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Our guide to luxury Essex holidays

With its string of nostalgic seaside towns, remote islands, ancient forests, and historic sites, this corner of Constable Country feels worlds away from the city rush. Welcome to the Unique guide to luxury Essex holidays.

Just a short journey from London, and firmly within the commuter belt, Essex is an oft-overlooked travel destination in its own right. Think unspoilt coastline and culture, with a sprinkling of city convenience. it's time to wake up and smell the roses; Essex is home to a bouquet of botanical beauties — including Audley End House, RHS Garden Hyde Hall, and Hyland House — and quaint market towns cut by the slow-flowing Stort, with antique stores and storied inns to wile away the afternoon. For life at a rural pace, outdoors enthusiasts will be right at home, tracking through Epping Forest on bicycles and exploring the wild beauty of the remote Dengie Peninsula, known for its marshes, nature reserves, and wildlife.

For those yearning for the nostalgia of a traditional seaside escape, Essex's coastline calls. Along the shore, find cockle-sellers, the familiar aroma of candy floss, and the jangle of vintage slot machines. Perhaps the crowning jewel of Essex's coastline is Mersea Island, where huts-for-hire line the beaches. Bringing a pour of modern allure to the island, a 10-acre vineyard bottles Ortega grapes with a hint of elderflower. Whether seeking R&R by the sea or a place to party in the country, our guide to luxury Essex holidays gives insider tips on the things to see, do, and where to stay, from rural escapes with roaring fires and rolltop baths to luxury group accommodation for unabashed celebrations in Saffron Walden.

Locations in Essex

Set up camp in the charming market town of Saffron Walden, drink in river views in Bishop´s Stortford, or follow the sound of the sea to Essex´s coveted coastal hotspots, including Frinton, Southend, and Leigh-on-Sea.

Collections in Essex

An hour from London´s bright lights and bustle, our collections in Essex offer private chef suppers, midnight swims in Provence-inspired pools, and secret gardens for G&T sundowners garnished with freshly-picked thyme.

Things to do in Essex

Spend mornings exploring Colchester Castle, afternoons clocking miles in Epping Forest, and sun-dappled evenings touring the vines at Saffron Grange, before heading home to pop a bottle of English sparkling in the hot tub.

Things to see in Essex

Peruse sculptures and ceramics aplenty at Audley End House, before admiring the formal gardens masterminded by Capability Brown, or seek wilder views — including wind-whipped sea walls and marshes — in Maldon.

Where to eat in Essex

Tuck into freshly-landed spoils served from a Maine-inspired seafood shack on Mersea, discover la dolce vita over antipasti and a bottle of Barolo at Lucca Enoteca, or visit the Pig & Truffle for a Sunday roast par excellence.

Journals about Essex

Discover the eclectic Essex country bunker that strikes a balance between clubhouse comfort and whimsical grounds (including what makes it the place for Christmas leftover sandwiches), plus tales from its border counties.

Places to visit from London

Places to visit from London

We’ve curated a list of the best places to visit from London – from Kent´s coast to the Cotswolds´ countryside – and covered everything to see and do when you get there.

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Channel 4’s Extraordinary Escapes

Channel 4’s Extraordinary Escapes

Sandi Toksvig returns with a star-studded line-up of celebrity friends to showcase the very best homes across Britain and Ireland, with a few Unique Homestays visited en route.

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The best surfing beaches in the UK and Ireland

The best surfing beaches in the UK and Ireland

Surfing nirvana needn´t be confined to far-flung places. Whether a seasoned boarder or a born-again “grommet”, surf trips on home soil know how to pack a punch (and stay under the radar).

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Essex FAQ´s

Looking for advice on reaching the "Sunshine Coast" by rail? Want to know the best beaches in the county? If you have an Essex-specific query, you might find the answer here. For everything else, visit our general FAQs.

How far is Essex from London?

Bordering Greater London, Essex is the capital’s neighbour. Depending on where you travel from, it can take between 30 and 45 minutes to get to Chelmsford or Colchester by train or car. Beware the traffic at rush hour, since Essex is popular for commuters.

Was Colchester once the capital of the UK?

Colchester is Britain’s oldest town and was the first ever capital of the country, proclaimed under Roman rule as Camulodunum. Now awarded ‘city’ status once again, Colchester is steeped in history with Roman ruins throughout; the magnificent Norman keep of Colchester Castle stands on the foundations of a Roman temple, its museum hosting artefacts some 2,500 years old, and the remains of a Roman theatre lay peacefully in the Dutch Quarter. Meandre through its cobbled South Lanes and you’ll find treasures in independent shops.

Where is the best sandy beach in Essex?

Over 350 miles of scenic coastline and Blue Flag beaches line the shore in Essex, so choosing one is near impossible. Albion Beach at Walton-on-the-Naze is a local’s favourite, with golden sand underfoot and colourful beach huts, whereas neighbouring Naze Beach is one for intrepid fossil hunters; its clay and geological formation hides sharks teeth and all. Jaywick Beach is another favourite, old Napoleonic forts keeping watch over a sandy stretch between Clacton-on-Sea and Colne Point. For those looking to get out onto the water, try Thorpe Bay; this Blue Flag and Quality Coast award-winner draws kayakers, sailors and windsurfers all day-long.

Where is the prettiest town in Essex?

There are many – but Dedham is regarded as the postcard-prettiest of them all. Nestled alongside the River Stour in northern Essex, charming cottages and historic buildings line the streets and make for a waterside idyll that feels quintessentially English. In the middle of ‘Constable Country’, the surrounding area of Dedham Vale was famously depicted in the landscape paintings of renowned artist John Constable. There’s a local arts and crafts centre in a converted church to be discovered and half-timbered pubs that host free beer festivals with live music.

What animals are at Colchester Zoo?

What better way to entertain the children than a magical trip to the zoo? Colchester Zoo has a large and diverse collection of animals from across the world, from majestic African elephants to powerful lions and tigers. You’ll find playful gorillas, penguins, meerkats, and lemurs, alongside cheetahs, zebras, rhinoceroses, flamingos, red pandas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and a variety of reptiles. With a strong focus on conservation, the zoo emphasises an educational and immersive experience – we’re sure this is one science lesson they won’t forget.

Own a property in Essex?

Are you the keeper of a fens manor? Or the custodian of an island cabin? From Wivenhoe to colourful Saffron Walden, we´re seeking Essex´s most unique homes to join our growing portfolio.

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