Braintree, a district of culture, tradition and modern ambition

With colourful, bustling market towns and picturesque villages set in the most beautiful rolling countryside, the district of Braintree has it all. From the designer shopping village to the medieval barns of the Knights Templar, jousting knights at a Norman Keep to steam railways, magnificent houses with stunning gardens and listed windmills. Do not miss the museums and heritage centres which give you a picture of an area steeped in history from Bronze Age and Roman settlements to the industrial successes within the wool, silk, lace and weaving trades.

Take a drive in the country through idyllic villages and beautiful scenery, stop for a hearty lunch at a traditional pub and sample the local ales or for the more active follow one of our many delightful trails whether you like to tramp, stroll or cycle.

With colourful, bustling market towns and picturesque villages set in the most beautiful rolling countryside the district of Braintree has it all. From the designer shopping village to the medieval barns of the Knights Templar, jousting knights at a Norman Keep to steam railways, magnificent houses with stunning gardens and listed windmills. Do not miss the museums and heritage centres which give you a picture of an area steeped in history from Bronze Age and Roman settlements to the industrial successes within the wool, silk, lace and weaving trades.

Discover the Braintree district

Around the district

Colourful houses in the village green.
Finchingfield
Interior of the castle showing the beams, arches and a big fireplace.
Hedingham Castle interior
Picture of a village street with cottages and a blue clock tower.
Coggeshall
Picture of a timber framed cottage
Castle Hedingham
Picture of  walled garden with the barn in the background.
Walled Garden at Cressing Temple
Picture of a garden with grasses in the foreground.
Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum

 

The district has four delightful market towns; Braintree, Coggeshall, Halstead and Witham, each unique in their own way and worth a visit.

Marvel at historic houses and gardens, such as the National Trust properties of Paycockes and Grange Barn, or the landscaped woodland walks and footpaths of Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum, with its ever changing colours reflecting the seasons!

For heritage enthusiasts, why not pay a visit to the magnificent medieval barns of Cressing Temple, the largest of its kind in Europe or enjoy thrilling displays by jousting knights at Hedingham Castle, home to one of the best preserved Norman Keeps in Europe.

The 14th century woollen cloth trade brought prosperity to the area leaving a legacy of fine architecture and listed buildings whilst the 18th century heralded the arrival of silk weaving and the famous Huguenot name of Courtauld. By the mid-19th century the opening of a railway line led to the establishment of large engineering firms such as Crittall’s metal window company and Lake & Elliot iron foundry. A full story of Braintree’s diverse industrial heritage and traditions is told at the District Museum in the town centre. The Warner Textile Archive, a nationally important archive, houses a unique collection of original artwork by leading 20th century designers - with fabric samples boasting royal connections!

There is a lot for families to do too. Visit the Colne Valley Railway where everyone can enjoy a ride on a vintage steam or diesel engine, Thomas the Tank Engine may even make an appearance too! A visit to Great Notley Country Park is a must. It’s a child’s paradise, from giant see-saws to Essex’s biggest climbing frame, a climbing forest and a toddler’s play area.

If shopping is more your thing, then head to Freeport where you can hunt for a bargain or two.

With so much to offer a day is not enough, so why not stay a while longer?

The district has four delightful market towns; Braintree, Coggeshall, Halstead and Witham, each unique in their own way and worth a visit.

Marvel at historic houses and gardens, such as the National Trust properties of Paycockes and Grange Barn, or the landscaped woodland walks and footpaths of Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum, with its ever changing colours reflecting the seasons! For heritage enthusiasts, why not pay a visit to the magnificent medieval barns of Cressing Temple, the largest of its kind in Europe or enjoy thrilling displays by jousting knights at Hedingham Castle, home to one of the best preserved Norman Keeps in Europe.

There is a lot for families to do too. Visit to the Colne Valley Railway where everyone can enjoy a ride on a vintage steam or diesel engine, Thomas the Tank Engine may even make an appearance too! A visit to Great Notley Country Park is a must. It’s a child’s paradise, from giant see-saws to Essex’s biggest climbing frame, a climbing forest and a toddler’s play area.

If shopping is more your thing, then head to Freeport where you can hunt for a bargain or two.

With so much to offer a day is not enough, so why not stay a while longer?

 

Highlights of the area

Near the entrance of the shopping village with lots of out of focus people walking.
Set in a relaxing village environment, Freeport Braintree shopping outlet offers an escape from the stresses of city shopping. Everything you need is right here, from great places to eat to fantastic offers and events from more than 85 stores!
Outside of the museum with a statue of John Ray.
The museum is housed in the former Manor Street School. The galleries tell the district’s history from prehistoric times to the present, focusing on its industrial and cultural achievements and notable personalities. 
Picture of a spinning wheel.

The Warner Textile Archive narrates the rich history of a great British industry from its roots in the 18th century to the international success of Warner & Sons in the 20th century. Situated in part of the original mill, visitors can explore a selection of over 100 textiles and designs.

More highlights

Outside of this magnificent Norman Castle in amazing blue skies.
A900-year-oldNorman Keep in 160 acres of landscaped gardens and woodland. Four floors to explore including the Banqueting Hall with a Minstrels’ Gallery, the finest Norman interior in England.
Picture of the barn with blue skies and a Victoria water fountain in the foreground.
Cressing Temple is a fascinating medieval moated farmstead boasting the oldest recorded timber-framed barn in the world. The site has its origins in the 12th century, when it was founded by the Knights Templar. 
Picture of a father and son bending over a model railway and playing.

Colne Valley Railway near Castle Hedingham boasts a mainline train ride on a mile-long loop of track. There’s also a garden railway, miniature railway, a museum and you can even meet Thomas and Peppa Pig on special event days.

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Stay somewhere special

The Lodge at Hedingham Castle

VisitEngland 3 Star Self-cateringSelf-catering with 1 unit, £990-£6930 pupw sleeps 17, Castle Hedingham

Period property. Private gardens. Private parking. Access to estate grounds and woodland walks.

 
 
 
The Lodge

VisitEngland 4 Star Self-cateringSelf-catering with 1 unit, £400-£600 pupw sleeps 4, Great Dunmow

This beautifully converted cottage is one of two which were originally part of a former Victorian cattle yard, it is equipped to the highest standards, yet has kept its old world charm with exposed beams and vaulted ceilings.

 
 

Have fun in a park

Great Notley Country Park

Braintree 01376 347134

Great Notley Country Park covers some 100 acres of open space, which is managed for the benefit of wildlife and the community.

 
 
 
Flitch Way

Braintree

Passing through 15 miles of countryside along the former Bishop's Stortford to Braintree railway in the heart of rural Essex.

 
 

Something for your taste buds

West Street Vineyard

Coggeshall 01376 563303

2 for 1 cream tea @ West Street Vineyard, 2 for 1 on wine tasting

We think we have something very special at West Street Vineyard.

 
 
 
The Compasses at Pattiswick

Braintree 01376 561322

 
 

Explore our county

Picture of the iconic Firstsite building at night.
Discover Essex’s creative spaces. They come in all shapes and sizes and are crammed with artistic treasures, from international names to emerging local artists.
Picture of a sunset over the The Naze waters with some rocks protruding from the water.

Explore our 350 miles of coastline, the longest shoreline of any county in England, a place of surprising wild beauty, rich in wildlife and sprinkled with history and hidden cultural gems.

Essex’s history has been shaped by a wide variety of cultures. Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Normans – all left their mark. Echoes of their influence can still be seen today.
Picture of a cow at the edge of the River Stour and drinking water.
A scenic patchwork of rich farmland speckled with pastelwashed villages of thatch and timber, the views interrupted by mighty oaks and ashes presided over by the hurrying skies.