Norfolk Passport

Top 5 | Blickling

Just as you arrive from Aylsham, seeing Blickling Hall will take your breath away. It is one of a kind and draws you in. The beautifully preserved 16th century house is the main entry to the Estate’s captivating historic buildings, gardens and woods. It is vast with 950 acres of woodland and parks, and 3,500 acres of farmland. If you visit Norfolk, this is a must see. Here is our Top 5 to get you started!


The National Trust, the country’s largest conservation charity, owns Blickling Hall and describes it perfectly: ‘It epitomises the great Jacobean country house, a sumptuous confection of local red brick and Ketton limestone, Dutch gables and turrets.’ The 16th century buildings have a fascinating historic heritage including its association with Anne Boleyn.

The Hall’s extensive library has one of the most significant collections of manuscripts and books in England. ‘The Long Gallery’ (image below) has between 12,500 and 14,000 volumes, mostly collected in the 18th century. It includes three pre 1500s Latin bibles and first editions of Jane Austen’s novels Emma and Sense and Sensibility! Of all the National Trust’s libraries the one at Blickling Hall is the biggest and most important of them all (all the books are being catalogued which is estimated to take 12 years!).

‘Back’ garden

The large garden has a fascinating history altogether. The head gardener told us that it most likely pre-dates the existing Hall as the Manor of Dagworth (14thcentury) occupied the site prior to the Hall’s construction and it would have had a medieval garden.

The present day grounds were initially laid out as a formal Jacobean garden. Early garden plans dating from 1729 also show that Blickling’s graceful lake was formed by the damming of a stream which runs down into the River Bure from Pond Meadow. It was Lady Lothian who planted the lovely topiary in the 1870s - now clipped to symbolise the current patron’s logo: the National Trust’s ‘acorn’. Seek out the Oriental plane trees, which were planted around 250 years ago. There is one main tree with branches which have been encouraged to ground level, intentionally layered, producing three further trees. A rather magnificent piece of nature.

Norah Lindsay, a socialite gardener specialising in designing new gardens for old country houses in the 1930s was brought in by the 11th Marquis to make changes to the garden’s design. She introduced more informal plantings, redesigning the Parterre into four large square beds. But who introduced the bluebells? Possibly Nora pre 1930s, nobody is really sure. But glorious they are when spring is in full swing late April early May.

Fast forward to 1987 and that famous gale brought down 260 trees. As a result, the Avenues were replanted with an under-planting of bulbs including 10,000 narcissuses. The Woodland Dell was created from a damp corner less than a decade ago. 

30s kitchen and costumed events

This is a wonderful experience for everyone. The old copper pans, crockery and appliances take you back in time and you can sense that the kitchen was a hive of activity. 

Every Wednesday, until the end of October, a costumed interpretation group brings Blickling's history to life and on certain days the cooks make a meal and let you taste some of the ‘morsels’ (check Blickling's website for dates). 

Front garden

You may already know that those iconic yew hedges, already recorded as tall by the 1740s, are trimmed once a year in an annual trimming spree lasting three months (culminating in a mile long ‘haha’ hedge around the edge of the garden). But did you know that their clippings are collected (by Friendship Estates) and used as a vital raw ingredient for the production of anti-cancer drugs

Great Wood

This one of Norfolk’s oldest woods and once you start going uphill, you’re at one with nature. The Great Wood has a large variety of trees; from oak, to beech to chestnut. Throughout the year, it is a beautiful sight to see the seasonal changes. 

The yellow, amber and red of the leaves are stunning in the autumn. Come May time and a must see are the millions of bluebells! They are just gorgeous! Research tells us that bluebells thrive well with the long periods of shade in late winter and early spring due to the trees’ wide canopies. The first shoots emerge in January so they can grow for several months before they carpet the grounds with their vibrant blue flowers.

Blickling Estate is magical and everyone who visits will have the best time.

For more information and events, check Blickling's website.

By Norfolk Passport Editor Lesley van Dijk and Sarah Tribe

Images: Paul Bailey and Lesley van Dijk


We highly recommend visiting one of Norfolk's oldest market towns 'Reepham' which is just down the road. Read about it here.