The wind blows through the reed beds on a bright spring day in Cley-Next-The-Sea, a tiny little village on the North Norfolk coast. There’s the faint scent of salt water in the air, the occasional flutter of birds swooping low over the marshes, and the magnificent Cley Mill taking pride of place on the skyline. But its sails are no longer in use, its days of milling flour long gone; instead, this is one of the most unique hotels you can ever hope to stay in, and I was lucky enough to do just that.
Once a working mill, it’s now been transformed into a stunning boutique hotel, and it’s one of those destinations that has a truly special place in my heart. My family goes back generations in this quaint little village, and although none of us live there now, I truly feel connected to it (even more so after I got married in the village church last year!) But you don’t have to take my word for it – this hotel isn’t just for starry-eyed nostalgics, as you can see from the moment you set eyes on it.
I mean seriously, who wouldn’t want to stay in a windmill?! I’m a big fan of the quirky/boutique experience, and this has quirkiness in spades. Circular lounge complete with a rustic fireplace? Check. Honesty bar? Check. Porthole-style bathroom windows? Check. The chance to get right up on the balcony for uninterrupted 360° views? Check and check.
It’s got the substance to back up the style, too, the rooms fitting for a full-service experience. They’ve been carefully styled to hit just the right notes, offering comfortable luxury rather than all-out glam, with beautiful features and quirks abundant. Like the window seat in the River Room, for example, which was the room we stayed in.
The room was on the ground floor and even had its own lobby, making it feel more like a suite than a standard room, and with a well-stocked minibar, tea and coffee-making facilities, simple toiletries and all the facilities you’d expect from a modern boutique hotel, you couldn’t ask for more. Its private door led right out onto the patio and garden area – we didn’t take full advantage of it given the time of year, but the views, even from the ground floor, were stunning.
The obvious draw of the mill, however, is the view from the balcony, and it didn’t disappoint. Sweeping vistas across the reed beds and marshes (a National Wildlife Trust nature reserve), out to the sea beyond; there’s nothing quite like stepping out and feeling the wind whip around you as you soak it all in.
The service was impeccable as well. We received champagne and truffles as part of the package, both of which were waiting for us when we arrived, and the food was to die for. As you’d expect given the building, the dining room doesn’t fit a lot of diners – the whole hotel only fits around 22 guests – but that only adds to the intimate feel of the whole place.
It has a daily changing set menu, too, full of local seasonal produce, so you really feel as if you’re getting something fresh and carefully considered – our dinner of cockle popcorn, fresh-caught crab and chocolate torte was beautiful, as was the wine that we washed it all down with. However, this also means that if you’re planning a last-minute break, it’d be worth checking the menu for that day to make sure it’s to your liking (although if you book early enough in advance you’ll be asked about any dietary requirements and likes/dislikes so they can plan accordingly). Oh, and don’t forget to book in for breakfast – another locally-sourced delight.
It was a dream come true to stay Cley Mill and I can’t recommend it highly enough. After we stayed that first time I made it my mission to go back one day and stay in the Wheel Room at the very top of the mill – the one that you have to climb up a ladder to access – and we finally decided to go for it and book up for this summer! I can’t wait to head back again, and I have a feeling that even that trip won’t be my last.