The best things to do in Essex, England

Welcome to Essex, England! This vibrant and diverse county offers an array of exciting activities and attractions for visitors of all ages. Located in the eastern part of England, Essex is known for its picturesque countryside, historic sites, and charming coastal towns. Whether you’re seeking a relaxing weekend getaway or a thrilling adventure, Essex has something to offer everyone, for me personally I was fascinated by the history of the Witch hunts in the region and loved exploring the areas where these horrendous crimes against women took place.

hills and mountain bike trails of Hadleigh Park near Benfleet, Essex, UK

Nature enthusiasts will be delighted by the abundance of beautiful landscapes and outdoor activities available in Essex. With numerous nature reserves and parks, such as Epping Forest and Abberton Reservoir, there are ample opportunities for hiking, cycling, and wildlife spotting.

History buffs will be captivated by the wealth of historical sites and heritage landmarks scattered throughout Essex. From the iconic Colchester Castle, the largest Norman keep in Europe, to the ancient Roman walls that envelope the historic town of Colchester, there is a rich tapestry of history to explore. Additionally, the rural villages of Dedham and Lavenham offer a glimpse into medieval England with their well-preserved timber-framed buildings.

The best things to do in Essex, England

The county is home to some great towns as well as the three cities. Towns you can find here include Harlow, Brentwood, Epping Forest, Loughton, Maldon, Clacton on Sea, Witham, Epping, Harwich, Frinton, Walton, Basildon, Braintree, Manningtree, Great Bentley, Great Dunmow and plenty more. Essex is a great county to explore with beautiful lakes, lovely woods, fantastic beaches and many attractions.

For those seeking a taste of the seaside, Essex’s coastline does not disappoint. With charming beach towns such as Southend-on-Sea and Frinton-on-Sea, visitors can enjoy long walks along the golden sandy beaches, indulge in traditional fish and chips, or spend the day at one of the many amusement parks.

The best things to do in Essex, England

In addition to its natural beauty and historical significance, Essex is also renowned for its vibrant cultural scene. The county hosts various events and festivals throughout the year, including the V Festival in Chelmsford and the Clacton Airshow, offering a range of entertainment options for all tastes.

With its diverse array of attractions and activities, Essex truly has something for everyone. So, whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, history lover, or simply seeking a relaxing break by the sea, be sure to add Essex to your travel itinerary. 

Where does the name Essex come from? The name Essex derives from the Kingdom of the East Seaxe or Kingdom of Essex which was traditionally founded by Aescwine in AD 527.

The best things to do in Essex, England
©England 101
Table Of Contents

Where is Essex and how do I get there from London

Essex is a county, historically the ‘land of the East Saxons’, is situated in the southeast of the East of England Region.

How far is Essex from London by train?

It takes an average of 6m to travel from London to Essex Road by train, over a distance of around 3 miles (4 km).

How long is Essex from London by car?

Yes, the driving distance between London to Essex is 43 miles. It takes approximately 1h 2m to drive from London to Essex.

What is Essex famous for?

The Essex Coastline is the second longest of any English county, but it takes the top spot for having the largest number of islands – 35.

Did you know Colchester is the oldest recorded town in Britain and it used to be the capital of England? When the Romans invaded in AD 43, they set up Colchester (then called Camulodunum) as the capital. However, the town was attacked and destroyed during Boudica’s rebellion in AD 61.

John Constable’s famous painting The Hay Wain a view of the Stour River was painted here.

The best things to do in Essex, England

One of Scotland’s most famous sons was thought to have been born in Essex. Historians believe that Robert the Bruce was actually born at Montpelier’s Farm in Writtle near Chelmsford in 1274. The Bruce escaped to Ireland during his attempts to become King of Scotland.

Bruce’s father was in Westminster for the coronation of King Edward I in the summer of 1274, and his son was born in July, so the dates match up. His father also owned Chelmsford at the time, so he was born on his estate.

Saffron Walden is home to the world’s largest turf maze which is thought to be more than 800 years old.

The best things to do in Essex, England

Essex Witch Trials

When I was in University taking women’s studies I took a particular course that covered the Great Hunt also known as the Burning Times when women were persecuted and killed for being ‘witches’. Most of the witch’s trialled during the witch hunts in the Middle Ages were said to have been found in Essex.

