Trains to Leigh-on-Sea glide past the impressive ruins of Hadleigh Castle before the landscape gives way to a seascape as the train pulls into the station. Stepping from the carriage, visitors are spoilt for choice with spellbinding scenery on either side - the mouth of the River Thames in front and the Belton Hills Nature Reserve behind. The station building itself dates back to 1934, although rail first arrived in the town in 1856 and boosted the town's Victorian fish trade by bringing a direct line to Billingsgate Market, a far faster option than the previously used road and canal. Today, the London-bound fish have been replaced by London-bound commuters, with six trains every hour to Fenchurch Street.
Cafes, pubs and restaurants - and of course the breath-taking sea view - are literally seconds away from the train, but the historic Old Leigh village centre is worth the splendid 15-minute walk. With maritime memories at every turn, keep a look out for the Leigh Heritage Centre and The Sail Loft, a former sail-maker workshop. This arresting structure is now used as the Foreshore Inspector's office. In June, the Leigh Folk Festival is a major draw, with concerts, ceilidhs, workshops and street theatre taking over the waterside town.