time for romance, time to relax, time to revitalise: The Victoria, Holkham

Uniquely situated in a living nature reserve, The Victoria is the beating heart of Holkham, located on the north Norfolk coast. With the famed sands of Holkham Beach just a stone’s throw away, this historic 19th century country inn offers all those who visit a true taste of paradise. Samantha Mattocks reports on one of Norfolk’s most iconic landmarks.

Stepping outside The Victoria as the sun rises, you can almost taste the tang of the salt in the air from the nearby beach. Somewhere in Holkham Park, there is the sound of a barking stag. The call of the Siberian Brent Geese carries on the breeze. Around you, all else is quiet, and magical. This is the golden hour, when nature is waking up and the dawn of a new day brings expectation of great things to come.

From the moment you arrive at The Victoria, it is clear you are somewhere very special indeed. Located in the heart of the 25,000 acre Holkham Estate, owned by Thomas Coke, the 8th Earl of Leicester, ‘The Vic’, as it is affectionately known, celebrates all that is special about this historic part of Norfolk. It is an estate that has moved with the times and celebrates sustainable living at the very core of its ethos. Indeed, The Victoria joined Green Tourism in 2016, winning a Gold award the following year for its high standards of being environmentally and ethically aware. 

Under Managing Director Ben Hunter-Watts, who has been with Holkham for many years, The Victoria, through Green Tourism, became committed to running the business as environmentally and ethically responsibly as possible. This includes promoting public transport, offsetting CO2 emissions, and creating a Nature Diary to track all wildlife. The Victoria has been fitted with a biomass boiler, fuelled exclusively with wood chip from the estate, many of the products used throughout are Fair Trade, and there is a food waste programme in place. This is just a snapshot of all that The Victoria is doing with regards to the environment, and it is no wonder they won this award so early on.

Built in 1837, the same year Queen Victoria ascended the throne, The Victoria was extensively modernised and refurbished in 2001 before another transformation in 2013. Consisting of a restaurant that heavily features produce from the estate and local area. The Victoria boasts twenty bedrooms – ten in ‘The Vic’ itself, and ten further rooms in Ancient House located opposite. Redeveloped in 2014 for the first time in over 100 years, Ancient House opened its doors on 1 May 2015 and includes two split-level suites. Outside, is a private walled rose garden and it is all just a few steps away from ‘The Vic’, with its restaurant headed by Norfolk-born Head Chef Michael Chamberlain. 

Michael has been with The Victoria for close to five years, and the menus he creates, with input from Lord and Lady Leicester, truly showcase the produce from the estate – from game and beef to produce from the walled garden and farm. They also utilise fantastic ingredients from tenant farmers such as Tim Allen and Catherine Temple, famed for their pork and cheeses respectively. 

Foraging also plays a big part in the menu, with wild mushrooms, sea vegetables and more all found naturally. The team also collaborate with the best local suppliers, including fishermen and shellfish breeders, and when combined with Michael’s expertise, they result in a truly seasonal and local menu that celebrates the very best of field, farm, and sea. Dishes such as confit pork belly with Holkham Estate beef sausage cassoulet and Holkham Estate venison curry stand out, as do fish dishes including crab, spinach, and pea risotto. Goat cheese and beetroot gnocchi and lentil, walnut, and tofu ragù are among the many options for vegetarians and vegans, and all dietary requirements are catered for. 

Residents and guests can either eat in the gallery at The Victoria, or in the spacious Orangery, overlooking the Holkham National Nature Reserve. While breakfast is a residents-only affair, lunch and dinner are open to all on a pre-booked basis. There are even snacks for residents looking for something to enjoy with an afternoon cocktail, such as Holkham venison jerky, pickled cockles with bread and butter, and smoked almonds. 

As a location, The Victoria has it all. Not only does it overlook the nature reserve, but it is also close to the North Gates to Holkham Park. With easy access to the beach, it makes this a dream spot for weddings. Couples tying the knot can marry in Holkham Hall itself, the stunning Palladian mansion completed in 1761 and that has been wowing guests and visitors ever since. With six licenced venues currently available, a wedding at Holkham can capture the imagination of couples and photographers alike. The Ancient House can be hired exclusively by the wedding party, or indeed sole use of The Victoria in its entirety, offering something unique, incredibly special, and utterly romantic for those looking to make their wedding even more memorable. In addition, set in its dramatic natural location, there is also access to the beach and park. Add in the great food and professional but relaxed service, and this has to be the ultimate wedding location.

Indeed, The Victoria is the perfect place to go for a romantic break, with cycle and boat hire available along with woodland trails and the nature reserve, all on your doorstep. But it is not all about romance. The Victoria is also an incredibly family-friendly place, with activities for everyone including a rope course through the treetops and ziplines, offering Holkham from a completely different perspective! The Victoria is also dog-friendly, making it perfect for those looking to escape for the weekend and go for long walks on the beach.

All in all, The Victoria offers a true taste of escapism at every level. Whether you just want to get away for a night or two of unparalleled luxury or tie the knot in front of your closest family and friends, this is the place to do so. With ecology and seasonality up front and centre of all The Victoria team does, it is little wonder this is such a special place, taking pride of place on the dramatic Norfolk coastline. 

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