Throughout the 16th and 17th century, witch trials and the persecution and punishment of suspected witches were common in Europe. Between 1560 and 1630, there was a surge in the number of accusations of witchcraft and witch trials called “the Great Hunt” . During this time 80,000 people were accused of witchcraft and, of them, 40,000 were killed as punishment. 

The best things to do in Essex, England

The term “The St Osyth Witches” commonly refers to the witchcraft convictions near Essex in 1582. St Osyth, became the center of a trial involving 14 women accused of witchcraft, some of whom were convicted and condemned to death.

Colchester Castle stood prominently as a significant landmark during the Essex witch trials. Throughout the 1500s and 1600s, numerous individuals suspected of witchcraft were confined within its formidable walls. The county gained notoriety for its harsh persecution of those believed to be witches, with Elizabeth Lowys of Great Waltham becoming the first person in England to be executed under a Witchcraft Act.

However, five centuries later, the narratives of victims such as Elizabeth face the threat of fading into obscurity, eclipsed by the more prominent stories of figures like the renowned Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins.

The best things to do in Essex, England

One notable figure among the accused was Ursula Kemp, known for her reputed ability to undo curses inflicted through witchcraft. This reputation made her an early target of accusations by Grace Thurlowe. Brian Darcy, Grace Thurlowe’s employer, took action by imprisoning Ursula and sending her for trial in February 1582 during the seasonal criminal court (assizes).

During the trial, Ursula Kemp’s eight-year-old son provided crucial testimony that contributed to her conviction. Influenced both by her son’s evidence and the court’s promise of leniency, Ursula confessed to practicing witchcraft. In her confession, a common occurrence in such cases, she also implicated others she knew.

The charges brought against Kemp varied, ranging from obstructing beer brewing to causing a death through sorcery— an offense punishable by execution. Following the trial, Ursula Kemp faced the gallows and was hanged. Elizabeth Bennet, another accused individual found guilty of murdering four people through witchcraft and confessing to having two familiars, also met the same fate.

The best things to do in Essex, England
Colchester castle

Manningtree in Essex is notable for being associated with one of the most famous witch trials in England. The trial took place in 1645 and involved the prosecution of several individuals accused of witchcraft. The infamous witch-hunter Matthew Hopkins, known as the Witchfinder General, played a role in these trials.

Colchester, the oldest recorded town in Britain, has a castle that dates back to Roman times. While the castle itself may not have a direct connection to witch trials, Colchester, as a historic town, reflects the general atmosphere of the time when witch trials occurred.

The best things to do in Essex, England

The salte memorial says: “In memory of the victims of the “Essex Witch Hunts” who were imprisoned in Colchester Castle. In the 16th and 17th centuries, over 200 women and men were held in the cells of Colchester Castle on charges of witchcraft. Many died while awaiting their trial. Much of the evidence was based on superstition, ignorance and hysteria. This plaque is placed as a memorial to them all and in the hope of an end to persecution and intolerance.”

Things to do in Essex: Discover the Best Activities and Attractions in Essex 

Unique Attractions in Essex: Uncover Hidden Gems

National Trust’s Bourne Mill, Colchester

Just a mile south of Colchester sits the National Trust’s Bourne Mill, that was built as a fishing lodge in 1591 and then converted to an Elizabethan banquet hall and then finally a mill. Sitting beside an idyllic millpond and stream Bourne Mill is a lovely historic site for the whole family where you can see a still working mill.

Bourne Mill and mill pond

Mersea Island

Mersea Island is located in the county of Essex of the coast near Colchester and can be reached by car or public transport. It is known world-wide for its oysters. It is a place of unspoiled coastal landscapes and British seaside resorts. 

A place to relax and unwind the island is the perfect place for water sports, beaches, hiking and biking and a true paradise for bird watchers. 

A panorama view from a sand bar along West Mersea beach, UK in the summertime

The Hollytrees Museum, Colchester

This beautiful 300 year old Georgian Townhouse the Hollytrees Museum is a treat for history lovers provided a glimpse into what life was like in the 18th and 19th centuries. The museum has a series of period rooms which are filled with furniture and decorated in the style of a different era. You can see a Regency Dining Room, Victorian Nursery and a Georgian parlor. The servants quarters are particularly enlightning as you can see how the working class actually lived.

