When you live in East Anglia you really are spoilt for choice for summer days out and weekends away. However, one corner of our region that should definitely be explored during the warmer months is North East Essex.
Things to do in Colchester
At the heart is Britain’s oldest recorded town, Colchester. For 2000 years we’ve been leaving footprints and making our mark on this area, shaping it into the thriving cosmopolitan town that we know and love today. Wander through the streets and its heritage becomes apparent. Soak up the history at Colchester Castle where you’ll discover archaeological collections which have been given ‘designated status’ based on their quality and significance. You can learn more about the town’s past with its programme of talks, tours, quizzes and workshops, for both families and adults.
Shopping in Colchester
It’s not all heritage though, Colchester is a vibrant and modern town home to cafes, bars and restaurants where diners spill onto the streets in warm weather. The shopping scene is impressive. There’s the usual high street stores and the much-loved department store, Fenwicks. But if you like to support local business start your shopping at Sir Isaacs Walk. A narrow lane full of hidden gems, here you’re bound to find something special.
A slower pace in Constable Country
It’s not all life in the fast lane, if you prefer a slower pace, take a trip to one of the surrounding pretty villages and walk in the steps of John Constable. Dedham and Flatford are a must visit, but for something a little different take to the River Stour. Row boats are available to hire in Dedham or for a less energetic trip hop on an electric boat from Flatford.
A guide to Mersea Island
There’s so much to do in this little corner of Essex, a two to three night break is highly recommended. If you do extend your stay, just like the Romans, then meander your way to beautiful Mersea Island – a picture perfect seaside escape.
Unlike other British seaside towns, there’s no amusements or candyfloss here, instead you’ll find pretty pastel beach huts lining the shore, local fisherman unloading their daily catch and rustic restaurants serving up delicious seafood.
The beach is large enough for you to find your own little secluded corner, even during busier periods and there’s a section which is dog-friendly year round. If you’re planning on staying a whole day then definitely consider hiring a beach hut – check out The Little Beach Hut Company for their award-winning huts.
Feel the sea breeze in your hair and a different view of the coastline by hopping aboard the Lady Grace Boat, which runs 20 minute trips, seven days a week, year round. There’s no need to book, just turn up at the jetty and wait your turn. They even let well-behaved dogs aboard! The jetty is also a prime spot for crabbing – perfect if you have little ones in tow.
The best restaurants on Mersea Island
There’s plenty to do in Mersea but one of the best things is feasting, you simply can’t leave without trying one of the famous oysters! It’s a foodie heaven. Fresh seafood platters among other fresh delights are served up at the West Mersea Oyster Bar (I’d say their fish and chips are one of the best around), but be prepared to wait for an al fresco dining spot overlooking the estuary.
Perhaps the most famous seafood shack in Essex is the Company Shed. They again serve fresh local seafood, and with no alcohol licence diners are able to bring their own wine and often bread for a tasty lunch. However during the summer months you can expect a two hour wait after midday. If you hate queues pick up a selection of seafood to take away, find a little sandy spot further up the coast, crack open a bottle Mersea Mehalah, a dry local wine, and sit back and relax! Alternatively, head inland to the Peldon Rose for a spot of lunch.
If you’re looking to get away from it all and discover this county’s old world charm then pack your bags and have a dual break in this corner of Essex.