Not infrequently, we wish we owned a pub: one with a coastal setting, on-the-house gin and heart-and-hearth-warming hospitality. The Chequers Inn beat us to it. Attic rooms and nooks and crannies deliver traditional British charm by the bucket- (and spade-)load; crackling fires, freestanding bath tubs, winsome views and blissful king-size beds complete the coastal idyll. It would be rude and remiss not to mention the totally brilliant chef, who rustles up Norfolk tapas, hearty pub grub and porky pizzas in the restaurant. Got a dog? Bring them too. (They’ll be barking mad, otherwise.)
Get this when you book through us:
Espa bath products and a goodie bag starring treats from the hotel's kitchen. GoldSmiths also get a G&T each on arrival
Double rooms from $125.91 (£99), excluding tax at 20 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast (pastries or porridge, plus kippers, a full English or eggs Benedict).
Gin-lovers, rejoice: each room has a diminutive decanter of berry-bright sloe gin and two matching glasses; there’s also a stash of home-made cookies. (You won’t be charged a jot for dipping into either).
At the hotel
Garden, two Pavilions for alfresco private dining, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, cafetière with fresh coffee, free bottled water, Espa bath products, hairdryer.
Our favourite rooms
The Better and Best rooms live up to their name: they each have an enticing standalone bath tub and a cosy sitting area designed for snuggly days and nights. For added romance, book one of the characterful rooms tucked away in the eaves; pretend you’re an off-duty scullery maid or kitchen boy (with added mod cons and the master’s gin decanter).
Bring trousers and skirts with forgiving waistlines; you’ll want to make the most of the excellent food and drink on offer here. Add a waxed jacket and Wellington boots to perfect that rural-roamer look.
The building shows its birthday (1499, if you don’t mind) with characterful nooks and crannies a-plenty; don’t expect identikit rooms or lashings of space.
Fido can stay in some rooms £10 a night; request when booking. They’ll get treats and an on-loan dog blanket) and the hotel’s location on the north Norfolk Coast equates to canine heaven: salt marshes, sand dunes and cliffs, oh my… See more pet-friendly hotels in Norfolk.
Little Smiths are very welcome. The restaurant has a children’s menu and highchairs; a travel cot (free) and an extra bed (£25 a night, for little Smiths aged 3–14) can be added to some rooms. (Just pipe up when you’re booking.)
By the fire for maximum toastiness; ensconced in one of the snug back corners for maximum privacy. If you’re after an alfresco meal, book one of the cedar-wood Pavilions, which seat 10–14 bottoms and have a a heating lamp and roll-down blinds.
Country casual (Barbour and Burberry, ahoy).
The restaurant has two sections: a casual, pub-style space and a more formal conservatory (four-legged Smiths are allowed in the former, but not the latter). The menu is a winsome mix of hearty gastropub offerings, Norfolk tapas (black-pudding croquettes with apple relish, for example) and porky pizzas with pizzazz. (We’re still nom-ing at the recollection of the Orchard number, whose toppings included bacon, caramelised apple and feta.) At breakfast, make your grandad proud by ordering grilled, locally-smoked kippers, served with lime butter and lashings of black pepper.
The spick and span, traditional pub-style bar boasts all the requisite cosiness and British bonhomie, plus a robust selection of local ales, artisanal Norfolk gin and other liquid lures. Settle in.
Breakfast is served until 10am, lunch is available until 2.30pm and dinner is dished up until 9pm (9.30pm, on Fridays and Saturdays).
Order from the full menu during the restaurant’s opening hours (little Smiths can pick from the kids’ menu). Thirsts will be quenched at all hours.
The hotel is sitting pretty in the tiny village of Thornham (home to around 400 residents), on the north Norfolk Coast, an area rich in natural beauty and historic gravitas.
Norwich Airport is 40 kilometres away from the hotel (an hour’s drive). International travellers can pick from London Heathrow or London Gatwick, which are both around three hours away by car.
The closest station is King’s Lynn, around 40 minutes away by car. Services connect London King’s Cross to King’s Lynn in less than two hours.