Hollytrees Museum in Colchester

Saffron Walden

Saffron Walden is a picturesque medieval town in North-west Essex that got its name from the ancient dying of fabric with saffron which began in the 14th century. The ‘Saffron Walden’ name was given by Henry VIII in a charter granted in 1514, which showed five saffron flowers in the margins of the text. 

St. Mary’s Church stands at the heart of the town, and is the largest parish church in Essex and probably built on an ancient Norman site. The Market Square forms the vibrant hub of the town’s historic center. At its center proudly stands the half-timbered Guildhall, surrounded by a captivating assortment of buildings spanning various eras.

The best things to do in Essex, England

Delightful narrow lanes meander in all directions, ascending and descending the hillside, flanked by picturesque cottages, charming shops, and ancient inns. A unique feature adorns some of these structures, known as pargetting, which is a celebrated local art form cherished in both Essex and Suffolk.


Maldon, known as one of England’s oldest towns, presents a delightful combination of attractions, including abundant wildlife, and rich historical significance. In its earliest years, Maldon faced persistent Viking invasions, who sailed up the Blackwater estuary, repeatedly attacking the town during the tenth century. Today, the banks of the Blackwater River are much more tranquil, and Promenade Park, established during the Victorian era, serves as a picturesque spot for picnics on sunny days. With its tree-lined pathways and waterfront gardens, it provides a serene escape for visitors.

The best things to do in Essex, England

Dedham Vale

Dedham Vale is where John Constable created the majority of his renowned landscape paintings such as The Hay Wain, the Cornfield, the Leaping Horse, and Flatford Mill. This is why the term “Constable country” is interchangeable with Dedham Vale.

Boats on the River Stour at Dedham, Essex, England, in Constable Country.

Located on the border of Essex and Suffolk, Dedham Vale is officially recognized as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It offers incredibly breathtaking views that are not only remarkable in Essex but also throughout the entire country. In Dedham, one can have a pleasant boat journey along the River Stour and make a stop at Dedham Vale, while also enjoying the local pubs and restaurants. 

Tiblury Fort

Tiblury Fort is a star-shaped military installation that is managed by English Heritage and served its defensive purpose until the Second World War. The initial fortification was constructed by Henry VIII at this location, and Queen Elizabeth I famously assembled her army in the nearby. The current fort is the finest example of its kind in England, featuring a series of moats and bastioned outworks.

The best things to do in Essex, England

Experience an enjoyable day with your family as you visit the storage buildings, where large amounts of gunpowder were kept, or enter the passages of the bastion magazine to get a sense of what life was like for the soldiers stationed here. Our exhibition delves into the fort’s role in defending London. 

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome, Maldon

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome is a unique place, with a unique history. Its story covers 100 years of aviation history in a WWI Aerodrome. Originally opened in 1916 as home to the No 37 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, the aerodrome saw the birth of the Air Defence of Great Britain in response to the first raids by Zeppelins and Gotha bombers on London and the South East.

The best things to do in Essex, England
©Stow Maries

It played a key role in the Battle for Britain (the first London Blitz) the following year. It was at Stow Maries that No 37 Squadron transitioned from the Royal Flying Corps to the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918. It continued as an aerodrome until 1919 when it was finally reverted back to a farm. 

Following its re-discovery the site was designated a conservation area in 2009 and in 2012 all 24 surviving buildings were listed Grade II*. Because of the site’s condition and importance, it was included on the Historic England [Buildings] ‘At-Risk Register‘ in the same year. These days you can tour the buildings and view hangars, airplanes and enjoy lunch in the renovated Officers Mess. 

Outdoor Adventures in Essex: Explore the Natural Beauty

Warley Place Nature Reserve, Brentwood

Situated south of Brentwood, Essex is a 10 hectare nature reserve known as Warley Place Nature Reserve. This sanctuary is teeming with exquisite plant and animal life, such as the Early English Crocus, Bluebells and Marsh Marigold. Managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust, the reserve welcomes visitors every day from sunrise to sunset. A trip to this remarkable reserve guarantees sightings of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Treecreepers. 

The best things to do in Essex, England

Epping Forest

A stunning ancient woodland and former royal hunting forest stretching 12 miles from London to Epping. Epping Forest is home to 55,000 ancient trees, more than any other single site in the country. Some are centuries old and may have been growing there since Anglo-Saxon times, representing some of the oldest living plants in Europe – irreplaceable and rare.

Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum, Coggeshall 

Marks Hall is an important Jacobean country house and for most of its 1,000 years of life, Marks Hall was much like any other British manor house and estate and owned by a single family. While the estate struggled through two world wars, it eventually became neglected and the original manor house was a ruin.

The best things to do in Essex, England
©Marks Hall and Garden

These days the estate spans an area of 2,350 acres, boasting vast broadleaved woodlands, providing a serene retreat for nature enthusiasts. A jewel of the estate is the world-class Arboretum, which proudly showcases a diverse collection of rare trees sourced from various corners of the globe.  

Families visiting the estate can delight in The Wild Wood, a dedicated play area designed to offer entertainment and adventure for children. The presence of tranquil lakes further enhances the idyllic atmosphere, inviting visitors to unwind and immerse themselves in the serenity of their surroundings.

One of the estate’s highlights is the Walled Garden, is renowned for housing the county’s longest herbaceous border. When the estate is open, visitors can indulge in seasonal delights served at the Orchard Kitchen cafe. 

Family-Friendly Activities in Essex: Fun for All Ages

Adventure Island Theme Park

Adventure Island is the United Kingdom’s first Free Admission fun park, but you do pay for the rides individually.  Situated on Southend-on-Sea’s famous seafront they have more than 40 fabulous rides and attractions including the outrageous RAGE roller coaster. 

The best things to do in Essex, England

Colchester Zoo, Colchester

Colchester Zoo is the second best zoo in the UK. It stands proudly at the top of the best places to visit in Essex. Set in 60 acres of parkland, Colchester Zoo is the ideal spot to meet all kinds of wild animals and endangered species. Home to 240 species, the zoo is also recorded as the eleventh best on the planet. You can even feed the elephants and giraffes yourself. 

The best things to do in Essex, England
©Colchester Zoo

Southend Pier, Southend

You can find piers along the coast with arcades and amusements to enjoy. 

Southend Pier is the longest pier in the world, extending 1.34 miles into the Thames Estuary and jam packed with fun things to do for both kids and adults. In other words a perfect day out with the kids. There is a narrow-gauge railway  referred to as the “Train to Nowhere” which travels along the pier saving you a 25 minute walk. 

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, United Kingdom, March 24, 2019. Out of season Adventure Island theme park on Southend sea front at sunset, near the Pier.

Clacton Pier, Clacton

Clacton Pleasure Pier opened in 1871 as part of the fashionable new seaside resort of Clacton-on-Sea and it was used as a harbour for shipping and receiving goods and passengers. In 1893 the pier was lengthened and a Pavilion and various Victorian entertainments were added. 

Today the pier features traditional English seaside entertainments, including penny arcades, a great rollercoaster called Stell’as Revenge, cafes, fish and chips and lots of souvenir shops.  

Clacton on Sea , United Kingdom - August 26, 2016: Crowds outside Clacton Pier

Attractions in Essex: Historical Sites in Essex: Step Back in Time

For history buffs, Essex is home to a number of fascinating historical sites, including Hadleigh Castle, which dates back to the 12th century, and the ruins of St. Osyth Priory, which was founded in the 12th century and is now a scheduled ancient monument.

St. Osyth Priory

The St Osyth Priory estate can trace its history back almost 1,400 years, to the legend that gives the estate its name. Osgyth (or Osyth) was an English saint who died c700 AD. Forced by her father into a dynastic marriage with the King of Essex, she produced a son, but she always wanted to serve god and become a nun. One day when her husband was off hunting she convinced 2 bishops to accept her holy vows. After her husband died she founded a convent.  

The best things to do in Essex, England
©By St Osyth Priory by John Vigar, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Legend has it that a Danish raiding party tried to force Osyth to pray to their gods. When she refused, the Danes beheaded Osyth as she knelt in prayer. She was said to have picked up her head and walked a third of a mile to the church where she collapsed and a sacred healing spring emerged where her head had fallen. 

An Augustinian Abbey was founded in St Osyth around 1120 today the ruins of these buildings survive. Queen Elizabeth visited the Abbey around 1579 and the  Abbot’s tower and Clock tower would have been seen by her and remain today . .

Hylands Estate, Chelmsford

Hylands Estate is a public park with over 574 acres of historic parkland. The beautifully renovated Neo-Classical Hylands House can be hired for any occasion including Weddings, Celebrations and Business Events and is open to the public on select days. 

