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A complimentary bottle of champagne on arrival.

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Pier at Harwich - Review

I CAN’T SAY HARWICH has ever been top of my hit list of places to head for a romantic weekend getaway, but when my husband and I rolled up on the quayside outside the Pier at Harwich, all my preconceptions were about to be blown away.

Gazing across the water to Felixstowe’s industrial port had a certain quirky charm, while the views of the Shotley peninsula in the other direction were as pastoral as they come. Locals were sitting outside the hotel having drinks in the summer sunshine and it was tempting to just throw our bags down and join them.

The Pier at Harwich is quite grand outside – it was fashioned on a Venetian palazzo back in 1862 – while the inside has bright and fresh nautical accents.

Owner Paul Milsoms (who also owns Maison Talbooth in Dedham) fell in love with the place years ago – and then promptly fell in love with (and married) the young interior designer who arrived to transform the place. Not bad credentials for a Room for Romance hotel!

Catch of the day

This is oyster country, so it seemed just the place to drop anchor and uncork the champers. I was soon soaking in the bath with a glass of said bubbly while my husband loafed on the sofa with a G&T and pair of binoculars – clearly fascinated by the bustle of the docks and getting a bird’s eye view of a fabulous sunset from our three huge windows.

Our room had a big bed, crisply dressed in white linen, and pleasingly maritime flavour. It came with painted wood furniture in shades of sea-grass and aqua set against restful white, sand and stone tones.

There are two restaurants to pick from. Downstairs is the Pier's informal Ha’Penny bistro, with its stripped floorboards, wooden tables and original railway posters (travellers of old used to arrive here aboard the Great Eastern Railway).

We opted to dine upstairs is the smart Harbourside restaurant (my husband having decided I was worth splashing out on), with its starched tablecloths and brilliant views over the water. Our waitress fussed over us like a mother hen and nothing seemed too much trouble.

The Pier has its own lobster tanks, and seafood (landed fresh on the quayside each morning) is not surprisingly the big dish of the day here. Our deliciously fishy dinner was followed by a late-night stroll along the harbour and now-deserted pier by the old docks.

This is a great seafarer’s town, and we awoke to take deep breaths of the briny and watch yachts and cruise liners chug past our window next morning. We followed a bracing walk along the waterfront with a mooch around old Harwich – birthplace of Captain Jones, who sailed the Mayflower to the New World.

The dock’s steamships of old have now been replaced by speedy car ferries, making the Pier at Harwich a great base for Channel-hoppers seeking a pre- or post-voyage treat. You might even decide to ditch your deck shoes (as we did), pull down the hatches and decide to turn landlubber instead.

The Pier at Harwich was reviewed for Room for Romance by Sarah Robinson

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