Visit Coggeshall: Places to stay, things to do

If you think Essex is a flat, uninteresting county think again. Nick Peers discovers its rural heart is more a piece of East Anglia than the London suburbs


Image: © Copyright Robert Edwards and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Why go there

Coggeshall is the perfect spot to base yourself for exploring north Essex, situated halfway between Colchester and Braintree. The town grew up on a Roman road – evidence of a settlement goes back to Saxon times, and there are plenty of stunning historic barns and buildings dotted through the village that date back through the centuries.
One of these – Paycocke’s House – is now administered by the National Trust, although sadly it’s not open until April. The same is true of the medieval Coggeshall Grange Barn, but a similar collection of buildings can be viewed at Cressing Temple, a few miles south-west.
Other places worth visiting include Marks Hall Garden and Arboretum, and Heddingham Castle, though it’s only open on Sundays at this time of year.
If wildlife watching is your thing, try to find the time to head to the coast – Mersea Island or Walton-on-the-Naze are two good spots. There are also a number of Essex Wildlife Trust reserves within reasonable striking distance, from the closest at Brookes Reserve, to the more extensive reserve on the shores of Abberton Reservoir. RSPB members might also want to venture to Old Hall Marshes, which is the other side of Tiptree to the south of Colchester.

Where to stay
The White Hart sits in the heart of Coggeshall and the building dates back to the 15th century. There are 18 rooms available, and bed and breakfast starts from as little as £65 for a double room.
Where to eat
If luxury dining is your thing, then Baumann’s Brasserie offers an extensive a la carte menu from locally sourced ingredients. If your budget is tight, try the restaurant’s house menu at £23 a head for three courses, including coffee, or check out one of the local pub menus, such as that offered at The Chapel Inn.
Tell us a local secret
The gatehouse of Coggeshall Abbey, St Nicholas’ Chapel, dates back to around 1220. It’s believed to be the oldest surviving example of a brick-built building constructed in the post-Roman period.