The Holkham Estate in Norfolk: UK days out

We recently returned from a holiday in north Norfolk. One of the many highlights of our week in this glorious county was a trip to the Holkham Estate near Wells-next-the-Sea.

holkham estate

The Parrot bedroom

We loved our visit to the Holkham Estate. Apart from the wonderful landscape and beauty of the buildings, the atmosphere felt so welcoming and relaxed. We were allowed to take photos throughout and the blinds were up. Sometimes when you visit such places you feel you have to walk around talking in hushed tones in the dark!

At Holkham, the staff were all incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. They were really keen to guide you and give extra information. Even the woman on the gate selling ice cream was super helpful and gave us advice on where everything was. We got the impression that it was a very happy place to work.

Holkham Hall

holkham estate

The marble hall

The jewel in the crown of the Holkham Estate is, of course Holkham Hall, a grand 18th century Palladian country mansion. It is absolutely stunning, from the beautiful marble entrance hall to the fabulous ‘Parrot bedroom’, still used to accommodate guests at the hall. Fabulous artworks and tapestries hung in every room. There was so much to see we didn’t know where to look first!

holkham estateThomas Coke (pronounced Cook), who built Holkham, collected a variety of treasures on his Grand Tour of Europe as a very young man. They are scattered around the house. We particularly enjoyed the Statue Gallery, which displays some of his purchases. Not quite the holiday souvenirs most of us go for, but stunning nonetheless.

holkham estate

The library

The library was amazing, packed to the rafters with priceless books and manuscripts, many collected by Thomas Coke on his travels. The guide explained to us that university students come in to help clean and conserve them and that they are still used for historical research.

The old kitchen was huge and full of copper pots, pans and kettles. We really enjoyed the portraits of the estate staff commissioned by the 7th Earl of Leicester, painted in the 1990s into the early 2000s. These showed the people who continue to maintain the estate and make it the beautiful place it is. The guide surprised us by telling us that the kitchen staff did not mix with the upstairs staff at all. It wasn’t like Downton Abbey! They didn’t speak to each other except to communicate when food was ready to be taken upstairs and it was passed through a small hatch.

Farming at the Holkham Estate

holkham estateWe had a long chat with the guide in the Field to Fork exhibition. He explained that the Holkham Estate is a fully functioning farm, which helps to support the house and grounds. The estate grows a lot of barley, much of which goes to breweries such as Adnams in Suffolk. They also produce the malt that goes into Maltesers! Other crops include oilseed rape, potatoes, wheat and sugar beet.

Conservation

holkham estateThere is a strong emphasis on conservation at the Holkham Estate.  It employs six gamekeepers and a conservation team, aiming to preserve the park and woodland for the benefit of  wildlife and to protect natural habitats.

You can feel how the environment benefits from this careful management. The grounds were full of bird song, and we were thrilled to see all the tiny goslings along the lakeside.

Walled garden

holkham estateThis was the largest walled garden we have ever seen, covering six acres. It is very much a work in progress. Some of the spectacular Victorian glass houses have already been restored, although the ‘sunken greenhouses’, which look like huge long cold frames, are a future project.

holkham estate

Part of the walled garden

When we visited, the vegetables were just starting to take off and the lavender was at its fragrant best.

Wheel chair accessible

We were impressed by how accessible the house and grounds were to visitors with limited mobility. There were ramps everywhere, nearby parking for blue badge holders and you could take a buggy from the house to the walled garden.

Beach

holkham estateAfter our long and very pleasant day wandering around the Holkham Estate we decided to make our way to Holkham Beach. What an absolute gem! Part of the Holkham National Nature Reserve, the beach is as huge as the sky. Totally unspoilt, you walk through a pine wood to get to the sand and, depending on whether it is high tide or low tide you then walk a long way or a really long way to find the sea. It is fabulous! We were blessed with evening sunshine when we went and had a paddle in the warm sea.

holkham estateThe admission price for Holkham Hall, the Field to Fork Experience and the Walled Garden is £16 for adults and £8 for children. A family ticket costs £44. You do have to pay for parking on top of your entrance fee, both for the house and for the beach, but I think it is a price worth paying to contribute to keeping both the Holkham Estate and the beach in such great condition.  We bought a couple of things in the gift shop: if you spend £12 you get your £3 parking charge back. You can find further details at the Holkham Estate website.

The Holkham Estate was kind enough to give us complimentary tickets. However, this post contains my own unbiased and honest opinions.

9 thoughts on “The Holkham Estate in Norfolk: UK days out

  1. What a glorious house in stunning countryside, Jane. We passed Holkham Hall on our way to the Burnhams when we were staying with friends (now sadly both deceased) in Norfolk about 20 years ago. And what lovely photos of you and Mr Shoestring! Yes, some entrance fees are expensive, but at least you feel you are contributing to the upkeep of such a wonderful house which while it doesn’t belong to us, neither does it really belong to the family who live there, they are simply caring for it, as we all do, and passing it on to the next generation. Our landscape would be all the poorer if we didn’t have our wonderful historic houses, would it not? Wasn’t it at Holkham that the bowler hat was invented for the gamekeeper? That seems to ring a bell with me somewhere.
    Margaret P

  2. Looks lovely. My mum has passed on a card from Gardener’s World magazine, for a year of 2 for 1 entry to over 400 gardens, for my holiday next month and I see Houghton Hall Walled Garden is one of those.
    I think we’ll get out money’s worth just from the Eden Project alone!
    It doesn’t include entry to the houses, and they probably aren’t NT or English Heritage properties either, to get in via those, but I’d rather just see the gardens anyway!

  3. I am so glad you wrote this up on Holkham Estate, because in August I am visiting my sister in the UK and we are staying up in that area. I definitely want to pay a visit.

  4. Glad you had a great time at Holkham Hall, we loved visiting when we’ve had holidays on the North Norfolk coast. Highlights for the children included the excellent wooden adventure playground, garden games near the tea shop in the courtyard and an outdoor theatre performance about a ridiculous dragon.

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