter that creates a cosy feel and a sheltered courtyard garden to enjoy in the Summer and the owners were extremely friendly and accomodating of our party which included 6 kids between us.  Pitenweem itself has a lovely little fish harbour and pretty pastel houses and buildings.

The pretty streets of Pittenweem

The pretty streets of Pittenweem

I loved the pastel coloured houses

I loved the pastel coloured houses

upload.jpg
The perfect place for a hot chocolate

The perfect place for a hot chocolate

The Cheesy Toast Shack

Mr Malmo tends to take a back seat when it comes to our holiday planning but every now and again he comes up with a gem out of the blue that makes me think he would make a very good substitute #ModernRusticJudith Chalmers were I to retire.  The Cheesy Toast Shack is one such gem.  A chance read of a Jay Rayner review in the Observer led 20 of the best minutes of my life sat in a steamy mini bus looking out to sea whilst eating a macaroni cheese filled toasted sandwich which may have furred my arteries but was worth every ounce of cholesterol.  I cannot recommend this place highly enough.  No pretty flat lay for you of this one just a full frontal shot of the melted cheese magic.

Best cheese sandwiches in Scotland

Best cheese sandwiches in Scotland

Sex in a sandwich

Sex in a sandwich

The Ship Inn

I have mentioned it already but I am going to mention it again because we had such a great meal here.  If budget had allowed I would happily have eaten here every day of our stay.  Seriously amazing food in a lovely relaxed atmosphere.  In the Summer the Ship Inn also organises beach cricket tournaments with a barbeque. No pressure but they have been known to attract ex professional cricketers from the West Indies so make sure to pack your cricket A game.

upload.jpg
The upstairs dining room with great views of the beach

The upstairs dining room with great views of the beach

The Millhouse Pizza Company

Whilst the Bowhouse market that I mentioned is only on once a month, there is a permenant woodfired pizza restaurant in the same building that is open 6 days a week and serves up the most delicious pizzas in a gorgeous beamed ceiling space.  They also do coffee and cake if you are not in the mood for pizza (if that is even possible).

upload.jpg
upload.jpg

So there you have it my round up of the best of the Fife Coast. I would put this in out top 5 holidays of all time. I loved it that much and we are already planning a return trip next year having spotted these amazing looking Cath Penny Safari Lodges just outside Elie.  We also added a night in Edinburgh into the mix on the way back which I would highly recommend. Although I would probably not recommend climbing Arthur's Seat with a toddler who (within 1 minute of starting the ascent loses all of the power in his leg batteries).

No leg batteries but a big smile at least

No leg batteries but a big smile at least

A Weekend at Eden Hall Cottage, Norfolk

Does anyone remember the TV programme ‘Challenge Anneka’?  The basic premise was that Anneka Rice (sporting a blue jumpsuit that made her look like an errant Kwik Fit employee) had 48hrs to complete a seemingly impossible task like reintroducing an obscure species of Owl to the UK or persuading Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen to wear beige.  It sadly disappeared from our screens some time around 1994 but I think the BBC should bring the show back and set Anneka a new challenge. Find a holiday cottage near the coast in the UK that sleeps 10-12 people (without anyone having to sleep in a drawer) with interior’s that don’t look like the inside of your Auntie Pat’s conservatory all for less than £5000 a week.  I suspect it would make reintroducing that obscure owl look like child’s play.  But fear not Anneka, I’ve got this one.  In my little black book of holiday cottages is a place that ticks all of those boxes and more: Eden Hall Cottage.

The gorgeous back porch of  Eden Hall Cottage  which is a traditional flint cottage on the North Norfolk coast

The gorgeous back porch of Eden Hall Cottage which is a traditional flint cottage on the North Norfolk coast

About the Cottage

The cottage is located on the North Norfolk Coast on the so-called secret side (i.e. the stretch that is not overrun with men called Tarquin down from London for the weekend who are partial to red trousers).  Eden Hall’s owners are Vicky and Chris White.  If I tell you that Vicky is the founder of the beautiful home and lifestyle brand Plum & Ashby you will start to appreciate that this is going to be a pretty special place.

