Envisioned by Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester, and built by the architects William Kent and Lord Burlington, this austere Palladian Hall — in the style of an Italian villa — is set in a thriving 25,000-acre agricultural estate and has been the ancestral home of the Coke family since the 1750s.
Inspired by the buildings of Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, his classical style and use of symmetry, taken from Ancient Greek and Roman architecture, can be seen from the imposing columns and pediments of Holkham Hall. Indeed, the building and its interiors comprise some of the finest examples of the Palladian revival style of architecture in England. The façade owes its colour to the yellow-brick replicas of ancient Roman bricks cast specifically for Holkham. Constructed of Derbyshire alabaster, the ‘Marble’ Hall features a magnificent colonnade that was copied from the Temple of Fortuna Virilis in Rome; its exquisite coffered, gilded ceiling - rising to a height of over 50 feet - is an imitation of the capital's Pantheon. In stark contrast to this chaste grandeur, master paintings by Peter Paul Ruben and Anthony van Dyck hang on the saloon’s red velvet walls. Ruben’s painting has been noted for its unusual depiction of Christ as a young boy, rather than as an infant or a man. Twenty–two Old Master paintings hang in the landscape room. Significantly, this room holds a collection of seven paintings by Claude Lorrain, the great French landscape painter.
The green state bedroom on the piano nobile has played host to nobility of all ranks over the years, including Queen Mary. Indeed, for The Queen's visit, the painting of the god Jupiter caressing his wife Juno, by Gavin Hamilton, was considered too lewd for the lady and banished to the attics. In the bedroom, tapestries woven by the great Flemish weaver, Albert Auwercx, hang either side of the fireplace. The statue gallery houses what is perhaps the most complete private collection of classical statuary in Britain. Here, all of the statues, bar three, are Roman and were sculpted between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. In Victorian times, they too were shrouded to cover their modesty.
Please note that some rooms, such as the libraries and the chapel, whilst frequently open for public view, are private areas of the Hall, and thus cannot be guaranteed on the day of your visit. We apologise for any disappointment this may cause.
Originally laid out by architect Samuel Wyatt in the late 1700s, today the walled gardens are being lovingly restored and feature in BBC One's Countryfile in early August. On entering the gardens, visitors pass through Italian iron-work gates into one of eight garden rooms; from perennial meadows, through to large Victorian greenhouses, with pear trees dating from the original Victorian plantings. In the greenhouses, Scotch Bonnet peppers are grown for use in Holkham's very own 'Hot Pepper Sauce'. As the gardens are further restored, visitors will be able to enjoy garden paths bordered by beautiful flowers, fruit and foliage.
The sweeping 3,000-acre parkland surrounding the Hall is grazed by fallow and red deer. Evergreen oaks from Italy, the Coke Monument and William Kent's Obelisk accent the grounds. Taking you through Broom Covert and Great Barn woods, the park walk passes the Great Barn itself, a listed building built in 1790 by Samuel Wyatt and reflecting his neoclassical style. Or take the 3.7-mile lake walk from Holkham village, circling the lake, and then sit back and enjoy a serene lake cruise (available from April to October).
What was once a stable block was given a new lease of life in 1979, when Lord Leicester acquired from Dick Joice, host of popular Bygones series on Anglia TV, his vast collection of old agricultural and domestic items. Today, the Bygones Museum houses an extensive collection of over 4,000 exhibits; from mechanical toys, household implements and agricultural tools, to vintage cars and steam engines - dating from the Victorian period to the mid-1900s. Resting half a mile north-west of the Hall, the flint church of St. Withburga dates from the 13th century - although there has been a church on the site since Saxon times – and is still used as a place of worship.
One of the most pristine, beautiful stretches of sand in the country, the beach at Holkham was famously the setting for the closing scene of the film Shakespeare in Love, with actress Gwyneth Paltrow walking across the sand at low tide.
Take an enchanting stroll along white sands, passing the lifeboat station, with stunning views of Wells Harbour and the salt marshes. Or take in the scenery of the Norfolk Coast Path, with pine woods and the boating lake. Behind the shoreline lies a semi-circular basin, which at high tides fills to form a shallow saltwater lagoon. Here, you can sit and while away the hours. Accompanied by the trill and chirp of birds, spend some time in the meadowland, where the Coke Monument rises amidst tall trees. Part of one of the largest nature reserves in the country, the beach is managed by Holkham Estate.
"Four miles of white-gold sand, with shells to collect and pine woods to explore." - The Times
Holkham National Nature Reserve is the most extensive and diverse nature reserve on the Norfolk coastline. Stretching from Burnham Norton to Blakeney and covering approximately 4,000 hectares, the mainstay of the reserve lies between Wells and Holkham Bay. A dazzling interplay of habitats and wildlife - part wilderness, part working landscape - the reserve comprises windswept tidelines, a maze of creeks and saltings, miles of dunes and sandpits, shady pine woods, green pastures and marshes. Visitors can discover the silence of the pine woods, with Corsican, Scots and Maritime pine, or mature sand dunes, rich in lime and matted with vegetation, where grasshoppers tune up in the early morning hours.
Birdlife abounds, with flocks of larks, finches and pipits in Holkham Bay, and hordes of wildfowl, such as pink-footed geese, brent geese and wigeon on either side of Lady Ann's Drive. In the summer twilight, male ghost swift moths dance and the purple haze of sea lavender can be seen across the saltings. From the fluting lament of a grey plover to the croak of natterjacks on a spring evening, Holkham National Nature Reserve is as dramatic as the Palladian Hall which shares its name and is the perfect place to walk, talk and relax to the distant rumble of the waves far out at sea. Why not follow in the footsteps of Lord Nelson, who spent many of his childhood days exploring this remarkable stretch of coast?
Located in the historic quarter of Norwich city centre, opposite the famous Norman cathedral, the Maids Head is believed to be the oldest hotel in the UK. Dating back to the 13th century, it is rumoured that Queen Elizabeth I and Catherine of Aragon have been among its many guests. Today, it offers both contemporary and period character bedrooms, all with free Wi-Fi and satellite TV. Norwich Castle, The Forum and Norwich Market are a short walk away. The WinePress@Wensum Restaurant serves fine food, with 40 wines available by the glass. The hotel has its own tapas bar and a Jacobean snug bar, once patronised by Horatio Nelson. Free on-site parking.
Maids Head Hotel is 35 miles from Holkham Hall: be sure to visit the world-renowned Norwich Cathedral and Holkham Hall whilst enjoying your stay in medieval Norwich. (more...)
York, North Yorkshire
Leeds, West Yorkshire
Contact Hotel Reservations:
0845 0 70 70 90
|25 March - 31 October|
|Open Sun, Mon & Thurs*||12:00-16:00|
|Bygones Museum**, Walled Gardens, Gift Shop & Stables Café|
|25 March - 31 October|
|*Including Good Friday & Easter Sunday|