Holkham Hall: one of Norfolk’s treasures

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TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess

You’ll be pleased to know the occasional series “Places to visit within an hour of Holbeach” continues with a trip to the Norfolk coast. Unfortunately it took a good ten minutes to get out of Holbeach itself plus we endured the usual hideous traffic as everyone merged onto the A149 at King’s Lynn. We therefore reached Holkham Hall 15 minutes outside our target range but it was a very sunny Saturday so it was inevitable we wouldn’t be the only day-trippers on the road.

Home to the 8th Earl of Leicester - who I imagine was doing victory laps of the Marble Hall on account of their impressive Premiership title win - Holkham Hall is a member of the Treasure Houses of England, with its fine architecture, art and classical statues.

The hall itself isn’t open on Saturdays but if you plan to just explore the grounds, like we did, it is the perfect day to visit as it wasn’t at all crowded.

I will probably be taken to the Tower for saying this but the outside of this 18th century home looks better from a distance. At close quarters I thought it looked a little functional, belying the exquisite treasures within. However if you walk a little way towards the obelisk on the south lawn, then turn round, it looks far more beautiful.

The brochure we were given when we parked had a useful hand-drawn map showing where the hall is located in relation to the beach and Holkham Village. It’s not to scale, however, so doesn’t quite give you the sense of how extensive the grounds really are.

There are walking trails available but we only found them as a downloadable document from the website...when we got home. Sensible people do this research before they go or manage to spot the trails marked on signs by the paths.

If you haven’t visited Holkham Hall for a while, you won’t know about their brand new cafe and gift shop. We tested these facilities, just as we did at Burghley House and Oxburgh Hall, as I feel it is my duty to let you know if the chocolate brownies are up to the mark. They were. The cafe was stylish and the outside courtyard was very continental. They also had state of the art ‘lavatories’ (not toilets) which is always something to shout about.

Having explored much of the grounds, we sauntered down to the village, crossed the road then followed the path to the beach which is where we discovered everyone else in their cars had ended up. Even so, there was enough Norfolk sand for everyone and, in the late afternoon sunshine, it really was idyllic.

On our return walk through the grounds we passed a herd of deer; not penned in, just contentedly sharing the same space as the visitors. Before heading home we sat for a while watching a thoroughly English game of cricket which was in progress on the north lawn, beside the lake. It set the seal on a rather splendid day out.

You can follow Trish on Twitter @mumsgoneto and read her blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk