Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Right Royal Welcome; Hotel Review

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Right Royal Welcome; Hotel Review

Article excerpt

Byline: SARAH SANDS

THE VICTORIA INN Holkham, Norfolk FIRST, I should declare an interest. I have become a Norfolk weekender and loyally believe Holkham to be one of the loveliest places in Britain. Even the Welsh patriot Simon Jenkins concedes that the north Norfolk coast is remarkably undeveloped only matched by stretches of north Cornwall. Holkham beach is approached through pine trees then over dunes to a deadly cold sea.

The palomino sand stretches for miles, past brightly coloured beach huts along to Wells-next-the-Sea. In summer, the Household Cavalry exercise their horses here and all through the year there is an unspoilt beauty that makes the place popular with painters.

Other loyal visitors to this beach tend to be bird watchers the winter skies fill spectacularly with pinkfooted geese and naturists, not always with happy effect. The owners of Holkham Hall and its land, the Leicester family, were recently forced to tighten up the rules and now visitors can only swim naked, rather than colonise their traditional stretch of the beach.

In this glorious location, at the edge of the Holkham estate, is the Victoria Inn. Built in 1837, the same year its namesake the young Queen Victoria succeeded to the throne and Thomas William Coke, owner of Holkham, became Earl of Leicester. For years it was the smartest place to go by a long distance. Then boutique hotels and gastro pubs took off and the Victoria found stiff competition in Morston Hall, the Ship Hotel in Brancaster and The Hoste Arms in Burnham.

The word was that the Victoria had lost its edge.

Now refurbished and with new menus, it is reclaiming its position. On a bank holiday, in unexpectedly brilliant sunshine after a sullen morning, we arrived at the now extended car park and breathed in the crisp air. We left our overnight case in the bedroom standard (i.e. quite small) but cheerfully furnished with pictures of East Anglian landscapes and birds.

Then we headed for the beach, past a mighty bull squiring a contented looking herd, past the horse boxes unloading and along the sandy path through the pines. If you looked up, you saw nothing but cobalt blue against green. …

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