LivingTravelNaked Bathing at Holkham Bay in Norfolk

Naked Bathing at Holkham Bay in Norfolk

Holkham Sands at Holkham Bay in Norfolk is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled beaches in Britain. Backed by pine forest, dunes and a nature reserve, Holkham is one of the best stretches of unspoiled coastline in England. Even if you’ve never been to Britain, you’ve most likely seen this beach. He appeared in the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love when a lonely Gwyneth Paltrow crossed its vast sands, representing the Virginia colony, as the end credits progressed.

The beach is partly privately owned by the Holkham Estate, home to the Earls of Leicester, and partly by the Crown Estate. Historically, except for a short period of time, the owners have sympathized with nudists (or naturists as they are called in the UK). The nude beach, on the west side of Holkham Bay, is official and well signposted.

Restoration of a naturist tradition

After years of peaceful nude bathing and sunbathing in Holkham Bay, what the British politely call ‘antisocial behavior’ (in other words, outdoor sex in the dunes) created so many complaints that the owners briefly banned nudity in this popular place. It took a concerted campaign by the British naturist organization to convince the powers that be to lift the ban. It is now allowed at the west end of the beach. But if you plan to swim naked, be sure to brush up on Britain’s nudity laws and nude beach etiquette.

What to expect

Three to four miles long and up to a half mile wide, this soft sandy beach on the North Norfolk coast is big enough for everyone. There is a stretch of pine forest to walk on and shells to collect along the sands. But the owners prefer that visitors stay away from the dunes, which are a nature reserve.


It’s just sand and water. There are no facilities so bring refreshments. The clothed beach parking lot has restrooms, showers, a cafeteria and an ice cream stand.


The walk from the parking lot takes 20 to 30 minutes. The water can be cold and the beach very windy, so bring a windbreaker.

Get there

Take the A149 to the village of Wells-next-the-Sea. Lady Ann’s Drive, which leads to the beach parking lot, is opposite the entrance to Holkham Hall.

A little something extra

Put on some clothes to see the Hall. As long as you’re in the area, it would be a shame not to stop and see Holkham Hall, in the middle of Holkham’s 25,000-acre estate. It is open from noon to 4 pm, on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays between March 20 and October 31.

It is a very unusual house to visit because most of the time it is a family home, for the current count and two other families. The family emphasizes that it is not a museum and encourages visitors to walk on the rugs and enjoy the up-close views of the statues and treasures.

The same family has occupied the hall since its inception in 1750, so as you can imagine, there are generations of artwork, furniture, and collections to view. Some of the highlights include:

  • The Old Kitchen, with its huge cookware copper and pewter are pots and pans for the uninitiated.
  • The Statue Gallery with its collection of Roman sculptures from the 1st to the 3rd century.
  • The Green State Bedroom – A mind-blowing ornate room where kings and queens have been guests for centuries

There is also an agricultural exhibition, a walled garden and a children’s playground in the forest that is open every day, as well as boat and kayak rentals on the farm’s lake and bicycle rentals.

The Hall and the farm facilities are one mile from the beach and two miles from the nude beach. So if the wind picks up or you tire of the sun, put on a respectable cover up and visit this beautiful Palladian home.

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