In January 2020, I became a columnist for Essex Life magazine, writing about doggy days out in and around the county. Here is my article about Colchester…
What to see
Start with Colchester Castle Park. The castle is the largest Norman keep in Europe and you can go inside to check it out (£10 per adult) – but not with your dog. Oddly, pets are not allowed in the Upper Park surrounding the castle but they can run free in the Lower Park. The two areas are clearly divided by a Roman wall. The lower part of the park also has a boating lake where, in the summer months, you can hire swan pedalos. These start from £4.50 for 15 minutes – and you can even take your dog along for the ride.
From Castle Park, you can also pick up the arty Town to Sea Trail. This two-mile route follows the River Colne from the centre of Colchester to The Hythe and there are 14 sculptures to see along the way. Pick up a map of the route from the Visitor Information Centre in Queens Street.
Alternatively, head to High Woods Country Park, which has acres of woodland, marsh and wildflower meadows to explore. Every year, the park hosts at least one Westie Walk for local Westies like Ernie. The 2020 events have been sadly cancelled due to Covid but usually, more than 80 dogs take part. It’s quite a sight! The park also has a visitor centre where you can grab a drink or quick snack.
Where to eat
Head to Three Wise Monkeys in the High Street. This tap house and restaurant is spread across four floors and even has a basement gin bar. The popular brunch spot serves American-style food, from chicken and waffles to wings. Dogs are very welcome both inside and out.
There are plenty of other pubs in and around Colchester that allow dogs, too. The Victoria Inn in North Station Road has treats for sale behind the bar while The Fat Cat in Butt Road has a great range of Essex ales.
If you prefer art and crafts to craft beer, however, stop for lunch at Made & Found. This quirky veggie-friendly cafe, on Scheregate Steps, specialises in all things handmade and hosts regular workshops in crafts like crochet, lino-cutting and cross stitch. All of its food is locally-sourced, too.
While you’re in the area
Explore the charming riverside town of Wivenhoe, which is approximately three miles away from Colchester. Refuel at The Black Buoy – a great community-run pub that welcomes dogs – and look out for actress Joan Hickson’s former home in Rose Lane. You don’t have to be Miss Marple to spot the blue plaque outside.