A haven and inn in the grounds of a coastal family treasure
The Victoria Inn sits at the entrance to the drive of Holkham Hall, with Holkham Beach opposite, on the main road between Wells-next-the-Sea and the Burnham villages, in north Norfolk. It is a handsome Victorian building containing some dog-friendly bedrooms, while the Ancient House alongside has further bedrooms, crenellated gables and some wonderfully twisted chimneys. Both are part of the Holkham Hall estate, owned and managed by the Earl of Leicester.
Budget or boutique?
Country boutique is how I would describe it, so stylish rooms, but also roaring fires in the bars and drawing room.
Whether in the Victoria Inn or the Ancient House, all bedrooms and suites are furnished in modern country house style, with cool, clear colours married with chintz and checks. Bathrooms, too, are modern, tiled and of many different sizes because of the nature of these old buildings’ interiors, with impressively powerful showers. Toiletries are by The Natural Soap Company, of Norfolk and there are also kettles and tea and coffee making equipment. The overall effect is welcoming and cosy, and a retreat from the sometimes bracing Norfolk weather.
Wining and dining
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner take place in the bar or the conservatory restaurant with its views to the marshes and the sea, where dogs are again welcome. The produce is seasonal and the emphasis is on good food from the estate. Menus offer fish, of course, including crab and lobster, and the estate-reared pork, beef and game dishes, and can include beef casserole and Lobster Thermidor.
Portions are generous, but there is also a take on healthy eating, with dishes such as Lady Leicester’s warm autumn salad, while the children’s menu has side dishes of vegetables free of charge, which, if they are finished, qualify for a free fruit salad. Breakfasts (local kippers) and bar snacks are also hearty. The wine list is extensive and not challenging in price.
Worth getting out of bed for
Holkham beach is wide and open and has featured in several films – including Elizabeth: The Golden Age with Cate Blanchett – and TV productions. The Norfolk skies are even wider, and one evening, crossing the drive and admiring the sunset, we looked up as a huge skein of geese made their noisy way to the coast. Just up the drive is the Palladian-style hall, built by the first Earl of Leicester, Thomas Coke. A young man with a wild streak, he was cheered by the local people when he left for his Grand Tour of Europe in 1712.
In the six years of his tour, acquiring a taste for art and treasure, he came back a changed man to build this magnificent 18th-century mansion. The entrance is the stunning marble hall, and as we were led through the magnificent rooms – all with views out to park land – we learned of these treasures, and the present-day family, to whom Holkham Hall is home. “No, no London home,” we were told, “this is it”.
The deer park offers scenic walking, a walled garden, boating on the lake, cycle hire, a great children’s playground, and tours and events, such as Farm to Fork, where youngsters can be virtual tractor drivers, learn the value of cow pats (yes, really) and dress up as gamekeepers – huge tweed jackets, and bowler hats. Then there are great ice creams, and cakes, to be had in the Courtyard Café. Further afield there is Sandringham, King’s Lynn, Cromer etc, to explore.
In the bedroom fridges a welcome pack includes water, fresh milk for tea or coffee, a locally made cake, and a small bottle of prosecco. Also open to residents is the drawing room, a cosy parlour with wing chairs, and sofas, and a tantalus from which you can help yourself to whisky, brandy and port.
A hospitable haven set in the splendour of Holkham Hall estate with wide Norfolk beaches and vast skies to enjoy.
Prices range from £160 b&b for a small double room. Loganair fly from Edinburgh to Norwich airport from £59, and the drive from the airport takes 55 minutes. The Victoria Inn, Park Road, Holkham, Wells-next-the-Sea NR23 1RG (Tel: 01328 711008, firstname.lastname@example.org)