Escape City Life And Relax In This Rural And Historic County
North Essex has something to offer everyone. If you need to escape urban living, head to the region’s villages to recharge the batteries.
Essex is a county of contrasts; a historic region with large rural expanses and beautiful coastline, mixed in with thriving urban towns complete with the fashion boutiques and nightlife made famous by shows such as TOWIE. If you’re interested in the latter, then head to the south of the county, to places such as Brentwood or the inTU Lakeside shopping centre in Grays. However, it is north Essex that remains somewhat of a mystery to non-locals. The area north of the A120 is made up of dozens of enchanting villages and ancient settlements that make it a magical place to visit. Here are some of the highlights.
Tour de France Route
If you’re a cycling enthusiast, then you might remember that the Tour de France of 2014 route passed through some of the villages in Essex before making its way down to the capital. Three years on and the route is still incredibly popular with cyclists, as it takes in breath-taking countryside in areas such as Finchingfield, one of the prettiest villages in the county. The bike ride also passes through Felsted which is home to East Anglia’s oldest vineyard, and Rayne which lies next to the 15-mile Flitch Way, the former track for the Bishop’s Stortford to Braintree railway line. Panfield House is one of the most luxurious short term lets Essex has to offer and is located near to the Tour de France route, making it a convenient and ideal base for a cycling vacation.
Audley End, Saffron Walden
The English Heritage attraction of Audley End’s House and Gardens is an absolute gem of a day out. This decadent mansion resembles something straight out of a period drama and is situated just outside of the picturesque market town of Saffron Walden. Take a walk around the Victorian service wing, or visit the stable yard and meet the resident horses. You will get a chance to watch riding displays and view an interactive exhibition which will tell the story of the estate at work. Finally, head outside into the elegant gardens and take in the sweeping views and the serpentine lake.
Hatfield Forest, Takeley
This ancient royal hunting forest has been owned and managed by the National Trust since 1924. Hatfield Forest is 403.2 hectares in size and dates as far back as the medieval times when it was first used by Norman Kings. It now welcomes as many as half a million visits a year; people come to walk their dogs, ride their horses, or simply enjoy a family day out, perhaps eating a picnic in the 18th century shell house or rowing a boat on the lake. The forest is both a Site of Specific Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve and is home to fallow and muntjac deer, Red Poll cattle, badgers, squirrels, foxes and weasels.
There is much to see in rural, northern Essex and you could easily spend a week or more visiting different parts of the county. As many Brits are opting for a staycation style of holiday, accommodation does get booked up quickly, so if you’re considering heading to Essex this summer, start planning your trip as soon as possible.