Car-free adventures aroundColchesterEssex

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Britain’s oldest recorded Roman town (known then as Camulodunum), Colchester was home to the UK’s biggest classical temple, along with theatres, mosaic-floored villas and racing tracks. Colchester castle, an eleventh-century Norman keep, was built on top of the Roman temple. Enriched over the centuries by Flemish weavers and Victorian engineers, it also has a long military history and is now one of Britain’s fastest-growing towns. In 2022 it was given city status. A great network of trains and buses makes it easy to escape into the Essex countryside, visiting hilly bluebell woods or seafront beach huts. Colchester is a great base for a staycation - scroll to the end for more tips.

  • County: Essex
  • Great for: bluebell woods | castle | family | history | railway museum | seaside |
  • Refreshments: pubs, cafes and restaurants
  • Please note: researched/updated November 2023. If anything’s changed or you have tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. 3. Brightlingsea and Mersea Island by bus and boat

    There are some exciting options nearby if you feel like a day out at the seaside. Bus 86 from the centre of town to Mersea Island and bus 87, from Colchester North station or the town centre to Brightlingsea, both make the journey to the coast.

    • With its oyster beds and sandy beaches, Britain’s most easterly inhabited island has attracted centuries of sea-lovers. Bus 86 takes just about half an hour to trundle from the centre of Colchester to West Mersea’s High Street.
    • Bus 87 heads for Brightlingsea with its beach huts and promenades, flowering gardens and bungalows. There’s a restored 1930s lido too and the Colne Estuary, with its low-lying grazing meadows, shingle banks and saltmarshes, is a national nature reserve.
    • You can also take a seasonal foot ferry from Brightlingsea over to East Mersea and walk five miles along the beach. With no car to get back to, you can simply take bus 86 back to Colchester.
  1. 4. East Anglia Railway Museum by train

    The East Anglia Railway Museum is just a twenty-minute train ride away and visitors who arrive by train get 10% off entry.

    • How to get to EARM without a car: Just follow Good Journey’s directions. The museum is on a lovely branch line to Sudbury.
    • This railway – branded the Gainsborough Line – immediately takes you over the thousand-foot Chappel Viaduct, England’s second-largest brick-built structure.
    • Get off at Chappel and Wakes Colne station to find the Railway Museum right there. You can even have lunch in a vintage railway carriage or dress up as an old-fashioned stationmaster.
  1. Buses, bikes and places to stay

    Here’s a bit more practical info if you’re planning a staycation in Colchester.

    • If you’re taking several bus rides around Essex there are various tickets that could be useful, including the Essex Saver, which offers unlimited bus travel across the whole, huge county. Individual bus companies also offer day tickets, but these are usually limited to buses run by that company.
    • If the bus journeys are on the same day that you arrive by train, get a bargain PlusBus ticket for unlimited bus rides around the whole urban area. It includes travel to and from Colchester North station and the Zoo.
    • The Colchester Cycling Campaign suggests various places you can hire bikes from.
    • There are lots of places to stay in Colchester, including a central Premier Inn near the castle.
    • Or, much more excitingly, hop on bus 86 to Mersea Island and stay at the White Hart Inn. The bus stops almost opposite the inn, which has six smart bedrooms and an airy, vaulted dining room with excellent food. The island’s museum is nearby and a beach is just round the corner.