Holkham Hall is one of the most impressive stately homes in Norfolk. A magnificent Palladian mansion, this house, along with its vast grounds, astonishing walled garden and lovely lake is somewhere you must visit when in North Norfolk. It can’t be overlooked!
The most inspiring side of the house, and the view that we all know, is the one facing away from the lake. It’s really worth taking the time to walk up the hill and stand in awe at this incredible piece of architecture. I wouldn’t say Holkham Hall was aesthetically beautiful, but it does ooze splendour and grandeur.
The Holkham Estate is huge, and very much open to visitors! It consists of the following:
Holkham Hall is an incredible 18th century Palladian Mansion, privately owned and lived in by Viscount Coke (pronounced Cook) and his young family. Designed by Thomas Coke, first Earl of Leicester , work began on the Hall in 1734, and 30 years later, 1764, it was completed. It’s always been lived in by the Coke family, and today is no exception.
If you pay to have a look around the house, you really won't be disappointed. The whole tour is really well set out, and by the time you’ve finished, you really feel like you will have had a chance to experience life at Holkham Hall.
The Marble Hall is the first of many impressive and opulent rooms that you’ll walk through. Although it’s called the Marble Hall, it is actually constructed of alabaster, a very similar building material. With the high ceilings and Roman columns, you’ll forgive the fact that it isn’t marble!
The rest of the house is just as grand, but one impression I got as I walked around was that it was definitely a house that was lived in, however grand. Many of the paintings hanging on the walls are worthy of being in a museum, and the tapestries that adorn some of the walls are beautiful.
Go into the library and there you’ll see lots of family photos, all very up to date and typical of what you would have in your own home (except of course a picture of The Queen and other Royals!). They were very much at home when I visited, so much so that the blinds were down in a few rooms and the smell of a BBQ was most enticing!
This is stunning. I’m not a great gardener, but even I was blown away by the sheer size of this walled garden. As you approach the exterior of it, through a wrought iron gate, you come face to face with this massive long wonderful red brick wall. It sets the scene beautifully for the rest of the delights behind it.
If you haven’t paid to walk around the house, the museum and the walled garden as one package, then you will have to pay £2.50 to see this, but I think it’s worth it. The scale of the restoration, and the continuing restoration are staggering. Go and wander over to the vineries and see what’s been accomplished there. Admire the new vineyard which will produce juices for the cafes, and marvel at the wonderful beds that have been planted. Some of it is a work in progress, but that makes it all the more exciting.
Unfortunately, due to a major new redevelopment in the courtyard, the Bygones Museum is now closed for 2015. When it re-opens in 2016 there will be a new cafe, restaurant, gift shop and an exhibition on Holkham's farming heritage. I'm sure many of the objects from this Bygones Museum will be there for you to see.
So for now, I will leave you with my impression of the old Bygones Museum below!
This is probably the first thing you’ll visit after arriving at the car park as it’s right next door to the ticket office and the courtyard and cafes and a 100 meters from the entrance to the Hall.
As with many of the stately homes in Norfolk, this Bygones Museum is housed in the old stables, and it still retains the wooden partitions enabling you to imagine how it must have been with horses there. It’s been very well thought out, the space has been used incredibly well and there are over 4000 fascinating objects from the past, as well as a few old vintage cars, old steam engines, brewery equipment, coaches and carriages, old typewriters, all sorts! Many of these were acquired from Dick Joice who had a huge collection of old agricultural and domestic items and wanted a permanent home for them.
With miles of rolling countryside, lakes and deer park, it’s worth taking the whole day to explore everything here at Holkham Hall. You’re bound to spot the serene fallow deer grazing amongst the trees. And obviously if you have dogs you are asked to keep them under control.
There are various colour coded walks around the park. The one I took was around the lake which was lovely, and very easy walking.
I started at the Hall, walked up to the ice house (the other ice house is at Felbrigg Hall which you'll see on one of the Felbrigg walks I've written about) and sat on the bench with the 7th Earl (I’ll leave you to see if you can find him, he’s sitting on a bench overlooking the Hall), then visited the walled garden and continued on to St Withburga's Church (a deceptively large looking church with a small interior) and continued on around the lake to finish up at the front of the house.
It's well worth taking the time to do this as it just gives you a feel for how lucky we are to be allowed to wander around these amazing grounds and to experience something quite beautiful.
You can even take your cycle, or hire cycles from the Hall. The National Cycle route goes right through the park, with wonderful sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.
Small children can also have their fun! There is a fenced-in woodland play area for them to enjoy themselves in.
And if you feel like taking to the water, then why not try a lake cruise, a canoe or rowing boat, or even getting into a hamster wheel-type ball and expend your energy that way! Lots of fun to be had all round.
There is the Stables cafe to buy refreshments from in the courtyard, and many people also bring their own picnics and either have them at the picnic tables in the courtyard, or make their base on the open parkland, relaxing for the day in the beautiful surroundings of this Norfolk stately home.
Holkham beach forms part of the estate, along with the Nature Reserve which runs alongside the beach and is adjacent to Wells-next-the-Sea. The beach is one of the most beautiful North Norfolk beaches and has been used numerous times for filming, as well as being used for one week every year by the Household Cavalry to exercise their horses. It’s a really incredible sight to see.
Holkham Nature Reserve stretches from Burnham Norton to Blakeney and forms part of the Norfolk Coast Path. It’s a great place for bird watching, you’ll always see someone with a pair of binoculars around their neck. It’s also lovely for walking, beach combing, or just losing yourself in the sand dunes for some peace and quiet.
I really can recommend visiting the whole Holkham estate and enjoying a fantastic day out. There is something for everyone here.