Far enough from London, but close enough to the rural charms of East Anglia, Essex has made the most of its location and history.
Oysters from Colchester and Mersea Island are part of the county's heritage, likewise cockles from Leigh-on-Sea. The fertile land also produces great fruit crops, which are turned into jams, preserves and juices.
High-profile Essex restaurants revel in razzmatazz: they love a good time and put on live entertainment and special events. Alternatively, chill out in one of the county's eminently civilised country pubs.