Spend an afternoon at the tallest Tudor gatehouse in England to find a knot garden, a farm, a Wildlife Walk and five centuries’ worth of history.
Climb to the top of the Layer Marney Tower and look out across the Essex countryside and the River Blackwater. Learn about the building’s 500-year-old history and view historical artifacts. On a sunny day, enjoy a stroll around the gardens or take the Wildlife Walk to see cattle and birds. End your afternoon with a cup of tea in the quaint room overlooking the Blackwater Estuary.
Henry, the first Lord of Marney and a friend to King Henry VIII, commissioned the Layer Marney Tower. Construction began in 1520 but Henry’s death and the death of his heir soon after meant the building was never completed to the original plan. Nonetheless, the 80-foot (24-meter) tower is the tallest Tudor Gate in England. Nowadays, it functions as a private residence, a family attraction and an events center.
First view the elements of Tudor design of the tower: small arched windows and twin circular towers. Then step inside and climb to the top and you will be rewarded with stunning views across the flat Essex countryside. On your way back down, visit the History Room with information about the families that resided here as well as a model of the original design.
Be sure to also explore the Victorian-style gardens, which contain a collection of roses and a so-called knot garden, which is characterized by a formal design. Children can pet lambs, pygmy goats and see highland cattle on the Wildlife Walk or at the farm. Visit the tearoom for refreshments and treats while the kids run around in the playgrounds.
Layer Marney Tower is open only in the afternoon and on selected days, so check the website for the schedule. During July and August the opening days are Sunday to Thursday. There is an admission fee.
The tower is located 6 miles (10 kilometers) south of Colchester. It is best to drive, but you can also take a public bus from Colchester and walk the last stretch from Smythe’s Green, which takes about 20 minutes.