Here's something truely different to visit - the only recreated Norman Motte and Baliey castle in Europe.
The extensive website listed below gives a very in-depth look at what they have at the place. They have re-created many of the types of buildings that would have been there when it was a working village like the blacksmiths and bakers with various life sized models hard at work.
There are also some more gruesome representations of Norman life, such as a gallows with a criminal gently swinging from it.
At only six pounds for entry, this is a very educational and interesting place to visit, with or without children.
There is also a 'toy museum' nearby which maybe worth a visit.
Duxford air museum, is less than 20 miles from Stansted - just a few minutes north by the M11 (unless the dreaded roadworks have returned again) and just south of Cambridge
It takes a full day to see it's complete collection.
Although part of the Imperial War museum, it charges for entry (10 pounds for adults) and even more on air-show days.
When however you consider the range of hardware on view it's easy to justify. If you have boys of any age (I'm trying not to be sexist about this), then they will be transfixed.
On flying days inparticular, the place comes to life : that sense of tingling inside when something as aeronautically perfect as a Spitfire roars and swoops overhead - it's something quite special.
Of particular note is the American Air museum hanger which even includes a B-17 as if in full flight.
The museum also has examples of civilian aircraft, including Concorde - what tiny little seats.
On a recent trip out of Stansted we decided to explore a little of the area and came to Audley End House.
Henry VIII gave Walden Abbey to Sir Thomas Audley, who transformed it into his mansion and named it Audley End.
Owned by English Heritage it has a lake, very large grounds and over 30 beautifully decorated rooms. You can only visit the interior of the house with a guided tour so be prepared not to be able to enter like we were as the tours were all booked for that day. There is a cafe there serving cakes and snacks but when we visited they had rund out of cake and bread!!!
People being stranded one day in Stansted or planning a buffer day between two low-cost flights can spend an interesting day in the aviation museum at Duxford. Just take the National Express service to Cambridge and take the local bus service (line No. 7) to the museum. The stops for the National Express and the local buses are within a short walking distance of each other. Plan around two hours of travelling between the airport terminal and the museum.
The museum has a large collection of civil and military aircraft, but the focus goes on military. Some WWII vehicles are also part of this collection. However, the aircraft I most preffered there were the old british passenger aircraft from the 1950s and 60s. Check out my Duxford page for further information about the museum. The travellogue on that page will provide you with information about these jetliners not found on the museum’s page!
There are no seat allocations on RyanAir - the call for Priority Boarding seemed to bring everyone, (who wasn't already in the queue anyway) forward - with the RyanAir staff asking "are you a priority boarder?" No one seemed to know what that was and all stood there - jostling in the queue. There were still kids and people in wheelchairs in the queue so I don't know who they consider to be "Priority Boarders" - something to do with having checked in on the Internet or something - Who knows. RyanAir make their own rules.
The staff do the barest minimum to help. All announcements, either in the airport or on the plane were incomprehensible to my German friend who speaks almost perfect English. God help anyone in an emergency.
By all means sell cheap flights but at least get staff who can speak English that can be understood by everyone.
A passenger in front of me took his tiny daughter to the toilet a second after the "fasten seatbelt" sign had gone on - the RyanAir girl (wtf ARE they called now anyway??) refused to let him take her, the child was obviously desperate. he told the RAG "well she will probably wet the seat" She just shrugged her shoulders and walked away.
Another passenger asked the RAG where the baby-changing facilities were.. she waved her hand absent mindedly down to the other end of the carriage saying "I think they might be down there". It's slightly worrying that the staff don't know where the facilities are on their aircraft.
When the trolley came I heard the RAG tell another passenger to have the correct change because she had none. So, to be helpful, I had mine all ready counted out for a drink. When I handed her the change she rolled her eyes and said I was 10c short! (she didn't even count it!) But because I could see she was pissed off, I gave her a £10 note.. just to *** her off more and take all her change. Well, I wasn't going to go without a drink for the sake of 10c was I?
But they sell cheap flights so who's complaining?? :)))
If you are travelling through Stansted airport and have some time to kill, why don't you start to explore the surrounding towns and villages? Stansted Mountfitchet is a little further away from the terminal building than Bishop's Stortford or Takeley, but it is the town which gave the name to this airport. The main attraction is the norman castle, a wooden castle reconstructed in the 1980s showing the life in such a castle in the 11th and 12th century. Other places to mention are the toy museum, a windmill and a nice old church. If you have some spare hours and like to visit this place, you will find more detailled information at my Stansted Mountfitchet page.
Newmarket is very easily reachable from Stansted, and is the home of English horseracing.
Many of course just go to the race meetings, with such famous races as the 1000 and 2000 Guineas featuring.
Even when there are no race meetings there are several attractions connected to horseracingn around. There is the National horseracing museum who also organise 2 hour long minibus tours to various yards and other places of interest.
The national stud is also close by and they to conduct a 90 minute tour of their facilities.
Both attraction cost about five pounds to visit, more for a minibus tour.
And I'll have that tip each way on the 3.30 at Sandown.
A junction or two up the M11 towards Cambridge stands a rather impressive stately home that was originally bought by Charles II from the Suffolk family.
It was certainly useful for the horse racing at nearby Newmarket, but the Mortgage payments built up so much (seems rather odd that a King had to have a mortgage like the rest of us plebs) that William III only 30 or so years later simply handed the keys back to the local gentry. His mate, Christopher Wren had also pointed out that the D.I.Y on the place to bring it kicking and screaming into the late 17th century would cost him an arm and a leg - even if he went to Wickes for the materials.
The range of rooms is this Jacobean pile is quite impressive, although I found the 'under stairs' sections where the servants lived and worked somehow more interesting.
Great gardens too - by Capability Brown no less.
Ryanair and other airlines have heavily marketed Stansted as the Gateway to London.
If your looking for weekend away then it is worth considering the fact that Stansted airport is in fact much closer to interesting cities like Cambridge, Ely, Norwich and Bury St Edmunds than it is to London Itself.
Any of these places have more than enough to keep a tourist happy for several days.
Stansted was designed by the British architect Sir Norman Foster and opened in 1991. his unique skylight designs in the ceilings allow daylight to penetrate... quite unusual in airport architecture.