Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Holkham to Wells Circular Walk

A 9 mile circular walk along the North Norfolk Coast between Holkham and Wells-next-the-sea

An alternative to the North Norfolk Coast Path which follows the landward side of Holkham Pines, the large belt of pine trees which runs from Holkham Gap to Wells, is to walk along the beach. This was such a well worth experience with acres upon acres of sandy beaches and dunes and clear blue skies on this superb autumn day. Lunch was at the Albatros in Wells with a mighty fine plate of fresh mussels before returning via the tracks onto the Holkham estate taking in views of the hall and lake and obelisk.

Holkham to Wells-next-the-Sea Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
HolkhamView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Wells-next-the-SeaView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
9 miles
Walk difficulty


Woodhill Park CampsiteView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Clean and friendly campstie on the main A149 Cromer to Sheringham road offering both static and touring pitches. Ample pitch size with views to Sheringham and Cromer. A bump is set aside as a quiet area that is ideal for watching the sun set.


Norfolk Green - Bus Service
Service Number
Coasthopper - An excellent way to get around the North Norfolk Coast. This service provides a frequent and friendly means of transportation and some drivers even provide local information and even poetry as you ride!

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
10:30 to 16:00
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Lovely sunny autumn day

Walk Notes

Although we were camped at East Runton, the Coast Hopper bus service is cheap, frequent and easy and simple method to get to Holkham. On this occasion the bus ticket machine was not functioning and we could not be issued with a return ticket so the driver took £1 each as the fare and told us to get a single back which seemed very fare! At Holkham there is a little coffee shop which provided a good opportunity for some refreshment before the walk to the beach.

As stated above I had never walked the beach route between Holkham and Wells and this was a revelation. The views are magnificent across the vast flat sands and provides such a pleasant and easy walk. Being such a glorious day there was plenty of people about but such a vast area could never be considered crowded by any means.

It was on the Albatros that I noticed the sign advertising 40ml shots of Dutch Genever. I have come across this term on numerous occasions, specifically with the old Suffolk smugglers tales from the 18th century where Geneva was one of the usual bootys that were illicitly brought ashore and hidden away from the customs men. Doing a little more research I found that Geneva is dutch Gin and is where the word 'gin' is derived from, an abbreviation of the word 'geneva' which itself is derived from the French word genièvre and Dutch word jenever, both having the meaning of juniper, the berry which is used to flavour gin.

Return was via the tracks onto Holkham estate. As we headed away from Wells, taking the track by the side of the former railway, there was the clear sound of gunshot and looking to our right, in a gap in the hedgerow, I caught sight of a man in flat cap with dog at his side and a gun pointing to the ground. "After rabbits" I thought as we ambled onwards. At the end of this track we needed to take a right turn back towards the road. Here the high hedgerows either side of the track ended and there was open fields. It was at this point we noticed a long line of gunmen flanked 100 yards behind by a line of dog handlers. They all had their eyes on us. I looked round to the far left side and on the gently sloping fields was a long line of men across the field. Then it all became clear, we were in the middle of a shoot - the distant flank being the beaters. They patiently waited until we had cleared the line of gunfire and once clear a whistle sounded. A hare raced past us, then a flock of game birds headed out of the beaters field and the gunmen tracked their flight, bringing some down. We stopped at the line of dog handlers and exchanged words with the chap closest to us. He told us the dogs world go in once the shooting was over. A little further up a woman with a dog stood by a muck pile with the dog clearly on the scent of something. It was at this point that Kat noticed a pheasant hiding away in the pile but before the dog could find it, the bird broke cover and headed skywards.

Holkham Hall is a magnificent building and the surrounding parkland is a pleasure to wander around. We took in the sights of the Hall, the Bygones Museum, the Lake, the Ice-House and the Obelisk before heading back down the main entrance and waiting for the bus back.

Wells beach huts
Wells beach huts


The route follows the beach on the outward easterly direction then returns using tracks and footpaths across the Holkham estate.

From the bus stop by the Victoria Hotel at Holkham, take Lady Annes Drive down to the beach and follow the beach eastwards to Wells beach where a path leads back inland to Wells Quay. Take Staithe Street, the main shopping street opposite the Quay. At the top turn right then turn left into the Buttlands. Head down to the right of the Crown Hotel at the bottom where Plummers Hill leads through to the main road. Turn right and walk down to the junction. Turn left, past the old railway embankment, where there is track on the right. Continue along here until the hedgerows end and another track on the right leads back up to the road. At the road turn left and take the lane into the Holkham estate, past the gatehouse. Keep on this through the woods, and straight across the track that junctions it at the far end of the wood. Keep on the track all the way through to the Hall. The lake is a little further on. The ice-house is around the far end of the Hall following the track past the end of the lake. Continue along this to find the obelisk which is in the woods at the end of the incline. Return back past the Hall and branch off to the left and down to the main entrance to return to the main road adjacent to the Victoria Hotel.

