The East of England counties of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Essex, and Bedfordshire have plenty to offer anyone looking for a weekend break, any time of the year. Here are some suggestions on where to go, what to see, and where to stay if planning to travel in July or August to enjoy a summer weekend break.
Weekend Breaks in July
Where to Go
Constable Country is a natural choice for July. Not all of the artist John Constable’s paintings were of the summer months, but many of his best-loved works feature the English countryside in all its green glory.
What to See
Constable’s most famous painting of all, The Hay Wain, may show the scenery around Flatford a little later in the year, when the hay-makers are at work, but July usually means good weather and the chance to get out into the scenery that moved and influenced the artist so much.
The Hay Wain features Willy Lott’s Cottage, a 16th-century building that can still be seen, pretty much as Constable saw it, near Flatford Mill on the River Stour close to East Bergholt. The cottage today is a Grade I listed building, very recognisable from the painting, although the trees and the watercourse have changed a little since 1821 when Constable painted it.
What to Do
Walking and cycling Constable Country is the best way to appreciate it, and there are numerous books and leaflets to help. Call in at any local tourist information centre, or visit a National Trust office, or the National Trust website, to find publications that guide the visitor through the Stour Valley and Dedham Vale. Explore on a weekday if possible, when it is usually quieter, to find that there are still parts of England that haven’t changed too much in the last two hundred years.
Weekend Breaks in August
Where to Go
There is no bad time to visit Cambridge, but August has its advantages for anyone who wants to visit some of the Cambridge University colleges. Most of the main colleges are open to visitors all year round, but they do close their doors during examination periods. Midsummer is safe, though, and while there are usually more visitors to the city, many of the students will be away on vacation which has a balancing effect. There’s also less danger from having a close shave with a frantic cyclist racing through the narrow streets, late for a lecture.
What to See
The summer sunshine also enhances the golden glow of the old stone buildings, and makes the town a pleasanter place to wander around. Cambridge is somewhere to see on foot. The colleges do charge for admission but in most cases it’s well worth it, especially for highlights such as Kings College Chapel. Consider joining a guided tour with one of the Blue Badge guides operating from the Tourist Office. These not only give the highlights if time is tight, but they also take people to places that are not normally accessible to ordinary visitors.
What to Do
August is also the perfect time to walk out to Grantchester. It’s a lovely stroll from the centre of Cambridge along by the river, and less than two miles to Grantchester, though it’s also possible to take a punt down along the river too. In Grantchester have an afternoon tea in the Orchard tea house, where the poet Rupert Brooke used to lodge and which inspired him to write his poem “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester” and to ask “is there honey still for tea?”
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