One of the most splendid mansions in Britain, Holkham Hall is the seat of the Coke family, the earls of Leicester. In the late 18th century, Thomas Coke went on a grand tour of the Continent, returning with art treasures and determined to build a house according to the new Italian ideas. Centered by a grand staircase and modeled after the Baths of Diocletian, the 60-foot-tall Marble Hall (mostly alabaster, in fact), may well be the most spectacular room in Britain. Beyond are salons filled with works from Coke's collection of masterpieces, including paintings by Gainsborough, Van Dyck, Rubens, and Raphael. Surrounding the house is a park landscaped by Capability Brown in 1762. You'd be hard-pressed to walk through it without spotting several deer. A good way to see the grounds is a half-hour-long lake cruise. The original walled kitchen gardens have been restored and once again provide produce for the estate. The gardens include an adventure playground for children. A major improvement of the visitor facilities is scheduled for completion in 2016; the ambitious plans include a new museum and a large coffee shop and restaurant in what used to be the stable blocks.
Off A149, Wells-next-the-Sea, NR23 1AB, England
01328-713111-for tickets; 01328-710227-for estate office