The Chequers Inn is perched on the High Street in Thornham village, next to All Saints’ Church. Take the A149 coastal road; you’ll find the hotel between Hunstanton and Brancaster. King’s Lynn is the closest town, 20 minutes away. The hotel has on-site parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
Settle in with a book and a glass of wine by the fire; refuse to move for at least two hours (unless it’s for more wine/pizza). Pootle around pretty Thornham village, shop for antiques at the Burnhams (Burnham Market, Burnham Overy Staithe and Burnham Thorpe), go for a brisk walk through Holme Dunes, admire your near neighbour, All Saints’ Church, or stomp around historic Walsingham Abbey. Find out what the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have been up to at Sandringham. Reward all your exploring by cantering through a selection of Norfolk tapas at the restaurant, or hibernate in your room and enjoy the latest boxset on the smart TV (add a tot of sloe gin from your decanter if you’re thirsty). Walkers are spoiled for choice: work up an appetite for a pub lunch by strolling down through Thornham to the iconic Coal Barn out on the marshes – and stop for a drink at the Lifeboat Inn (sister to the Chequers Inn), on the way. There are lovely beach walks to be had at Holkham or Brancaster. At Holkham, you can park on Lady Anne’s Drive and walk for miles along the beach in either direction. Don’t miss the lovely North Norfolk Heritage Coastal Path. This long-distance walking route leads from Holme-next-the-Sea to Cromer – a 44-mile stretch encompassing sandy dunes, saltwater marshes and cliffs renowned for their fossils. For longer inland hikes, explore the numerous woodland walks on the Sandringham estate, Wolferton Cliffs, Shouldham Warren and Dersingham Bog. If you’re with your pooch, they will love all of the above (getting them to agree to come home will be less lovely). Take a trip by boat to see the seals at Blakeney Point, discover seabirds at Titchwell or discover how farming has changed dramatically at Holkham Hall.
See why the Duck Inn keeps adding to its groaning awards cabinet by dropping in for lunch or dinner. The restaurant is on Burnham Road, in Stanhoe; its adventurous dishes sensibly champion Norfolk produce (cod cheeks with vanilla, chorizo, cockles, leeks and caviar, for example) and the county’s mega-capable farmers and suppliers. The Globe Inn at the Buttlands, Wells-next-the-Sea is another local hero, thanks to its ravishing restaurant. Crowd-pleasing seasonal dishes include a starter of pressed confit duck and chicken liver with black pepper-poached pear and chardonnay gel, and a toothsome risotto starring garden peas, broad beans and wild mushrooms, with pea purée, mascarpone, white wine and Parmesan bruschetta. Lip-smackingly good.
Pause for cream- and jam-slathered scones at Creake Abbey’s café in North Creake.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this budget-boutique hotel in Thornham and unpacked their wellies and Norfolk gin, a full account of their coastal break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Chequers Inn in Norfolk…
We can’t be alone in thinking that heaven might just be a pub – one with a coastal setting, a clever chef, romantic rooms, crackling fires, historic gravitas by the nook-and-cranny-load and a dog-friendly policy, natch. The Chequers Inn has all of the above – and more. Factor in on-the-house sloe gin, home-made cookies and king-size beds with duck-down duvets and you’ll be floating celestially on cloud nine (which, it turns out, resides at Thornham village, right next to the handsome All Saints’ Church). Here, as in life, it’s the little things that count: radios set to play gently in rooms when you arrive, as if you just forgot to turn them off when you last left; a menu that hops from the expected (hearty gastropub fare) to the unexpected (perfect pizzas and moreish Norfolk tapas), and obliging staff, who will happily point you towards the best beach, boutiques or beers. Checkmate.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in The Chequers Inn’s Guestbook below.
The room. It had a beautiful design with some lovely touches.
Staff working extremely long hours with very thin coverage, resulting in exhausted faces and super slow service (though still very polite and attentive when they reach you).
Stayed on 2 Aug 2019
The food and the staff were excellent but the room was tired. I think a complete redecoration is required.
To get much quiet if your room is at the front of The Chequers Inn. The traffic is full on during the day and only seems to calm down at around 8.00pm.
Stayed on 20 Jun 2019
We loved the hotel itself, food and drinks. The staff were incredibly helpful and friendly.
Don't expect the WiFi to be good. The hotel WiFi really needs to be upgraded.
Stayed on 9 Mar 2019
Roaring fire in the pub, a wood burner tickling away in the corner of the cosy snug, and very warm reception from the staff. Our room was smartly presented, and made for a very good nights sleep. A wee decanter of slow gin was a lovely pre-dinner aperitif before we tucked into gourmet pizzas over a bottle of wine.
Much nightlife. Bring a good book, your wellies and get out on the beaches to work up an appetite!
Stayed on 7 Feb 2019
The location. Great for beach walks. Village is lovely, local pubs within strolling distance.
