Days out in Colchester

Date Posted: 15/11/2012

Eat native Colchester oysters on Mersea Island.

Pictured: Mersea Island is perfect for coastal walks and spotting wildlife (Photo credit: Visit Colchester).

Colchester’s claim to fame is that it’s Britain's oldest recorded town. And with 2,000 years of history snuggling up to 21st century culture, it’s a place bursting with opportunities for group trips and short breaks.

Here are three themed day itineraries that are suitable for groups, as suggested by Visit Colchester.

Eat, drink and be merry

9.30am Travel to Mersea Island for oysters

Oysters were cultivated in the tidal estuaries around Colchester even before the Roman invasion.

The Colchester Oyster Fisheries offer a guided group tour and a talk followed by oysters and wine for parties in excess of 30, or they can deliver oysters to a venue of your choice, with someone to open them and give a short talk on the subject.

If you wish to spend more time discovering Mersea, Cudmore Grove Country Park at the eastern end of the island is an option. Its coastal location makes it ideal for walking the sea wall, exploring the shore and watching wildlife.

The site is managed by the Essex Ranger Service with rangers available to give talks and guide walking groups.

3pm Travel to Carter's Vineyard at Boxted

Continue the food and drink theme in the afternoon with a visit to Carter's Vineyards in Boxted.

Using only renewable energy sources and environmentally friendly processes, Carter's Vineyard produces wines named to celebrate Colchester's history.

Wine-loving groups can participate in an informative wine tasting session and take time to enjoy the various habitats that exist around the vineyard, such as the woodlands and wildflower meadows, and the lakes that offer a chance to see resident kingfishers.

Heritage and horticulture

10am Arrive in Colchester - Visit Colchester Information Centre

The friendly team promise to help your group get the most out of the town. Take the opportunity to browse for mementoes of your visit.

Castle Park in Colchester is an award-winning Victorian park.

Pictured: Castle Park in Colchester is an award-winning Victorian park (Photo credit: Visit Colchester).

10.30am Colchester Castle Museum

This award-winning museum, contained within what is described as the largest Norman keep ever constructed, takes the visitor through 2,000 years of the town’s history.

See some important Roman and Celtic finds in Britain; discover why Boudicea burnt the town to the ground, why Colchester was under siege during the English Civil War and what life was like in the castle prisons.

A guided group tour will enable you to enter areas otherwise closed to visitors, such as the vaults of the Roman temple.

12.30pm Stroll around Castle Park

Spend a few minutes before lunch enjoying the beauty of this award-winning ‘Green Flag' Victorian park. Traditional features include the bandstand, boating lake, café and cricket ground, and a sensory garden bringing the sights, scents and textures of a variety of flora closer to you.

1pm Choose from a selection of cafés, pubs and restaurants in the town centre for lunch

2pm Drive to the Beth Chatto Gardens

Take a short coach trip to the nearby village of Elmstead Market, home to the internationally renowned Beth Chatto Gardens. Established in 1960, the six acres under cultivation include a gravel garden filled with drought loving plants, and water and woodland gardens.

4.00pm Afternoon refreshment in the tearoom before the coach departs

Other gardens nearby include the traditional English estate of Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum near Coggeshall where you can enjoy the ornamental lakes,17th century walled garden and surrounding ancient woodland.

A taste of local treasures - something for everyone

9.30am Journey to Colchester Zoo

Here you'll find a zoo with award-winning enclosures providing naturalistic environments for 250 species, many of which are part of on-going international conservation and breeding programmes.

Popular enclosures include the Spirit of Africa Elephant Kingdom, the Edge of Africa enclosure with cheetahs, African wild dogs, Hyena and African primates and the Wilds of Asia complex which houses Lion Tailed Macaques, Red Pandas, Asian Fishing Cats, reptiles and an aquarium.

Have a browse in the Jam Shop at Tiptree.

Pictured: Have a browse in the Jam Shop at Tiptree.

1.00pm Meet back at the coach to journey to Tiptree.

1.15pm Arrive at Wilkin & Son Jam Shop, Tea Room and Museum for lunch.

Home to the world famous Wilkin & Son Tiptree preserves, this is a really good place to enjoy a relaxing lunch.

The tea room offers traditional waitress service, where your group can enjoy a real cream tea using its very own Little Scarlet strawberry conserve and Tiptree tea.

The Visitor Centre at Wilkin & Sons showcases the development of the business from its beginnings as a ‘kitchen industry'. Visiting groups can round off their visit by browsing in the Jam Shop where they can buy souvenirs from the full ‘Tiptree' range. Booking is essential.

3pm Leave Tiptree and travel the short distance to Layer Marney Tower

The construction of this astonishing building began in 1515 under the first Lord Marney, who held numerous important posts under both Henry VII and Henry VIII.

Said to be the tallest Tudor gatehouse in England, the Layer Marney Tower was built in red brick in the then newly fashionable Italianate style featuring extensive terracotta detailing.

For further group travel information visit www.visitcolchester.com.

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