Edenhall as it looked when Vicky and Chris first went to view it

Edenhall as it looked when Vicky and Chris first went to view it

Vicky, Chris and their dog Bertie live in Olney (Bedfordshire) but have always been regular visitors to the Norfolk coast.  They got engaged there and, in 2015, they started to look for a property they could turn into the coastal holiday home of their dreams.  After two years of searching and several close misses, in November 2017 (on their shared birthday) they went to view Eden Hall Cottage and fell in love. 

upload.jpg

The Renovation

It took some vision to see it’s potential as a beautiful beach bolthole because it was, at the time, completely run down with rats in residence and a random toilet in the middle of the drive.  However they were able to look past the loo and having secured the property, brought an architect on board to help them restore it to it’s former glory. Their ambitious goal was to have the property ready for its first visitors by the summer of 2018.   

The inside of the property had seen better days but the potential was easy to see

The inside of the property had seen better days but the potential was easy to see

Some gorgeous period features were still shining through the gloom

Some gorgeous period features were still shining through the gloom

Having hired a team of local builders following a tender process, their first step was to strip the property back to it’s bare bones (including taking out and replacing all of the upstairs floors the joists of which turned out to be rotten).  This is what the cottage looked like when I first popped round “Kevin McCLoud” style at the start of their renovation journey.

The upstairs landing and staircase. The entire upper floor had to be removed as part of the renovation and replaced after the joists were found to be rotten

The upstairs landing and staircase. The entire upper floor had to be removed as part of the renovation and replaced after the joists were found to be rotten

upload.jpg
Vicky and Chris kept and restored the original brick fireplace

Vicky and Chris kept and restored the original brick fireplace

The Interiors

By the time Malmo McCloud returned to stay as one of their first guests in October 2018, it was virtually unrecognisable.  With the renovation complete, the cottage has five double bedrooms (three of which are ensuite), a stunning kitchen diner with vaulted ceilings, a relaxed sitting room with open fire, a family bathroom with a gorgeous cast iron roll top bath and a boot room and separate utility.  There is a lovely secluded patio garden at the front and a large lawned area at the back (perfect for letting our pack of lad labradors off the leash). 

Vicky battled her builders to have vaulted ceilings in the kitchen/dining space that is at the heart of the house

Vicky battled her builders to have vaulted ceilings in the kitchen/dining space that is at the heart of the house

The rowing oars are a subtle nod to the cottage’s coastal location

The rowing oars are a subtle nod to the cottage’s coastal location

The family bathroom blends contemporary and vintage features with a huge rolltop bath to relax in

The family bathroom blends contemporary and vintage features with a huge rolltop bath to relax in

Vicky said that her aim for the interiors was to create an English take on an American beach house and it is a triumph of Nantucket come to Norfolk.  The walls are painted in a pallet of clean minimal neutral colours which act as the perfect backdrop to some seriously luxurious furnishings from brands such as Neptune, Rowen & Wren, Also Home and the White Company.  There is not a jaunty anchor or whimsical shell in sight. 

The relaxed sitting room is at the front of the house and opens on to a secluded patio courtyard garden

The relaxed sitting room is at the front of the house and opens on to a secluded patio courtyard garden

upload.jpg
upload.jpg

The star of the show has to be the duck egg blue Humphrey Munson kitchen which is at the heart of the house and fabulously well equipped.  I loved the way that Vicky and Chris had chosen to leave sections of the original flint walls exposed in the kitchen to provide a rustic contrast to the contemporary units. 

The Humphrey Munson kitchen Vicky chose in duck egg blue works perfectly with the flint walls left exposed

The Humphrey Munson kitchen Vicky chose in duck egg blue works perfectly with the flint walls left exposed

The perfect shelfie

The perfect shelfie

Those flint walls

Those flint walls

Marble worktops and brass taps add a vintage edge to the

Marble worktops and brass taps add a vintage edge to the

We stayed at the house as a group of ten (with 5 friends rather than 5 children I have previously failed to mention in case you are wondering).  The layout of the cottage is perfect for groups of friends or families..  Upstairs are two generous double bedrooms (one of which is ensuite) and a further single with bunk beds and some lovely touches for children staying like a minature teddy version of Bertie the dog. Upstairs is also host to the family bathroom of dreams which has Georgian style panelled walls, a huge roll top bath and gorgeous brass taps. The bath products are all from Plum & Ashby’s beautiful range made in the UK.

