Despite what TV magnates might have you believe, Essex is actually rather beautiful - and no, not in that tango-orange kind of way. Colchester Castle is fine, but we suggest making tracks for Firstsite, a gleaming architectural feat of a gallery with a busy schedule of art exhibitions, film viewings and events. Head to Art Exchange in the University of Essex for more contemporary art, to the canvas-strewn home of Alfred Munnings for something a little more trad or hitch a ride to the beautifully curated Beth Chatto Gardens just out of town. For dinner, we suggest wrapping up warm and eating outside, under the wavy canopies of Le Talbooth. It sits pretty on the banks of the River Stour and serves up an award-winning menu of classic ingredients whipped into bougie dishes - broad bean fricassée and Granny Smith soufflé, anyone?
Where to stay? Kingfisher's Nest