George and Dragon fountain at Holkham HallCokes Monument appears above the trees
On the left George and Dragon fountain at Holkham Hall; On the right Cokes Monument appears above the trees


The Albatros, Wells-next-the-sea View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
The Albatros, Wells-next-the-sea

No visit to Wells is complete without a visit to The Albatros. Captain Ton Brouwer, bought the vessel in 1980 and operated it as the last European sailing cargo vessel up until 1996 when it was refurbished as a passenger ship. In 2001 the Albatros became based in Wells-next-the-Sea where it was used as an educational centre supported by a trust called The Albatros Project. This lasted until 2005 when, in order to keep her commercially viable, the ship was used as a bar, restaurant, music venue and B and B which has now become a full time all year round business.

The former cargo hold, decorated in sea charts and an assortment of bric-a-brac, is now the restaurant and bar, where a variety of traditional Dutch Pancakes and other Dutch specialities are served together with Woodfordes ales straight from the barrel. Live music is offered every Friday and Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon. From the deck of the ship there are superb views across the quay and marshes and out to sea. There is no better way of spending a warm sunny afternoon than sitting watching the tide come and go from the deck of the Albatros.


A very busy day on the Albatros with the fresh mussels being a very popular lunchtime menu item - luckily we got in early and only had to wait 20 mins before being served. The wait was well worth it as the food was most excellent, probably the best plate of mussels I have ever had. 3 ales were on offer, all Woodfordes and served in pins on the bartop - these were Sundew, Wherry and Nelsons Revenge. As expected the ale was quality!

Holkham Hall
Holkham Hall


Holkham HallView in OS Map | View in Google Map

A large Hall and landscaped gardens owned by the Coke family and built during the 18th century. The grounds are now open to the public and includes a bygones museum

Holkham Hall was built between 1734 and 1764 under the instruction of Thomas Coke, the first Earl of Leicester. His family had purchased the manor at Holkham during the 17th century and had lived in the Elizabethan Manor house known as Hill house. Thomas Coke was an adventurer and had undertaken a six year Grand Tour of Europe where he had bought many valuable manuscripts and printed books along with many great works of art. On his return he considered his family home would not be big enough to house his collections and commissioned the building of Holkham Hall. Unfortunately he died before its completion although he had left detailed instructions for the building including the placement of the significant items of his treasures. The Coke family have lived in the Hall ever since and although not a museum, the library, statues, paintings and furniture are a major source for academic research with items frequently featuring in exhibitions and galleries throughout the Europe, Japan and the USA.

The grounds and parkland at Holkham were landscaped prior to the Hall being built. Their completion was commemorated in 1730 with a 80ft tall obelisk being placed at the highest point in the park, to the south of the hall. Today the parkland covers 3000 acres and is home to herds of Fallow and Red Deer and numerous Mediterranean evergreen oaks brought to Holkham from Italy. Other park features include the Triumphal Arch at the southern end of the avenue beyond the obelisk, a domed Doric Temple in the woods near the obelisk, the Marble Hall at the main entrance and the lake, thought to be the remains of a creek that originally ran to Wells Quay before the marshes were reclaimed. There is also an ice house, a fig house, a peach house and a vinery.

To the north of the hall is the Coke Monument. This 120ft high Corinthian Column was erected in 1845-8 as a commemoration to Thomas Coke. It was designed by William Donthorne and features a plinth decorated with bas-reliefs.

In a stable block to the hall, dating from the 1850s, is The Bygones Museum which houses a collection of over 4000 exhibits including mechanical toys, household implements and agricultural tools, vintage cars and steam engines.


Holkham BeachView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Holkham beach has been used in scenes of numerous films, videos and television shows including 'The Eagle has Landed', 'Shakespeare in Love', an episode of The Avengers entitled 'The Town of No Return' and the ITV drama 'Kingdom' featuring Stephen Fry. The 'Pure Shores' video from 90's pop group All Saints, for the 2000 film The Beach, was also filmed here

A shoot on th eHolkham estate
A shoot on th eHolkham estate


Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery


Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2016-01-15


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