An insider's guide to the county's best kept secrets
Lady Ann’s Drive
A149 opposite The Victoria Hotel and Holkham Estate, nearest postcode NR23 1AB.
An award-winning stretch of unspoilt, windswept coastline forming a bay of expansive golden sand. Spectacular views, idyllic walks and heavenly relaxation guaranteed.
Where to find it
At Holkham Estate - between Hunstanton and Wells-next-the-Sea - turn into Lady Ann’s Drive. Parking is available along either side of the road. Holkham Bay is the centre of Holkham Nature Reserve, owned by the Earl of Leicester, and stretches from Burnham Norton to Blakeney, covering some 4000 hectares.
What to expect
An impressive sight on any day of the year. To say the spectacular sweep of Holkham Bay is expansive hardly prepares you for the grandeur of the view. If you’ve seen Gwyneth Paltrow walking across these sands in Shakespeare in Love, you’ll have some idea of what I’m talking about. It’s easy to see why this curve of coastline, lined with pinewoods, sand dunes and stunning white golden sand, is so popular with film-makers, and why it wins Best Beach in the UK year after year.
Imagine a flat open landscape unspoilt and at peace; miles of soft sand and shimmering ocean; a vast sky that fills your vision. All that can be heard are the distant sounds of nature and an environment at one with the world. You stop in your tracks, exhale deeply; instantly you feel calmer. A seagull calls out overhead and beckons you towards the shore. Holkham has won your heart.
What can you do here?
Due to the sheer size of this beach, it’s usually a half mile walk to the sea but the sand is flat and firm so it’s effortless strolling. The bay forms a semi-circular basin of beach and on unusually high tides it can rapidly fill with water resulting in a spectacular shallow lagoon.
Beach volleyball is a popular activity here as are all sports that welcome firm sand underfoot. BBQs are not permitted, which is a shame, but there are the pine forests and the beach’s litter free status to protect. If you’re a keen bird watcher you’ll delight in spotting pink-footed geese, finches and pipits, to name but a few. In summer the dancing of swift moths at twilight is a treat; in winter the tide-line after a gale can throw up lots of driftwood too.
There are some fantastic walks from Holkham Bay ranging from 1 to 4 mile in length. For disabled visitors turning left at the bottom of Lady Ann’s Drive will allow you to follow a hardcore track to George Washington Hide where there is a boardwalk onto the beach. Looking back across the meadowland here towards Holkham Bay is a picturesque view. A two hour walk in the opposite direction takes you to Wells-next-the-sea lifeboat station with amazing views of Wells Harbour and salt marshes. West of the bay is a nudist section of the beach too, so whether you’re a true naturist or just fancy stripping off in the sunshine, Holkham welcomes you all.
Open every day from dawn to dusk (gates are locked at 9pm during July and August. Car parking tickets include free parking at Holkham Hall. Dogs are welcome but on leads only.