market town in the Uttlesford district of Essex, England

Saffron Walden is a market town in Essex, East Anglia. It's 15 miles south of Cambridge and 46 miles north of London so it's commuterland for both, and in 2021 had a population of 16,600. The town is named for the spice once cultivated here, but its main attraction today is Audley End House and Gardens.

Understand edit

Saffron is a red-gold spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, which has vivid crimson stigma and styles. The plant is sometimes called "autumn crocus" (which is also the name of a poisonous plant) and is sterile because its chromosomes are triploid. It's therefore unknown in the wild and is artificially propagated by splitting its corms. All plants are therefore clones of an ancient ancestor, created maybe 4000 years ago somewhere in the east Mediterranean - za'farān is Arabic for "golden". The stigma or "threads" are harvested by hand, and it takes 40 hours of labour to pick 150,000 flowers to yield one kilo of saffron. That kilo will cost you over £10,000 at the Cash & Carry, but fortunately only a few threads suffice to impart colour and flavour to a dish, and a gram should last a while. Although it prefers a semi-arid climate, the saffron crocus was successfully cultivated in East Anglia, with its peak in the 16th and 17th centuries. Saffron then lost out to cheaper flavourings and colourings, both from imports and from synthetics, and labour shortages rendered its intense harvesting impractical. Ironically it became more fashionable in the late 20th century when its modern sources such as Kashmir and Iran made it "exotic", therefore somehow more "authentic". There have been attempts to re-start cultivation in East Anglia but they struggle with the same practicalities that ended the Tudor trade.

Get in edit

Map of Saffron Walden

By plane edit

London Stansted Airport (STN IATA) around 12 miles from Saffron Walden. There are direct flights into Stansted from destinations in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. It is a Ryanair and base.

You can travel to Saffron Walden using public transportː

Stansted Airport Car Rental Village is on the airport campus with several car hire companies to choose from.

Other airports includeː

By train edit

1 Audley End   is Saffron Walden's railway station, in the village of Wendens Ambo to the west of the town. Bus routes 301, 319, 320 and 321 connect the station with the town centre. There is a taxi rank outside the railway station. Cyclists can use a signposted cycle route into the town, with a moderate climb.

From London, there are trains every 30 minutes from Liverpool Street (Interchangeː  CEN  CIR  H&C  MET  ELI  OGD ) in the City. Trains call at Tottenham Hale in north London (Interchangeː  VIC ), Cheshunt (Interchangeː  OGD ), Harlow Town and Bishop's Stortford.

From Stansted Airport, there are hourly trains during the daytimes.

From Cambridge, there are roughly three trains per hour into Audley End. There is also an hourly service from Norwich via Ely.

Trains are operated by Greater Anglia, plus a limited CrossCountry service during peak times from Birmingham New Street (Interchangeː  1 ), Leicester, Peterborough, Ely and Cambridge.

By bus edit

Buses call at the High Street and The Common in Saffron Walden town centre.

From Audley End railway station, routes 301, 319, 320 and 321 run direct into the town centre. Peak-time routes 59, 441 and 590 also connect the station with the town centre.

Routes from other major destinations includeː

There are long-distance National Express and Airport Bus Express coaches into Cambridge and Stansted Airport - direct from major cities including London, Birmingham and Norwich.

By road edit

Saffron Walden is set back from the major road network. Routes into the town areː

  • B184 - from       (London, Norwich, Newmarket, Stansted Airport and Cambridge)
  • B184 - from   (Braintree and Colchester), Great Dunmow and Thaxted
  • B1052 - from Linton
  • B1052 - from B1383 (Newport and Bishop's Stortford)
  • B1053 - from Braintree and B1054 (Haverhill)

Saffron Walden is close to the   between London and Cambridge. From London, the M25 and Stansted Airport, join the M11 and exit at   and follow signs. From the Midlands and Huntingdon, join the M11 and follow signs for Saffron Walden from junction  .

Get around edit

Everything is within walking distance, including Audley End one mile west.

Taxi firms include Crocus Cars (+44 1799 525511), Abel Cars (+44 1799 513313), Sewell Cars (+44 1799 501636) and Cab Rides (+44 7377 360770).

