Top 10 Places to Visit in Essex, UK
Seeing as I live in Essex myself, It would seem I am maybe the most suited to tackle this some-what obscure question. But if this is of any interest to anyone, then I know I did this right.
Essex is a very calm and tranquil place. With very few towns and each of them being small, The county seems to make up a lot of quiet villages. Essex is also a very old place, where English monuments to history are not replaced.
So I now provide my personal top 10 places to visit, should you ever find yourself in Essex:
Let's start off with an old but large town. Don't worry, you'll see more calmer places soon. Colchester is a great place to spend the day shopping, etc. The people claim that Colchester is the Oldest town in England, although records only date as far back as the Romans, so there's no way to know for sure. They also claim to have the oldest Market in England. In terms of historical buildings, most notable is Colchester Castle, a 11th century Norman keep, said to have been 3-4 stories high (doesn't sound like much now...).
Right, let's get the City of Essex out of the way. I say out of the way, but this is in fact a great place to shop, if you're looking for that sort of thing. It has the second smallest Cathedral in England, and is the only Cathedral in England to be smaller than a Church within it's own county (we'll go through that later). It has quite a few historical buildings, such as the Hylands House, a historical home built in 1730. Hylands House also has 574 Acres of park, and is publicly owned. This house is most notable as the home of the V festival.
Thaxted is one of those place you only want to go to see all the pretty pictures you can take. One of the best places to get a postcard. It has an ancient Guild Hall, dating back to 1450, as well as a Parish Church which overlooks the entire town. Thaxted has it's own old Windmill, and has a few local shops, most of which are independent shopowners, rather than major companies.
One of the most prettiest villages around, Finchingfield is frequently used for postcards of Essex. Apart from the Church of Saint John the Baptist, and the Finchingfield Windmill, there aren't too many historical places here. However, it does have a lovely centre, with a duck pond, several pubs and restaurants, and antique shops. They even put a huge tree with lights on in the centre of the pond at Christmas.
6: Great Bentley
A nice enough place, with many small shops and places to go. It is most notable (and maybe only notable) for having the largest Public Green (known usually as a 'Common') in England, at 43 Acres. Not much to compare against the 843 Acres of Central Park, NYC, but for a village, this is pretty good. A recommended place to buy some food, and then go for a picnic. They also do motorcycle rallies every wednesday during the summer, so if that interests you, check it out.
The Turf Maze - Can you solve it?
5: Saffron Walden
A great sleepy market town, this place has many independent shopowners, as well as charity shops. With two mazes (although the 'turf maze' is pretty simple to do), two museums (one of which is a castle ruin), and the largest Church in England (mentioned before, this is the only Church which is bigger than it's county's Cathedral, due to Saffron Walden wanting to become the city of Essex, but being too far on the outskirts, the privilege was given to Chelmsford), this is a great place to look around. But more important is what resides on the edge of this town... But we'll get to that later.
A tree from Epping Forest
4: Epping Forest
The largest woodland in Essex, and public, this place is great for a quiet day out with nature. Home to quite a few sporting events for some unusual reason, such as running and mountain biking, which could be fun also. They also have an easter egg hunt yearly, so if your around that time, check it out. It's also the best place to meet some deer, they come through more than often.
3: Colchester Zoo
Just outside the old town is one of the best equipped zoos of England. With many rare exhibits, Colchester Zoo is probably the best place to take any kids tagging along with you. With several endangered species and a big cat collection, as well as primates, there is plenty to see among the 345 species in 60 acres. It was even well known for housing one of the extremely rare 'zeedonks', half zebra, half donkey. However, this animal has since died.
Southend - See France?
Next up is a seaside town, one of the most famous in all of England. With attractions and amusements dotted around, as well as many great seaside restaurants, it truly is a great place to visit. But most importantly, it is home of the world's longest pier, Southend Pier. Southend pier is an amazing 1.341 miles off the coast, and the end is said to be halfway to France (which on a clear day, you can see from the coast). If not anything else, just go to see the pier. There's even a pier train, in case you can't be bothered to walk.
Audley End Gardens and House
1: Audley End
And lastly, we come to one of the most historical places in Essex, situated right on the outskirts of Saffron Walden. Originally built by the first Earl of Suffolk, Thomas Howard, this house has been the home of royalty. Said to have housed James I, and to have been owned by Charles II, this house is rich with history. Now owned by English Heritage, a government funded company that buys historic artifacts and buildings for the public, tours are done regularly around the house and it's gardens. There is a mini railway for the kids, and plenty of places to sit and enjoy the view. Audley End house also has spring fairs with fun activities and lots of local food to try. It also has concerts with many famous performers during the summer, such as Will Young and Jools Holland.
So that's it.
In my opinion, these are the best places to go if you find yourself in Essex. I'd also like to give a good shout to Cambridge, a lovely City filled with diversity and many museums. It also has a vibrant centre, with many shops and park greens. If you have any better ideas, or want to know more, please don't hesitate to comment below.