We check in to the Knights Hill Hotel & Spa in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager.
Monday: Houghton Hall and Gardens & Hindringham Hall and Gardens
Our first visit is 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.
Next stop is Hindringham Hall and Gardens, one of Norfolk’s hidden gems. The picturesque Tudor manor house was built by Martin Hastings, a courtier to Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, using stone from the local monasteries which were then being dissolved. We enjoy a guided tour of the ground floor, learning more about the house’s inhabitants over the last 500 years. Our tour extends outside to the three acres of impressive gardens laid both inside and outside the 12th-century moat that surrounds the house. We discover many of the highlights including the working walled vegetable and fruit garden, Victorian greenhouse, water garden, wild garden and medieval fishponds.
After dinner this evening, we enjoy an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Tuesday: Holkham Hall & Walsingham Abbey
We make our way 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. 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.
Afterwards we head to Walsingham Abbey, famous for the spectacular remains of a medieval priory. A place of pilgrimage since the 11th century, the priory was destroyed during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. We enjoy a guided tour through the tranquil gardens scattered with medieval ruins as we learn more about the abbey’s history. There’s also time to explore the unspoilt woodland and landscape parkland, accessed over the ancient packhorse bridge.
Wednesday: Voewood House & Stody Lodge Gardens
This morning we enjoy a guided tour of Voewood House, one of the country’s most outstanding examples of Arts and Crafts architecture. Built in 1903 by architect Edward Schroeder Prior, the house follows a butterfly pattern while the gardens are perhaps Prior’s greatest garden design. For decades afterwards, Voewood was used as a series of institutions and it wasn’t until 1998 that the house was bought by Simon Finch, a rare books dealer, who began the careful restoration needed to return the house and gardens to their original glory.
From here we head to Stody Lodge Gardens where we enjoy a guided tour. First laid out in 1932, the gardens are now spread over 14 acres, with expansive lawns, avenues and winding paths lined with magnolias, camellias, mature and specimen trees, spring bulbs and yew hedging. The highlight here is the exceptional four-acre Azalea Water Gardens, believed to be the largest single planting of vividly-coloured azalea mollis in the country, with over 2,000 plants.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.
Please note: the itinerary order is subject to change.