The upstairs ensuite bedroom with gorgeous striped headboard and exposed wooden beams

The upstairs ensuite bedroom with gorgeous striped headboard and exposed wooden beams

I have this thing with the amazing honeycomb tiles on the floor in the ensuite

I have this thing with the amazing honeycomb tiles on the floor in the ensuite

upload.jpg
The second upstairs double bedroom which is a great size

The second upstairs double bedroom which is a great size

The family bathroom with fabulous Georgian style pannelling

The family bathroom with fabulous Georgian style pannelling

The lovely single bedroom complete with bunk beds and lots of thoughtful touches for junior guests

The lovely single bedroom complete with bunk beds and lots of thoughtful touches for junior guests

I love that Vicky and Chris were able to keep the original window frames

I love that Vicky and Chris were able to keep the original window frames

Downstairs are two further double bedrooms both of which are ensuite.  This layout meant that those in our party with kids could sleep upstairs whilst those without occupied the bedrooms downstairs so that they were spared a 7:30am wake up by the Octonauts/Fireman Sam/Mr Tumble emptying his spotty bag.

One of the downstairs double bedrooms. I love the panelling painted in a lucious dark green

One of the downstairs double bedrooms. I love the panelling painted in a lucious dark green

Pinstripe cushions from Also Home up the comfort levels in all the bedrooms

Pinstripe cushions from Also Home up the comfort levels in all the bedrooms

The bedrooms are all beautiful but the one to fight over is definitely the master suite off the kitchen which has both a four poster bed and roll top bath of it’s own.  It is set off the kitchen/diner and is like a mini hotel in it’s own right. I loved the vintage boathouse sign that hangs above the doorway to this room adding a nod to the coast.

Prepare to duke it out for who gets to sleep in the stunning master bedroom

Prepare to duke it out for who gets to sleep in the stunning master bedroom

The four poster bed of my dreams from the White Company in the master bedroom

The four poster bed of my dreams from the White Company in the master bedroom

upload.jpg
A peek into the ensuite which has a roll top bath of it’s own

A peek into the ensuite which has a roll top bath of it’s own

And a shower to with marble metro tiles

And a shower to with marble metro tiles

We all then enjoyed big communal breakfasts together with papers around the huge kitchen table which can easily seat 12.  Bacton, where the cottage is based has a small local shop which stocks all of your bread/milk/Sunday papers essentials. Though it is not the kind of the place where you will be able to source artisan pate or gluten free granola so maybe stock up in advance if those things are your daily essentials.

upload.jpg
upload.jpg
upload.jpg

Evenings were spent slobbed out on the two huge comfy sofas in front of the fire. The zinc coffee table is truly a sight to behold, I am pretty sure that it may be bigger than one of our bedrooms at home. If you have been out taking the sea air during the day then coming back and running a bubble bath in the stunning main bathroom of an evening is also to be recommended.

The living room with open fire and that zinc coffee table!

The living room with open fire and that zinc coffee table!

I love all of the subtle nods to coastal decor that Vicky has included in the cottage without it ever feeling beach themed

I love all of the subtle nods to coastal decor that Vicky has included in the cottage without it ever feeling beach themed

Settle down on one of the two huge sofas and enjoy a film

Settle down on one of the two huge sofas and enjoy a film

The kind of bath you want to linger in with Plum & Ashby products on tap

The kind of bath you want to linger in with Plum & Ashby products on tap

upload.jpg

The Surrounding Area

If you can bring yourself to leave the comfort of the house then there are two stunning (and nearly deserted) beaches close by.  The one at Carts Gap has a little café and Happisburgh boasts a Lighthouse and an excellent playground.

The seafront in Bacton on a slightly stormy day

The seafront in Bacton on a slightly stormy day

The lighthouse at Happisburgh which is just ten minutes drive from the house

The lighthouse at Happisburgh which is just ten minutes drive from the house

Bacton woods close to the house offer excellent dog walking/Gruffalo hunting opportunities and if you are in need of a National Trust top up then Felbrigg Hall is just 10 minutes away.  The delights of the rest of the North Norfolk coast are also within easy reach with Holt (a lovely Georgian market town) just twenty minutes drive and beyond that gems including Wells on Sea, Blakney, Stiffkey, Holkham and more.

