A Day Trip to Colchester, England

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

St Botolph's Priory. Colchester Day Trip
St Botolph’s Priory. Flicr: David Pearce / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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.

Houses by the River Colne. Colchester day trip
Houses by the River Colne

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.

Colchester Castle. Colchester Day Trip
Colchester Castle. Flicr: 吸泥客 張/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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.

West Stockwell Street Colchester Essex. Colchester Day Trip
West Stockwell Street Colchester Essex. Flickr: David CC BY 2.0

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.

Tea at Temperleys. Colchester day trip.
Tea at Temperleys

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.

About Iris A

Website: http://www.travelingwithiris.com

Born in the Philippines, but grew up in Texas, Iris has been traveling and writing about her experiences for well over a decade. Her work has been published on well-known travel sites like Hipmunk (#hipmunkcitylove) and D Magazine Online Travel Club. She has been all over Europe, the US, and has recently started exploring Latin America. She loves trying local cuisine and visiting UNESCO deemed World Heritage sites. Her favourite city is New York, with London, following a close 2nd. You can follow her on Twitter @sundeeiris or through her travel blog, Traveling With Iris.

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4 Responses

  1. Best Day Trips From London - Europe Trip - Go 4 Travel

    […] is one of the world’s best cities to visit but many travelers will admit that they often fancy a trip to the country and away from the bustling metropolis even if it’s just for a mere day. Fortunately for visitors, […]

  2. Avatar for Iris A


    I’d be very happy to show you around Iris.

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    Julia Hammond

    Interesting take on Colchester; I live up the road by the coast and although Colchester has some ancient sights, it’s not as popular as other Roman towns and cities in the UK. I’d say the main reason for this is that it’s been a garrison town for so long it’s quite rough with a lot of rough sleepers in the town centre and exceptionally expensive parking. You’ll notice I refer to it as a town; it’s England’s oldest and not (yet) a city. Its most recent attempt to gain city status failed in 2012 when it lost out to nearby Chelmsford, Essex’ county town.

    That’s not to suggest visitors shouldn’t visit this part of Essex – the nearby coast has some superb walking along salt marshes and deserted beaches, the oyster beds at Mersea are still active and in nearby villages such as Coggeshall there are centuries’ old, half-timbered merchants’ houses and well preserved barns. Beth Chatto’s garden near Colchester is world-renowned for its gravel garden and drought-resistant planting, the autumn colours at Marks hall Arboretum are hard to beat and the Wilkins Jam factory in nearby Tiptree has an excellent cafe and gift shop attached.

    So do come back, and visit some of Essex’s little gems. You can find out more on my blog essexology.com which specialises in local attractions.

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      Iris A

      Hi Julia. Thank you for your feedback. I’m certainly glad to see your comments especially since you’re from the nearby area. I do intend to go back and explore more of Essex in the future.


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