At the heart of this landscape stands the meticulously restored Neo-Classical Hylands House, which is available for hire on any special occasion, be it weddings, celebrations, or business events. Hylands House is open to the public on select days.

Hylands Park Chelnsford Essex

The Stables is a multifaceted space that houses a cozy café, an information point, a second-hand bookshop for literary explorations, and resident studios that provide a haven for artists and designers. 

Exploring the vast expanse of the park you can immerse yourself in the beauty of the formal Victorian Gardens. The gardens invite you to stroll through their meticulously manicured paths, surrounded by stunning floral displays and timeless sculptures.

Families visiting Hylands Estate will find excitement in the award-winning Adventure Playground. This accessible haven caters to children of all abilities, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the thrill of outdoor play.

Naze Tower, Walton-on-the-Naze

The Naze Tower and art gallery sits on the coastline and stand 86 feet high and it is a landmark that can be seen from a long long way it also has a viewing platform on the top and you can see over the coastacross Essex and Suffolk. The Naze Tower was built in 1720 as a beacon for ships along the coast. 

The best things to do in Essex, England

Mountfitchet Castle, Stansted Mountfitchet

Mountfitchet Castle is a Norman ringwork and bailey fortification that today contains a unique open air living museum where the visitor can travel back in time over 900 years and truly witness life in a medieval Motte and Bailey castle.

The best things to do in Essex, England

Hadleigh Castle, Hadleigh

Free to visit the romantic ruins of Hadleigh Castle look over the Essex marshes and the Thames Estuary. Hadleigh was begun in about 1215 by Hubert de Burgh, but extensively refortified by Edward III during the Hundred Years War, and became his favourite.

The barbican and two drum towers – one later used by Georgian revenue men looking out for smugglers – are part of the building that took place during the 1360s.

The best things to do in Essex, England

Hadleigh Country Park, Hadleigh

Overlooking the Thames Estuary, near Southend on Sea, Hadleigh Country Park is a superb place for those who love hiking, biking and outdoor pursuits. There are 387 acres of park and it is one of the largest country parks in Essex. 

Hadleigh is of Saxon origin meaning “clearing in the heath”, within the Park is a replica Iron Age roundhouse which is based on an excavation near Chelmsford.  Here you can get involved in an immersive Celtic experience of life in England before the Romans invaded. 

The best things to do in Essex, England

Waltham Abbey

Waltham Abbey is a market town near Chelmsford steeped in history with lots of Royal history and an impressive church and abbey grounds at its centre. Its connections to King Harold (1066), who founded the monastery and is supposed to be buried in its grounds, are celebrated every year.

A view of the historic Waltham Abbey Church in Waltham Abbey, Essex.  King Harold II who died at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 is said to be buried in the churchyard.

The ruined Abbey was dissolved in 1540 as a result of Henry VII’s dissolution you can still see a 14th century gatehouse and bridge as well as the wall of the house built after the dissolution. 

The best things to do in Essex, England

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker

The Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker at Kelvedon Hatch, in the Borough of Brentwood in the English county of Essex, is a large underground bunker maintained during the Cold War as a potential regional government headquarters.

Audley End House and Estate, Saffron Walden

The current Audley End House was in the early 17th century a huge grandiose manor almost a castle and the estate covers 6500 acres.  It was built by the 1st Earl of Suffolk and Lord Treasurer of England and no expense was spared. Turns out though that the Earl embezzled the money from the treasury and he and his wife were convicted and imprisoned in the Tower of London before being freed with a fine of £7000.

Audley end house in Saffron Waldon, Essex, England.

After the Suffolks Audley End became a Royal Palace. Charles II bought the place so he would have a house when attending the Newmarket Races. The King didn’t spend much time there and it was returned to the 5th Earl of Suffolk completely neglected. Sections of the Palace were demolished and over the 18th century restoration work took place.

These days you can visit the horses in the stable block and discover over 120 types of apples in the orchards along with 40 types of pears and 60 kinds of tomatoes.   

With parterre gardens, ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped parkland, a children’s play area, café and shop, make it a day out for all the family at this mansion.

