The Maids Head Hotel in Norwich proudly claims to be the oldest hotel in the UK, dating back over 900 years. With continuous hospitality on the site since 1090 this is a hotel that oozes history.
Remarkably The Maids Head Hotel entertained Queen Elizabeth I in 1587 – you can stay in the oak beamed Queen Elizabeth suite located in the oldest wing of the property, whilst other notable guests included the Black Prince and Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry VIII. Where else could provide CELLOPHANELAND* such an appropriately base from which to enjoy what is a wonderfully historic city?
Arrival at The Maids Head Hotel is particularly easy. It has its own free car park with an entrance (past the Bentleys!) straight in to the hotel reception. The hotel is an amalgam of a number of different buildings which have gradually come together to form the present day 84-roomed Maids Head.
Any stroll through the hotel involves a journey through history; as you step up and down in level or via wiggly corridors you can often spot the difference in age. Some older parts date from the 15th century and these include the (now covered) courtyard where we enjoyed our meals, whilst the atmospheric, wood-panelled Oak Room is also believed to date from the same era.
The whole hotel has just completed a multi-million pound renovation which has added ultra-modern touches to a the historic framework. Modern jewel-coloured velvet chairs and steel tables sit alongside leather sofas and stripey missoni-style pouffs. It all adds an eclectic character to the ancient fireplaces, rich wood panelling and historic paintings.
It does not always work perfectly but it it is a definite improvement with what must have been a daunting task to unite the disparate parts of the building. Undeniably the Maids Head is now a very comfortable and well-appointed property that will equally suit business or leisure travellers with its range of facilities and room styles.
Bedrooms renovations are as eclectic as public areas with our ‘Feature’ room featuring gold & silver patterned wallpaper plus paint and carpets in shades of beige and cream set against impressively heavyweight curtains, in-room rolltop bath and wardrobe in a shade of dark grey. Armchairs and cushions were in mustard with an oriental inspired headboard adding more colour.
There are also smaller Executive or Classic Rooms available as well as several unique Suites. Our bath was in front of the bedroom window, set on a raised dais of patterned encaustic tiles and enjoying fine city views towards the nearby cathedral gate.
A separate shower and wc had the same lovely tiles, with grey features and a walk in shower where you can take advantage of the impressive rainforest head whilst admiring the full length picture of a local cobbled street.
Meals are taken in the 2 AA Rosettes WinePress restaurant in the historic courtyard. Despite Covid restrictions, our breakfast had a suitably wide selection from a served buffet whilst dinner was an impressive fine dining experience from a Head Chef – with the wonderful moniker Magic – who was a semi finalist in the National Chef of the Year 2019.
Its promise and high reputation was more than matched by the execution in a seasonal menu bursting with produce from local suppliers. We started with a beautifully presented Norfolk gin cured salmon and Hand-dived scallops with a caremelised cauliflower puree and fennel salad.
A wonderfully fresh and perfectly cooked Halibut fillet was presented with a haricot bean ragout and purple broccoli. Equally delicious was Goats cheese agnolotti with pickled onion and sage beurre noisette. In each case an original and carefully balanced combination of flavours matched the perfect presentation.
Desserts did not disappoint either with for example, a delicate Blackberry and apple bavarois, a rich Chocolate fondant and a plate of Norfolk cheeses with home made chutney.
For a different dining option choose a lighter bite from the Casual Dining Menu which can be enjoyed in the one of the lounges or the Jacobean Maids Head Bar.
One of The Maids Head Hotel’s great attractions is that you can explore the historic centre from your doorstep. You do not even have to walk: your stay at The Maids Head includes a complimentary tour of the city centre in one of their stunning Bentleys.
You can take your pick from two – one gold and one dark blue – always parked on display and in their own heated showroom.
Prefer boats to cars? Appropriately for a hotel within striking distance of the Norfolk Broads, The Maids Head Hotel also have a restored Edwardian cruiser. Moored on the Wensum up to twelve people can hire the boat to enjoy perhaps a tour of the city, a river-borne afternoon tea, or a trip to the hotels private box at Norwich FC.
When you do decide to to do your own exploration, everything is right at hand. In front of the hotel is the attractive Cathedral Close housing Norwich Cathedral, founded at about the same time as the hotel in 1096.
Behind this is the River Wensum with tree-lined footpaths that lead past historic bridges and remnants of the ancient city walls.
Step out the other side of The Maids Head Hotel and you are in the picture-postcard medieval cobbled alleys of Elm Hill, with its cafes, bookshops and antiques. A little farther are the Norwich Lanes, an area of pedestrian streets, artisan shops and outdoor cafes.
Gazing down on the whole city centre is the giant cube of 11th Century Norwich Castle – nine hundred years old but still so perfectly intact that we at first mistook its formidable silhouette for that of a towering office block.
After a noisy stay in the hustle and bustle of a buzzing metropolis some city hotels can leave you needing another holiday. The Maids Head Hotel Norwich provided a somewhat contrasting experience: relaxing and easy, we had a rejuvenating short break strolling along pretty cobbled alleys, enjoying peaceful riverside walks and visiting historic buildings right from the door. The busy shopping centres and bars are of course available – but only as and when you need them. A perfect city experience.
For more information visit The Maids Head Hotel
Find your travel books & holiday reading at the CELLOPHANELAND* bookstore
For our curated recommendations for Art, Culture, Design and Architecture books visit the CELLOPHANELAND* bookstore