Unique Places in Essex

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Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Essex

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    Essex Islands...

    by arturowan Updated Feb 21, 2015

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    0fficially, at least 19 islands exist off the coast of Essex; though the definition of an island leaves a lot of scope as to what to include...
    However, there are other areas of raised saltings, which emerge after high tide, which have been named as islands over the years, though their categorisation as such, is subjective, but those most can agree upon, are...
    Bramble (see separate Great 0akley tip...)
    Bridgemarsh
    Canvey (see separate page...)
    Cindery
    Cobmarsh
    Foulness
    Havengore
    Hedge End
    Horsey
    Lower Horse
    (West) Mersea (see separate page...)
    New England
    Northey
    0sea
    Pewet
    Pewit
    Pitsea Hall
    Potton
    Rat
    Rushley
    Skippers
    Two Tree
    Wallasea
    The most northerly Essex salting, the former Ray Island, is now reclaimed land, comprising the Parkeston development (see separate page...)
    Rat Island, near Mersea Island, is an example of an island that is no more than a raised area of saltmarsh...
    0sea, & Horsey Island are inhabited by 1 farmer, but cut-off from the mainland at times of high tide...
    Mersea; Canvey; & Foulness; are all inhabited, & Foulness is also a M0D firing range & weapons-testing area...
    Some folk ? the status of all 3 of these islands, as to be such, now that they are permanently connected to the mainland by road...

    A view of Mersea Island...
    Related to:
    • Archeology
    • Sailing and Boating
    • Birdwatching

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    Mistletoe county...

    by arturowan Written Dec 17, 2014

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    Essex is said to be a place where more Mistletoe grows than anywhere else in UK...
    Mistletoe is a hemiparasitic plant that needs another host tree on which to draw water & nutrients, the consequences of which stunts the growth of the host & can even kill it...
    European Mistletoe has paired, pale green waxy leaves, (which carry out photosynthesis, so the plant is not a total parasite), bearing wax-like berries, growing from off a woody stem...
    Mistletoe was beleived to posess magical properties by the ancient Druids, because of its ability to grow without touching the ground, & also because it often grows upon apple trees, which were also sacred to them...
    The haustorium as the green-ball of Mistletoe is known, usually grows at the tops of trees, so the best time to see it is during wintertime...
    Mistletoe can be seen growing in deciduous trees throughout Essex, however, the place most obviously associated with this plant is Mistley - the name of which is a diminuitive for the plant, which once grew thickly in the woods at Mistley Heath...
    However, the word 'mistletoe' itself is thought to have been of Germanic origin...

    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism
    • Safari
    • Budget Travel

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    Thames Estuary...