Colchester Castle

 Colchester Castle, constructed by William I on the ruins of an immense Roman temple, served as a formidable stronghold commissioned in the late 11th century. It stood as a magnificent Norman keep representing an impressive declaration of power. Undoubtedly, Colchester Castle retains its distinction as the largest Norman keep on the European continent.

The best things to do in Essex, England

The goal behind the design of Colchester Castle was to present an impenetrable facade against potential invaders. However, its notable historical significance emerged in 1199, when King John’s influential barons revolted against the monarchy and seized control of the castle. After 16 years, just prior to the demise of King John, the crown successfully regained possession of Colchester during the initial Baron’s War. It remained a royal stronghold for the ensuing four centuries. 

Colchester Castle Museum

When exploring Essex, don’t overlook the Colchester Castle Museum. This historic fortress is one of the finest and most extensive examples of Roman architecture in Britain, making it a must-see for anyone interested in history. 

The museum offers an engaging and immersive experience that presents the rich history of the castle and the town of Colchester, tracing back to its Roman origins and up to the present day. Visitors have the opportunity to explore numerous rooms and exhibits within the castle, including the Roman vaults, the Norman keep, and the renowned reconstructed Roman circus found within the Castle Museum.

Additionally, the castle features a rooftop terrace that affords breathtaking panoramic views of Colchester and its surroundings. The museum also hosts a dedicated exhibition space that showcases various artworks, artifacts, and temporary displays along with a memorial to the Witches tried here.

The Castle Park

Castle Park provides a one-of-a-kind and charming experience for individuals seeking a calm and tranquil destination to explore in Essex. Positioned in the town of Colchester, the park is home to the remnants of Colchester Castle, which dates back to the Roman era. The park encompasses a variety of outdoor pursuits and amenities, such as designated areas for picnics, playgrounds, and an exquisite lake. 

The Redoubt Fortress and Military Museum, Clacton

The Redoubt Fortress and Military Museum is a hidden gem that provides an interesting look into the historic past of the military. The fortress is located in the town of Clacton-on-Sea, and it was built in the late 18th century as a coastal defense against the French invasion.

Today, the fortress serves as a military museum and offers visitors a chance to explore the history of the military in Essex. Also, to learn about the role the fortress played in defending the coast during the Napoleonic Wars and the two World Wars.

The best things to do in Essex, England

The museum features a range of exhibits and displays, including weapons, uniforms, and equipment used by soldiers throughout history. Visitors can also explore the underground tunnels and bunkers and understand what it was like to live and work in the fortress during times of war.

Martello Tower, Clacton

Originally constructed as a fortification during the 19th century under Napoleon’s rule, the tower was equipped with a powerful 24-pounder cannon and two 5.5 inch howitzers.

Adjacent to the tower stood a gun battery, consisting of a brick wall reinforced with earth to absorb the impact of enemy attacks. Behind the wall, three 24-pounder cannons were positioned, all mounted on pivots for a wider firing range. However, in 1819, the tower disarmed and the cannons were removed.

The best things to do in Essex, England

In its present state, the tower has been repurposed as an audio-visual art gallery and has recently undergone extensive renovation. Additionally, a contemporary rooftop extension made of metal and glass has been added to the structure.

Cressing Temple Barns

Nestled in the grounds, the walled garden has been faithfully recreated as a Tudor pleasure garden. A place of beauty and tranquillity, sure to delight anyone with an interest in horticulture or history. These ancient barns, constructed by the Knights Templar in the 13th century, are some of the largest and oldest wooden structures in Europe. They are also rare remnants of Templar architecture in England.

The best things to do in Essex, England

Famous worldwide for their remarkably well-preserved medieval carpentry, these barns attract visitors from all over the globe. People who visit gain valuable insight into the construction methods of the time and get a glimpse into the lives of the individuals who built them. The Barley and Wheat Barns, which are listed as Grade I structures, are the most ancient timber-framed barns and among the few remaining Templar buildings in England.

Within the premises, there is a recreated walled garden designed in the style of a Tudor pleasure garden. This serene and beautiful place will surely enchant anyone interested in horticulture or history. 

 Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, Epping Forest

Located within Epping Forest, Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge is a hunting grandstand constructed out of wood for Henry VIII in 1543. The structure, formerly known as Great Standing, was created as a vantage point from which to observe the deer chase in Chingford.

