For beautiful counties steeped in history, visit Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire or Lincolnshire and enjoy relaxing caravan holidays in East Anglia

Pancake flat with giant agricultural plains harvesting food for our tables may be an initial perception of the east of England. It's not strictly true.

Flatter than average, maybe, however much of the land in East Anglia was once engulfed by sea and drained to provide the rich, mineral-filled loamy soils used to grow our peas and carrots. But there are hills, too. There are the pleasantly undulating Lincolnshire Wolds, for example, or the Lincoln Edge escarpment upon which the city of Lincoln rests, topped by the magnificent Norman Lincoln Cathedral – a landmark for miles around.

But level land doesn't have to be uninteresting and, indeed, when you visit East Anglia you'll find it is far from that – its very flatness provides much of its special character. There are the wetland areas of the Fens that spread across Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, as well as The Broads, so spectacular and important as an area that it's designated as a National Park.

You could say that Lincolnshire is where it all began for caravan and camping holidays – on the east coast where miles of sandy beach helped to create a love for sun and surf. And the likes of Skegness, Cleethorpes and Mablethorpe, with its blue flag beaches, are still beloved by many yearning for a good, traditional caravan holiday.

Amusement arcades and pleasure beaches aplenty there may be, but Lincolnshire's east coast is also occupied by grey seals and migrating birds that colonise wildlife reserves around Skegness, while the Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes National Nature Reserve brightens the coastline with displays of mauve sea lavender.

Disused airfields, demonstrating the major part that the county played in the Battle of Britain and World War Two, markedly dot Lincolnshire's inland rural loveliness. There are many sites to visit throughout the county to witness this aviation history, including the home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at Coningsby, near Woodhall Spa, one time home of the Dambusters Squadron.

Visit Cambridgeshire, to the south of Lincolnshire, a county not so well known for its countryside as its dominant city. A traditional university 'town', Cambridge is stuffed full of dreamy, visually appealing college buildings seen best, arguably, from a punt on the River Cam that flows through the city centre.

Though it’s the rivers and waterways around the county that help to make Cambridgeshire appealing for caravanners to visit: St Ives, on the Great Ouse River, or the cathedral city of Ely, also a riverside residence and gateway to Cambridgeshire's Fens. The National Trust's Wicken Fen provides a fantastic place from which to explore this wondrous ancient wetland habitat, to see traditional methods of farming and how important the area is ecologically today.

The Fens spills over into Norfolk, where the Great Ouse flows out into The Wash, the great chunk of water that, on a map, helps to make East Anglia's iconic bulge sweep out into the North Sea. Norfolk's most well-known area of wetland though is the Norfolk Broads. As Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons territory, it's perhaps better known for boating holidays, but there are plenty of campsites in between the 125 miles of lock-free waterways and boats are available for day hire too, making it perfect for caravan, motorhome and camping holidays, too.

Meanwhile, Norfolk's coastline extends around the 'bulge' with an almost unbroken swathe of sandy beach from Snettisham in the northwest of the county to Great Yarmouth on the east coast. The stretch of coastline from Hunstanton to Sheringham, North Norfolk's Heritage Coast, is deemed an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, while Cromer, synonymous with tasty Cromer Crab, offers the glamour of a Victorian coastal resort.

Victoria is not the only Queen to have enjoyed Norfolk as Sandringham, the Royal Family's Christmas hideaway, resides close to the North Norfolk coast just a few miles from King's Lynn. It's also close to Heacham, where the sweet scent radiating from 90 acres of Norfolk Lavender has been perfuming the air since 1935.

Overlapping Norfolk and Suffolk are Thetford Forest and The Brecks, the former a man-made evergreen forest, the latter a natural world of wild pine trees. Due south are two Suffolk towns, renowned for two very different reasons.

Bury St Edmunds is the county's cultural centre with charming historic streets and home to the Theatre Royal, Britain's only surviving Regency theatre – in addition to the Greene King Brewery. Newmarket, 13 miles west, is the home of horseracing, with The National Stud, The National Horseracing Museum, the headquarters of The Jockey Club (horseracing's governing body) and one of the world's best-loved racecourses.

Unlike the long, straight roads of the Fens, Suffolk's countryside is filled with ancient byways connecting pretty villages and towns like the idyllic Lavenham, Kersey and Sudbury, which made their wealth through wool in a medieval age. Their goods were traded throughout the world, leaving England by one of Suffolk's ports.

Felixstowe is still a major port today while others such as Dunwich (once as big and important as London) simply pretty the coastline alongside Aldeburgh, renowned for its connections to 20th century composer Sir Benjamin Britten and the consequential arts centre there and nearby Snape Maltings.

