We check in to the Links Country Park Hotel in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Monday: Holkham Hall & Hindringham Hall Gardens
We travel through the scenic Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to Holkham Hall, an elegant 18th-century country mansion constructed in the Palladian style for Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester. Set in a vast landscaped park, the hall is currently home to the 8th Earl of Leicester and his family and we enjoy an exclusive private guided tour here. The spectacular Marble Hall, with its splendid colonnade and breathtaking 50ft domed ceiling, was inspired by the Temple of Fortuna Virilis and the Pantheon in Rome, while the magnificent state rooms boast superb collections of ancient statuary, original furniture and tapestries plus works of art from the likes of Rubens, Van Dyck and Gainsborough.
Hindringham Hall Gardens are one of Norfolk’s hidden gems. The three acres of gardens are laid out both inside and outside the 12th-century moat that surrounds the picturesque Tudor manor house. On our escorted lecture tour we discover many of the highlights of the impressive gardens including the working walled vegetable and fruit garden, Victorian greenhouse, water garden, wild garden, copse and medieval fishponds. Afterwards we enjoy tea and cake.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Tuesday: Norfolk Broads with Paddle Steamer Cruise & Mannington Gardens
The Norfolk Broads is a unique and beautiful landscape of shallow lakes and rivers, scattered with pretty market towns and villages along its shores. One of the best ways to enjoy it is to take to the water. From the picturesque village of Horning, we embark on a memorable cruise along the waterways on the Mississippi Paddle Steamer, passing lovely thatched cottages, windmills, ancient churches and reed beds and spotting some of the area’s unique wildlife along the way.
After our cruise, we continue on to Mannington Gardens for a private visit. These extensive gardens surround the medieval moated manor house that has been owned by the Walpole family since the 1740s and feature a wide variety of plants, trees and shrubs in many different settings. There is an outstanding rose collection with over a thousand different varieties, plus a Knot Garden, Sensory Garden and Stump Garden. Wildflowers are encouraged around the landscaped lakes and Chapel Garden, where follies surround the ancient ruins of Mannington Church.
This evening, we enjoy an inclusive three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Wednesday: Raynham Hall & Houghton Hall
Our first visit of the day is to Raynham Hall, seat of the Townshend family for nearly 400 years, where we enjoy a private guided tour and refreshments. Largely completed in 1637, it is one of the oldest halls in Norfolk, and the first in England to be heavily influenced by European architecture with a double gabled brick and stone design that was ahead of its time. Further additions were made in the 1730s by architect William Kent, who was responsible for the elaborate carved chimney pieces, mosaic paintings and decorated doorways. The Hall also holds an interesting collection of 16th-century portraits and furniture.
We then head to Houghton Hall, one of England’s finest Palladian houses. Built in the 1720s by Great Britain‘s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, the Hall boasts sumptuous state rooms lavishly endowed with pictures, statuary and fine furniture while outside is an award-winning five acre garden and contemporary sculpture park.
We return to our hotel for an inclusive three-course dinner.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel.