One of the largest counties of England, this has had to endure many ‘Essex’ jokes over the years, and many people dismiss it as commuter country. But it is full of history, and it makes a good base to explore Constable country (he was born near here).
Dedham Vale, in the Stour valley on the Suffolk border, was made famous by his paintings. You can visit the site of Flatford Mill, and see some of his work in Bridge Cottage. Dedham has a lovely old church.
Colchester, Britain’s oldest town (it was the Romans’ first capital in England) is now known for its university and army base. It has associations with Boudicca, and a Norman castle; later it endured an 11-week siege by the Roundheads during the Civil War. Twelve miles away is St Osyth Priory on the Tendring Peninsula: an attractive collection of old buildings, it houses paintings from Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum.
Coggeshall is a lovely village with many 16th- and 17th-century houses and a square dominated by a Victorian clocktower. Thaxted, where Gustav Holst once lived, has a fine half-timbered guildhall. Saffron Walden, too, has many fine old buildings including a restored windmill.
Nearby Audley End, a grand Jacobean mansion once owned by Charles II, stands in magnificent grounds designed by Capability Brown. Harwich, an ancient port, is now best known now as a ferry port but its old town is worth exploring. Essex’s seaside resorts include Southend-on-Sea , Clacton-on-Sea, Frinton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze.
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