Essex has its own connections to artists – and not those on the set of TOWIE. Essex's delightful countryside – Dedham Vale in particular, on the Suffolk/Essex border – was a favourite haunt of John Constable and captured forever in several of his landscape paintings, including 'The Haywain'. It's a superb setting for a riverside stroll today.

Caravan holidays in Essex may not spring to mind quickly, but in fact if you do visit Essex, you'll find that the countryside, punctuated with attractive brick and flint villages, really is worth seeing. Head for villages around the River Stour, The Rodings and the beautiful town of Coggeshall. Or visit Maldon, the town famed for its sea salt, and the Dengie Peninsula, where you may see traditional cargo sailing vessels known as Thames Barges on the River Blackwater.

And if strolling around the countryside doesn't sound energetic enough, there's always the Lee Valley White Water Centre, near Waltham Abbey, opened for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

So, if you're interested in seeing the Roman town of Colchester and other tourist attractions, you will find that there are some good caravan parks and campsites in Essex.  

Top five things to do in East England

  1. Take a trip to Anderby Creek beach on Lincolnshire's coastline where you can visit the Cloud Bar. Far from from selling alcoholic drinks, the Cloud Bar is the UK's first purpose-built cloud viewing platform where, with mirrors and 'cloud menus' to help with identification, you can literally watch the clouds go by. The Cloud Appreciation Society has even sanctioned it. Honest!

  2. When you visit Cambridge, take a chauffeur-driven punting tour along the River Cam, through the centre of historic Cambridge. Lie back and enjoy views of King's College Chapel, the Wren Library and the Bridge of Sighs, just some of the architectural beauties that you can expect to see as you float by. 

  3. Visit Sandringham, the Royal Family's Christmas retreat close to Norfolk's north coast. The house and gardens at Sandringham are open to the public from April to October while the Estate is open all year. Both the Caravan Club and Camping & Caravanning Club have campsites on the estate, making it a perfect destination for a caravan holiday.

  4. Visit Suffolk's most dramatic areas of coastline. There's Dunwich Heath, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that colours purple in the summer months with a carpet of heather. Alternatively, visit Orford Ness National Nature Reserve, a wild and remote shingle spit finely attached to the mainland just south of Aldeburgh. Its fragile ecology is rare and of international importance even though, as a former military testing site, there may be unexploded bombs! The spit is only accessible by National Trust ferry from Orford Quay.

  5. Visit Saffron Walden and the surrounding area and go to Audley End House and Gardens, an English Heritage property of sizeable proportions. With an opulent Jacobean house, 'Capability' Brown landscaped parkland providing views over rural Essex and a vast organic kitchen garden, there's something for everyone.

When to visit East England

Taking caravan holidays in East England in March will give you a chance to witness the winter migration of thousands of wild whooper and Bewick's swans at Welney WWT Wetland Centre on the Norfolk/Lincolnshire border.

Alternatively, travel east in April/May as that's when the flat racing season begins at Newmarket, Suffolk, while the Lincolnshire Wolds Walking Festival sets off, too. 2014 is also the third year of the now annual 1000 years of Traditional Crafts festival, held at Lincoln Castle.

June, July and August showcase musical talents in various guises. Go to the Aldeburgh Festival, one of the world's most iconic celebrations of classical music, in June. In addition, there is Latitude at Southwold in July, the Cambridge Folk Festival, deemed one of the premier folk festivals in the world, in July and August, and also V-Festival, held near Chelmsford, Essex, also in August – plenty for music loving people who want to enjoy caravan holidays in East Anglia.

September and October are months to fill the belly at Norfolk Food and Drink Festival, one of the largest county-wide food festivals with over 600 events. These autumn months are also the finale to the flat racing season in Newmarket, including the famous Guineas Festival.

How to get to East England

The East of England is one of the least motorway-friendly parts of the country. It's likely that much of the driving required to get to your caravan holidays in East Anglia will be on A-roads.

The M11, off the M25, will get you to Cambridge and parts of Suffolk, with the A12 heading to Colchester and Ipswich. Access to Lincolnshire via the M1 and then cross-country through Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire or South Yorkshire is possible, alternatively the A1(M)/A1 reaches Grantham and the A15 to Lincoln.

From the Midlands, use the A14, which travels west-east through Cambridgeshire and on through Suffolk to Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich. The entire route is riddled with speed cameras every few miles – you have been warned! You can peel off the A14 at Newmarket onto the A11 for Norwich and the Norfolk Broads.

All of the roads are perfectly good for caravans, but journey times tend to be slow – the A14 and A12 are often busy with lorries, they being the only routes to and from the east coast ports of Felixstowe and Harwich.

Allow plenty of time to get to your chosen campsites in the East of England.


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