Cambridge is one of the most beautiful towns in Britain, if not in Europe. There was a Celtic settlement here before the Roman Conquest on what is known as Castle Hill. At the foot of the hill was a ford across the River Cam and the successive Roman developments probably included the building of a bridge at that point - the only one to have given its name to an English county. The 13th century saw the founding of the first college, after groups of scholars migrated from Oxford. Student hostels in the care of one the masters were established and these were the origins of the college system that still exists today. The Fitzwilliam Museum houses a magnificent collection of works of art of all kinds and the Botanical Gardens in Bateman Street date from 1846. Much punting is done on the river in summer, while the Gog Magog (or Grogingog) 'Hills' just outside the town, on the crest of which stands the Iron Age fort of Wandlebury, are popular with walkers.
Essex is the most Romanised part of Britain, as the conquerors made Colchester their capital, with many ancient roads still at least in part in use today. It was sacked by Queen Boadicea, described by Tacitus in his Annals, and has a complete 2nd-century wall and the biggest Norman keep in Europe. To see the best of Essex travel through the villages around Halstead, Dunmow and Thaxted, the area where Gustav Holst composed The Planets and H.G. Wells wrote Mr Britling Sees It Through.
Along the banks of the Suffolk border river John Constable painted his great series of Stour pictures and many of the churches, lanes, meadows, mills and farms he depicted can still be seen today. Thomas Gainsborough's birthplace can be found at Sudbury, further along the same river. A visit to the beautiful small town of Lavenham, with its great church and superb timber-framed Guildhall is also well worthwhile.
Moving north to Norfolk, a visit to Norwich, with its Norman Castle and Cathedral and many other remarkable features, is a must. But to most people Norfolk means the Broads, vast expanses of water that resulted from centuries of peat working, now explored by many on boating holidays. Also don't forget King's Lynn, while good beaches can be found along the coast.
Greenbanks Hotel & Country Restaurant
tel: 01362 687742
Main Road, Great Fransham NR19 2NA
Located in the heart of Norfolk, a 10-minute drive from East Dereham and Swaffham; Greenbanks Hotel offers an indoor heated swimming pool, a sauna and a hot tub, free parking and free Wi-Fi. The on-site restaurant provides a varied menu made of local ingredients and the chef takes great care in catering for special requirement diets and food intolerance.
Ground floor accommodation, the swimming pool, and the restaurant are fully wheelchair accessible. Greenbanks has received excellent awards from both TripAdvisor and Booking.com.
Special offer: £170 per room per night for 3-course evening meal, bed and breakfast, based on 2 people sharing. Availability permitting and excluding Sundays, Christmas & New Year, and other yearly holidays.
tel: 07899 953974
33 Orchard Street, Norwich NR2 4PR
An award winning, warm, colourful, friendly veggie/vegan home from home. A small house with a big heart. There's no TV, jacuzzi or en-suite, but there's freshly made organic cashew milk and home baked bread alongside a warm welcome and excellent customer care.
tel: 01603 631007
42-46 Bethel Street, Norwich NR2 1NR
Norwich's environment centre. To see menu or find out more go to www.greenhousetrust.co.uk
The Walnut Tree
tel: 01449 766003
Norwich Road, Thwaite, Eye IP23 7ED
A traditional English pub with a 100% vegetarian and vegan menu. Lots of gluten free options and frozen ready meals to take away. Children and dogs are made very welcome. www.thewalnuttreethwaite.com.