8 of the best Norfolk stately homes to explore
If you’re planning your social distancing staycations this summer – you’ll want to bookmark this post on Norfolk stately homes and parks to visit! I’m planning on making the most of what little freedom we have this summer and using the time to explore my home county more than ever before. North Norfolk is the perfect place to visit when you want to avoid the crowds because there is so much wide open space to explore. From the beautiful beaches, to the stunning country houses and estates, to the incredible nature reserves and natural sights. If you’re desperate to travel this summer, but fancy sticking to UK travel – it’s a perfect place to explore and bring the whole family along.
Check out my previous blog post: Why Norfolk holidays should be on your UK bucket list
The best Norfolk stately homes to visit:
I consider myself so, so lucky to have so many beautiful places on my doorstep and I hope that this post will encourage you to not only visit Norfolk. But also to explore more of your own back garden and to discover places you never knew were right down the road! Please note that due to social distancing, many if not all of these Norfolk stately homes will only have their grounds open to the public. You will likely not be able to take tours or go inside – please always check before you visit. Some estates require you to pre-book a time slot to visit so they can keep queues to a minimum. Check the websites for the most-up-to-date information regarding opening times, admission prices and COVID-19 updates.
Holkham Hall & Estate
Expect rolling fields and woodland surrounding Holkham Hall, with stunning views across the lake. Trails and paths criss-cross around the lake, with a walled garden, obelisk and a church to visit, plus a huge cricket pitch. You can also hire bikes to cycle the estate, explore the children’s play area or gift shop. Don’t forget to look for the deer! Holkham Hall is known for it’s deer park and you will see a huge herd of deer grazing throughout the summer days. Parking costs just £4 for the day which gives you freedom across the whole park except the walled garden which has an additional cost. They also host a Saturday afternoon street food market which still allows for social distancing. Always check their events list before you visit.
Holkham Hall & Estate is truly spectacular – the epitome of Norfolk stately homes, it looks like a scene from a movie! Actually it is a scene from a movie – it was the location for parts of Keira Knightly movie, The Duchess, and TV drama All The King’s Men, starring David Jason. If you later wander down to Holkham Beach, you’ll also see where Gwyneth Paltrow’s character washes up on the beach at the end of Shakespeare in Love.
This hidden gem is located just slightly inland of Sheringham and is a National Trust property which boasts 520 acres of ancient woodland. Dating back to the mid-15th century, I actually visited on a Tudors school trip when I was little. You’ll find rolling parkland, a lake and lots of buggy-friendly trails to explore with the family. There are beautiful gardens including the Walled Garden and West Garden which is home to the stunning 18th century Orangery. The inside of Felbrigg Hall is absolutely stunning, filled with rich, opulent decoration and a fascinating history. Felbrigg Hall is also home to one of the largest collections in the National Trust which includes architectural drawings, historic wallpaper, Boulle furniture and historic paintings.
Get a taste for royalty and visit Sandringham House this summer. The Royal family’s private home and country house which has housed four generations of British monarchs since 1862. Ever since I was born my family have been taking me to the Sandringham Estate. Just a short 20 minute drive from my home, it’s a perfect place for a woodland walk. There are lots of coloured trails through the woods for you to follow, plus an enormous children’s play area and loads of open space for you to enjoy picnics. Normally you can take tours of Sandringham house and gardens but right now these won’t be available. However, there is also a little shop, cafe, ice cream stall and plant shop to check out.
One of my favourite Norfolk stately homes in the area – I’ve previously attended two music and arts festivals here. It’s a fabulous building dating back to the 1720’s and the current owner is a direct descendent of Britain’s first prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, who built the hall. It regularly hosts art exhibitions and events, including summer fairs. The grounds include a walled garden, an impressive collection of contemporary outdoor sculpture, a church, stables and a model soldier museum. There is also a deer park and lots of woodland to explore. They currently have an exhibition running by the celebrated British sculptor Anish Kapoor – it includes 24 sculptures and various smaller works. Pre-booked tickets are available online.
Blickling Hall & Estate
Head to Norfolk’s Bure Meadows where you will find the breathtaking Blickling Hall. This beautiful mansion sits on a sprawling 55 acre estate which includes a Partarre, temple, orangery, lake and kitchen garden. There are lots of walks and trails, including those suitable for adapted wheelchair users. Built in 1616, the Jacobean hall is known for it’s impressive history and 18th century Long Gallery Library which contains over 12,500 volumes. The Blickling Estate was also the birthplace of Anne Boleyn and is now a National Trust property. 1945 movie The Wicked Lady starring James Mason and Margaret Lockwood was also filmed here.
Another National Trust property, Oxburgh Hall has been home to the Bedingfeld family for 500 years. It comes with a fascinating history and reveals one family’s unshakeable Catholic faith. Again, it was another school trip favourite – this time covering everything from Medieval times through to neo-Gothic Victorian. The building has a rich history which includes the survival of a fierce fire during the Civil War which almost destroyed it. There were times when it faced dereliction and demolition but survived all to tell its tale.
From Oxburgh Hall you get panoramic views across the Victorian French parterre, walled garden, kitchen garden and Catholic chapel. The hall is great for visiting families, with children getting access to trails, quizzes and dressing up clothes to try on, plus a woodland den building and camp area. Upon arrival, you make your way along the drive with the spectacular Oxburgh Hall surrounded by a moat in the distance. Please note that in 2020, there are currently ongoing conservation and reconstruction works. At the time of writing the hall was covered in scaffolding – you can still visit the gardens. Check the website for updates.
Mannington Hall & Gardens
This moated medieval country house was first constructed in the 15th century and boasts stunning motif chimneys and gothic windows. Explore the Heritage and Modern Rose Gardens, or head to the South Lawn where a classic temple and Sensory Garden with a water feature can be found. You will also find a small chapel and folly garden dating back to the 18th century. Children will love exploring the special children’s garden, playground and fairy nature trail. For families, Mannington Hall usually hosts a range of educational and children’s activities. In the past these have included walks, nature games and quizzes and creative activities using natural materials. Find the latest events via the website.
A little moated manor house that has received great acclaim. It has just been shortlisted for the Historic Houses 2020 Garden of the Year award. Previous winners of the award include Blenheim Palace, Houghton and Newby Hall. Like something from a story-book, Hindringham Hall features a medieval moat, fishponds plus beautiful floral borders surrounding the Tudor hall, and a walled vegetable garden. The gardens are open to the public during summer on Wednesdays and Sundays. They normally offer guided tours of the moat, garden and ground floor of the hall. They also have 4 & 5* self-catering holiday cottages available to let by the week.
While travelling may not look quite the same right now, if anything this year has really shown us how lucky we are to have so many beautiful places in the UK. I’m as guilty as anyone of always travelling to far-off places but there is so much of the UK I still haven’t seen. This year, let’s focus on UK travel and staycations and start exploring our back garden. Whether you visit the wide open spaces and countryside of Norfolk, or head to the Lake District, Cotswolds, Devon or Cornwall. It’s a luxury to still be able to travel, to choose self-catering or camp, and to be able to find space to enjoy ourselves without worries over social distancing. I’m planning on revisiting as many of these beautiful old stately homes and country houses around North Norfolk this summer as possible.
What are your summer plans – will you choose to travel to Norfolk? Where else are you taking a staycation this summer?