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Essex's first-ever city of Chelsmford initially grew to prominence for being the birthplace of the radio. Since then, however, it has evolved into a tourist destination that hosts one of the country's biggest music festivals, V Festival. It also has tremendous shopping options and is close enough to London to be used as a base for exploring the capital with the aid of car rental.
Who to Book With
In total, there are nine hire companies located mostly on the outskirts of Chelmsford. A&S Executive Ltd, close to the train station, is currently the only company situated in the centre. Enterprise, Thrifty, Europcar (which has two branches), Chelmsford Van Hire, Axe Hire, Hertz and Osborn are the other outfits in town. All generally accept bookings made online, the best way to secure a good deal.
Best Time to go
As is the case with most English towns, summer (which usually runs from June to August) is the best to visit Chelmsford. Especially during mid-August, when the town holds the Virgin V Music Festival, car hire and accommodation should be booked well in advance.
Need to Know Essentials
Those collecting a Chelmsford rental car will need the following:
- A valid British driving license
- An extra form of photo ID other than the driving license
- The booking credit card
- Some form of proof of reservation, such as a print out
Driving into Chelmsford is usually stress-free; however, the centre of the town, especially Parkway and Victoria Road, can become hectic during the rush hours of 07:00 – 10:00 and 16:30 to 19:00. Park and ride services are particularly convenient and, like other car parks around the town, cost from £2 to £8.
The centre of Chelmsford can be navigated on foot. At present, there is no metro, Underground or tram service for visitors to rely on. Despite this, however, there are plenty of buses and taxis. Heading around the rest of Essex and into central London is best done with the use of car hire.
As mentioned, there is no internal rail system in Chelmsford. Getting between the town and London's Liverpool Street station is easy, however, with the journey taking just 35 minutes to complete and trains leaving every 10 minutes. Northbound services travel to Ipswich, Colchester, Braintree, Norwich and other places nearby. Greater Anglia is the main operator of trains in and out of Chelmsford.
Numerous taxi firms, such as A1 Cars, Chelmsford Taxis Ltd, Fareway, Essex Cars and Able Cars, are operative in Chelmsford. Many can be pre-booked with agreed fares or meter taxis but may also be flagged down in town. Ranks are located on Baddow Road and the High Street, close to Pizza Express. Market Road is also a good location to pick up a taxi.
Buses in Chelmsford are supplied by First and run throughout the city, to its suburbs and to other places of note around southern England. An average return ticket for an in-town location costs around £1 to £3 per person. One of the most popular services runs directly to the Lakeside Shopping centre, stopping off at Grays and Basildon along the way.
Although mainly used as a base for exploring London, Chelmsford, which was officially made a city in 2012 around the time of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, has plenty of its own talking points. The Chelmsford Museum is found in the heart of Oaklands Park, and culture vultures won't fail to find entertainment at one of three Civic theatres located in the city centre. Shoppers also have plenty of choices between the high street and two large shopping malls. Once the city is explored in full, head out and see what the rest of the area has to offer.
London - A city that speaks for itself, can be reached by heading southwest of Chelmsford and then onto the M25 ring road. The drive into the city gives motorists a true feel for life in the suburbs of the nation's capital before the bright lights and splendour of one of the world's most popular tourist destinations are met head on.
Clacton-on-Sea - A quaint coastal town, offers a contrast to the bustling city life in London. The drive east of Chelmsford cuts through serene English countryside before arriving in one of southern England's favourite seaside haunts.
Margate - This is a little farther on than Clacton-on-Sea, but the journey is very quick once on to the M25 and then the M2. Margate is famous for its iconic clock tower and seafront, as well as the sticks or rock that are sold throughout this seaside town.