We invited a “Silver Reviewer” to visit Norwich in Norfolk and to write an article about a ‘Christmas Shopping in Holkham’ experience – with 2 nights dinner, bed and breakfast for 2 people courtesy of the historical, central Maid’s Head Hotel, Norwich, as well as 2 tickets to the festive ‘Christmas at Holkham Hall’ experience.
We selected Silver Traveller Anne Hudson from Newcastle-upon-Tyne (pictured below with her husband Graham), and here she writes about her wonderful experience.
Our weekend in Norwich with Christmas Shopping in Holkham – December 2012
After a generous breakfast provided at the sumptuous Maid’s Head Hotel in Norwich, we drove to Holkham in bright sunshine. Arriving in the village we were clearly signposted to a driveway alongside a deer park. We were directed to a car park within view of a vast lake framed by statuesque mature oak, beech and ash trees.
Although it was after 11a.m. the frosted ground crunched underfoot as we made our way into the stable courtyard. A horse-drawn carriage was waiting for visitors wishing to have a guided tour of the grounds. We followed other visitors into the buildings to warm up in the Craft Fair.
Festive music played by musicians in heritage costumes greeted those touring the Craft Fair. The fair had hand-made crafts made from wool, glass, different metals, jewels, soaps and fabrics. One stallholder specialised in 19th century cures and potions. All the stallholders wore costumes suiting the period setting. There were tempting treats to buy to take home including traditional preserves, sweets and savouries. Children were not forgotten either as there were toys to buy and a big room for creative play.
For my husband the big attraction was a familiar smell. An oiled and polished working traction engine was gently puffing steam. There was also a fascinating museum of old tools and heritage items used by Holkham Hall. One display covered more recent history. Dick Joice, made famous by hosting the TV Bygones programme, donated his collection of old agricultural and domestic items to the museum. An original huge camera used by the TV programme is on display with information about Dick Joice.
The gift shop tempted us to buy Holkham Hall’s own produce and preserves. While browsing, I noticed lots of books and struck up a conversation with a visiting author. I was so impressed with his life story I decided that one of his books would be an ideal Christmas present.
Lunch involved a selection from an impressive range of hot meals, pies and snacks. Mountains of cakes and pastries proved irresistible, so we treated ourselves. The dining area was full of visitors, however the convivial atmosphere encouraged people to share tables and chat about the crafts they had seen and point out what others should look out for. We were told about an impressive gingerbread house in the main hall.
So braving the cold we strode out to enter the main stately home. On the way I was distracted by the opportunity to get close to two reindeer in the courtyard. When we entered the rather austere brick mansion, the massive marble hall with a high domed roof was filled with gentle music from two musicians. We followed a set route to take in the splendid festive decorations amongst the priceless art collection on display. Upstairs we entered a room full of the smell of confectionary. The room was festooned with gingerbread men, a three-foot-high gingerbread house and sugar craft. Many families lingered to identify sweets they were familiar with that had been used to make the gingerbread house. Our route then took us through an indoor winter wonderland of woodland, animations and Christmas trees towards Santa’s grotto.
Before leaving the house I spent some time in the Victorian kitchen identifying gadgets and culinary items. There was a huge table set with food from Victorian recipes with printed leaflets giving baking instructions.
Outside it was still cold, but the sky was blue. We decided to visit Holkham nature reserve and beach. The sea was whipped to a froth before lapping over the broad sands. As ornithologists, we made our way to the bird hide and were rewarded with sightings of marsh harrier, peregrine falcon, pink footed geese and brent geese. The boardwalk and holm oak plantings provided a welcome shelter from the wind on our way back to the car.
Our weekend was completed by a fine evening dinner in Norwich.
Read Anne Hudson’s review of the Maid’s Head Hotel in Norwich.
More about Anne
Anne Hudson was born in East Anglia but has been away from this area for over 30 years. She was delighted to return there again for her Holkham experience. Her interests include mountains which have been a magnet for her holidays for many years, either in the UK or overseas. She also enjoys hiking in summer and skiing in the winter, exploring the outdoors and photographing wildlife and landscapes. Her additional interest in heritage has encouraged her to take a variety of city breaks to find noteworthy architecture, explore historic sites and experience cultural gems.