    by arturowan Updated Sep 17, 2014

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    The Thames might be the river most associated with England's capitol city, but this mighty waterway has an equally capacious mouth which incorporates much of the Essex coast within the Thames Estuary...
    Southend-0n-Sea is regarded as the location of the actual mouth of the Thames - within this broad inlet is to be found Canvey Island, as well as the docks at Tilbury...
    The river mouth around Canvey is known as the Blyth Sands & is an important wetland feeding area for estuary bird life...
    Canvey Island, though inhabited since Roman times, is partially reclaimed from the sea, & being flat, has a high flood risk, as occurred during the East Coast Floods of 1953
    During this disaster, caused by a freak high tide in January 1953, many Essex coastal resorts were submerged & lives were lost in settlements such as Jaywick, Harwich, as well as the Canvey Island tragedy...
    If you are anywhere along the East Anglia coastline & wish to hear the weather forecast specific to the seaside, (presented on BBC Radio 4 as 'the shipping forecast'), then all this region is categorised as 'Thames'...
    That is an area from the tip of Kent, to the Wash - quite some stretch of North Sea!
    Along the length of this peninsula are to be found the mouths of all these main rivers:
    Swale; Medway; Roach; Crouch; Blackwater; Colne; Stour; 0rwell; Deben; as well as the Walton Backwaters in Essex...
    These rivers were all crucial trade lanes, less than a century ago & were busy with Thames barges laden with a diverse range of cargoes, including building materials, agricultural products, & just a little contraband...
    These spritsail barges, which locally take their name from the estuary they plied, might appear a romantic sight today, but were the HGV's of their era, shifting mammoth loads not only around the English coastline, but also to the Continent...
    The shipping forecast provides 4 specific items of regional conditions, essential to heed for any visitor to these rivers & estuaries;
    Wind (speed & direction); Sea state; Weather; Visibility; the sea & its inlets provide a capricious environment, & no local or visitor should ever assume its apparent conditions to be stable...
    There are many RNLI & Coastguard stations situated along the Thames Estuary, which is a popular water sports area, & has a long-established history as a haunt of smugglers...
    As well as being patrolled by launches representing 4 Police forces & HM Customs & Excise, the Thames Estuary has speed-policing enforced by vessels belonging to the Environment Agency...
    If you have read my other Essex tips, you will be aware how cynical I am of the sterotyped image of this county, presenting it as an industrialised flatland...
    Canvey Island represents all the contrasting facets that make the Essex coast, the uniquely bipolar place that it really is - a mix of oil refinery; seaside resort; & nature reserve; all combined side-by-side in a way that somehow works, but which some narrow-minded folk obviously cannot comprehand or understand!
    The Thames Estuary is a characterful place that words can never truly summarise, & you do not need to set sail in order to appreciate its colourful contrasts...
    Much of the length of its sea walls, reinforced since the 1953 tragedy, are open to hikers, as well as birdwatchers, & it is also an ideal location for anglers...
    As well as the estuary feeders, with their plaintive whistles & cries, the Thames estuary has some seaborne visitors, such as grey & harbour seals, which I have witnessed swimming in the sea at Walton-0n-The Naze...
    Bottlenose dolphins & Harbour porpoises have also been known to swim in the Thames, & on the beach at Walton-0n-The-Naze a Whale was once washed up, albeit dead & putrid with decay!
    A Bottle-nosed whale once appeared in the Thames, but this was only because the creature had an infection which affected its sense of navigation, & it died in January 2006

    Related to:
    • Birdwatching
    • Fishing
    • Sailing and Boating

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    The 0nly Way Is Essex...

    by arturowan Written Sep 17, 2014

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    The Essex Way is a long-distance series of footpaths, which is officially said to start in Epping, reaching the coast at Harwich...
    However, I prefer to think of it from back-to-front; i.e; Harwich > Epping
    Harwich is said to be 'the gateway to the Continent', so travellers who come ashore here from the ferry, will be following the route inland, & if they are fit & enthusiastic enough, not to wish to stop when they reach Epping, then they can continue into London...
    The Essex Way is divided into 9 sections, each ranging from nearly 8 miles, to nearly 13 miles;
    Harwich > Wrabness
    Wrabness > Manningtree
    Manningtree > Great Horkesley (bypassing Colchester)
    Great Horkesley > Coggeshall
    Coggeshall > White Notley
    White Notley > Great Waltham
    Great Waltham > Peppers Green
    Peppers Green > Chipping 0ngar
    Chipping 0ngar > Epping
    As well as being marked by the standard 'footpath' signs, the Essex Way is additionally waymarked with double-poppy-flower signs...
    I have never walked the entire route, & the areas I am familiar with are Harwich > Great Horkesley, which tempt me to include this as a 'warning & danger'...
    However, as I have never been on the other sections, I have decided to give the Essex Way the benefit of the doubt, for the sake of this tip...
    Knowing the Harwich > Manningtree sections of the route from regular walks, then I have to dispute the local authority, promotional claims for the walk, in regard to it being easily signposted...
    I have detailed local maps of the Harwich > Manningtree area, yet still I have never been able to piece together a complete walk, utilising only footpaths...
    Along the Harwich > Wrabness section of the Essex Way, the sea wall route becomes blocked in the Parkeston area, because of the refinery, necessitating, either a detour through farmers' fields, or along the A120 - a dangerous stretch of dual carriageway with no pavements!
    Along the Wrabness > Manningtree section of the Essex Way, the sea wall route is again blocked in the Mistley area, because of the Baltic Wharf, again necessitating, either a detour through private land, or along the coast road, a narrow, twisty, hilly stretch of road, with no pavements or even a verge...
    Despite all these dangers, I still walk this area regularly, simply because the scenery aside the River Stour is so spectacular, but for walkers of the Essex Way, there should be alternatives to taking chances with oncoming traffic on roads with no pavements & blind bends...
    Also, do not believe those who tell you that Essex is 'flat' - the Harwich > Great Horkesley section of the Essex Way, in particular, is a coastal route, & as undulating as any such cliffside geography, although the scenery does flatten out somewhat, further along...
    Full details of the route can be downloaded from various websites...

