Enjoy the amazing views over Britain's oldest recorded town from the comfort of a hot air balloon. Depending on which way the wind is heading you may float over many of the countryside towns and villages in Essex - a spectacular day out.
Colchester Zoo has some of the best cat and primate collections in Europe. See a White tiger eye to eye in White Tiger Valley, or get closer to the Zoo's Chimpanzees at Chimp World.
Other award winning enclosures include Penguin Shores for the breeding group of Humboldt's Penguins, Serengeti Plains for African lions and Kingdom of the Wild for giraffes, rhinos and Pygmy Hippos.
If you haven't been to Colchester Zoo for a while you would hardly recognise the place, in the last few years we have added several new attractions, there's more facilities, new enclosures, interactive discovery centres, undercover picnic areas and new shops.
You will not be disappointed with a visit to this lovely zoo. They really do give their animals the best habitat possible. Each time I go back, I can see where the money has been spent.
There are a lot more picnic tables and benches to sit and relax on(update 2009) and there are plants and shrubs everywhere, and this time I went (April 2009, ) the spring flowers were in bloom.
I will upload a travelogue of the zoo to show you the habitats of many of the animals. Since I last visited, the Orang Utan enclosure has been finished, it has been a long time in the construction and completion, and the sole inhabitant has a huge outdoor area, as well as a large indoor area for him to stay in. The surrounding area of his enclosure has tree roots etc., that were dug out for the constuction, featured in a small garden area. I have taken photo's of this since is shows just how much Colchester Zoo is into conservation.
If you book online there are savings for adult, child, concessions for pensioners etc., and you can print your ticket on line, thus saving waiting in a queue to pay as you go straight to the turnstile. There are also gold cards which will enable you go to as many times as you wish during the yearly period purchased. Please log onto their website for all the information regarding, times, prices, birthday parties, special days, adopt an animal, be with a keeper for a day etc. etc.
Please look at the travelogue to see this lovely little zoo.
As a city destination for a history vulture, a day trip or weekener to Colchester is worth investigating. It has the longest recorded history of any town in England. Even the historian Tacitus makes mention of it (he would have been great as a VT member). Roman remains therefore abound, although the most important 'must see' is the Norman Castle. Like all things in Colchester it resembles an onion or perhaps a set of Russian dolls in that there are any number a layers to uncover. The castle is built on Roman foundations and has many later additions.
The town is also noted for is prosperity during the wool boom of the middle ages and its architectural prowess in the Victorian era. Much of this survived an earthquake (I promise I'm not making that up).
Also has a well respected zoo.
If you walk behind the castle and either down the path, or up on the grass slope, you can see the beautifully laid out gardens in the park.
The best view, and the views which I photographed, were from the grass mound behind the castle.
I have had to take 3/4 photographs as the layout is so wide you could not get it all in one frame. So the photographs are shown in order from left to right.
It is perhaps wise to start your visit to Colchester by visiting the Tourist Office. They have many leaflets, helpful staff, maps of the town, and books to purchase regarding the surrounding area and counties.
The Tourist Office is fully carpeted, well laid out, plenty of space to move around,souvenirs and postcards to buy.
After closing hours, there is a tv screen in the front window that you press by hand for information on where to stay etc. This gives phone number, locations, post codes for those visitors with Sat Navs.
Visit the Castle or just walk around and take pictures if you are pressed for time.
These are the beautiful gates at the entrance to the Castle Park and the Castle itself. On either side of the gates inside the park there are beautiful floral beds, and the 2nd photograph shows a floral display with the name Castle Park in foliage.
The Castle has a facinating history, so please click onto the link below and read about it. There are various links to other museums too, but the History of the castle is the most important link.
The Castle was first opened to the public as a museum in 1860.
Oepning times all year round.
Mon - Sat 10am - 5pm
Sun 11am - 5pm
Admission - 2008 prices
Child 5 - 15 £3.40
Under 5 Free
Saver ticket - two adults and any two concessions, or one plus three - £13.90
Group Rate - Adult £4.70 children £3.10 (applies to groups of 20 or more)
group booking - 01206 282937
The Town Hall in Colchester is a magnificent building, unfortunately I could not get the whole of the building with the clock tower in the same frame, so I took various snapshots of it. Still a beautiful building to see though.
