You don’t need to be a serious art buff to call yourself a lover of the arts. After all, who doesn’t enjoy mooching around a gallery, watching a great show on a Saturday night or catching an independent film on a rainy day? You don’t need to have visited this pocket of the country to know that it’s an art lover’s delight.

Made famous by artists John Constable, Alfred Munnings, and many others, walk through the water meadows or take to the water by rowboat to historic Dedham taking in the works of these famous artists. You can even retrace Constable’s footsteps at Flatford Mill and see, first-hand, the landscapes that inspired his work.

Plus, there’s so much more! So, we’ve created an itinerary of art and cultural delights you’ll find in this corner of the world. If the arts aren’t your thing, you might also like to see our other itineraries: Outdoor Activities Itinerary, Escape to the Coast Itinerary and Heritage & History Itinerary. There’s definitely something for everyone.

DAY ONE – Soaking Up Local Talent

MORNING – Retracing Footsteps

Cycling in the Dedham ValeNot far from Stoke by Nayland, in the Stour Valley, you’ll find one of the main sources of inspiration for the landscape painter John Constable, who was born on the north side of the river. Constable, who is now considered in the same league as Gainsborough and Turner, has painted multiple vistas of Essex, including Hadleigh Castle near Southend. Spend the morning retracing his footsteps or hire a bike and take the Painter’s Trail, a 69-mile route that stops off at major artistic landmarks.

AFTERNOON – Gallery Mooching

After lunch, and depending on how much walking or cycling you have planned, jump in the car and head to The Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden. Recognised as an accredited museum by Arts Council England, The Fry Art Gallery has a great selection of paintings, prints, wallpapers, designs and illustrations from artists of the 20th century through to local artists. Artwork changes seasonally which means that you’ll see something new each time you visit.

EVENING – Early Supper and Theatre Trip!

After an early supper with us, why not head to either the Mercury Theatre or Headgate Theatre in Colchester. Right in the heart of Colchester, Headgate Theatre has welcomed amateur and professional groups onto its stage since 2002. You’ll find packed seasonal programmes from comedy, classics and modern drama, to musical theatre and magicians.

Then there’s the newly-refurbished Mercury Theatre, a fantastic venue for modern and classic performances. There’s always a diverse and excellent programme of original and insightful theatre in Colchester. From touring shows, comedy, independent screenings and drag workshops, to fringe previews, dance nights, award-winning plays and family favourites, there’s really something for everyone.

DAY TWO – Colchester Arts Scene

MORNING – Gallery Buffs

FirstsiteSee the world differently for the day. Firstsite Gallery in Colchester is a contemporary visual arts gallery, awarded Art Fund Museum of the Year 2021. Located in a striking golden building designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects,

Firstsite displays a huge range of impressive artworks from global artists and local exhibitions. You’ll also find an in-house cinema, café bar and shop.


AFTERNOON – Spa vs. Cinema

What’s more decadent that watching a movie or cosying up in the spa on a grey afternoon?

Either spend the day in our relaxing Peake Spa here at Stoke by Nayland Resort or head to our local independent picture house and catch one of the latest movies at Curzon Colchester: 


EVENING – the Art of Good Food

Lakes Restaurant locally-sourced fishRound off a cultural day with a gastronomic feast and book a table in our Lakes Restaurant, where you can take in the beautiful views across the Resort. Indulge in a vintage bottle of red and order the 8oz Hereford purebred sirloin steak with truffle mac’n’cheese and roast bone marrow butter, or enjoy our legendary cheeseboard. There’s no better way than to celebrate the art of good food.



Experience excellent facilities, spacious bedrooms and exceptional service in our contemporary hotel, the ideal place to relax, rest and recharge. We have a great range of special offers and packages available so that you can really make the most of your stay. Take a look at our latest hotel offers here.


Do you belong to an art club, or perhaps you’re an artist or writer searching for a location for a retreat? Look no further! Apple Tree Lodges, based at Stoke by Nayland, are a selection of lodges with 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms. They’re the perfect hideaway for writers and artists looking for inspiration.

These eco-friendly lodges are perfect for short or longer stays, with inspirational open-plan interiors and private wraparound terraces overlooking the same Constable countryside which inspired many creatives before you. Enjoy your own little hideaway, with easy access to our facilities including golf, spa, and dining.

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