Visiting Thaxted and north-west Essex


Visiting Thaxted and north-west Essex

Thaxted and its surrounding villages and towns have much to offer for visits lasting from just an hour or two, to days out and short breaks. Thaxted is one of Essex’s most attractive market towns, dating back to before the Domesday Book, and offers a wealth of fine medieval houses, its Guildhall, John Webb’s Windmill and, of course, Thaxted Church.

The surrounding area has much to offer the visitor and is well worth further investigation and perhaps a weekend break, taking in some of the concerts at the Festival.

As a taster of what Thaxted has to offer, you couldn’t do better than read Essex author Gillian Darley’s round-up in the Guardian travel pages in March 2021 (Thaxted is the fourth entry in the listing):

Thaxted offers many opportunities for eating and refreshments, among which are:

Ocean Delight, for renowned fish and chips.

If it is fine dining you’re looking for, then the renowned Flitch of Bacon is a 15-minute drive away in Little Dunmow, while Square One, in Great Dunmow, has Alex Webb, winner of BBC TV’s 2020 Masterchef: the Professionals, as their head chef.

At the centre of Thaxted, a few metres down the hill from the church, Town Street offers a post office, newsagents, grocery store, laundry and dry cleaners, pharmacy, household goods and hardware, home decorations and a gift shop with many sustainable offerings. Spend an afternoon or a day, and you will be able to fulfil many of your everyday needs before enjoying an evening concert. Ample parking is available in town centre car parks, with modern toilet facilities. Enjoy a stroll further round the town, taking in the medieval Guildhall, the picturesque almshouses, John Webb’s windmill, sweeping views and walks around the many footpaths. Both the Guildhall and the windmill have displays inside which are open to the public most weekend afternoons.

The surrounding area has much to offer the visitor and is well worth further investigation and even a weekend break, taking in some of the concerts at the Festival.

Audley End House is one of England’s finest mansions, with gardens redesigned by Capability Brown, and is just a short drive from Thaxted. The Miniature Railway there is also well worth a visit for young and old alike.

Saffron Walden is a delightful market town with attractive buildings as well as a Saturday (and Tuesday) market, many independent shops, an ancient turf maze on its expansive common, a major local museum and restored castle remains.

It is home to The Fry Art Gallery, which hosts a nationally important collection of work by artists who lived and worked in nearby Great Bardfield as well as Saffron Walden. The adjacent Bridge End Garden, created in the 1840s, is a welcome respite from the bustling town.

If it is the outdoors you crave, then Hatfield Forest, owned by the National Trust and a 400-hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest, is the perfect place for walking and relaxing by the lake.

Accommodation is available in many hotels and B&Bs in the vicinity, including the Swan Hotel in Thaxted. On the outskirts of Saffron Walden, off the Thaxted Road, is a brand new Premier Inn, which should be open in time for the second weekend of this year’s Festival.

Please check with venues and their websites for up to date information on opening times and accommodation arrangements.