An insider's guide to the county's best kept secrets
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Much to see and do including the impressive Holkham Hall, walled gardens, bygone museum, lake, woodland and deer park – plus family activities and a programme.
Where to find it
Holkham is reached on the main coastal road nestling beside Wells-next-the-Sea and linked by a beautiful pine forest. You’ll find the entrances to Holkham Estate and Holkham beach opposite each other and if you pay parking fees for one side you are gained access to the other. The beach is simply breathtaking (read our full review here: Holkham Beach) and combined with the estate provides the best of both coast and countryside. The park, a national nature reserve, is a vast spellbinding landscape with impressive views of the grand house from all angles.
What to expect
Rich in history, architecture and wildlife, the appeal of Holkham Estate reaches far and wide. Part landscaped, part wilderness; there a deer wandering free. Open space, woodland and a winding lake make an impressive backdrop to house itself and its various attractions mean there’s something for everyone:
Holkham Hall is one of just ten Treasure Houses of England and it’s not hard to see why. Back in the sixteenth century Sir Edward Coke founded the family fortunes and 150 years later Thomas Coke used the accumulated funds to build the house. Despite issues after the Second World War, the estate has remained in the family since then and is still used today as a family home to the current owner, Edward Coke, the seventh Earl of Leicester, his wife and four children.
The Marble entrance hall is a must see - you’ll probably recognise it from the film The Duchess with Keira Knightly – with its rising dome and screen of columns running around the first floor. The servants were never allowed to use this entrance however and moved invisibly in corridors behind the main walls. The contrast of these quarters to the state rooms is astounding and the kitchen, last refurbished in the 1850s, is simply stunning with its twelve foot long elm table, old copper pans and fire ovens. The stewards throughout are eager to share with you fascinating anecdotes and I was amazed to discover that in one month the house used 250lbs of meat and 500 loaves of bread!
Bygone Museum, Walled Gardens
The museum is a fascinating array of old gadgets and tools from the house and workplace of the Victorian era with rooms covering ladies grooming, and surgical and medicine, as well as butter making machines and mangling devices. There’s also a courtyard full of classic cars (including a 1951 Bentley Mark V1 made for the Earl of Leicester himself), steam engines and horse drawn carriages. Children will love climbing onto the bright red vintage fire engine too.
The six and a half acre walled garden is gradually being restored to its former glory and is an interesting work in progress to follow over the years. Within the grounds you’ll also find the Stables cafe housed in a sunny courtyard, ideal for lazy summer lunches, and a gift shop of tasteful souvenirs from local artisans.
Outdoor & Family Activities
The beauty of Holkham Estate is every kind of interest has been thought of. As well as the above expected visitor attractions, there are plenty of pursuits for families and active individuals too. Of course there are acres upon acres of grounds to explore either on foot using guided walks or by hiring cycles. A nature trail with quiz sheets takes you round the lake or you can hop on rowing boats, canoes or kayaks to experience the water directly – there’s even the option of water zorbing to keep the kids entertained. Plus you’ll find a newly build woodland adventure play area which is free once you’ve paid for parking.
Programme of Events
As well as all the above resident activities and attractions, you’ll find a huge list of events taking place here right throughout the year including concerts in the Marble Hall itself ranging from opera to chamber music. Outdoor theatre productions for adults and children, guided garden walks and talks, and demonstrations in the old kitchen, as well as large scale concerts and sporting events – check out our What’s On event pages for the latest on all these.
In my opinion Holkham is a wonderful day out for all. What other village can boast a magnificent stately home, deer park, woodland and lake, as well as the best beach in the UK voted for by the public year after year? But don’t just take my word for it, get down to Holkham and experience the magic for yourself.
Holkham Estate is open from 1st April to 31st October every year, daily entry except for the house itself which is only open Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays 12-4pm. Tickets for the hall, museum and garden are £13 for adults and £6.50 for children. A family ticket is £35 for two adults and up to three children. Car parking is £2.50 per day for entry into the grounds.