3 Best Sights in Wells-next-the-Sea, East Anglia

Holkham Hall

Fodor's choice

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. A large coffee shop and restaurant can be found in what used to be the stable blocks. The grounds are huge and populated by herds of deer, curious enough not to run away unless you get too close—in fact, there are so many that you'd be hard-pressed to walk through without spotting several. 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.

Off A149, Wells-next-the-Sea, NR23 1AB, England
01328-713111-for tickets
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Hall, museum, and gardens £23; gardens only £5.50; park free; parking £5, No vehicle access to park Nov.–Mar. Hall closed Nov.–Mar. and Tues., Wed., Fri., and Sat. in Apr.–Oct.

Houghton Hall

Fodor's choice

Built in the 1720s by the first British prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, this extraordinary Palladian pile has been carefully restored by its current owner, the seventh marquess of Cholmondeley (pronounced "Chumley"). The double-height Stone Hall and the sumptuous private quarters reveal designer William Kent's preference for gilt, stucco, plush fabrics, and elaborate carvings. Don't leave the grounds without viewing the beautiful medieval simplicity of St. Martin's Church. Candlelight tours, light shows, and other special events are sometimes held on weekends; check the website for the schedule. Houghton Hall is 14 miles southwest of Wells-next-the-Sea.

Off A148, King's Lynn, PE31 6UE, England
Sight Details
Rate Includes: £20; park and grounds only £10, Closed Oct.–Mar., Mon. (except bank holidays), Tues., Fri., and Sat.

Sandringham House

Fodor's choice

Not far from the old-fashioned seaside resort of Hunstanton, Sandringham House is where the Royal Family traditionally spends Christmas. The redbrick Victorian mansion was clearly designed for enormous country-house parties, with a ballroom, billiard room, and bowling alley, as well as a shooting lodge on the grounds. The house and gardens close when the royals are in residence, but the woodlands, nature trails, and museum of royal memorabilia in the old stables remain open, as does the church, which is medieval but in heavy Victorian disguise. Tours give you access to most rooms, but steer clear of those occupied by current royals. The house is 20 miles southwest of Wells-next-the-Sea.

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