    Ramsey hill, into Dovercourt/Harwich... WARNING! NO pavements... WARNING! FAST traffic... Mistley Heath - Essex Way... Essex Way towards - Bradfield...
    Related to:
    • Backpacking
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Birdwatching

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    X-files Essex...

    by arturowan Written Dec 16, 2013

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    Essex is a county full of secrets, curiosities, & the unexplained...
    Perhaps the greatest secret that the county posesses, is that it was the last place that
    The county has in recent decades, been keen to promote its 'secret bunkers', at Mistley, & Kelvedon Hatch, which at the end of the Cold War were decommissioned to sold to the public, becoming museums...
    These supposedly 'secret' nuclear war shelters, were where chiefs-of-staff would have gone underground, in order to plan the retaliation against the Warsaw Pact...
    Quite how 'secret' these bunkers ever were, is debatable, because enormous antennae were erected over the sites, so locals always knew there whereabouts, so presumably, so did the enemy, via spy satellites...
    Essex will always be associated with 'Witchfinder General' - Matthew Hopkins, who, though born across the border in Suffolk, made his HQ the other side of the Stour, in Mistley...
    There are still many cases of supposed hauntings by him, or his victims, in the old dwellings which remain in Mistley & Manningtree (see separate tip...)
    The Beast of Essex has been making headlines on & off for a few decades now, typically as a big cat, resembling a black panther...
    During the late 1990's, reports were so frequent in 1 area, it became known as The Beast 0f Weeley...
    I lived in Weeley many years, without an encounter, however, once when I was cycling halfway between there & Colchester, I did have a brief encounter...
    Having turned right, off the main road in Elmstead Market, just before the dual carriageway begins, I was approaching the sharp turn left in the lane, when running towards me from the drive to the house there, was a big black beast...
    It leapt from the footpath through the hedge & disappeared into the tall grass in the field, the turned-up tip of its bushy black tail being the last I witnessed of the beast...
    Was it a panther?
    It all happened too fast to be sure, but it was far too big & furry to be a housecat & that tail - for sure only belongs on a big cat...

    Related to:
    • Archeology
    • Castles and Palaces
    • Historical Travel

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    Wandering in the countryside of Essex.

    by worldkiwi Written Aug 18, 2013

    Not far east of Hullbridge on the south side of the River Crouch, I discovered glorious fields of sun bleached wheat, on a walk from Hockley. It was a stunning summer's day in 2010 and yet again I was fascinated by the way, in England, one could walk a short distance from a built up area and be in the middle of the countryside. Yet again Essex supplied a visual treat!

    Essex, near the River Crouch (2010).
    Related to:
    • Photography
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Budget Travel

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    Rayleigh - always nice on a sunny day.

    by worldkiwi Written Aug 18, 2013

    Rayleigh can't be classed as a tourist destination, but it is a nice place to stop if you need to do any shopping. What I like about Rayleigh is the way the high street leads the eye up to the Norman style stone church at the top of the low hill and the windmill near that combines to give the town a skyline of some photogenic quality. There's also an old 'round house' here with a thatched roof and an unusual tea shop. The town clock, established for the millennium, is quite a feature too. Overall, Rayleigh has a very nice vibe even though the locals probably don't think its anything special. If you're in the neighbourhood, drive through, or stop and help the local economy.

    Rayleigh's high street (2007). Squires Tea House, Rayleigh (2007). The Dutch Cottage, Rayleigh (2007) Rayleigh Windmill (2010).
    Related to:
    • Photography

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    Castle Hedingham

    by alucas Written Sep 13, 2006

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    Castle Hedingham is a small village in the north of Essex, and, naturally, it has a castle. Not just a castle, but a fine Norman keep, on the top of a hill. It is in private ownership, but is open to the public every Sunday from April to September, plus some other days during the week at certain times in the summer - check their website for details.

    The castle was built by the son of one of William the Conquerors knights in the 12th Century, and is still owned by a descendant after all these years. The de Vere family were high up in royal circles, and several English monarchs stayed at the castle.

