When a man is tired of London he is tired of life, so the famous quotation would have you believe, but what if you need a break from the city? It’s easy to incorporate a day out into your schedule and you don’t need to travel far to swap the hustle and bustle of the capital for something a little more relaxed. East Anglia – that’s the counties of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk – offer great beaches, historic towns and chocolate box villages. Here are our suggestions for five easy days out in East Anglia from London.
A new fast train connection brings Norwich within ninety minutes of London for the first time, making it an irresistible choice for a day out. The River Wensum loops the city centre and in summer its tree lined banks provide welcome shade. Take to the water with Pub and Paddle, who can kit you out with a Canadian-style wooden kayak so you can explore from a different vantage point. In the city itself, a visit to the magnificent cathedral is a must for its splendid buttresses and tranquil cloisters. Nearby you’ll find a fascinating museum, the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, which recounts the history of this city, housed in what was for a time the local jail.
This sleepy little village was once an important hub for the textiles industry. Make a beeline for Paycocke’s, a distinctive timber framed mansion built with the proceeds. Tour inside and admire the intricate wood panelling, carved with elaborate motifs as befitted a wealthy family in centuries past. Enjoy a traditional cream tea in the garden cafe before strolling around the corner to the impressive Grange Barn, once used to store agricultural produce. A short drive away you’ll find Marks Hall Arboretum, home to one of the best collections of trees and plants in East Anglia. With a walled formal garden, wild woodland and sizeable ponds it’s hard to imagine this was once a World War Two airfield.
The pretty Suffolk seaside resort of Aldeburgh has bucket loads of charm, and its shingle beach is a big hit with families and dog walkers year round and now boasts some excellent sculptures too. It’s worth queuing for fish and chips from the popular restaurant to the south end of town; perch on the sea wall and eat them the traditional way out of the paper. Nearby, Snape offers boat trips and the chance to wander the boutiques and art galleries of Snape Maltings. Or instead hire a rowing boat at neighbouring Thorpeness and potter about on the water. Nearby, the house in the clouds is one of the quirkiest rental properties in the area.
The historic market town of Saffron Walden takes its name from a crop still grown in the local area today: saffron. The rows of fancy merchants’ houses in the town centre are testament to the prosperity of the place in the past, though these days it mostly serves as a commuter town for London. There’s a maze and a large green, so pack a picnic and a football to let off a bit of steam. Nearby, the village of Thaxted is worth exploring. Infamous highwayman Dick Turpin had a house here, as did the composer Holst. Don’t miss the well preserved Guild Hall and the nearby windmill. Audley End stately home, a Jacobean delight, is another must.
Just an hour from the capital is England’s oldest recorded town and Britain’s first Roman city, once known as Camulodunum. The castle, a good place to start, boasts a Norman keep on top of two thousand year old foundations. Just down the road is the excellent Hollytrees Museum; look out for the collection of grandfather clocks which were once made locally. A little out of town, you’ll find Mersea Island. It’s known for its oysters – and the best place to eat them is the rustic but charming Company Shed, right by the water in the west of the island. Work up an appetite with a stroll along the beach and pick up an oyster shell or two as a reminder of your visit.
Why not let Mundana arrange a day out in East Anglia as part of a London package?