The Town Hall was designed by John Belcher , 1898 - 1902
The tour lets you explore more of the building itself, with very useful info from the guide. (We were lucky enough to have a guide all to ourselves, but the fun of wandering around "behind the scenes" is worth it even in a larger group.) The guide takes you down into the foundations of the castle to show and explain the evolution of the building from a Roman temple to a medieval fortresss, and its 18th century restoration. The climb up the large spiral staircase to the roof is fun in itself, as you check out the historical grafitti. And the views of the city from the roof are charming; with the very helpful commentary by the guide, it becomes a mini-overview tour of the city!
This very lovely, ruined monastery church was probably our favorite surprise of our trip in March 2005. In the fascinating bustle that is Colchester, it is an astonishing site of quiet beauty. The remains include most of the facade of the church, with its gothic arch doorway; most of both walls the northern aisle, and not quite as much of the southern aisle. There are some flooring tombstones in the center of the roofless edifce. A small walled graveyard is adjacent; the Victorian church by the same name is immediately south of it.
Take the time to walk all around & through the standing walls and look up at the sky and trees through open roof and windows. Even though there are playing fields at the other end of the park in which the Priory stands, a few minutes of stillness on your part will yield the serenity this place has to offer.
Colchester castle is why tourists come to Colchester. There is plenty of history to be seen with your very own eyes in Colchester because it was the Capital of England when the Romans landed and is now the oldest recorded town in England. The Castle provides tours at a small charge and you are able to go under the Castle into the foundations of the original Roman temple.
Take a look at the other pictures, especially the ones of the white tiger. This is what zoo enclosures should be like - plenty of space, and as close as possible to the natural habitat of the animals.
The white tiger is actually a genetic mutation of a Bengal tiger (not an albino though), and hasn't been seen in the wild since 1951. Because it is a mutation, it is possible that more white cubs can be born, even from normal parents (who must both carry the particular recessive gene). They can be born in the wild, but because they are not camouflaged they cannot hunt succesfully in the wild, and the cubs rarely survive.
The elephant enclosure is a large open space surrounded by a ditch and a rock wall. It is home to a small herd of African Elephants (there were 3 males and 4 female in 2005), including one youngster - and I see from the website that one of the females is pregnant. Similarly the enclosure for the giraffes, zebras and rhinos is quite a large area.
The picture shows the Balkerne Gate, with the Mercury Theatre behind, and "Jumbo" and the Town Hall in the distance. The first three are within 100 yards of each other, but of course Jumbo dominates !
I have written separate tips about the first three - and will add one about the Town Hall later.
This statue is on top of Colchester's theatre, the Mercury
The Mercury Theatre was opened in 1972, and was called the Mercury in reference to a statue to the Roman god, that was ploughed-up in a field in the Gosbecks area of the town. The statue in the photo is not really like the original, which is now in the museum in Colchester Castle.
The Mercury has its own theatre company, and puts on a full programme of plays and events, often starring familiar names. There is an extensive programme available on the website, with full details of tickets, seating plan etc.
I know some of you are completely against zoos, but Colchester Zoo is a shining example of what a good zoo should be like. (See my next tip).
I have quite a bit to say about the Zoo, and not much space, so it will be spread over several tips.
Colchester Zoo has been established as long as I can remember, and has steadily grown over the years. The zoo had over 500,000 visitors in 2005. It is home to over 2,500 animals, (plus 1000 leafcutter ants !) covering more than 250 species, many of which are classified as endangered or vunerable species in the wild. There is an extensive conservation and breeding programme which is helping to protect some of these species.
Some basic information: -
Admission prices (Jan 2007): Adults £13.50 Child £7.50 Discount available by ordering tickets on-line.
Opening Times: - Open daily except Christmas Day
09:30 - 18:30 Summer holidays
09:30 - 18:00 Easter – September, June & July to start of holiday
09:30 - 17:00 October - March (or dusk if earlier)
Accessibility: - Whilst some areas of the zoo are built on fairly steep slopes, there are good paths, and there is a wheelchair route taking in some of the main attractions (marked by a yellow line on the path.