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Spotlight on: Colchester

Sweeping between London and the sea, Essex is overflowing with beautiful, historic places – but none offer as many options for a day out as Colchester, Britain’s oldest recorded town.

Its rambling streets and stunning countryside are home to a 900-year-old castle, the oldest and longest Roman wall in Britain and one of the UK’s best zoos, as well as many other attractions. If Our Walls Could Talk, they’d tell you a story that weaves from Roman times, through attack by Boudica and Civil War siege to the present day.

If you’ve never visited before, the town centre is an excellent place to start. A treasure box of independent shops and big-name stores alike, spilled amongst charming cobbled lanes, it’s sure to delight – but the north end of the town offers something really special for all the family.

Still dominating the surrounding landscape, Colchester Castle was built by Normans on the site of a Roman temple, using some of its stone. Today, it's a fascinating interactive museum where families can marvel at ancient gold treaser, experience a siege and so much more. 

The site is surrounded by the stunning Castle Park, enormously popular for family picnics – if you haven’t brought one, visit the café, or you might venture into town to try one of Colchester’s huge range of restaurants.

Within easy walking distance, you can view the ruins of the Roman Circus and Wall, enjoy the curiosities of Hollytrees Museum and get hands-on with the Ice Age at the Natural History Museum.

Got an animal lover in your family? It’s well worth taking a short drive or bus journey to Colchester Zoo, home to 260 different creatures, from giraffes and white rhino to parrots and orangutans. Kids can feed an elephant, stroke a snake and walk among beautiful butterflies!

A trip to the zoo is good fun in any weather, but if it's sunny outside, the countryside around Colchester is a child’s paradise. Exploring the nature reserve at Fingringhoe Wick, playing at Cudmore Grove’s seaside: youngsters won't have a dull moment. Just a mile south of the centre lies picturesque Bourne Mill, a 15th-century mill with a working waterwheel. Bring a picnic, look for tadpoles in the pond, fly a kite: it's what childhood is all about. 
 
With tons of venues including the spectacular Firstsite Gallery offering arts and crafts sessions, storytelling and more, even rainy days are exciting. Colchester's theatres raise the roof with family shows that get you singing and laughing along. 
 
Still got some energy after all that? Grab your goggles and head to the pool at Colchester Leisure World, where families can spend happy hours flying down flumes and river rapids. Nearby, Roller World and the Jump Street trampoline park offer action-packed fun for even the most energetic kid – or parent!
 
Find out more about what Colchester has to offer at  VisitColchester. To be first to hear about news and competitions, follow @VisitColchester on social media and get involved in the #IfWallsCouldTalk campaign!
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