Space! Room described as small… tiny was more apt!
Stayed on 24 Dec 2018
The sitting area around the fire great to relax there, the quality of the bedroom, the friendliness of the staff, would like to go back in the summer.
Gourmet food, there is a limited menu, however the quality of the food is good or steaks were cooked exactly how we wanted them.
Stayed on 11 Nov 2018
We loved the decor of the room and the ambient charm of the hotel in general. The staff were great and the whole experience proved very relaxing.
Don't expect party nights or sports bars. This is a place of tranquillity.
Stayed on 6 Oct 2018
We loved the little touches, such as low lights and the radio on when shown to the room. Proper cafetiere coffee and fresh milk for the room, dressing gowns and great toiletries. Loved the little bottle of sloe gin, great idea. Staff with smiles on their faces. Good selection of drinks in the bar. Food good and presented well. We liked the Tapas menu, very good with a beer!
Stayed on 28 Sep 2018
Great little hotel. Nothing was too much trouble. Loved the bath in the room, the food and the local walks.
Stayed on 30 Jul 2018
Warm welcome, good service, great room, dog-friendly bar and very nice breakfasts. Visit Titchwell Manor - terrific food, good value and dog allowed in bar. The Duck Inn has high-class food and very attractive setting. Dog-friendly too.
Good evening meals. There are better places to eat locally.
Stayed on 20 Jul 2018
Very nice village and the peace and quiet. Nice church/church yard and the wildlife.
Stayed on 18 Jul 2018
Everything about our stay was great. The room was lovely and comfortable. It was nice to have such a gorgeous room and be able to have our dog stay with us as well. Lovely area for walking. The beach walk to Holme was fab, a little further than we thought but lovely to walk near the sea.
Don't expect to have loud and busy night life - which was perfect for us.
Stayed on 6 Jul 2018
We loved everything about The Chequers Inn. This 16th Century pub doesn't disappoint. Friendly staff, very stylish and comfortable room with delicious breakfast. The restaurant food was also yummy and the local Norfolk Gin went down a treat. There is so much to see and visit in the area and all a short drive away. We recommend the sandy beach lined with stilted beach huts at Wells Next The Sea, you can walk or get the small train. In Thornham there is the Orange Tree restaurant/pub which has won lots of awards and The Deli where you can shop for local goodies. Walsingahm is also worth a visit, there's a religious shrine there and its a major pilgrimage centre.
Stayed on 8 Jun 2018
The location is idyllic for walking, especially if you have a dog. It is dog heaven. They are not short walks, however, if you want to go to the beach, since the beach is very very long. The Blackthorn, newly renovated, is great, but I would not say it is idyllic for dog owners. The rug could be more practical. I clean my dog but I can imagine certain dogs ruining the lush carpet, which is unusual for a dog-friendly room, having stayed in nearly 20 dog-friendly inns. Every time the main door to the pub opens and shuts, it makes the door of the Blackthorn room slam too. I did tell staff but they did not seem particularly interested. Also, I have mixed thoughts about some of the staff. I think people working in inns should like to deal with clients. Those in the industry usually make an effort. I found some of the staff did not seem especially happy or helpful, which was a bit distressing when it was a special weekend I had planned with my dad visiting from abroad. Some of the food was excellent, and some was mediocre. This is one of the few places on Mr and Mrs Smith I would not care to revisit.
There is not lots to do in town, but if you want quiet, this is the place.
Stayed on 18 May 2018
The warm welcome, friendly and attentive staff, the North Norfolk Coast.
Total exclusivity – this is clearly a much-loved pub and restaurant used by locals and visitors to the area alike.
Stayed on 11 May 2018
The ambience of the pub is fantastic. Charming, well trained staff. Stylish rooms with simple modern decor but in an old style country pub. Great walking territory, we travelled with our dog who loved the coastal walks all the pubs in the area seem to be dog friendly. The Victoria at Holkham is great for a lazy casual lunch.
High-end city chic.
Stayed on 13 Jan 2018
The food! The room was furnished very nicely but did face directly onto the A149 so the traffic was a distraction in the early hours. The North Norfolk Coastal Walks are on the doorstep, making it ideal for walkers.
Stayed on 26 Nov 2017
The attention to detail, the personal service, the lovely, comfy room and super-stylish decor throughout. Perfectly located for the stunning Holkham beach and other seaside towns. The Lifeboat Inn, also in Thornham, is well-worth a visit but take a torch!