The north Norfolk Estate at Holkham is well known all over the country for its stunning beach and equally impressive Palladian hall. Holkham Hall is without doubt one of the grandest stately homes in the county and is still privately owned by The Coke family, namely Thomas Coke, the 8th Earl of Leicester.
The Hall stands proudly in the park that was landscaped by Capability Brown in 1762. He designed the elegant Walled Garden and stable block. He also created the lake where today, flocks of Canadian and Egyptian geese can be seen.
The beach at Holkham is a sweeping cove that is 4 miles in length; its pure white sands and rolling sand dunes are a huge attraction. It was made famous by the American actress, Gwyneth Paltrow who was filmed during low tide elegantly walking across the wide sands for the closing scenes of the film ‘Shakespeare in Love’ (1998).
The long drive way called ‘Lady Ann’s Drive’ guides you directly to one of the most unspoilt, beautiful stretches of sand in the UK. From the beach you can enjoy the splendid panoramic views of the cove. Several leading travel writers and experts voted the beach at Holkham the no.1 beach in the UK for 2014.
Sandwiched between the pine forest and the shoreline is the horseshoe-shaped basin. During high tides, it fills up and makes a refreshing shallow lagoon to splash and bathe in. Be aware that the rising tides need to be watched closely as the water level can rise so suddenly, you can quickly get cut off from the mainland. Note that there is a small stretch of the beach where naturism is permitted.
The Estate & Nature Reserve
The Holkham Estate forms part of one of the biggest national nature reserves in the UK. It is jointly managed by the Holkham Estate and Natural England. As you explore the salt marshes you will discover a huge variety of rare species of fauna and flora.
The beautiful pine woods that run along the beach were planted in the 19th Century by the great agriculturalist Thomas Coke the 2nd Earl of Leicester. By planting so many pine trees it was hoped that they would help to stabilise the sand dunes. They now offer visitors to the beach a welcome break from the sun.
The Holkham nature reserve is mostly man made from reclaimed saltmarsh. It stretches for about 10 miles. It begins at Burnham Norton and continues all the way along the north Norfolk coast to the pretty village of Blakeney. The Holkham Nature Reserve is vast! It covers approximately 3,706 hectares.
It’s possible to spend long days exploring the area on foot, using the many footpaths that lead away from any of the three car parks operated by the Holkham Estate.
- Lady Anne’s Drive (Holkham Beach)
- Holkham Park (near the hall)
- Beach Road, Wells
Parking charges apply at all three car parks. Connecting all three car parks is the Peddars Way trail and the Norfolk Coast path. Both these trails are a fantastic way to discover the local area.
At Burnham Overy, there’s a free car park but be warned that this floods regularly at high tide.
For further information about the Estate car parks such as opening times, costs and season tickets please visit the Holkham Estate Parking Information page.
Holkham Flora and Fauna
On the Holkham nature reserve bird lovers will delight in spotting Little Egrets, Marsh Harriers, Red Kites and there have been plenty of sightings of waders across the marshes. These include, Oystercatchers, Black Tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, and Curlew to name only a few species.
Roe Deer, hares and hedgehogs also live in harmony together on the nature reserve and there is an abundance of pretty butterflies too, including Emperor, Southern Hawker and White Admiral.
To reduce the risk of fire, the use of stoves, bonfires & BBQs is strictly prohibited.
The hall at Holkham is arguably one of the finest Palladian mansions in the country. It was designed by the famous 18th Century architect William Kent, who introduced this style of architecture to England. This Georgian architect also designed Chiswick House in west London, Houghton Hall in Norfolk, Stowe House in Buckinghamshire and the Royal Mews at Charing Cross – these fine buildings are just some of his commissions.
The splendid Holkham Hall was built for the Coke family from 1734 and completed in 1759. Thomas Coke who was the nephew of the 1st Earl of Leicester was one of the founders of modern farming and a great agriculturalist. Also known as ‘Norfolk Coke’ and ‘Holkham Coke’ he worked hard to develop the estate and it became highly successful.
Somewhat surprisingly the obelisk and the temple were built in 1729, five years before construction of the house even began. The Hall was built of yellow brick taken from the Holkham yards (closely resembling the shade of ‘Bath stone’). Indeed many of the Estate farm houses use this same brick.
Holkham Hall was designed in the style of an Italian palace and is an H-plan mansion with 4 wings to its core. The front of this impressive building is 340ft long and there is a vast central portico that is 114ft by 62ft.
As you would expect, the interior is as impressive as the exterior! There are many stunning features, including the splendid Marble Basilica, the famous Statue Gallery and many beautiful state rooms. Some of these were carefully designed to give the residents of the Holkham Hall long, sweeping vistas of each connecting room. Many of these rooms have ornate ceilings and contain grand collections of rare paintings, tapestries, statues and furniture.
Rather amusingly, once, long ago, the hall was only apparently open “for general inspection on Tuesdays only – except to foreigners and artists.”
In contrast, nowadays, the entire Holkham Estate has become one of Norfolk’s most popular tourist attractions with the Hall open during the Summer months on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. The Holkham Estate, Walled Gardens, Children’s Woodland Play Area, Café and Gift Shop are open every day during the Summer. Please check here for admission prices.
There’s a whole range of different activities and events that take place – from cricket matches, photography courses, food fairs and exhibitions – plus many more exciting events. The education team work hard to offer lots of nature inspired things to do for children and adults alike. These include Park Discovery Days, pond dipping, evening bat walks and a Walled Garden Ramble. Please note a small charge applies. For more detailed information and a full list of events visit www.holkham.co.uk/event.
Holkham Hall provides a stunning backdrop for outdoor theatre events that appeal to all ages – there’s something for everyone to enjoy! In the great Marble Hall there’s Chamber Music concerts (including the North Norfolk Music Festival) and operatic performances. To find out more and to book tickets, please go to, www.holkham.co.uk/events/marble-hall-concerts and www.holkham.co.uk/evets/theatre.
Open air concerts during the Summer are very popular too. Since 2006 there have been many music events featuring popular performers such as Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, Jose Carreras, Status Quo, Elton John and Bjorn Again. During the ‘Pop Party in the Park’ tribute acts Mercury (Queen), James Aston (Michael Jackson) and The Illegal Eagles (The Eagles) have performed on the stage at Holkham Hall.
Accommodation and Dining
Holkham Hall has several places to relax and enjoy something to eat and drink. There’s the Beach Café at Wells-next-the-Sea, which is open every day and the Café in the Park, which currently overlooks the grand lake whilst redevelopment work is carried out. The Café in the Park is open every day from the end of March to the end of October.
The Victoria Inn is located close to the hall and the beach. It’s a stunning venue to enjoy supper and, an ideal place to escape to for a relaxing break. The Victoria Inn’s ethos is to serve its guests exceptionally high quality food with carefully selected wines that complement each meal.
The vast majority of ingredients used are sourced locally – shellfish from Morston Quay, fish and samphire from the coast or meat from one of the farms on the Holkham Estate. Take a look at their menus and other information here.