Discover Essex by bike

The Essex coutryside

The Essex coutryside - Credit: Archant

Promotional feature One of the best ways to explore Essex is by bicycle. Whether you’d like to potter through pretty villages and enjoy a quiet drink at a country pub, or love the thrill of hurtling around on a woodland track, Essex is a great county for cyclists.

Mersea Island

Mersea Island - Credit: Archant

Our region’s country parks are an excellent place for the whole family to get off-road, many with dedicated cycle routes running through them. A couple, Great Notley Country Park and Thorndon Country Park, even have cycle hire centres, so you don’t need to bring your own bikes on holiday with you. Ride along the sea wall of the River Crouch and enjoy the vistas across the grazing marshes, cycle through woodland and see the Iron Age fort at Weald Country Park, or bike through Cudmore Grove Country Park and enjoy a picnic on the beach.

Cycling is an excellent way to sightsee too, which is why we’ve created five circular cycle routes that take in some of our region’s most beautiful countryside, attractive villages and must-see landmarks. Choose a shorter ride if you’ve got less time or want to take it easy, or challenge yourself to a full day taking in the entire length of the route! The five maps also highlight cafes, pubs and restaurants, as well as places to stay overnight should you wish to make a longer break of it.

Thorndon Country Park

Thorndon Country Park - Credit: Archant

Medieval markets, mazes and Morris dancing

Fans of period architecture will be spoilt for choice as they wend their way through Saffron Walden , Thaxted , Henham and Clavering – and of course there’s the glorious English Heritage site at Audley End (don’t miss the miniature railway there, too!). Art lovers should spend a little time at The Fry Art Gallery, while the green-fingered and gardening-averse alike will enjoy a stroll around Bridge End Garden. Make sure you visit the three stunning historic churches that can be seen en route, as well as the imposing Thaxted Guildhall.

Designer shopping and country living

Taking in the pretty villages to the south-west of Braintree, this route offers options as short as 3.9 miles and as long as 54 miles. Bag a bargain at Freeport Designer Village or shop for handmade jewellery, ceramics and original art at Blake House Craft Centre. Then find out how a craft of a different kind brought prosperity to the area at the Warner Textile Archive. Admire historic buildings, including Broxted Church and Great Dunmow Maltings (and visit the museum there), before exploring the countryside along the Flitch Way or in Hatfield Forest.

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Picture-perfect villages

With more picturesque cottages and country churches than a chocolate box collection, this route around Coggeshall, Finchingfield and the Hedinghams is great for photographers, artists, or just those who appreciate a lovely view! Soak up the history at Paycocke’s House, Coggeshall Grange Barn and Hedingham Castle, and find out more about the region’s heritage at the Great Bardfield Museum. As this is Lovejoy country, why not also browse for something lovely at Finchingfield Antiques Centre or Townsford Mill Antiques Centre? There’s a couple of railway heritage centres too – Colne Valley Railway and the East Anglian Railway Museum.

Cultural sites and Constable Country

Centred around Colchester, Britain’s oldest recorded town, this route takes in some of the best historic and cultural attractions including Colchester Castle, firstsite, a contemporary art gallery, the Natural History Museum and the Mercury Theatre. Away from the town the glorious Essex countryside offers a wealth of pretty sights, including historic churches, plus the Dedham Vale Vineyard and a couple of gorgeous gardens (Green Island Gardens and the Beth Chatto Gardens). A little further north, right in the middle of Constable County, you will come to Dedham, best discovered on foot or by bike. Don’t miss The Munnings Collection at Castle House and the nearby Dedham Art & Craft Centre.

Chelmsford treats and riverside retreats

Offering seven shorter options as well as the full 57-mile-long circular, this route takes in the bustling county city of Chelmsford, the attractive riverside market town of Maldon, and numerous lovely villages including East Hanningfield and Stock. Explore the Blackwater Estuary by boat with Topsail Charters, meet the animals at Tropical Wings Zoo and Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park, or enjoy a picnic in the grounds of Hylands House, or at RHS Garden Hyde Hall. There are historic buildings a-plenty too – look out for Stock Windmill, Chelmsford Cathedral and The Moot Hall, among others.

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