Last weekend, I took #2 child on a Boys’ Trip out down to the genteel market town of Saffron Walden, which lies just 15 miles or a half-hour’s drive south of Cambridge.
One of the unfortunate things about Cambridge is that, although very beautiful indeed, it is a rather tiny city, surrounded by rather dull countryside – something I particularly notice having spent my teenage years between the hills of the Peak District and the vibrant, buzzy and cultural hotspot that is central Manchester – so it is easy to become complacent at times about the city’s charms.
Most of the surrounding villages and towns near Cambridge are pleasant enough, perhaps even rather nice, but somehow not quite worth the trip out, but there are a small number of exceptions to this (places such as Ely and Bury as well as Saffron Walden) if you are looking for an easy visit somewhere different.
Saffron Walden is actually even smaller than Cambridge so that, whilst a weekend will suffice to see all of Cambridge’s best sights, a morning spent wandering around Saffron Walden’s market square and surrounding lanes is more than enough.
Like Cambridge, the town has plenty of neat and well-appointed historic buildings to admire, with timbered Tudor houses, old coaching inns and elegant Georgian townhouses. It is also relatively hilly – compared to Cambridge, at least.
More notable sights include the parish church dating from 1250 (but mostly built in the late 1400s / early 1500s) and the castle ruins dating from the 1100s.
However, for me, it is the elegance of the market square and surrounding streets that provide Saffron Walden’s charm and a quiet Sunday morning is a good time to appreciate the local architecture (there are 27 Grade II* listed buildings to admire) as the town proved to be almost deserted.
Sadly for us, the town’s coffee shops all seemed to be closed as well and we ended up queueing in a clean and pleasant but uninspiring Costa Coffee chain-outlet for rocky road muffin and juice (Young Man) and a latte and a Bakewell slice (me).
It also made a pleasant change from Cambridge that most of the clientele that day seemed to be locals rather than tourists or visitors which made for a more friendly atmosphere.
For wine enthusiasts, Saffron Walden is also home to Adnams and Joseph Barnes (see my review here).
Saffron Walden Tourist Information – http://www.visitsaffronwalden.gov.uk/
Downloadable Tourist Trail Map – http://www.visitsaffronwalden.gov.uk/pdf/Saffron-Walden-Town-Trail.pdf
Copyright Tom Lewis 2012