The harbour in Blakeney a lovely place to visit about an hours drive from the cottage

The harbour in Blakeney a lovely place to visit about an hours drive from the cottage

upload.jpg
HUge open skies and miles of sand on Holkham beach

HUge open skies and miles of sand on Holkham beach

Disclosure 5 minutes after this idyllic mother and son photo was taken he did an emergency poo in a sand dune

Disclosure 5 minutes after this idyllic mother and son photo was taken he did an emergency poo in a sand dune

We enjoyed a delicious pub lunch at The Victoria at Holkham and then a run on the vast and beautiful beach.  We also called in at Stiffkey Stores for a coffee and spot of modern rustic interiors shopping.  The kids loved a) the cabins for sitting in outside and b) the excellent selection of sweets for less than 50p on offer. I should also mention that the Gunton Arms (rated in the Top 50 places for a pub lunch by [    ]) is also just ten minutes away from the house.  Be sure to reserve a table well in advance of your stay though as it gets really booked up!

The  Victoria Inn  at Holkham where we enjoyed a delicious pub lunch

The Victoria Inn at Holkham where we enjoyed a delicious pub lunch

Stepping inside  Stiffkey Stores  in like stepping into my Modern Rustic paradise

Stepping inside Stiffkey Stores in like stepping into my Modern Rustic paradise

Some of the beautiful displays in  Stiffkey Stores

Some of the beautiful displays in Stiffkey Stores

So Anneka hang your jumpsuit back up and return to presenting the Sunday Morning Sizzle on Radio Colchester as this is one challenge I have solved without your helicopter even having to leave Broadcasting House.  If you would like to book a stay at Edenhall Cottage click here you can also follow the cottage on instagram here. We were lucky enough to be guests of Vicky and Chris when we stayed but at less than £2000 for a stay even at the height of peak season it is a complete bargain compared to anything I have found of similar size/quality anywhere else in the UK!

*We did not pay for our stay at Eden Hall but I was not asked to produce any content in return for our stay. I am writing up our stay for the blog because it is genuinely one of the nicest places I have ever stayed and I wanted to share it with you *

A Weekend at Ivywood Cottage, Norfolk

Mr Malmo and I are not really country people. He grew up in Nottingham surrounded by bus fumes rather than bushes and, although I hail from Northumberland, 20 years of living in London have rendered me twitchy whenever I am more than 300 metres away from a filament bulb and a flat white. However, having three boys has given us a new found appreciation of wide open spaces where you can let lad/labradors off the leash with less people around to hear you loudly telling them to stop what they are doing and go for a poo or to take a SuperZing out of their nose. With this in mind my google holiday search have increasingly started to feature more escapes to the country than city breaks which is how I discovered Ivywood Cottage on the Norfolk/Suffolk border .

The black timber clad exterior of a rustic shed in the garden of Ivywood Cottage in Norfolk

The black timber clad exterior of a rustic shed in the garden of Ivywood Cottage in Norfolk

About the Cottage

Ivywood Cottage is owned by Laura and James who live in the big house next door with their 3 year old identical twin boys and new baby. It was the discovery that they were expecting the twins that prompted them to trade in their one bedroom flat in Islington for James’ native Norfolk and a Georgian House in the country with the added bonus of Ivywood Cottage attached. Moving from such a busy part of North London to Redenhall was, Laura admits, a massive change. Instead of the emergency services hurting past at all hours of day and night and noisy neighbours stomping around, they now have the odd tractor trundling past and a cockerel crowing next door. But having grown up on a farm herself and James a country village it wasn't the huge shock it could have been.

The dreamy cottage exterior of Ivywood with a picture perfect porch. I love the whitewashed bricks and clematis growing up around the door

The dreamy cottage exterior of Ivywood with a picture perfect porch. I love the whitewashed bricks and clematis growing up around the door

In the summer this would be the perfect spot to sit out with a glass of wine watching the sun set

In the summer this would be the perfect spot to sit out with a glass of wine watching the sun set

Their adjustment to country life has, therefore, been fairly smooth bar some standard country-newbie errors (running out of oil...several times, forgetting they have a septic tank, not realising they had a soak-away pond, not realising the lush green garden was actually thick with ground elder and bind weed…. Reading this list revealed the depths of my own #urbanignorance because I initially thought Laura was referring to running out of olive oil here and thought a soak away pond might be some sort of cool Grand Designs style contemporary garden water feature rather than a tricksy pond drainage system.

