For many people, Colchester, England is an afterthought. Cities like Bath, Cambridge, Oxford and Brighton take precedence when it comes to deciding which places to visit outside of London, but what they don’t realize is that Colchester has a little bit of everything those touristy towns are famous for. When you take a Colchester day trip, you’ll come to learn that as England’s oldest recorded town, it has an amazing collection of well-preserved buildings and structures whose architecture ranges from Roman to Victorian. It also has ties to literature and a fascinating history to boot.
Upon reading all of these fascinating information, I couldn’t helped but be intrigued so on my last full day in England a few weeks back, I decided to get out of London and explore Colchester.
Colchester Day Trip in England
A Historic Town
The clincher for choosing to take a Colchester day trip over other towns was the fact that it is England’s oldest recorded town. Known as Camulodunum then, Colchester at one point, was also the provincial capital of Roman Britain before a rebellion that ended up destroying the city in AD 61.
Location relative to London
Another reason that led me to take a Colchester day trip was its proximity to London. Located just over 50 miles northeast of the English capital, you can easily get there by train in less than an hour (trains depart Liverpool Street station every 30 minutes) or by rental car in an hour and a half without traffic.
Keep in mind however, that the town of Colchester has two train stations: the larger Colchester (North) and the smaller Colchester Town. Most people just get off at the former and leisurely walk or bike their way into town.
Sights and Attractions to See
Colchester is not a big city and can easily be explored on foot. The majority of Colchester day trip attractions lie in the town center, some 20 minutes walk from Colchester Station.
If you have 3-4 hours to devote, my suggestion will be to visit Colchester Castle, one of the largest and best-kept Roman structures in Britain. Built in AD 60 on the site where the Temple of Claudius once stood, it served as the primary protection against invasion and rebellion. Outside the castle are tidbits of information pointing out some of the interesting features of the castle, including a thousand-year old door. Inside the castle, visitors will get to see archaeological finds that date back 2,000 years and interactive exhibits that demonstrates a typical Roman daily life in the castle.
Those who prefer more outdoor sights can walk the remnants of the old Roman wall and explore the Castle Park located on the north and east sides of the castle. It’s a lovely place to people watch and the perfect place for a picnic lunch particularly on sunny days. Visitors on a Colchester day trip can also stop by the ruins of St Botolph’s Priory, a Grade I listed building whose origins go back to the 12th century. The priory held the first Augustinian convent in England until Henry VIII abolished it in 1536. Finally, walk around the area referred to as Dutch Quarter and see charming examples of Tudor, Georgian, and Victorian styles of housing architecture particularly while walking the streets of East and West Stockwell streets.
Where to Eat
There are a number of restaurants that line up High Street but for more local fare, head south of High Street and explore the smaller streets that like Culver and Eld Lane where locally owned restaurants come in abundance.
Check out Timbers on Trinity St if you’re looking for a decent and affordable lunch. It offers an array of delicious sandwiches and traditional British fare. Also on Trinity, you’ll find the delightful Tymperleys, which serves one of the best afternoon teas in the city. Bella Pais on St John’s Walk offers a range of Greek and Cypriot specialties for those wanting a fuller meal than just sandwiches and cakes.
The Surprising Bits
Visitors on a Colchester day trip will find that the Hollytrees Museum located within the Visitor Information Centre is worth stopping by. It provides guests with a brief introduction to the daily lives of those living in the town during the Georgian era and it also has a small yet charming exhibit on children’s literature. As it turns out, famous nursery rhymes such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Humpty Dumpty both had its origins in Colchester.