Whether you prefer hunting for a bargain around market towns, exploring historic sites or taking in the beautiful countryside, there is plenty to do in Braintree District
The Braintree district is home to three market towns – Braintree, Witham and Halstead – and each has something different to offer for shoppers and families alike.
Witham’s high street offers everyday shopping combined with local independent traders and a range of insta-worthy places to eat, while Halstead’s pretty high street lures you in with more independent shops and eateries like the Little Book Café located inside a 17th century cottage.
For serious shoppers, Braintree Village’s international brands attract visitors from across the world on the hunt for designer label deals. The Braintree district offers fun for all the family. Treat your little person to a visit to Braintree Village where you can make the day of it – catch a film or get your bowling shoes on, and even have a go at the climbing wall at Namco.
Within Braintree town itself, you don’t want to miss the monthly street markets. Whether you’re looking for a bite to eat or to do some shopping, the street markets are a must-do social experience with a great buzz allowing you to meet the local makers and producers behind the products you buy.
Each market town has a lovely public garden or town park and the villages which surround them are beautiful too. Finchingfield is the most photographed village with a gorgeous combination of duck pond and village green. Its pubs and tea rooms, overlooked by cottages, a windmill and a medieval church, make it an unbeatable experience. Coggeshall mixes brilliant bistros with a fascinating insight into Tudor England at Paycocke’s House and Gardens.
Just outside of Braintree, you can explore ancient woodlands and a world-class arboretum. Markshall Estate is a wonderful place for a stroll, and you can finish off with lunch at its Orchard Kitchen. Markshall also hold regular events such as high tea and stargazing.
One of the most recommended attractions in the district is a walk or a cycle on the famous Flitch Way. Stop off at Rayne Station and visit Booking Hall Café for a delicious doorstop sausage sandwich and generous slice of cake to make those exertions worthwhile! Connected to the Flitch Way is Great Notley Country Park, which covers some 100 acres of open space and is home to Sky Ropes – a high rope course for both adult and child adventurers.
At Finchingfield Lavender Farm and Camping you can pick your own bouquet before retiring to top quality glamping accommodation. And the vineyard at Great Lodge near Great Bardfield offers tours and tastings for the discerning wine buff and amateur slurpers alike.
If it’s history you are interested in, take a trip back in time and find fascinating exhibits, stories from the district’s past and regular fun packed themed days for all the family at Braintree Museum. Events in 2023 include an exhibition of the talented artists who illustrated Ladybird books for more than 30 years. You can visit Braintree’s newest café afterwards and enjoy a cup of tea in the surroundings of the museum – an old Victorian building.
Looking for something iconic? Within the ancient grounds and its grand imposing walls, Hedingham Castle creates a place unlike any other backdrop for outdoor theatre and cinema, medieval fairs and jousts, vintage and car shows and living history. Cressing Temple Barns near Witham offers fans of the past a glimpse of olde England via perfectly-preserved 13th century barns, with a reward waiting at the world-famous Tiptree tea rooms on-site.
Blake House Craft Centre is full of charm. Once a traditional farmyard, with a beautiful Essex corn barn in a courtyard of restored 18th and 19th century listed buildings of stables and cattle sheds, this wonderful site is now a craft centre that houses a wide range of small and friendly local businesses. One of the newest there is the Artisans Hub where you can browse through a unique selection of locally made products, ethically sourced homewares, gifts and greeting cards.
The Braintree district is a great place to cycle with a great variety of routes from quiet country lanes which meander through picturesque villages to more challenging hillier routes which explore the depths of the rural countryside.
If you really mean business, you could even retrace the 2014 Tour De France route through Finchingfield and Rayne and visit places of interest off the beaten track. If you take your cycling seriously you would be in good company when you stop off at Knead Food in Great Bardfield. Signed jerseys adorn the wall including Mark Cavendish’s world champion’s rainbow jersey. It makes the perfect pit stop.
Plan your trip to the Braintree district at visitbraintreedistrict.co.uk or visitessex.com