Just a little over an hour's drive from London, is the picture perfect medieval town of Saffron Walden. Complete with pretty pastel cottages, half timbered buildings and an abundance of history. Despite its proximity to London, it felt a world away.
Naturally, we started our exploration of the town with a hearty Sunday lunch at The Cross Keys. This Elizabethan building, founded in 1569 is essentially a pub with rooms. We opted for the family sharing board with a choice of two roast (beef, chicken, lamb and vegan nut roast), giant yorkshire puddings and all the trimmings. It was our first Sunday roast out since lockdown and it did not disappoint!
Cross Keys with the original 15th Century windows (Bottom right corner)
We walked off lunch loosely following the town trail, starting at the Market Square. This town has had a market since 1149, which is still held twice a week on the square and has been since the 13th century. Along from here, we reached the Old Sun Inn - a collection of Grade 1 listed homes and shops dating from the 14th century. It was most notably used by Oliver Cromwell as his HQ in 1647.
Pretty pastel cottages on Castle Street
Walden Castle Ruins
Saffron Walden is best explored on foot, every street we turned into was equally as picturesque as the one before. Our stroll led us towards the museum area and Walden Castle ruins. We didn't go into the museum in this visit but the boys had a much needed run around the castle grounds before moving onto nearby Audley End House.
An English Heritage site, Audley End house is a fine example of a Jacobean mansion. Photography is not permitted inside the house but it is worth a visit. The Great Hall is impressive with its ornate interiors and grand portraits. The formal gardens are equally as impressive including a parterre and an organic kitchen walled garden. All set in stunning acres of parkland to explore, complete with a temple.
Our favourite part of Audley was the 1880s Service Wing, housing the kitchen, the dairy and the laundry rooms. The kitchen shelves were lined with copper pans, a pantry filled with spices and other ingredients. This was a glimpse into Victorian life below stairs. The videos projected onto the walls of each service room was a wonderful touch in bringing to life the staff who once served the main house.
We loved our day trip to Saffron Walden and it would be a great base for exploring surrounding Essex villages or further afield into Cambridgeshire.