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Places to visit

Park Hall offers you the perfect romantic short break situated in a beautiful setting near to the dunes, piers and promenades of some of the loveliest beaches

The Countryside, Gardens & Lakes of Park Hall - Once a royal park the countryside of historic Park Hall is a great place to explore. The gardens comprise of woodland walks, rose gardens, mature trees and shrubs and a wonderful lily lake.

Exploring a little further out there is so much to see and do near Park Hall, you will be spoilt for choice in deciding where to visit on your days out.

Beth Chatto Gardens - Elmstead Market, Colchester CO7 7DB - Garden lovers staying at Park Hall will also relish a trip to the world-famous Beth Chatto Gardens at nearby Elmstead Market, with its gravel, water and woodland gardens.

Situated close to Park Hall in Elmstead Market, The Beth Chatto Gardens are a definite place to visit for all garden lovers. From overgrown wasteland in 1960 the landscape has now been transformed into a formal garden harmonising with the surrounding countryside. The famous Gravel Garden is filled with amazing drought loving plants, a Water Garden has been created where there was once a boggy hollow and The Woodland has something special to see during all the seasons. On-site refreshments are available.

Open from 9am Monday to Saturday and 10am on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

MarksHall - Coggeshall, Colchester CO6 1TG - The Gardens and Arboretum at MarksHall, feature landscaped woodland walks and footpaths, with vistas across the lakes to the Millennium Walk and the 18th Century Walled Garden, recently remodelled to provide a stunning combination of contemporary and traditional landscaping and planting. The Visitor Centre offers a Tea room, Gift Shop and Plant Centre.

Cressing Temple - Witham Road, Braintree CM77 8PD - as you enter the Walled Garden at Cressing Temple you step back in time. The plants that grow here are those that would have been available in the late medieval and early Tudor period; the design is a result of painstaking research and archaeological excavation. Within the Tudor walls of the garden are themed areas, with borders devoted to medicinal, culinary and dyers' plants, a potager and a small orchard and nuttery. The nosegay garden is a fragrant delight with a wealth of sweetly scented plants that were grown for their perfume.

The walled garden nestles to the side of one of the two magnificent medieval Barns for which Cressing Temple is renowned. On-site refreshments are available.

Layer Marney Tower - Layer Marney, Colchester CO5 9US - Surrounding the Tower the formal gardens have been designed to provide colour and interest throughout the year.

The combination of long established plants and trees, together with planting and development, means there is something here for everyone from the most serious gardener, to those who just want the peace and tranquillity of this beautiful scented garden.

The gatehouse, farm and gardens are open between April and September.

Colchester Zoo – Maldon Road, Stanway, Colchester CO3 0SL - For a great day out with the family visit nearby Colchester Zoo. Named as Zoo of The Year and much praised by conservationists, you can see many endangered species such as orang-utans and snow leopards in imaginative surroundings. Why not arrange in advance to become a zookeeper for the day! Great fun for everyone.

Colchester Roman Town - Colchester is more than just Britain's oldest recorded town and a must for all shopping enthusiasts and historians alike. Williams & Griffin in the high street is a superb store and head also for the lanes that run parallel to the high street, especially Eld Lane that is full of interesting, specialist shops. At the end of town Colchester Castle is well worth a visit with beautiful grounds to walk through and there are many historical treasures in the museums.

A visit to the Castle Museum takes you through 2000 years of some of the most important events in British history. Once capital of Roman Britain, Colchester has experienced devastation by Boudicca (Boadicea), invasion by the Normans and siege during the English Civil War. Since the 16th century, the Castle has been a ruin, a library and a gaol for witches. Today it is an award winning museum featuring many hands-on displays showing Colchester's history from the Stone Age to the Civil War.

Dedham Village & Constable Country - We love visiting Dedham for romantic walks along the river to Flatford Mill and delicious lunches in one of the many superb restaurants there. This area was made famous by the 19th century landscape painter John Constable, who immortalised Flatford Mill in 'The Hay Wain' and is perfect cycling and walking country. A visit to Sir Alfred Munnings art museum in Dedham is also a must.

Frinton-on-Sea - We also love the timeless charm of Frinton-on-Sea, with its glorious beach, still studded with Victorian Beach huts and quaint shops in the long high street. Tree-lined residential avenues sweep down to the elegant Esplanade and cliff-top greensward. The long stretch of sand beach is quiet and secluded. The main shopping street (Connaught Avenue) if full of interesting shops and restaurants. The resort is geared towards families who would like a quiet day at the beach and is suitable for young children as it is a clean safe environment. Many people like Frinton because it is not commercialised. However, there are no traditional English seaside activities, so children after candy floss and fairground rides may be better off going to Clacton or Walton. A visit to Frinton can be combined with a visit to Parkers Garden Centre on the left hand side off the main road before you reach the gates for Frinton. This extensive centre is a great place to browse amongst the many plants and gifts for sale. Afternoon tea is good there too!

The Colne Valley Railway - For children and the railway enthusiast alike this is a must. The Colne Valley Railway houses the largest collection of operational heritage engines, carriages and wagons in the country and runs through one of the prettiest parts of the Colne Valley. There are steam trains and heritage diesel trains offering rides and a driver's eye view of the line.

There are also special children's days. Don't miss A Day Out With Thomas. 'Thomas' returns to the Railway with around ten other Thomas characters. Reserved seat train rides on 'The Express Coaches' hauled by 'Thomas'. Also a ride on another Thomas character. There are also many free games and activities with real life 'Thomas' story enactment. Admission tickets and seats should be reserved in advance for this very popular event. Early bookings are strongly advised. Phone 01787 461174 to book.

Also worth a visit is The East Anglian Railway Museum at Chappel Station, Colchester, a working museum dedicated to preserving the history of railways in the Eastern Counties. For further details contact the museum on 01206 242524.