Whether you already live in the county and just want a little inspiration of where to visit or are thinking of taking a day trip or longer – Essex has some of the prettiest villages and coastal towns in the UK, here we’ve picked our top 10:
- Battlesbridge – boats, antiques and more
The small village of Battlesbridge has a distinctly vintage feel holding regular classic car and motorbike shows, and the converted riverside lofts are the hub for a number of antiques and collectible shops. Located on the River Crouch, it’s been a base for the river industry for over 100 years and boats and barges still sail by regularly making it a good place to sit and while away an hour or two.
Must try: The Barge Inn is one of two pubs in Battlesbridge that serves traditional gastro-style pub food in a cosy rustic setting and is dog-friendly. Check out the garden in summer too! Visit bargebattlesbridge.co.uk for details.
- Thaxted – a historical gem
It’s the striking combination of historical architecture and rolling countryside that makes Thaxted a real jewel to visit and explore. You’ll love the brightly coloured houses with their traditional thatched rooves and there’s lots of pretty walks to enjoy including one to the church that has wonderful views of the Chelmer valley.
Must try: John Webb’s Windmill is one of the finest examples of an Essex mill lovingly restored by a local family, it’s free admission and great to visit in early spring.
- Stock – as pretty as a picture
As well as being one of the most affluent villages in Essex, Stock is one of the most picturesque too. With a history that stretches back, there is a thriving heritage society who can give you a real insight into the village’s history. Stock’s All Saints Church dates back to the early 13th century and there’s a windmill to visit too, plus Stock woods is the perfect place to take a doggy companion – especially during the snowdrop and bluebell seasons.
Must try: Voted one of the best places to take afternoon tea, Greenwoods Hotel & Spa is situated in a grade II listed 17th century manor house. Afternoon tea is served every day in the cosy manor lounge, from £23.50, call 01277 829990 or visit greenwoodshotel.co.uk for details.
- Tillingham – step back in time
Located in the Maldon district with a population of just 1,000, this tiny village has a real community feel and the village green overlooking the church is the perfect place to sip a pint in the warmer weather.
Must try: The Cap & Feathers pub dates back to the 15th century and has lots of atmosphere. Book for one of the tasty curry night events or look out for the BBQs that take place most weeks during the summer. Visit capandfeathers.co.uk for details.
- Dedham – a jewel on the river
Most well-known as being Constable Country, famous 19th century artist John Constable used the pretty riverside village of Dedham with its dramatic lowland landscapes and water meadows along the River Stour as the subject for many of his paintings. There is also lots of impressive architecture to see too and some pretty walks to take on a good day. Make sure you hire a row boat and make the most of this splendid location.
Must do: The Sun Inn is an original medieval coaching inn dating back to the 15th century which is now a stylish restaurant with seven 5-star individual rooms to stay each with en-suite facilities. The restaurant serves modern European food as well as popular Sunday roast or why not try an early spring afternoon tea? It also has a ‘Sunday Sleepover’ offer which includes Sunday lunch, dinner, accommodation and complimentary breakfast at £200, conditions apply. Visit suninndedham.com for menu and details.
- Stansted Mountfitchet – the castle on the hill
Dating back to Saxon times with a good amount of 16th and 17th century history attached to it too, visiting this impressive village is like stepping back in time. The windmill built in 1787 dominates the skyline and there’s a wide range of wonderful pubs and restaurants to choose from once you’ve strolled the winding streets to Mountfitchet Castle.
Must do: The House On the Hill Toy Museum situated next to the castle is reportedly the largest toy museum in the world with over 80,000 exhibits dating back, find out more by visiting stanstedtoymuseum.com for details.
- Wivenhoe – a seaside treat
Steeped in maritime history, this bustling town has long been a hub for the artistic community in Essex as well as being the home of the award-winning University of Essex and its students. Visit the quay and take a trip on the ferry along the river to view the wildlife then stop for lunch in one of the many pubs and restaurant, including the Tudor Tea Rooms and the Black Buoy that serves a variety of real ales.
Must do: The Nottage Maritime Institute is a registered charity dating back to 1896 that not only provide RYA shore-based courses but can also teach you how to build a boat! With a great collection of photographs and pictures, it makes a great morning or afternoon visit. Open seasonally. Visit nottage.org.uk for details.
- Writtle – the village on the green
This gem of a village located just a mile from Chelmsford was once described as the loveliest in England most likely due to its traditional green, duck pond, the ancient church and cottages. It’s also home to Hylands House & Park a grade II, Neo-classical villa that is well known for hosting V Festival, now Rize music festival each summer.
Must do: The Bridge Street Lounge & Grill is a family restaurant that serves a fantastic al la carte menu and has a smart outside eating area for warmer days – and nights. Visit bridgestreetlounge-grill.com for details.
- Frinton-on-Sea – an elegant beach resort
This seasonal town in Essex’s Tendring District has been visited by many notable people including the current Prince of Wales and Winston Churchill, who even rented a house there one summer. As well as the many boutiques, shops and bars along the smart seafront there is the Frinton Golf Club where you can enjoy a coffee as a non-resident too.
Must do: There’s nothing better than Frinton beach – even on a winter’s day. Totally unspoilt but safe for paddling and swimming, pack a picnic and breathe in the fresh air!
- Ashdon – nestling on the river
Sitting just on the border of Essex and Cambridgeshire along the River Bourn, Ashdon has one of the few remaining post mills in Essex, Bragg’s Mill, which was fully restored and reopened in 2006. It is a grade II listed building and makes for some great pictures on a sunny day. Take a stroll along to the 13th century All Saints Church before stopping for a coffee or drink in one of the pretty pubs.
Must do: The Rose & Crown pub is a popular eatery serving home-cooked food including the now-famous sticky toffee pudding dessert and some great ales. Call 01799 584337 for details and opening times.