For all you heritage and history devotees out there, you’ve come to the right place – not just the right part of our website but the best location too. That’s because in our neck of the woods you’ll find secret gardens made for magical strolls through some of England’s most stunning stately homes, locations inspired by some of the world’s greatest artists and a whole host of history. Dedham Vale, and other parts of Essex and neighbouring Suffolk have it all.

We’ve pulled together a round-up of some of our favourite heritage spots we think you’ll love too. For those with other interests and hobbies, you might also like to see our other itineraries: Art Lover’s Paradise Itinerary, Outdoor Activities Itinerary and Escapes to the Seaside, and of course, for all your Heritage & History activities, read on…

However, there’s so much history in the area, we’d need to publish a guide book to tell you about everything. So if history is your bag, you’re in the right spot. It all started in Colchester – Britain’s oldest town, around 60AD. Back when flares were in fashion, social media consisted of parchment scrolls on horseback and the Romans ran for Conservatives.

DAY ONE – Colchester: The Heart of History

MORNING – Castle Park

Needless to say, Colchester is a good place to start exploring history and heritage in the area. Located via the main High Street in Colchester town centre, begin with a jaunt around Castle Park, a Victorian Park of national importance. It boasts 2,000 years of history and has been moulded by the good people of Colchester over the centuries. Walk, sit, run, enjoy music, play games, or picnic amongst the grounds. Its award-winning horticulture is a treat. Then have a walk around the shops. Find out more here.

LUNCH – The Old Siege House Bar and Brasserie

Continue your day of heritage and history by taking luncheon at The Old Siege House Bar and Brasserie. Named after The Siege during the reign of Charles I, the location was part of the war between the Royalists and Parliamentarians. In close proximity to the castle, inside, this restaurant reveals evidence of the battle and the timber frame of the building sports many bullet holes from conflict. A wide range of modern-day fare can be found, including vegetarian options.

AFTERNOON – St Botolph’s Priory

St Botolph’s Priory, ColchesterOn the edge of the town centre, St Botolph’s Priory was founded around 1100. It’s claim to fame is that it was one of the first Augustinian priories in England, with an impressive example of early Norman architecture. Find out more here.

Time on your hands? Pop to St John’s Abbey Gate

South of Colchester, this pretty gatehouse was decorated in East Anglian ‘flushwork’. Built around 1400, it’s the only surviving relic of Benedictine Abbey of St John. You can view the exterior any time during daylight hours. To view the interior keep an eye on the Heritage Open Days website.


MORNING – Soaking up the history in Lavenham

Start your morning right with a hearty hotel breakfast to set you up for the day.

LavenhamExplore the streets of Lavenham, steeped in history with stunning examples of medieval and timber-framed Tudor buildings, complete with not one, but four Guildhalls.

The market town has a rich wool trade heritage and today is home to a lovely selection of tea rooms, eateries and boutique shops.

LUNCH – The Greyhound, Lavenham. Check it out here.

AFTERNOON – Kentwell Hall

Continuing with the Tudor theme, a short drive from Lavenham, you will find one of the finest examples of Tudor moated houses in England.

Take a walk back through history, exploring the rooms, dining and sleeping quarters of the stately home. The 25-acre estate is home to re-enactment events throughout the summer, immersing you in its rich history. Find out more here.

DAY THREE – Quintessential English Gardens

MORNING – Beth Chatto, Elmstead Market

How about spending the day at the ‘Most Celebrated Gardens in Britain’? Now, that’s some claim to fame – and for good reason! In 1960, Beth Chatto’s mission was to only grow plants and fauna suitable and sustainable for local conditions. She transformed an area of Essex wasteland including an undesirable boggy hollow, and turned it into one of the most celebrated gardens in the UK. Check out their website at www.bethchatto.co.uk/.

AFTERNOON – Audley End House & Gardens

Audley,End,House,Saffron,Walden,Essex,England.An hour’s drive from Colchester to Saffron Walden, but well worth the journey, you will find the stunning interiors at Audley End House. Once one of the biggest and plushest homes in Jacobean England. Wow! A stunning location for wandering around their spacious grounds and admiring the gorgeous gardens designed by Capability Brown.

BEFORE DINNER – Ancient Spa Treatments, Stoke by Nayland

From British heritage to Arabic traditions! Book in for a spa treatment with us before you dine. We have a wide range of packages including our Rasul Mud Therapy experience (£35) – an Arabian cleansing ritual that’s great fun to share with a small group of friends or as a couple. Apply the mud then simply relax on heated mosaic ‘chairs’ in the exotic Rasul Suite whilst the room gently fills with herbal steam. It’s utter bliss and an excellent way to round-off a day exploring local heritage.


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 a heritage, history or art club? If you’re looking for a location for a group trip or retreat, look no further. Our Apple Tree Lodges, located at Stoke by Nayland, are superb for a gathering or groups, as well as couples looking for a romantic hideaway. With 1, 2, 3 and 4-bedroom lodges available, we can accommodate up to 32 guests! Our lodges are self-catering and eco-friendly, with picturesque open-plan interiors and wrap-around terraces overlooking beautiful Constable Country. Perfect for short or longer stays, they offer your own little retreat, but with access to all our facilities including excellent golf, spa, and dining facilities.

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