Exploring England’s Oldest Town, Colchester

Haven’t heard of Colchester? Neither had I until I found myself researching quick day trips for the bank holiday weekend in August.

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Initially, I wanted to travel outside of the country, but after so much traveling in the beginning of the month, and being sick for a few weeks, I decided it’d be better for me to have a low-key weekend in London.

Still though, I was itching to explore somewhere outside the city. Cambridge was my first thought, but I also didn’t want to go to a place there’d likely be crowds- a sure ‘good vibe’ killer.

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I’m not sure where I initially learned of Colchester, but the name was already bubbling around in my mind when I went to the Museum of London back in July. At the museum, there’s a section detailing London’s history, where Colchester is examined in great detail.

Over the past 2,000 years, some of Britain’s most important events have taken place in Colchester. Romans, Saxons and Normans have all helped share Colchester into the city it is today.

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While researching an easy day trip from London, Colchester popped up on a few sites- it’s under an hour from the city via Liverpool Station.

And so, not knowing much else beyond it being a key part of British history, we booked £20 return tickets for a half day of exploring.

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Walking through Colchester is a walk through thousands of years of British history. Architecture is rich and varied. My favourite part of our trip was strolling through the Dutch Quarter– it’s home to some of the town’s most picturesque streets.

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Some of the homes are thought to date back as far as the 1380s. Interestingly enough,  historians don’t believe the word ‘Dutch’ described the settlers who lived in the area. Instead, it’s thought to be the word the people of Colchester used to describe all foreigners who arrived in the 1500s from Belgium, Holland and France, many of whom were fleeing religious persecution.

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Agenda-less, we didn’t feel bad spending time lounging at pubs whenever we needed a break from wandering. In particular, we loved the Fat Cat on Butt Road. It’s everything a local should be- good drafts, space to sit and chat, and friendly, funny bartenders. The Purple Dog is another good option for a pint, we stopped here before heading back to London.

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Hungry after a few hours of walking around, we popped into Three Wise Monkeys. Such a good choice- loved the halloumi and vegetable salad, curly fries, and selection of ales and ciders on draft. We really enjoyed the ambiance of this modern pub as well- lots of comfy chairs to sit in, and an adjacent beer garden to lounge in.

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We didn’t eat at The Old Seige, but I’ve heard it’s a good option if you’re in Colchester for more than one meal- it certainly looks adorable from the outside.

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Post lunch, we walked along the River Colne for a bit before heading back into town centre. We didn’t spend any time shopping since it’s mostly chains (H&M, Fenwicks, Gap, etc.).

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And, in case you’re in need of a bit of caffeine during the day, Caffe Sala is a cute cafe.

On our way back to the train, we passed St. Botolph’s Priory. Founded in ~1100, it was one of the first Augustinian priories in England. We were impressed by the remnants, massive circular pillars and round arches crafted from brick.

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Since we only spent a half day in Colchester, we didn’t have time for the castle museum, zoo, or some of the other attractions that draw visitors to the city. However, we did feel our several hours there was time well spent. One of my biggest hopes in moving to England was having time to explore more of the United Kingdom, and not just the obvious places- but some ‘off the beaten path’ ones as well.

Safe to say Colchester checks the box on that list- most of my British friends questioned why I’d want to go to Colchester for the day, asking why I planned on doing. Wandering, and appreciating history, but of course. Plus, I’m a total sucker for pastel homes and Tudor architecture. 😉

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