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Festival of Sport: 7 Reasons to Book Right Now

The starriest sporting event in the Norfolk calendar is coming to Holkham this summer. So dig out your trainers and start limbering up. It's going to be epic.

If your kids were like my laidback crew over the last year, their Nintendo thumbs will be pretty pumped while you’re full of regret for not spending more time on the floor with Joe Wicks. So we’ve hit on the perfect way to get the whole family back into sport and give everyone a brilliant day out. In fact, you can make a whole action packed weekend of it and get the little darlings properly tired out, you know what I mean? Let’s get physical!

The sports

Turns out stretching for the remote isn’t actually yoga. Mind blown. So let’s find a new sport. All the faves are here to try: rugby, hockey, cricket, football, gymnastics, netball, tennis, rowing and athletics. Plus taster sessions for the stuff we just know we’ll be great at if only we had the chance: trampolining, boxing, MMA (it stands for Mixed Martial Arts – didn’t have to Google that at all), dodgeball, climbing and loads more. They provide ALL the kit for absolutely everything! So you don’t even need to pack a trampoline.

And it’s not just for the kids. Parents can train with the pros or line up in the celebrated ‘legends vs parents’ touch rugby game. See you in the sin bin!

The celebs

Olympians, world champions and Steve Backshall. Let’s just get that out there from the start. Can’t guarantee he’ll be hanging from a rope displaying that deadly six-pack (first time I ever bought Men’s Health Mag) but he’s one of the many legends lined up for 13-15 August. This elite squad will provide world class coaching usually only accessed when your kids are actually selected to play for their country. Plus lots of them are coming with their own families so you might camp next to an all-time hero like, let’s say, Jason Fox from Celebrity SAS; Who Dares Wins. I imagine blokes with years of special forces experience always carry a spare tent peg, which is obviously the only reason I mention him in particular… 

The location

This is your local park run on steroids vitamins. The landscape’s even more breathtaking than the sport. Holkham Hall is one of the Treasure Houses of England (the ten most magnificent palaces and castles in the country), still the family home of The Earl of Leicester. It stands in 3,000 acres of highly Instagrammable parkland and adjacent to one of the most stunning, untouched beaches in Europe, edged by pine forests that smell divine on a summer evening. How perfect is that for sunset yoga? A ridiculously glamorous Brazilian friend says Holkham reminds her of the beaches back home, so fingers crossed for sunshine to match.

The whole family

All the core sports are tailored to include children from 5 to 17, so everyone gets a go at everything in an age-appropriate way. The Festival takes care of all the organisational stuff so all you have to do is remember to turn up. 

As well as pro sports coaching, there’s entertainment for the youngest guests, competitions, live music, walking trails, personal training sessions, wellbeing workshops, chill out time, outdoor cinema, a silent disco and great food (Norfolk is seriously good at delicious grub) suiting everyone from foodies to fussies. So it turns out Jerry Seinfeld was wrong, there really is such a thing as fun for all the family.

The crèche (not even joking)

Remember crèches? Quick reminder – they’re miraculous places run by jolly people with uncanny levels of patience and limitless enthusiasm for entertaining your kids. I know! Children will have a lovely time making friends with the children of Olympic medallists while we have an even lovelier time somewhere completely out of earshot. Sorted. So is there a crèche for adults (AKA a champagne bar)? Asking for a friend.

 The overnighter

You can stay for the whole weekend and might camp next to a world champion. Are England Rugby Internationals any good at putting up tents? Who cares? We can just enjoy watching them lifting heavy objects. Bring all your own gear or, if you’re conserving energy for the fun run, go for the ultimate glamping experience and book into a ready pitched Honeybells tent, so swish the Earl himself might move in. And with premium tickets you get exclusive access to the pamper tent, which pretty much clinches it for elite athletes like me. 

The area

The Victoria Inn, Holkham

This is one of the most entrancing parts of Norfolk, sweeping sands, seaside towns, steam trains, indie shops, envy-making gardens. In fact, my family loved it so much we moved here, so I have a strong suspicion you’ll want to stay longer. Check out Congham Hall Hotel, an award-winning privately owned manor house just outside Kings Lynn. Balancing Georgian elegance with convivial intimacy it has some interconnecting rooms for families, lovely corners for night caps and a seductive spa at the heart of a beautiful herb garden. On second thoughts…maybe come back without the kids…

Even closer to the action is the Holkham Estate’s own boozer, The Victoria Inn (The Vic), where you can treat your sporting heroes to a celebratory feast of some of the freshest, most local, gorgeously seasonal food around. No need to drive home, it has four family suites so if I were you, I’d get booked in now.

OK team, I’m limbering up already. 

Festival of Sport, Holkham 13-15 August 2021

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