Inspiration for holidays in Essex
With a wonderful blend of old and new, Essex is a county of contrasts, combining 350 miles of coastline, areas of natural beauty, a variety of historical buildings and vibrant towns full of culture. Let us take you on a tour around some of the best bits of the county…
The Essex coastline
Along with Kent, Essex has one of the longest shorelines of any county in England. Perfect for experiencing big skies and stunning sunsets, the mixture of salt marshes, tidal inlets and estuaries provide a habitat for a diverse range of wildlife, too.
If you’re looking for a traditional seaside holiday resort, then Clacton-on-Sea is the place. Whether it’s a day at the coast you’re after, or to relax in pretty gardens by the seafront, Clacton has it all.
There’s a pier, theatres, a mix of shops, and walks along the seafront to be enjoyed. Many annual events take place including fairs and carnivals.
Sitting on the coast between Harwich and Clacton is the family seaside town of Walton-on-the-Naze. The pier here is the second longest in England and the town is unique in that it is surrounded on three sides by the sea.
There are three miles of sandy beaches at Walton and the Naze itself is a natural open space, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, famed for the many fossils to be found in the red crag cliffs.
A standout feature of Walton is its octagonal tower which stands 86 feet high and was originally a navigational aid for ships heading for Harwich harbour. It is now an art gallery and tea rooms and has panoramic views.
There must be something about Essex and piers – in the south of the county is Southend-on-Sea, home to the longest pier in the world.
The pier stretches out to sea for 1.34 miles and has a railway to run visitors from one end to the other. Southend has amusements, a funfair, aquarium and crazy golf to entertain along with museums and galleries.
Make a beeline for Mersea
A trip to Mersea Island comes with a feel of adventure. You approach the most easterly inhabited island in England via a causeway from the mainland. This causeway floods at high spring tide, cutting the island off from the mainland. Even though the island is just eight miles square, it has two quite different sides.
Most visitors head straight for West Mersea where you can relax on the beach, browse the shops, or watch the world go by from a café or restaurant. You really have to feast on the fresh native oysters here; it’s what West Mersea is renowned for. You can also enjoy watching the sailboats, or take to the water yourself. Windsurfing and kitesurfing are popular and, with the water quite shallow, it’s a great place to learn.
Don’t be thinking, though, that East Mersea has nothing to offer. In contrast to the lively and more popular West Mersea, East Mersea is much smaller, with a church, pub and village store. It is, however, home to Cudmore Grove Country Park. You can walk along the seawall here, or enjoy a picnic on the grassland overlooking the sea. There’s a small beach, popular in summer, and in winter you’ll keep the company of migrating birds.
There are many walking routes with an abundance of wildlife to see and taking you past historical sites. These include World War II pillboxes and gun emplacements plus a cliff that has produced 300,000-year-old fossils including monkey, bear and bison.
If all the exploring leaves you a little thirsty you can head to the Mersea Island Vineyard where fine wines and real ale are produced. Scheduled tours include a look around the vineyard and winery, followed by wine tasting and a tempting platter of seafood or a ploughman’s. If you want to stock up on wine for your park home or holiday home, all the vineyard’s wines can be purchased from the Courtyard Café, where you could also treat yourself to some lunch.
The Essex-Suffolk border, known as Constable Country, is popular with artists and tourists alike. Artist John Constable was born in Suffolk and he is well-known for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale. Picturesque villages, rolling farmland, rivers, meadows and woodland make up the landscape of Dedham Vale and the Stour Valley.
The vale is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and located within it is the National Trust’s Flatford Mill which has been forever immortalised in Constable’s famous painting The Hay Wain.
A network of ancient lanes is a major part of this landscape and many of these hidden treasures offer some of the most spectacular and memorable views. If you head off the beaten track on foot or by bike you can fully appreciate this area’s unique beauty. There are many circular and linear walks throughout the Dedham Vale, so there is every opportunity to get back to nature.
After all, if you decide to make Essex your park home or holiday home base, then spoil yourself with some you-time.