Summer in the UK: The wonders of the East

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Our weekly regional round-up takes Jo Fernandez into Hertfordshire, Essex, Cambridge and East Anglia

Known more for its traditional attractions than high-end hotels, the Essex seaside resort of Southend-on-Sea is enjoying a makeover.

One of the highlights is the 137-room Park Inn (parkinn.co.uk), just opened in the former Edwardian Palace Hotel on the seafront. The look is Ikea style with bold colours – rooms have canvas prints of fairground rides, referencing the Adventure Island theme park opposite – although original features can still be seen in the façade, fireplaces and mouldings in the public spaces. A blue plaque in reception honours Laurel and Hardy, who stayed here nearly 60 years ago.

Green-minded glampers should head to Alde Garden (aldegarden.co .uk) in Sweffling in Suffolk's pretty Alde Valley. The latest addition to the outdoor accommodation here is a large dome-shaped yurt, sleeping five, based on the original Mongolian bentwood design. It has solid wooden floors, soft sofas and rugs, but no electricity – at night the yurt glows with candlelight or solar-powered fairy lights. For colder nights and cooking there is a log-burning stove and solar-powered showers. Free bikes are laid on (Aldeburgh is an invigorating 11-mile cycle ride) and holistic therapies are available for weary limbs.

The Varsity Hotel & Spa (thevarsity hotel.co.uk) in Cambridge opens this month with 48 suites suitably themed on the town's academic heritage – Masters, Graduates – offering views across the city spires. Most un-studenty touches include Nespresso coffee machines, iPod docks and monsoon showers.

The previously unseen stables at the Jacobean stately home Audley End House and Gardens (english- heritage.org.uk/audleyend) in Saffron Walden, Essex, open to the public for the first time this summer. Built in the 17th century, the Grade I-listed buildings host a new exhibition highlighting the importance of horses to the property, including some fine live equine specimens to admire.

Lottery winner Sheringham Museum (sheringhammuseum.co.uk) in Norfolk has had a £1.1m facelift. It celebrates the town's development from small 19th-century fishing village to fashionable holiday resort in the early 20th century. Exhibits focus on the fishing harbour and lifeboats dating from the 1800s. Extra activities include book signings, art exhibitions and guided walks.

Check out the world's largest biodome, filled with more than 10,000 tropical butterflies, at Butterfly World (butterflyworld project.com) in St Albans, Hertfordshire. It's got Mayan-style ruins and waterfalls, too – a living rainforest that you can explore via its convenient walkways. "Phase 1" of the project is now open, featuring a butterfly breeding house, gardens and a chrysalis-shaped lake. There's a programme of summer holiday activities for children, too.

For a fragrant day out, visit Norfolk Lavender (norfolk-lavender.co.uk) at Caley Mill, Heacham, near Hunstanton, where fields of glorious lavender are turned into oil. New for this year, more than 50 varieties of bamboo have been grown in the gardens and there's a rare breeds animal centre, featuring wallabies, alpacas and prairie dogs.

Get out and about in the Bedford River Valley Park (bedfordriver valleypark.org), near the Great River Ouse. This regeneration project is aimed at creating a vast new country park for Bedfordshire. And, although it's still a work in progress – the aim is to create a harmonious mix of leisure spaces and wildlife habitats – most of this flood plain is open to the public, with a series of cycling and walking routes to follow.

Suffolk is fast gaining attention for its local produce. One place to sample it is at the recently refurbished Bildeston Crown (thebildeston crown.com) in the village of the same name. The Grade-II listed former coaching inn is the only restaurant in the county to have three AA rosettes and it is aiming for a Michelin star with award-winning dishes including mutton hotpot and cabbage (£16) as well as an eight-course tasting menu (£70).

Head for the village of Navestock Side near Brentwood, Essex, where Alec Smith gives a nod to his father and grandfather – both former fish porters at Billingsgate Market – with the seafood-laden menu at Alec's Bar and Restaurant (alecsrestaurant.co .uk), which opened last month in the former Green Man pub. Fresh fish is brought in each day from across the British Isles and rustled up into dishes such as pan-seared Scottish king scallops, with rocket and shaved Parmesan (£8.50) and grilled Guernsey skate with brown butter and capers (£17.50).

For further information, go to visiteastofengland.com



Jo Fernandez is travel editor of the London Evening Standard.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee