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Gardens & Gourmet- 3 days of eating and exploring Essex

Gardens & Gourmet- 3 days of eating and exploring Essex

For gourmet food and gorgeous gardens, follow this three-day itinerary of wonderful Essex.

Day 1: Chelmsford


Your experience begins in Chelmsford, the heart of Essex. Start off the day nice and early at the horticultural gem, RHS Garden Hyde Hall, which is located amongst rolling grassy hills, not usually found in Essex.

Spend the morning exploring and admiring the array of different gardens dotted about the 360- acre estate. The Dry Garden is an interesting display of over 400 different types of ‘drought- tolerant’ plants, whilst The Hilltop Garden is the epitome of an authentic, English cottage style garden adorned with brightly coloured flowers. Finally, The Farmhouse Garden resonates more closely with that of a palatial garden, with its immaculately trimmed hedges and square flower beds. Ramble at your leisure and admire the gardens all year round.


For lunch we’re suggesting not one, but two places for a bite to eat. We couldn’t choose between The Gardeners Rest Restaurant or The Clover Café at RHS Garden Hyde Hall and decided we’d just leave the decision-making up to you!
Both serve fine quality, hearty food and the team’s head chef is dedicated to creating and providing local, seasonal and fresh food – most of which is homegrown by the staff in the on-site garden!

If you’re hankering for something really substantial then head to The Gardeners Rest Restaurant for a traditional English roast lunch on Sundays. Otherwise, expect scrumptious soups, salads, pies and more throughout the week from the fully licensed eatery. There’s also a wonderful terrace area for those warm summer days.

For those preferring a lighter bite, newly refurbished and super-stylish Clover Cafe serves speciality teas and coffee to accompany your delicious cake or sandwich. Whichever venue you choose, we guarantee you’re in for a treat nonetheless.


After a lovely morning, head to New Hall Vineyards. It’s located in rural Essex and is said to be one of the oldest vineyards in England. Wander through the vineyards and sample some of the award-winning wines. If you would like a tutored tasting, be sure to book in advance.

Established in 1969, the 100-acre vineyard has been run by the Greenwood family for three generations. Head to the Cellar Shop and stock up on their award-winning tipples, after spending some relaxing downtime meandering along the Vineyard Trail where you can learn about the vineyard’s history and how to produce some of the best English wine. Cheers to that!


Feeling peckish after a busy day, head to the Lock Tearoom,  grab a bite to eat and recharge with a nice cuppa. Home to the famous Tiptree jam and other quintessentially British products, this is the place to go for a traditional English cream tea.  Expect fresh, homemade fruit scones with Tiptree Little Scarlet jam alongside a pot of English tea. There is also a selection of freshly made cakes, sandwiches and salads on the menu.

If you’re feeling especially fancy or the afternoon in the vineyard hasn’t quite quenched your thirst, why not push the boat out even further and treat yourself to a sparkling afternoon tea for two, which includes wine?


The Lion Inn, Boreham has been transformed from a traditional pub to an elegant bistro-style restaurant with luxurious boutique rooms. After settling in, enjoy a drink in the stylish bar, decorated with vintage posters, artworks and salvaged pieces.  Follow with a meal from their gastro pub menu where you can tuck into British favourites of fish and chips, steak, homemade pies and burgers made with a twist.   


Day 2: Colchester


After a restful night’s sleep, wake up and get a good start to your second day with a full English breakfast. Make your way to the quaint little village of Elmstead Market, just east of Colchester, to visit The Beth Chatto Gardens. Born and raised in the area, Beth Chatto OBE, an award-winning plantswoman, is renowned for transforming a once overgrown wasteland into what we see today.

A real treat for the senses, you can’t help but wonder about the hard work and magic that went into transforming this once barren and forgotten land into an oasis.
With five key gardens to explore, it is estimated that visitors can spend up to four hours at the Gardens so feel free to take your time and marvel at the magic of what humans and nature can do together. A particular favourite area is The Water Garden. With a series of ponds, moisture-loving plants, and a gentle breeze in the air, you can really lose yourself in the peace and serenity in Essex’s little taste of paradise.


After absorbing the history and passion behind these wonderful gardens, take a break at The Tearoom and enjoy a traditional afternoon tea of homemade scones and sandwiches. In fact, while you’re there, why not try the Beth Chatto Gardens coffee? It’s been specially selected by the team and considered to be the best local coffee around!


The beautiful village of Dedham has lots of charming things to do in the afternoon. The quintessential country church dates back to the late 15th century and has a viewing platform that overlooks the Stour Valley, which is open to the public between Easter and Harvest.

Dedham sits along the River Stour, where punting is a delightful activity during the warmer months. Regardless of the weather, Dedham Art and Craft Centre is a wonderful stop on any itinerary. Pick up books, artwork, ornaments, furniture, clothes, jewellery, toys and then enjoy some afternoon refreshments in the tearoom before heading to your next location.


Come to the end of the day, make your way to the Talbooth Hotel & Spa for the night, a beautiful country house surrounded by picturesque Essex scenery.
Depending on your time of arrival (and energy levels!) there is a bike and canoe hire service if you fancy exploring Dedham Vale, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Essex- Suffolk border. The area itself is breathtakingly beautiful and the perfect setting for taking stock, admiring your surroundings and feeling at one with nature alongside your nearest and dearest.

When you’re finally ready to settle down for the night, we recommend the riverside restaurant Talbooth Restaurant for dinner. You will not have to travel far as it is just around the corner and is owned by the hotel. The restaurant boasts an exquisite, carefully designed menu of beautifully presented gourmet dishes alongside a generous wine list.

Day 3: 


Spend the morning at The Arboretum at Markshall Estate. During the autumn, the grounds are awash with oranges, reds and yellows as the trees signify the approach of winter. With miles of woodland, a walled garden and lakes to explore and enjoy, this location is perfect any time of year and always a wonderful way to round off your trip to Essex. There’s no better place to be at one with nature and revel in being outside.


After a hearty walk grab a bite to eat in the estates, Orchard Kitchen Café serving seasonal produce with homemade meals, freshly baked cakes and light refreshments.


Our final stop is Bardfield Vineyard. Set in the grounds of Great Lodge, a stately home and former medieval deer park the vineyard was first planted by Alan Jordan in 1989. Now producing award wining wines, take a tour of the vines and taste their 4 varieties of wine in the magnificent Grade 1 Anne of Cleves Barn. Visitors are welcome to stroll round the gardens and woodlands. Stealing the show as you leave, stop to say hello to the herd of Alpaca’s. If you ask you may even be able to feed them! 

And that’s the end of our three-day itinerary of Essex, which includes gourmet food and gorgeous gardens. Follow this guide and we guarantee that you’ll get your fill of hearty local food, plenty of the county’s award-winning wine, plus a taster of some of Essex’s long and rich history and unique venues you won’t find anywhere else in England. Of course, there is so much more to explore and experience in Essex, but for that, you’ll need a longer trip. No matter the season, your experience will be unique and inspiring meaning that you’ve got the perfect excuse to visit again and again.

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Product Information

  1. Markshall


    Explore trees from across the world in Markshall's world-class Arboretum. Discover the unique landscape that extends over 2,350 acres of Essex countryside. There is something for everyone at Markshall.

  2. RHS Garden Hyde Hall


    Set in the heart of rural Essex, and enjoying stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, RHS Hyde Hall is one of the finest gardens in the East of England and is a haven of peace and tranquillity.

  3. New Hall Wine Estate


    Located in the heart of Essex this 120 acre vineyard produces award winning wines.
    The Cellar Shop is open Monday-Saturday 10am-4pm during Spring and Summer

  4. Tiptree Tea Room at The Lock, Maldon

    Heybridge Basin, Maldon

    Bright and airy, 'The Lock' is THE place to eat on the waterfront at Heybridge Basin. Indoors or out, it offers outstanding Blackwater Estuary views.

  5. Beth Chatto's Plants & Gardens

    Elmstead Market, Colchester

    Covering 6 acres, these beautiful gardens and nursery were created by award-winning plantswoman Beth Chatto.

  6. Milsoms Restaurant

    Dedham, Colchester

    Milsoms is a vibrant restaurant and bar with 15 stylish bedrooms. We offer private dining and meeting space for 8 to 30 people.

  7. Talbooth Restaurant

    Dedham, Colchester

    Beside the River Stour on Essex/Suffolk border. Award winning restaurant offering great food, service and atmosphere.

  8. The Lion Inn


    Beautifully extended public house. 4* star inn rated and restaurant. Close to A12.

  9. Great Lodge and Bardfield Vineyard

    Great Bardfield

    Great Lodge is a tranquil rural estate in North Essex with a magnificent Grade 1 listed barn, walled gardens, vineyard and self-catering/ B& B accommodation.

Itinerary Distances

FromToDistance * (metric)
Markshall (51.89444,0.67257)RHS Garden Hyde Hall (51.66806,0.57236)23.52
RHS Garden Hyde Hall (51.66806,0.57236)New Hall Wine Estate (51.69276,0.65778)5.86
New Hall Wine Estate (51.69276,0.65778)Tiptree Tea Room at The Lock, Maldon (51.72956,0.71016)4.92
Tiptree Tea Room at The Lock, Maldon (51.72956,0.71016)Beth Chatto's Plants & Gardens (51.87449,1.00388)23.28
Beth Chatto's Plants & Gardens (51.87449,1.00388)Milsoms Restaurant (51.96158,0.9713)8.96
Milsoms Restaurant (51.96158,0.9713)Talbooth Restaurant (51.96212,0.97105)0.06
Talbooth Restaurant (51.96212,0.97105)The Lion Inn (51.75991,0.53513)33.74
The Lion Inn (51.75991,0.53513)Great Lodge and Bardfield Vineyard (51.9342,0.46319)18.02
Total Distance *118.32 miles
Estimated Journey Time3.81 hours

* Approximate distance by road

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