Where most people see an old shed I see my dream modern rustic cabin with black cladding. I would love to add a garden studio at home a little bit like this. I loved the bunting strung from it

Where most people see an old shed I see my dream modern rustic cabin with black cladding. I would love to add a garden studio at home a little bit like this. I loved the bunting strung from it

Downstairs at the Cottage

Ivywood Cottage has been beautifully restored so that you get the best of old and new. So there are gorgeous flagstone floors, exposed beams and quirky staircases but also the comfort of having a beautiful contemporary kitchen in soft grey with metro tiles and on trend copper taps and the very 21st Century pleasure for soft linen bedding from Loaf on all the beds.

I loved the whitewashed brick flooring in the living room laid in a herringbone pattern

I loved the whitewashed brick flooring in the living room laid in a herringbone pattern

The living room at the cottage was painted in neutral colours with texture and warmth added through touches such as the jute rug and woolen cushions and blankets

The living room at the cottage was painted in neutral colours with texture and warmth added through touches such as the jute rug and woolen cushions and blankets

We visited in January so took full advantage of the cosy woodburner in the living room which comes complete with all the urban comforts you need to ease you into country life gently i.e. ready access to the latest copy of Kinfolk. I loved how Laura has carefully mixed interiors styles together in this room, introducing vintage pieces such as two 1950s midcentury armchairs covered in gorgeous mossy green and smokey grey velvet.

One of the changes that Laura and James made to the cottage was to add a woodburner

One of the changes that Laura and James made to the cottage was to add a woodburner

Laura has been really clever at blending contemporary and vintage in the cottage. I loved these velvet mid century armchairs she had had restored

Laura has been really clever at blending contemporary and vintage in the cottage. I loved these velvet mid century armchairs she had had restored

City dwellers relax, the cottage was fully stocked with the latest issues of Kinfolk and Cereal Magazine

City dwellers relax, the cottage was fully stocked with the latest issues of Kinfolk and Cereal Magazine

upload.jpg

The nearest town to the cottage is Harleston where we stocked up on locally baked bread, bacon from Norfolk bred pigs and fresh orange juice for breakfast (and if I am honest also Weetabix, Nutella and Robinsons squash because my kids regard Granola and Fresh Orange Juice as their breakfast enemies ). The kitchen has a gorgeous farmhouse table, bench and tolix seats and I loved the industrial touches like the vintage lights over the island and the concrete worktops.

White metro tiles on the walls give the kitchen a contemporary feel that works with the medieval bones of the cottage

White metro tiles on the walls give the kitchen a contemporary feel that works with the medieval bones of the cottage

Concrete worktops contrasted with the shaker style kitchen units to add a shot of industrial style to the kitchen

Concrete worktops contrasted with the shaker style kitchen units to add a shot of industrial style to the kitchen

Restored vintage brass taps in the kitchen with my dream Belfast sink

Restored vintage brass taps in the kitchen with my dream Belfast sink

I loved the vintage industrial pendant lights hanging over the kitchen island

I loved the vintage industrial pendant lights hanging over the kitchen island

The dining table and chairs which comfortably seat 6-8 for large family breakfasts, lunches and dinners

The dining table and chairs which comfortably seat 6-8 for large family breakfasts, lunches and dinners

Upstairs at the Cottage

Upstairs are two double bedrooms (one with an ensuite) and a large landing area with vaulted ceiling which houses a sofa bed meaning the cottage can comfortably sleep six making it ideal for a family break, a weekend away with friends or a romantic retreat with your partner where you can enjoy spaces in your togetherness i.e. escape their snoring if you need to!

