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A seaside town founded in the Victorian era and later developed by Billy Butlin

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Clacton-on-Sea is one of the seaside towns founded in the Victorian era. Later on, it was developed by Billy Butlin, when he built one of his huge holiday resorts here. That was in 1938, and it caused a huge influx of new visitors to the town. Throughout the century, Butlin's was a big contributor to Clacton's fortunes. Unfortunately, the camp closed in the 80s, and has since been redeveloped for housing.
By that point though, Clacton-on-Sea was already established as a popular seaside destination. Naturally, most people spend the majority of their time at the beach. There's a 7 kilometre stretch of sand here, which you can follow to the neighbouring towns of Frinton and Jaywick. The beach faces south, ensuring it gets the best of the summer rays.
Right in the middle of the shoreline you'll find the Victorian pier, which has changed markedly from its first incarnation in 1871. Back then, it was a simple wooden structure, built as a landing spot for boats. Since that time, it has been frequently extended, revamped, and updated. Today, it marks the centre of the town's entertainment district. The pier is stuffed to bursting with fun things to do, starting with an entire funfair. Besides the rides, there's also an aquarium, a few cafs, a huge amusement arcade, and plenty of places to buy ice cream.
Elsewhere on the seafront, you'll find a series of small, well-kept gardens. Each one has its own theme, such as the rose garden, and the Mediterranean garden. During World War I, these were home to several gun emplacements. In remembrance of this, a memorial garden was set up to pay tribute to those who fought.
More reminders of past conflicts can be found scattered along the shore. There are several martello towers, which are small defensive forts, built during the 19th century. One in particular, the Jaywick Martello Tower, is worth visiting. It has been restored, and converted into a community space that hosts art exhibits, and other events.
As modern as Clacton has become, there are still some small pockets of history like this, dotted around the town. Another is St. John's Church, which is by far the settlement's oldest building. There are also rumours that the The Ship Inn used to be home to gangs of smugglers, who would use underground tunnels to sneak past the customs officials.
It's interesting to hunt out these insights into the town's past. In truth though, the Clacton-on-Sea of the 21st century is fully focused on being loud, fun, and shiny. It's got everything a seaside resort should do, and because of this, it really comes alive in the summer. A series of regular events draw in the crowds, such as the carnival, with its parades and fireworks. Another clear highlight is the Clacton Air Show which takes place over two days in August. In the past, it has featured displays from aerobatic teams like the Red Arrows, and flights from historic aircraft like Spitfires and Hurricanes.
If you like the look of this, you can take flight yourself at Clacton Aero Club, which offers trips around the coast. The views are pretty special from 350 metres up in the air. The aero club also offers flying lessons, if you're brave enough to get into the cockpit.
From the air, you may be able to spot Clacton Factory Outlet, just a kilometre or two inland. This place attracts people to Clacton-on-Sea for a completely different reason. It's a huge shopping area, which offers brand name stock at discounted prices. You can pick things up for half of what they'd cost on the high street, a claim that brings in hundreds of people from Clacton, Colchester, and beyond.
Visitor Information
Clacton Factory Outlet is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm (plus Sunday's 11am to 5pm). Stephenson Road West, Clackton on Sea CO15 4TL. Tel: 01255 479595

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