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Pocket Guide: Essex

The county of Essex in East Anglia is home to Stansted Airport, and despite its bustling cities and towns, much of the county is rural. There's some beautiful countryside here, and the county is a fascinating blend of old and new, home to historic towns such as Colchester as well as pretty villages. The perfect destination for a short break for couples and families, you'll find a range of accommodation in Essex, from Chelmsford and Colchester's chain hotels to B&Bs in Bishop's Stortford and independent inns in Braintree.

The Best Places to Stay in Essex

Where you choose to stay in Essex really depends on what you want from your break. Families looking to make the most of a stay in Essex may wish to stay in Chelmsford or Colchester, where chain hotels offer family rooms, complimentary breakfast and modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs and free WiFi. Couples enjoying a romantic break or solo travellers might prefer the market town of Bishop's Stortford, with its cosy B&Bs, or Braintree's historic inns, where you can soak up some local history. With London just a short drive away and most hotels offering free parking, exploring Essex is a breeze, wherever you decide to stay.

Family Fun in Essex

Essex has no shortage of activities to keep the whole family amused, and Colchester Zoo is one of the most popular attractions in the county. Home to over 270 species of animals, don't miss the Chimpanzee Lookout area or the opportunity to feed Lorikeets in the tropical walkthrough. Active families will enjoy a day out at Lee Valley White Water Centre or a walk along the Flitch Way. This disused railway line covers 15 miles of stunning countryside, ideal for walking, cycling or even horse riding. After a busy day, you'll find many chain hotels and independent inns have their own restaurants where you can enjoy a family meal in relaxed surroundings.

Stay Close to Essex's Shops and Restaurants

Shopping in Essex is an opportunity to pick up some local produce to take home or treat yourself to great discounts on designer labels. Intu Lakeside in Grays is one of the area's largest and most popular malls, but for discount shopping, Clacton Factory Outlet and Freeport Braintree are both worth checking out. For those who prefer independent stores, Chelmsford is home to a number of quirky boutiques and retailers housed in historic buildings, as well as a daily market where you can pick up local produce, arts and crafts. If you're staying in a hotel near the coast, don't miss the opportunity to sample the Colchester Native Oyster at one of West Mersea's seafront restaurants - they're a favourite of chef Jamie Oliver. The county is also renowned for its excellent wine, with over 20 local vineyards including the Mersea Island Vineyard and New Hall Vineyard.

Relax and Unwind with a Stay in Essex

Essex's hotels offer a range of amenities to ensure you have everything you need for a relaxing stay. Free parking and WiFi are on offer at the majority of hotels, whilst in-room amenities such as flat-screen TVs and DVD players keep kids amused on rainy days.