The vaulted ceiling landing space which has a sofa bed. I loved the pinstripe blinds

The vaulted ceiling landing space which has a sofa bed. I loved the pinstripe blinds

High ceilings and gorgeous exposed oak beams in the landing area. I liked the modern twist added by the contemporary bulb lights

High ceilings and gorgeous exposed oak beams in the landing area. I liked the modern twist added by the contemporary bulb lights

upload.jpg
I loved the panelling that had been added to the second double bedroom and the smoky grey colour on the walls

I loved the panelling that had been added to the second double bedroom and the smoky grey colour on the walls

The combination of linen bedding and cast iron radiators in the bedrooms make them super warm and toasty

The combination of linen bedding and cast iron radiators in the bedrooms make them super warm and toasty

There are a plethora of lovely country walks you can do from the cottage and a host of country pubs dotted all around. Laura’s favourite walk is a big loop from the house which just happens (!) to pass three pubs along the way. The last pub (about a 10 minute walk from the house) has a super children's play park a stones through away #parentingwin. After you have been out to take in the country air come home and warm up in the huge roll top bath. I have never been a huge shower curtain fan but the yellow and white candy striped one at Ivywood totally changed my view. I would happily have it cling to my naked body (if you are reading Ryan Gosling have similar thoughts about you).

The vintage sink and vanity area in the gorgeous rustic bathroom

The vintage sink and vanity area in the gorgeous rustic bathroom

upload.jpg
Pale pink metro tiles add a contemporary twist in the bathroom and provide contrast to the timber walls and wooden floors

Pale pink metro tiles add a contemporary twist in the bathroom and provide contrast to the timber walls and wooden floors

The yellow and white shower curtain that frames the roll top bath

The yellow and white shower curtain that frames the roll top bath

Exploring the surrounding area

Whilst the cottage is perfectly positioned for enjoying the best of the countryside there are also plenty of lovely coffee and cake shops nearby should you need a #FlatWhiteFix. One of Laura’s favourite cafes, Marsh Larder, is on a local farm and when it's warm, you can sit outside with a glass of prosecco, eating homemade cake whilst the cows in the field next to you gaze on. Or, if, like me, you have a slight fear of bovine animals, why not try the Earsham Street Cafe in Bungay who serve up an awesome homemade cake. Bungay also has some great antiques and interiors shops and Laura recommends checking out Naken Interiors in Beccles who stock great brands like Ferm Living. Slightly further afield are all of the delights of the Suffolk coast. We worked our way over to Southwold one day via Darsham Nurseries which serves up delicious breakfasts and lunches in a garden nursery (think Petersham Nurseries rather than Dobbies Garden Centre).

Darsham Nurseries is a must visit place for delicious lunches and brunches close to the Suffolk Coast

Darsham Nurseries is a must visit place for delicious lunches and brunches close to the Suffolk Coast

I loved the vintage mirrors and industrial pendant lighting in Darsham Nurseries cafe

I loved the vintage mirrors and industrial pendant lighting in Darsham Nurseries cafe

The reclaimed wood clad bar at Darsham Nurseries was ticking all my modern rustic boxes

The reclaimed wood clad bar at Darsham Nurseries was ticking all my modern rustic boxes

There are great beach walks to enjoy at Dunwich, Covehithe, Aldeburgh, Thorpness and Southwold to name but a few and even more great pubs and bakeries to sample. No self respecting instagrammer (or donut fan) should leave Suffolk without calling in at the Pump Street Bakery in Orford. And if you are looking for the perfect place for Sunday lunch look no further than the Unruly Pig near Woodbridge.

Miniest Malmo enjoy a romp through the sand dunes at Walberswick

Miniest Malmo enjoy a romp through the sand dunes at Walberswick

The sand dunes at Walberswick beach on the Suffolk Coast

The sand dunes at Walberswick beach on the Suffolk Coast

upload.jpg

We stayed at Ivywood Cottage at a discount but even at full rates it is great value for a weekend away at around £100 a night depending on the time of year. A single hotel room can easily cost that without any of the comforts, luxuries and style that Ivywood offers. We are already thinking about coming back not least because I can’t wait to see the renovations that Laura is carrying out on their neighbouring Georgian House. I am hoping I can convince her to let me come back and do a house tour when she is finished! In the meantime if you would like to book a stay at Ivywood Cottage the link is here

Source: http://www.malmoandmoss.com