If we’re going to take a history trip around Colchester, there’s no better place to start than Colchester Castle. The focal point of Colchester Castle Park, the Norman castle dates back to the 11th century, while its foundations sit on the remains of the Roman temple of Claudius. It boasts more than 2,000 years of history and, in The Castle Museum, you’ll find exhibits with fascinating artefacts from the Stone, Iron and Bronze Ages, as well as Ancient Egypt. There’s also a wonderful selection of masterpieces from Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable, and their contemporaries from the Suffolk School. Plus, you can read about Colchester’s meteoric rise to becoming the Roman capital of Britain following its destruction by Boudicca, Queen of the Celts.
If you’re interested in Norman architecture and Colchester’s history, the ruins of St. Botolph's Priory are a hidden gem just off Queen Street. It was a delightful monastery built in the 1100s. It was the first, and for 400 years the most important, Augustinian convent in England. Pay a visit to the gatehouse of St. John’s Abbey, too, which is just on the other side of St. Botolph’s Circus, and is all that remains of the 11th-century Benedictine monastery.
Starting off at our Colchester Town Centre hotel, you can easily walk between many of the town’s Roman ruins, including the Colchester Roman Town Walls, which are the oldest and longest-surviving in Britain and feature the largest Roman gateway still standing in the country, the Balkerne Gate. On nearby Maidenburgh Street, you’ll find the Roman Theatre, which would have seated 3,000 when packed to the rafters and is in fine condition today. In fact, Colchester is home to two of the five Roman theatres that still survive in Britain today; the town’s second can be found at the Gosbecks Archaeological Park, less than a mile up the road from Colchester Zoo, at what is one of Britain’s best Roman sites.
The last stop on our history trip will take us a little way out of town to Layer Marney Tower; the stunning Tudor gatehouse, which is the largest in Britain, and is roughly half an hour’s drive from all of our Colchester hotels. It’s worth making the trip for, though. The tower tour takes you right to the top and gives you some truly fantastic views of the surrounding Essex countryside. Inside Layer Marney Tower, exquisite Edwardian interiors abound, while the surrounding gardens are some of the finest in the region.