Things to do in Essex: Four castles or ruins you can visit in Essex this half term

Essex is packed full of attractions which keep locals and visitors busy all year round. From zoos to theme parks, piers to museums there’s plenty to do.

Another thing Essex has quite a few of is castles, which are full of history. Whilst some are now little more than ruins, others still stand proud just like the day they were built.

Many of the castles tell the history of Essex and the people that used to live here, as well as provide a great family day out. Here are four Essex castles that are well worth a visit:

Read more: I visited an Essex stately home and felt like I was in Bridgerton

Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle
Colchester Castle
(Image: Ricci Fothergill/ RMC)

Probably the most obvious choice, Colchester Castle is one of the top attractions in Essex. Made from the foundations of a former Roman temple, Colchester Castle, as it’s seen today, is Norman.

It is a very special example as it is the largest of its kind in Europe and is rammed full of history. The castle is now used as a museum, where you can learn all about the history of Colchester and surrounding areas; including artefacts from the bronze age, roman times, celts and more.

The castle also offers tours where you can go down into the Roman Vaults underneath, with more than 2,000 years of history to be told. Colchester Castle also holds regular events and has interactive displays perfect for children.

Where: Colchester Castle Park

Ticket price:

  • Adult – £11.25
  • 4-16 – £6.25
  • Student – £7.25
  • Concession – £7.25

Hadleigh Castle

Hadleigh Castle
Hadleigh Castle
(Image: Hadleigh Castle)

Hadleigh Castle, found in Benfleet, is no longer a full castle, however, the ruins still have a lot of stories to tell. It was built in the early 1200s and became a favourite of Edward III, later on even being used as a royal residence.

No rulers after Edward III took an interest in Hadleigh Castle and it was sold for building material in the 1550s, which led to it being demolished. Today, you can visit the ruins and imagine what it was like in its former glory and look across the Essex marshes.

The castle is open every day during reasonable opening hours.

Where: Castle Lane, Hadleigh, Essex, SS7 2AP

Cost: Free for all

Hedingham Castle

All the fun will take place at Castle Hedingham
Castle Hedingham

Hedingham Castle stands out due to its pure size, standing at more than 70ft tall with additional turrets. The castle is a Norman keep and is often described as the best-preserved one in England.

It originates from the early 1100s and today is privately owned. The keep and the grounds however are open to the public from Easter to October.

The castle also hosts regular events including medieval fairs, jousting, classic car shows and more. It can also be privately hired for events like weddings.

Where: Bayley Street, Castle Hedingham

Cost:

  • Adults (17+)- £10
  • Concessions (65+) – £9
  • Children (5-16) – £8
  • Under 5s – Free

Mountfitchet Castle

Mountfitchet Castle
Mountfitchet Castle
(Image: Mountfitchet Castle)

Mountfitchet Castle, near Stansted, is another example of a Norman structure. The site of the castle is believed to have originated as an early Iron Age fort and Roman, Saxon and Viking settlement.

Today, just remains of the castle can be seen, however, the site has been turned into an open-air museum. The original Motte and Bailey castle has been reconstructed making it the only one in the world to be built on its original site, and a replica of a Norman village has been created to help bring the history to life.

It is open throughout most of the year – just closing for winter. On a visit, you can also meet rescue animals who freely roam the grounds.

Where: Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex

Cost:

  • Adults – £14
  • 3-13 £11.50
  • OAP – £13.50

Essex Live – Colchester