The stunning Tudor gatehouse near Colchester the tallest in UK first built by a friend of King Henry VIII

Layer Marney Tower near Colchester in Essex
Layer Marney Tower near Colchester in Essex -Credit:Brentwood Gazette

A famous brick mansion in Essex has been enchanting visitors for more than five centuries - and remains one of the top historical sites to stay in the county. Layer Marney Tower, near Colchester, dates back to the Tudor times and was started by a close friend of King Henry VIII.

To date, it is the tallest Tudor Gatehouse in the UK, boasting an elegant red-brick design with huge octagonal towers which stretch into the skies over the countryside near Colchester. The tower itself stands at 80 feet tall, and the construction of the building was started by Lord Henry Marney, a close friend of King Henry VIII.

Nowadays, the structure is used by people who want to step back in time and stay in accommodation that echoes back to centuries ago, with one of its popular options being outside glamping [glamour camping] under the stars. The tower has six tents tucked into the woods in the grounds, with Layer Marney Tower saying it is the "ultimate camping experience".

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The lodges have their own pizza ovens and luxurious interiors, with some of them even having their own hot tubs. Guests will be introduced to the grazing animals during feeding time each morning in the tower's courtyard. The cosy canvas hideaways are nestled in birch, ash and alder trees that people will share with pheasants, woodpeckers, muntjac deer and owls.

During your stay, you will have free access to the tower when it is open, where you can learn about the ups and downs in its history, join in the fun and get a stunning view all the way to the sea from the top. For the adventurous, fly your kites, organise your own cricket or football in the big fields or climb up the farm’s spider web frame.

Inside one of the glamping tents at Layer Marney Tower
Inside one of the glamping tents at Layer Marney Tower -Credit:Publicity Picture

Some tents come with a hot tub as a bookable extra, and when the sun sets, grab some marshmallows from the honesty shop and gather around the campfire. Glamping starts from £159 per night, with a three-night minimum stay.

Layer Marney Tower was built to the height of fashion, much to Henry VIII’s delight. The palace was never finished as Henry Marney died in 1523 and his son two years later. Since its inception, the tower has been home to 11 families across five centuries.

A hot tub with one of the glamping tents
A hot tub with one of the glamping tents -Credit:PR

The front facade and stable block (now the Long Gallery) were built and still stand today. The church was completely refurbished by Henry Marney to accommodate his family’s effigy tombs and the Medieval Essex Barn was integrated into the courtyard. With no local stone, Lord Marney used stone coloured terracotta decorations on the windows with Italianate mouldings making it one of the most sophisticated buildings of its time.