The best things to do in Essex, England
©Ethan Doyle White, CC BY-SA 4.0

This Tudor hunting lodge is exceptionally well-preserved and extensively renovated, making it a worthwhile visit solely for its architecture and breathtaking views of Epping. Additionally, the Lodge hosts various entertaining and immersive events and exhibitions throughout the year, all centered around the Tudor era. Visitors even have the opportunity to try on authentic Tudor costumes. 

Greensted Church, Ongar

Located deep in the countryside of Essex, Greensted Church is a historic place of worship that holds the prestigious title of being the oldest wooden church in the world and the oldest wooden building in Europe. There is little remaining of the original Saxon structure, which was constructed between 998 and 1063, except for the timber trunks split from oak trees that form the central portion of the church.

The best things to do in Essex, England

Additional sections of the church were added at later dates, such as the chancel, which was built around 1500, and the tower, which was included during the Stuart period. In the 19th century, more extensive renovations took place, with the addition of brickwork to the exterior and the interior adorned with intricate Victorian carvings, designs, and wooden decorations.

St Peters Chapel, Bradwell-on-Sea

The Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall is a church dating from the years 660-662 and among the oldest largely intact churches in England. In 653 Cedd who was an Anglo-Saxon monk and bishop from the Kingdom of Northumbria, sailed down the east coast of England from Lindisfarne and landed at Bradwell. Here he found the ruins of an old deserted Roman fort and built a Christian Church on them. 

The best things to do in Essex, England
©By Colm O’Laoi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Food and Drink in Essex: Indulge in Local Delicacies

The Cricketers, Clavering This 16th-century country pub, in a lovely village south-west of Saffron Walden, is owned and run by Trevor and Sally Oliver, parents of TV chef Jamie Oliver. Unsurprisingly, the food is great, but the accommodation and real ales also come very highly recommended. 

The best things to do in Essex, England

The Woolpack Inn, Coggeshall, The Woolpack Inn offers accommodation with a garden, free private parking, a terrace and a restaurant. This 4-star hotel features free WiFi and a bar. The property is non-smoking and is located 19 km from Hedingham Castle.

The best things to do in Essex, England

The White Hart Hotel, Coggeshall Set in a beautiful 15th-century building, White Hart Hotel boasts a courtyard terrace and a traditional restaurant. The charming hotel is situated in Coggeshall, just 15 minutes’ drive from Colchester.

The best things to do in Essex, England

The Guest house at the Pheasant, Gestingthorpe,  Brilliant foodie pub with fantastic rooms in a lovely village not far from Castle Hedingham, with a menu based on delicious local produce. 

The best things to do in Essex, England

Day Trips from Essex: Discover Nearby Destinations

Essex is a great base for exploring the nearby destinations through day trips. Just a short train ride away from London, the bustling capital city offers endless possibilities for sightseeing and entertainment. From iconic landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, to world-class museums such as the British Museum and the National Gallery, London has something for everyone.

If you prefer a more traditional and peaceful setting, a day trip to Cambridge is highly recommended. Known for its prestigious university, the city offers stunning architecture, beautiful college grounds, and picturesque punting trips on the River Cam. Another great option for day trips from Essex is Norwich. This charming city in Norfolk is known for its rich history, medieval architecture, and stunning cathedral. Explore the ancient city walls, visit the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, or shop in the vibrant Norwich Lanes for a unique and enjoyable day trip experience. 

Essex offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. From exploring historical sites such as Colchester Castle and the Audley End House to discovering the natural beauty of Epping Forest and the stunning Essex coastline, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

The county also boasts a vibrant arts and culture scene, with a number of theatres, galleries and music venues to explore. In addition, Essex is home to several charming towns and villages, each with its own unique character and charm. Whether you’re interested in shopping, dining, or simply strolling through picturesque streets, you won’t be disappointed. Finally, the warm and welcoming locals make a visit to Essex even more enjoyable, with their friendly attitudes and willingness to share their love for the county. Overall, a trip to Essex promises a mix of history, natural beauty, culture, and hospitality, ensuring a memorable experience for all. 


  • Faith was born in Ireland raised in Canada and has lived in over 10 countries in Europe including England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, Northern Ireland, Wales, along with Mexico, Antigua, the US and has slow travelled to over 40 countries around the world. Graduating with a degree in Anthropology and Women's Studies Faith is a student of history, culture, community and food and has written about these topics for over 40 years.

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