TRAVEL: Golfing getaway to relaxing retreat '“ Norfolk's broad appeal
The stately stature of Dunston Hall at the end of a meandering drive, flanked by a procession of towering trees, confirms arrival at one of Norfolk's premier addresses.
Just 15 minutes outside Norwich city centre, the newly-revamped QHotels destination offers a lavish and luxurious base for exploring all East Anglia has to offer.
Built in 1859 as a Victorian manor to replace the old hall on the Dunston estate, the retreat is steeped in history, with its latest owners transforming the property into a multi-purpose hotel and leisure venue.
Fresh from a £2million investment, Dunston operates as a busy base for everything from weddings, conferences, couple’s retreats, spa days and golf getaways.
Set in 150 acres of wooded parkland, the four-star hotel boasts a gem of a golf course - and its QGolf academy gets the thumbs up of sprightly 91-year-old Brenda Chapman, who added 15 yards to her drives thanks to lessons with Dunston’s resident coach Caroline Grady.
No doubt Brenda has few issues navigating the par-71, USGA-rated layout, but the 6,275-yard course is certainly no haven for long-driving nonagenarians. Instead, visitors will need to plot their way around the carefully-crafted holes.
Similar tactics are required to work out which of the facilities at Dunston to try first.
Guests have a dizzying array of choices: take advantage of the refurbished swimming, sauna and steam rooms? A gruelling gym workout? Or a more indulgent afternoon tea while taking in the vistas on the sun-soaked terrace?
The facilities since QHotels took over in 2014 are a world away from Dunston’s humble roots. Built as a family home for the Kellet family, the estate passed between various tenants in the coming decades, including Fortesque Kellet Long, who was declared of unsound mind seven years before his death in 1934.
The hall was unoccupied for many years and even primarily used by one lessee as a furniture warehouse. It was only in 1992 under Keith and Heather Shaw that Dunston began its journey as a hotel and country club.
The golf course was opened in the early 1990s and has matured into a pleasant track, winding its way through the sprawling estate.
The grand arrival, with the flowing fountain in the foreground and Dunston Hall in the background, can perhaps only be matched in golfing terms by the signature 16th hole.
Playing a smidge over 200 yards to the top of the mound, the straight-down hole sweeps downhill, providing first-sight of a semi-island green, water guarding the green to the front, left and right.
Finishing with a spectacular par-three over water to a green guarded by bunkers, the imposing hall again comes into view.
Heading back into the hotel, golfers can review their round in the quaint Bunkers Bar or head to the brasserie bar and grill for top-notch dining.
Find out more about Dunston Hall - perfect for all occasions - by visiting www.qhotels.co.uk/our-locations/dunston-hall
Eaton a delightful detour
Dunston Hall is ideally-situated for keen golfers to explore Norfolk’s best courses.
Sussex Newspapers made the short trip to nearby Eaton Golf Club, a tree-lined parkland course with a friendly and welcoming membership.
Founded in 1910 by JH Taylor, four-time Open champion, the course is a testing layout for all abilities.
It is a club which pays attention to the fine details. Adorning the walls (and even the ceilings!) of the clubhouse are a plethora of club competition winners’ boards.
But it is the curious addition of a slice of tree, complete with half a golf ball embedded deep inside, which catches the eye.
The find came as one of the greenkeepers was felling and slicing an aged leylandii tree on the ninth hole in 2009. Now, those lucky enough to score an ace at the ninth get their name immortalised on the tree.
Find out more about Eaton by visiting www.eatongc.co.uk
Ten reasons to visit Norwich and Norfolk
90 miles of unspoilt coast
Norfolk Broads: 125 miles of lock-free waterways
Norwich Cathedral - the second tallest cathedral spire in England
Explore the 15th and 16th Century buildings of Elm Hill
A city of contrasts: the UK’s most complete medieval city, mixed with modern culture
A birdwatcher’s paradise
Seal of approval: around 2,500 common and grey seal pups flock to Blakeney, with trips throughout the summer
Great food and drink with restaurants taking advantage of locally-sourced ingredients
Horse racing meets at Newmarket and Great Yarmouth
Golf: Use Dunston Hall as the base and explore the area’s other top tracks