Essex’s coast gives rise to some great locations to escape and relax. If you are looking for classic seaside entertainment then head for Southend with its cliff gardens, promenade, vibrant pier and traditional treats such candy floss and ice cream. If you are looking for something quieter then the likes of Harwich and Mersea Island give you a chance to leave the crowds behind and enjoy some quieter time on the coast. Frinton, Walton-on-the-Naze, Clacton, Martello Beach and Shoebury are some of the more sandy beaches in the county.
Essex has a great range of choices for those looking to shop. The massive Lakeside shopping centre at Thurrock has plenty of outlets and places to grab a bite to eat between the shops. Freeport at Braintree, Eastgate Shopping Centre in Basildon, Meadows Shopping at Chelmsford and the Water Gardens at Harlow are amongst a selection of locations for those looking to indulge in some retail therapy.
Essex has a number of stately homes to enjoy including the neo-classical villa of Hylands House south west of Chelmsford, Eastbury Manor House, Audley End House & Gardens – one of the most impressive Jacobean houses in the country and the 16th century manor house, Ingatestone Hall.
There are also numerous gardens to tour – visit Hyde Hall at Chelmsford, Bridge End Gardens, the and the arboretum and gardens at Marks Hall. The world famous Beth Chatto, recently deceased, home and garden covers 6 acres with water and Mediterranean gardens, woodlands, and a chance to refresh at the tearoom.
Essex’s long history means the county bears evidence of many a battle down the years – you can visit many of the castles including Hedingham Castle, Walden Castle, Hadleigh Castle, Castle Headingham, Mountfitchet Castle, Colchester Castle and Layer Marney Tower.
The long coast line of also gave rise to many defences – Coalhouse Fort which dates from 1861 and was built to protect against French invasion, the Napoleonic defence of Harwich Redoubt and the magnificent Tilbury Fort overlooking the Thames.
No visit to Essex would be complete without spending time in Colchester – the oldest recorded town in the country, dating back over 2000 years. Once known as Camulodunum, Colchester is home to many Roman ruins and an impressive collection of artefacts can be found in the town’s museums. The Norman Keep of Colchester Castle was built on the foundations of the Roman temple of Claudius which was destroyed by Boudicca and today is an attraction to explore for all the family. Hollytrees Museum is within the castle grounds and just over the road you will find the Colchester Natural History Museum. Slightly further afield to the north is the beginning of Constable Country at Flatford on the River Stour, whilst to the South you can visit Colchester Zoo – a thriving zoo with many rare animals, animal encounters and fun for all the family.
Essex’s famous names include former England cricket captain Graham Gooch, former F1 driver Johnny Herbert, presenter Dermot O’Leary and chef Jamie Oliver.
Essex has a large range of annual events, including the Southend air show, the V Festival, Colchester’s Medieval Oyster Fayre, Southend Jazz Festival, the Essex Spectacular and the Guy Fawkes Festival at Waltham Abbey.