The large town of Colchester has a rich history dating back over 2000 years. Known to the Romans as Camulodunum, it was the capital of Roman Britain and as such can claim to be Britain's First City! Balkerne Gate is the best-preserved Roman gateway in England and nearby is the impressive Victorian 'Jumbo' water tower built to provide drinking water for the town.
Colchester has two railway stations:
Colchester (known locally as Colchester North) is on the main London to Norwich line. It is 1 mile from the town centre, I recommend walking via Castle Park or there are frequent buses to the town centre and Bus Station, Colchester PlusBus tickets are valid for this journey.
Colchester Town is served by local trains, including stopping trains from London. It is near the town centre, most attractions and the Bus Station. Distances to the attractions shown below are from Colchester Town station. There are generally 3 trains per hour Monday to Saturday from Colchester (North) on the main line to Colchester Town but note that Colchester Town station is closed on Sunday.
TI Hollytrees Museum. Tel. 01206 282920.
Colchester makes a good base for exploring north Essex and parts of Suffolk by train. There are trains to the Essex coast at Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze. From nearby Manningtree station there are walks in the beautiful countryside of Dedham Vale. The attractive Suffolk town of Sudbury can be reached by changing trains at Marks Tey.
Colchester accommodation (with distances from Colchester and Colchester Town stations):
Distances to attractions shown below are from Colchester Town station.
Colchester (North) station on the main line is 1 mile from the town centre.
A Norman castle dating from the 11th century, Colchester Castle keep is mostly intact and the largest example
of its kind in Europe. The museum inside has many important historical finds including Celtic coins, Roman statues and mosaics,
medieval paintings and civil war armour.
Open M-S 1000-1700, Sun 1100-1700.
A Georgian townhouse with displays and hands-on exhibits covering social history. Discover what family life was
like for the rich and the poor. The collections include art, costumes, toys and clocks. Admission free.
Open M-S 1000-1700.
Housed in an old church, the Museum's collections cover British wildlife with a focus on Essex.
Find out about local habitats, biodiversity and climate change. Admission free.
Open TWThFS 1000-1700, Sun 1100-1700.
Firstsite is Colchester's contemporary visual arts gallery in a distinctive golden building.
A Roman mosaic can be seen at the heart of the building. Café. Exhibitions programme. Admission free.
Open M-S 1000-1700.
The remains of one of Britain's first Augustinian priories. With massive pillars and round arches
it is an impressive example of early Norman architecture. Admission free.
Open Daily 0730-1800 (1600 Nov-Mar).
This elaborately decorated gatehouse is all that survives of the Benedictine abbey of St John.
It was built about 1400 and stormed by Parlimentarian troops during the Civil War. Admission free.
Open any reasonable daylight hours.
The Circus is the site of Britain's only known Roman chariot racing track. Discover how it was discovered
and find out about Roman chariot racing.
Open TWThFS & BH 1100-1600 (1500 Oct-Mar). See website for tour times.
The Zoo has a wide range of species to see from around the world. Daily animal encounter sessions.
Play areas. Restaurant, refreshment kiosks and picnic area. Undercover areas for wet days. Events programme.
Open Daily 0930-1700 (closes earlier Nov-Mar).
Bus 75 from near Bus Station, Osborne Street (near Colchester Town Station) to Zoo entrance, 16 minutes journey, M-S hourly, Sun & BH 2-hourly. Operated by First. Colchester PlusBus tickets are valid for this journey.
Beth Chatto was an award-winning plantswoman who converted
an overgrown wasteland into the informal gardens by working with nature and choosing the right plants
for the right places. The varied areas with many unusual plants include a drought-resistant gravel garden as well as
herbaceous borders, water and woodland gardens. Tearoom and picnic area. Events programme.
Open Mar-Oct, TWThFS 1000-1700.
Bus 76/X76 (also infrequent 77) from Colchester High Street and near Colchester Town station to opposite the Gardens entrance, immediately after Elmstead Market. About 20 minutes journey, M-S 1 or 2 buses per hour. Colchester PlusBus tickets are NOT valid for this journey. Operated by Hedingham.
Built as a fishing lodge and later converted into a mill, picturesque Bourne Mill has a working waterwheel.
Open please see website.
Bus S8 from near Colchester Town station (3 minutes journey) to Cemetery Gates then ¼ mile walk. M-S every 15 minutes, Sun ½-hourly. Operated by First. Colchester PlusBus tickets are valid for this journey.
A woodland and wetland nature reserve beside the Bourne Brook, including former mill ponds. Boardwalk.
Map and audio trail on council website (search for Bourne Valley). Admission free.
Open at all times.
Bus see Bourne Mill above.
Layer Marney Tower is England's tallest Tudor Gatehouse, built to show that its owner, Henry Marney, was a
rich and powerful friend of King Henry VIII. It is the Gatehouse to a Palace which was never completed because Henry Marney died in 1523.
Garden. Play area. Tearoom. Events programme.
Open Apr-Sep, WSu (also MTTh Jul-Aug) 1100-1700.
Bus 75 from Bus Station, Osborne Street (near Colchester Town Station) to Smythe's Green, 23 minutes journey, then 1¼ miles walk along minor roads. M-S hourly, Sun & BH 2-hourly. Colchester PlusBus tickets are NOT valid for this journey. For the return journey there's no marked stop but there's space to wait opposite the arrival stop. Operated by First.
The Museum shows how the art of preserve-making has developed at Tiptree.
It also gives an insight into local village life. Tearoom. Admission free.
Open Daily 1000-1630.
Bus 75 from Bus Station, Osborne Street (near Colchester Town Station) to Tiptree Factory Corner, 31 minutes journey, M-S hourly, Sun & BH 2-hourly. Colchester PlusBus tickets are NOT valid for this journey. Operated by First. There are less frequent buses to Tiptree from Kelvedon and Witham.