Norfolk takes great pride in its rich heritage of historic buildings and stately homes.
Such a legacy attests to a unique connection with England’s past, from splendid eighteenth-century manor houses to meticulously preserved medieval churches, magnificent traditional country estates to stunning Norman architecture. For fans of Downton Abbey, the county offers a number of immersive experiences in its stately homes.
Sandringham House and Gardens
Spread over six hundred acres of land, Sandringham House and Gardens, The Royal Family’s private country house, welcomes visitors to its large informal gardens with guided tours, encompassing the formal North Garden, the Stream Walk and Queen Alexandria’s Summerhouse, as well as trails marked for cyclists and those wanting to explore by foot. The ground floor rooms used by the family are open to the public, and their life there can be readily conjured through their personal ornaments, portraits and furniture. We have many Holiday Cottages in easy reach of Sandringham.
For those interested in a quintessential Norfolk house and gardens, a place relatively untouched by centuries of change, look no further than Blicking Estate. Once the home of the Boleyn family – the birthplace of the famous, doomed Anne – Blicking Hall was handed over to the National Trust in 1940 after it had been requisitioned by the war effort and used as an officer’s mess. If you are captivated by the political machinations of the Second World War, life as a serviceman, or everyday goings-on in the arenas of power leading up to that critical period, then Blicking Estate is a perfect day out. There are many holiday cottages within easy reach of Blickling, enabling visitors to make the most of there time in Norfolk.
Set against the dramatic north Norfolk coast, Holkham Hall features twenty-five thousand acres of diverse landscape in which to while away an afternoon. Glimpse local wildlife on a natural trail, visit the beautiful walled garden, survey the elegant eighteenth-century Palladian-style house from a hired boat on Holkham lake and learn the story of the estate in an interactive exhibition. Families enjoy a play area with a spectacular tree house, high level walkways, rope ladders and – for the more daring – zipwire.
Houghton Hall, its park and gardens
Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister, moved into the newly built Palladian mansion Houghton Hall in the 1720s and observed the herd of white fallow deer, just as visitors are able to now. The award-winning walled garden – which includes a visonary double-sided herbaceous border, a formal rose parterre, a Mediterranean garden and a kitchen garden – is not the only draw. With a reputation for its impressive collection of recent renowned work in sculpture, by artists including Anish Kapoor and Rachel Whiteread, Houghton Hall offers something for both the traditional- and contemporary-inclined.
Felbrigg Hall is all the more breath-taking for blending staggering natural beauty in its surrounding parkland with the tranquillity and warmth of its lived-in interiors, where it tells a moving story of four families and their deep connection with the estate. Such a contrast of the vast Norfolk landscape and the personal touches indoors draws from visitors a state of absolute tranquillity.
Another home charting a vast historical sweep is Oxburgh Hall, which follows the fate of the Bedingfield family from its bleak medieval beginnings in 1482 to the splendour of the Victorian era. Exquisite early Mortlake tapestries hang alongside rare embroidery by Mary Queen of Scots, creating a dramatic, transporting mood that brings to life some of the most thrilling moments in British history.
A dazzling variety of roses flourish in the gardens of the medieval moated manor, Mannington Hall and Garden, which was purchased in the eighteenth century by Lord Walpole. Rarely do stately homes lay claim to so long a lineage as Mannington, which is mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book, and was passed between an early King of England and a Norman nobleman before reaching the Walpole family.
Book your next trip to Norfolk and make sure you have time to take in some of these beautiful buildings and their stories.