UK breaks: Mersea Island, Essex

Creeks, a beach, fantastic skies and the all-important oysters

UK breaks: Mersea Island, Essex Mersea Island - © Visit Essex
By Stephen Emms

You might struggle to guess the answer in a pub quiz, but the most easterly inhabited island in England lies just nine miles south-east of Colchester, in Essex.

And, yes, it’s a proper island, five miles by two, which, though connected by a causeway (The Strood), is still cut off a few times a month at high tide. Mersea Island reeks of history – from rhino bones to Romans to smuggling – but its most important draw today is oysters. And so, at the anchorage, the winter sun shimmering on the mudflats.

It’s named after a racy bestseller by Sabine Baring-Gould, Victorian rector of nearby East Mersea church (who also wrote the words to ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ – and fathered 14 children).

We strolled along the salt marshes to the lovely Art Café (www.islandartcafe.co.uk), where, over coffee, I asked owner James Weaver what Mersea’s secret is. ‘The creeks, the beach, the fantastic skies and light, like a big dome, especially at night.’

Which is when you should sit outside enjoying the singsong of masts clinking in the wind and gulping down the view over the oyster beds, with their lonely fringes of tide.

Getting there

Nearest train station
Colchester, visit www.nationalexpresseastanglia.com for information.
A taxi to Mersea Island costs around £12.

Where to eat

The Company Shed
This is a shack on the beach where you bring your own bread and wine. We guzzled a platter of wrigglingly fresh seafood and a bottle of Mehalah – a zesty white from the island’s ten-acre vineyard (£8.50).

129 Coast Road, West Mersea, Essex (01206 382700/www.mersea-island.com/the-company-shed.cfm). Platter of seafood £8.50

Where to stay

The Victory Inn
92 Coast Road, Mersea Island, Essex, C05 8LS (01206 382907/www.victoryatmersea.com). Room start at £65.

Further information

For more information visit www.mersea-island.com or www.visitessex.com.

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