See edit

Bridge End Gardens
  • 1 Saffron Walden Museum, Museum Street, CB10 1BN, +44 1799 510333. W-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 2-5PM. Museum closes 30 minutes early during the winter season (November - February). Explore more than 2 million years of Essex's history and pre-history at Saffron Walden Museum. Meet Wallace the Lion, thought to be the first lion bred into captivity in Britain, who arrived in Saffron Walden in 1838, or the bivalve mollusc which lived in the Red Crag sea millions of years ago. Check the website for exhibitions. Adults £2.50, concessions £1.25, under 18s free.  
  • 2 Fry Art Gallery, 19a Castle Street, CB10 1BD, +44 1799 513779. Apr-Oct: Tu-F 2-5PM, Sa 11AM-5PM, Su 2-5PM. The Fry Art Gallery celebrates the art and design by 20th and 21st-century artists - foremost are the Great Bardfield group including Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious. Free.    
  • 3 St Mary's Church, Church Path, CB10 1JP, +44 1799 506024. St Mary the Virgin is the largest church in Essex, and larger than some English cathedrals. Its spire towers 193 ft (59 m) above the entrance. A stone church dates back to at least 1130 and was rebuilt several times — in the 1200s and 1400s. Former MP R A "Rab" Butler (1902-1982), architect of the Education Act 1944, is buried in the churchyard.    
  • 4 Bridge End Gardens, 17-22 Castle St CB10 1BE, +44 1799 524002. 24 hours. 2.7-hectare ornamental Dutch garden with a hedge maze, laid out from 1828, and restored to its 1870s heyday. Free.    
  • 5 Jubilee Garden is a little green space off Hill Street. A maze has been laid out on the paving of the bandstand.
  • 6 Turf Maze or Labyrinth in the east corner of The Common is probably of great antiquity, but its origin and purpose are unknown. With a diameter of 132 feet, it's one of the world's largest. You can explore and escape from it any time, as it's just grooves cut in the turf.
  • 7 Audley End House and Gardens, off London Road, Audley End CB11 4JF, +44 370 333 1181. Apr-Oct daily, Nov-Mar W-Su 10AM-4PM. Magnificent "prodigy" house: as Elizabeth I toured the country, nobles vied to create mansions suitable for her and all the courtiers and retinue. This house, created from the dissolved Walden Abbey, did so in 1578. "I know, I'll smash it all down and make a much bigger one" reasoned the Earl of Suffolk. He hosted King James I here, the least he could do since he'd embezzled royal funds to pay for it. Charles II owned it for a time. Over the 18th century Sir John Vanbrugh whittled it down to a third of its sprawl, and this is the version you see nowadays. Capability Brown landscaped the gardens. The "Temple of Concord" seen east is a mock-ruin built in 1791 to celebrate King George III's recovery from insanity, which didn't last long but they kept the "folly". Adult £21, child £12.60, concessions £18.90.    

Do edit


This tiny hamlet 10 miles east of town has three famous denizens. William Harvey (1578-1657) discovered the circulation of the blood and was buried here. Admiral Sir Eliab Harvey (1758-1830) was captain of Temeraire at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar; he too lies in the Harvey family crypt here. Dick Turpin (1705-1739) was born here and became a highwayman around Epping Forest. He fled north in 1737 when the rest of his gang was captured; in Yorkshire he took up horse-thieving, for which he was hanged.

  • Cinema: Saffron Screen is a small volunteer-run cinema within the High School on Audley End Road.
  • Audley End Miniature Railway, Audley End Road CB11 4JB (by entrance to Audley End House), +44 1799 510726, . Apr-Sep. 10 1⁄4 in (260 mm)-gauge railway opened in 1964, on a 1 1⁄2 mile circuit of the woods by the House. Adult £10, child under 92 cm £5.  
  • Golf: Saffron Walden GC is west side of town on Windmill Hill. White tees 6608 yards, par 72, visitor round £60.

Buy edit

  • Supermarkets: Waitrose is the most central, on Hill St, open M-Sa 7AM-9PM, Su 10AM-4PM. Tesco is on Radwinter Rd east edge of town, and has fuel 6AM-10PM. Aldi is south of the town in Knight Park, off Thaxted Rd near the civic amenity site, M-Sa 8AM-10PM, Sun 10AM-4PM.
  • The Market has been held since 1141. It's on Tuesday and Saturday, in the town centre.

Eat edit

Saffron crocus

Drink edit

  • 1 The Temeraire, 55 High Street CB10 1AA, +44 1799 516975. Daily 8AM-noon. Wetherspoon pub with food, understaffed and lukewarm reviews.
  • 2 Kings Arms, 10 Market Hill, CB10 1HQ (opposite Market House), +44 1799 522 768. Su-Th noon-11PM, F noon-midnight, Sa 11AM-12:30AM. a trad boozer  
  • The Market House is a wine bar on Market Hill open Tu-Th noon-11PM, F Sa noon-1AM.
  • 3 The Railway Arms, Station Rd, CB11 3HQ, +44 1799 619660, . Noon-11PM. Local community-owned pub. It is accredited under the CAMRA LocAle Scheme to promote pubs that sell locally-brewed real ale.

Sleep edit

Temple of Concord at Audley End
  • Cross Keys Hotel on High Street is a charming old half-timbered building with rooms but scores poorly for food and service.
  • Saffron Hotel, 8-12 High St CB10 1AZ, +44 1799 588882. 17-room hotel which they're trying to run with next-to-no staff. Even getting into the place has defeated several travellers. Double (room only) £75.
  • 1 The Queens Head, High St, Littlebury CB11 4TD, +44 1799 520365. 14th- to 15th-century coaching inn with 6 bedrooms. A takeover in 2022 by New English Inns has really boosted this place, good service and comfort. B&B double £70.
  • 2 Premier Inn Saffron Walden, Thaxted Rd CB10 2SG, +44 333 003 8101. Good reliable budget chain. B&B double £85.
  • 3 Piglets B&B, Top Road, Wimbish CB10 2XJ, +44 1799 599800. It's more like a Nordic chalet, with tasteful pine, sauna and pool, and earns great reviews for comfort and service. B&B double £200.

Connect edit

As of Feb 2023, Saffron Walden has 4G from all UK carriers, with mostly a good signal on the approach roads. 5G has not reached town but is getting close.

Go next edit

  • Duxford for the military aircraft collection of the Imperial War Museum.
  • Cambridge is a charming old university town.
Routes through Saffron Walden
CambridgeDuxford  N   S  Stansted Airport/Bishop's StortfordLondon
   W   E  NewmarketNorwich

Routes through Saffron Walden
Cambridge ← Whittlesford Parkway ←  N   S  Bishop's StortfordLondon Liverpool Street
NorwichCambridge  N   S  London Stansted Airport

This city travel guide to Saffron Walden is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.