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White building with greenery - Dedham - Beresfords Estate agents - Essex

Discover Colchester

By The Beresfords Marketing Team - 04 August 2011

Colchester is Britain’s oldest recorded town. But it’s not just Colchester’s 2,000 year history that attracts over 4.5m visitor trips every year. Colchester today is a thriving centre with many great attractions. It is surrounded by rural landscapes that have inspired some of our country’s greatest artists, making it just right for a day trip, short break or family holiday.

Colchester’s history is one you can share by visiting the town’s award-winning museums, which include collections of international importance.

Best known is Colchester Castle Museum, housed in the largest Norman keep in Europe, whose excellent displays and hands-on activities underline the town’s importance as the capital of Roman Britain. Yet Colchester is also very much at the forefront of the contemporary visual arts. In fact, September 2011 sees the opening of a new cultural hotspot, firstsite. Housed in a multi-million pound building, this new attraction showcases local, national and international artists as well as Europe’s only permanent collection of Latin American art.

If all this inspires you to buy, there’s a wealth of art cafes, craft outlets and quiet streets lined with specialist shops, as well as big name stores.

Take time out in Castle Park, awarded Green Flag status, and stroll through the gardens or lose yourself in the rousing harmonies of a brass band striking up on the old bandstand. Castle Park is also the start of many of Colchester’s guided tours, a great way to discover the stories, history and characters behind the town.

If you’re travelling with children, Colchester Zoo is sure to be a hit. Constantly changing, the latest improvement is a £100,000 leopard enclosure provides enhanced accommodation for the animals as well as great viewing for the visitors. Alternatively, enjoy a steam train ride at the East Anglian Railway Museum or go behind the scenes at the Tiptree Jam Museum which has been crafting tasty preserves for over 100 years. Another local speciality is Mersea oysters; venture across the causeway to Mersea Island, washed by salt-laden breezes, and sample the local catch for yourself at the no-frills Company Shed.

North of Colchester, the gentle Stour Valley, sprinkled with mills and punctured by village church towers, is associated for ever with the paintings of John Constable. Ramble along the towpath from 16th century Bridge Cottage, which houses an exhibition of Constable’s work, and drink in scenes unchanged since he painted them. Or row upstream to pretty Dedham and visit the country home museum of the 20th century equestrian artist Sir Alfred Munnings. The area’s artistic tradition still lives on at Wivenhoe, east of Colchester, where a long line of artists, including James Dodds, have taken inspiration from the maritime heritage and constantly changing skies of this riverside town.

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