    In its heyday, the castle would have been much larger, but only the keep survives today. The adjoining country house was completed in 1718, and is used for weddings and corporate functions.

    Castle Hedingham Principle chamber The adjoining house

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    Terling - a quiet little village.

    by alucas Written Apr 18, 2006

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    Terling is a small village just north-east of Chelmsford. Close to the cluster of houses lies Terling Place, home of the Stutt family for over 300 years. The Strutts have the family title of Baron Rayleigh of Terling Place. The most famous Lord Rayleigh was John William Strutt, the third Baron who was an eminent scientist, and won the Nobel Prize in 1904 for his discovery of Argon. Terling Place is only visible from the road to the east, and remains in the hands of the Strutt family. It is not open to the public. The church and green lie just to the north of the house. The church has a rather plain interior, but houses a number of monuments to the Strutts, and has a separate entrance and gate leading to the house.

    All Saints Church, Terling Terling Terling Church Why can't we build like this anymore ?

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    Layer Marney Towers

    by alucas Updated Mar 5, 2006

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    This stunning piece of Tudor architecture is really only the gatehouse to what would have been an immense Tudor house but for the untimely death of the Lord and also his son two years later. The towers soar 80 feet (eight storeys), and you can climb to the top of one of them. The remainder of the house is not open, but there is a long gallery which is used for wedding receptions and other functions. There is also a rare breeds farm and the church is next door.

    I have included a picture of a model of what the house might have looked like if it had ever been completed.

    Entry is £ 3.50 for adults.

    Layer Marney Towers Layer Marney Towers as it might have been Detail of brickwork at Layer Marney Towers View from the top - Layer Marney Towers Layer Marney Towers

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    Gentile Dovercourt

    by alucas Written Nov 11, 2005

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    Dovercourt is definitely a "gentile" seaside town. You won't find much in the way of cafes or amusement arcades - as you can see in the picture - just a very good beach and plenty of open spaces. People retire to Dovercourt. People go for walks, along the beach with the dog, or along the front. The shops are a couple of streets inland, enough shops to get by, nothing to shout about.

    Dovercourt looking west On the beach at Dovercourt
    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Beaches

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    Walk the sea walls

    by alucas Written May 6, 2005

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    The Essex coastline is not particularly inspiring, but when the tide is in and the sun is out it can be very pleasant walking along the sea walls along the estuary of the River Blackwater. In the summer there is always something to watch with dinghy races held at the numerous sailing clubs. In the quieter areas and in the marshy areas behind the seawall there is plenty for the birdwatcher to see .

    The sea wall at Goldhanger
    Related to:
    • Birdwatching
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Hanningfield Reservoir

    by Gili_S Written Feb 10, 2005

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    This is a nature reserve I visited on my free time, not that lakes are rare for someone coming from Finland, but it was nice visiting here and see how things are in England, it was just a short visit this time, I’ll be back.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Farming Everywhere!

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Mar 6, 2004

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    I was really surprised at the scale of the farming operations throughout our trip. Essex was no exception, with huge open fields just starting to spring to life wherever we went. However, most of these fields were very pleasing to look at because they covered rolling hills interspersed with thickets of trees. This scene was taken from seconday road B1039 near Wendens Ambo as we headed due west to find lodgings in Banbury, Oxfordshire. This was in the early afternoon and the temperature of 7 C was typical of what we had experienced to that point in the trip - damned balmy for a Canadian in February!

    Typical Roadside Scene
    Related to:
    • Family Travel

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    Tilbury Fort

    by Ash59 Updated Aug 5, 2003

    Tilbury Fort lies on the north bank of the Thames and was constructed in the latter quarter of the 17th century, replacing a small fort or blockhouse built during the reign of Henry VIII (c1539), to protect the approaches to the Thames, and London, from enemy shipping. It Fort is the best preserved example of 17th century military engineering in England and is preserved and run by English Heritage.

    You can view more photos and information about this place on my Tilbury Fort page (www.virtualtourist.com/m/24c4e/4a434/)

    Tilbury Fort
    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Historical Travel
    • Road Trip

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Essex Off The Beaten Path

Reviews and photos of Essex off the beaten path posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Essex sightseeing.
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