For those who don’t mind wrapping up warm and embracing the chilly winter evenings, here are 8 magical Christmas light trails in Essex! Most trails take approximately one hour to complete and have various light installations with accompanying soundscapes and festival hot food and drink on offer!
Christmas Light Trail Essex
Hylands Estate, Chelmsford
🗺Greenbury Way Entrance, Chelmsford, CM2 8WQ
📅24th Nov 2023 – 1st Jan 2024
💰Adults from: £12.50 | Child from: £12
Returning to Hylands Park is Enlightened, an outdoor light trail running from 24th November 2023 until 1st January 2024. Tickets are pre-booked in advance for a time slot between 4.30pm – 9pm. It has both static and interactive lights with an accompanying soundscape.
The trail is approximately 1.6km (1 mile) long and takes an hour to complete. Tickets are from £9 for children and £12.50 for adults. Parking at Hylands Estate is included as part of the ticket price.
Castle Park, Colchester
🗺Colchester CO1 1UD
📅1st Dec 2023 – 31st Dec 2023
In 2023 there are 2 further Essex light trails, one at Castle Park in Colchester and another at Barleylands in Billericay. The Colchester Castle Park light trail is 1.5km long and takes around 1 hour to walk around. There isn’t parking directly at Castle Park, however, there are many car parks around Colchester (I usually park in St Marys).
Barleylands Farm Park, Billericay
🗺Barleylands Rd, Billericay CM11 2UD
📅1st Dec 2023 – 24th Dec 2023
The Barleylands trail is run by Enlightened, but is called ‘The Luminarium’ and is 1.4km long. During The Luminarium event at Barleylands, the Play Barn and Petting Barn will be open too (outdoor play areas will be closed). Parking at Barleysland Farm Park is free.
Tickets to the Enlightened and Luminarium events are non-refundable and non-transferable. Unless the weather causes safety issues, the light trails continue to stay open in the rain/snow. Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather!
On the 2nd, 6th, 8th, 9th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 20th & 22nd Dec 2023, the zoo open until late as part of the Enchanted Trail of Lights event. This is a completely separate event from the Magic of Christmas day time event.
The zoo shuts at 4.30pm and reopens again at 5.30pm. Visitors can enjoy the Christmas lights on a set trail around the zoo which takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete. The trail is a one-way loop.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to see any of the animals during the Enchanted Trail of Lights. There will be various light installations and dancing fountains. Seasonal food and drink will be available for purchase. On selected nights there will be performances from local brass bands.
Timed entry tickets must be pre-booked online in advance.
Glow at Hyde Hall
🗺Creephedge Ln, Chelmsford, CM3 8ET
📅23rd Nov 2023 – 30th Dec 2023 | 5pm – 9pm
💰Non Member Adults: £15.95 | Child: £8.45
Another light trail is Glow at RHS Hyde Hall. Glow 2023 is open from 23rd November 2022 until 30th December 2023 between 5pm – 9pm. It’s not open daily, so check the website for information.
Tickets must be pre-booked in advance and cost FROM £15.95 for adults (non-members) and £8.45 for children.
The trail goes around several of the different gardens at Hyde Hall. Traditional festive German food and drink is available for purchase.
Enchanted Audley End
🗺Audley End Rd, Audley End, Saffron Walden CB11 4JF
📅18th Nov – 24th Dec 2023
💰Non member tickets from Adults: £18 | Child: £9
Enchanted Audley End is a 0.8 – 1 mile long through the gardens at Audley End House. (The house will be closed during the event.) Visitors are welcome to go around the trail as many times as they like until closing time at 9pm.
There are both static and interactive installations, filling the gardens with light, sound and colour. For an additional price younger visitors can enjoy fairground rides and food and drink will be available for purchase, including marshmallows for toasting! Tickets are pre-booked in advance and have timed entry.
Nayling Road Lights in Braintree (Free)
🗺Nayling Road, Braintree, CM7 2RY
I wrote a whole post about the Nayling Road Christmas Lights! There is a street in Braintree where a large percentage of the houses all decorate for Christmas and raise money for charity.
There’s one house that creates a music light show which is awesome! One year it was Baby Shark and another was dedicated to Keith Flint where they played Firestarter by The Prodigy. Switch on is December 1st.
Parking at Nayling Road can get quite tight, especially on the weekends. Those living in Braintree should attempt to walk, or alternatively, you can park on the Springwood Industrial Estate about a 10-minute walk away.
(Disclaimer: park at your own risk. Some areas on the industrial estate are ‘no parking’. Make sure to look out for any parking restrictions and park accordingly.)
Epping Ongar Lights Express
🗺North Weald Station, CM16 6BT
📅Nov 2023 – Jan 2024 on selected dates
An alternative to the walking light trails is the Epping Ongar Light Fantastic train ride. These run on various dates between November 2023 until January 2024. Both the steam and diesel trains are decorated with hundreds of Christmas lights as well as a light display along the route. Music and story narrations are played on the train.
There are 3 departures most evenings, either 16.45, 18,25 or 20.05. Tickets are £20 per person. Santa is not on the Lights Fantastic journeys. The experience lasts approximately 1 hour.