Great value Easter days out

PUBLISHED: 08:57 30 March 2015 | UPDATED: 08:57 30 March 2015




From wildlife walks to fun family attractions, Visit Essex can help you get inspired with this spring’s Live Local Love Local special offers, packed with ideas for great value days out throughout the county

Spring is in the air and what better time to get out into the county and discover some great days out right on your doorstep? This spring, Visit Essex has again teamed up with top attractions and venues across the county to offer a range of discounts and special deals for fabulous days out that won’t break the bank; from battle-worn castles and lavish stately homes where you can step inside and see the past come alive to animal encounters, heritage railways, seaside adventures and watermills that are uniquely Essex. Alongside a wealth of free attractions and breathe-in-the-fresh-air outdoor spaces where you can blow away the cobwebs and reconnect with nature, there is so much on offer to prove that there has never been a better time to get outdoors this spring and enjoy some great value days out around the county.

History & Heritage

Audley End House and Gardens

Saffron Walden

CB11 4JF

01799 522842

Experience a real life period drama above and below stairs at this decadent mansion, built to entertain royalty. Meet the staff in the service wing, see the children’s stories brought to life in the nursery and explore the beautiful landscaped grounds, complete with stables and resident horses.

Offer: 25% off admission price

Bourne Mill



01206 768145

Pretty as a picture, this charming folly was converted into a watermill in the 19th century. The grounds are perfect for picnics, while a boardwalk, pond dipping and garden games promise to keep children entertained.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Epping Ongar Railway



01277 365200

Enjoy a journey back in time on the longest heritage railway in Essex, made even more special this year during the 150th anniversary of the line. Tickets are valid all day, allowing you to get off and explore, and also include vintage bus links from local stations.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission (excludes special events)

Hedingham Castle

Castle Hedingham


01787 460261

Testament to Norman power in a conquered country, Hedingham’s magnificent keep, with its vaulted Banqueting Hall and Minstrel’s Gallery, is the best preserved in England and forms an unforgettable backdrop for events throughout the year including medieval jousts.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission (excludes special events)

Ingatestone Hall



01277 353010

One of the county’s hidden gems, this 16th century manor, built by Sir William Petre, the Secretary of State to four Tudor monarchs, is still lived in by his descendants and contains many treasures.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission (excludes special events)

Layer Marney Tower

Nr Colchester


01206 330784

With its striking Tudor gatehouse (the tallest in England), this imposing structure set in beautiful gardens was originally planned to outshine Hampton Court Palace. A circular trail leads through the rare breeds farm while there’s also a varied programme of events.

Offer: One child free with paying adult

The Munnings Art Museum



01206 322127

Best known for his equestrian portraits, Sir Alfred Munnings lived in this large country house for 40 years. Restored today, it contains a superb collection of his paintings, including many of the rural Dedham scenes he loved.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Paycocke’s House and Grange Barn



01376 561305

Enjoy a history-filled day in the pastel-washed village of Coggeshall, bristling with antique shops and packed with medieval and Tudor buildings including the ornate Paycocke’s merchant’s house and 13th century monastic Grange Barn.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

More great value heritage

Alderford Water Mill

Alderford Street, Sible Hedingham

C09 3HZ

0845 603 7624

Admission Free

Cressing Temple


CM77 8PD

01376 584903

Admission Free (non-event days)




01206 577067

Admission Free

Arts, Crafts & Antiques

With more than 70% of Essex classified as rural, it’s a great place to browse a range of local crafts, and all for free. Barleylands is home to more than 60 specialist workshops where you can watch artisans like glassblowers and blacksmiths at work producing their unusual gifts. Alternatively head for Dedham Arts & Crafts or Blake House, where a range of craftsmen and specialist shops in beautiful historic settings sell everything from original art to handmade jewellery.

More than 14,000 listed buildings also make the country a renowned hunting ground for lovers of antiques. Try Debden Barns, housed in a 17th century barn outside Saffron Walden, or, on a larger scale, hop over to Battlesbridge, the biggest antiques centre in Essex, which houses more than 80 dealers.

Barleylands Craft Village


CM11 2UD

01268 532253

Battlesbridge Antiques & Craft Centre


SS11 7RF

01268 769000

Blake House Craft Centre


CM77 6RA

01376 344123

Debden Barns

Saffron Walden

CB11 3JY

01799 544018

Dedham Art & Craft Centre



01206 322666

Family Fun

Braintree District Museum



01376 328868

This award-winning museum explores the history of the district from key industries like textiles to local man John Ray, founder of the scientific study of the natural world. A full programme of events includes children’s activities on Saturdays and during school holidays.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Colchester Zoo



01206 331292

Ranked by TripAdvisor among the world’s top 20 zoos, this constantly evolving attraction provides sanctuary and survival hope for over 270 species. Land train adventures, walkthrough enclosures, play zones and more than 50 daily displays add to the mix. Look out for the free-flying butterfly house opening this year.

Offer: 10% discount for up to four people

Colne Valley Railway

Castle Hedingham


01787 461174

Railway history comes alive at this popular attraction with its steam and diesel rides, railway sheds and working signal box. A Post Office carriage, model railway, miniature train ride and museum, together with special event days and a woodland trail, add to the fun.

Offer: One free admission with full paying adult (excludes special events)

East Anglian Railway Museum

Wakes Colne


01206 242524

Adjacent to one of eastern England’s largest railway viaducts, this open-air museum houses 100 years of railway history with preserved locomotives, signal boxes, railway ephemera and special events and steam days aplenty.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission (excludes Days Out With Thomas and Beer/Cider Festival)

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker

Kelvedon Hatch

CM15 0LA

01277 364883

Buried 80 feet below the Essex countryside, this once top-secret bunker was designed to house up to 600 personnel charged with organising the survival of the population in the aftermath of nuclear war. Today it offers a fascinating day out.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Museum of Power

Langford, Maldon


01621 843183

Steam, water, nuclear, muscle – everything you want to know about powered energy is housed in this innovative museum set in a former pumping station. The grounds also include a miniature railway and model village (limited opening).

Offer: One child free with paying adult (special events not included)

Southend Museums

Four of Southend’s top heritage attractions are completely free to visit: Prittlewell Priory, Southchurch Hall, Beecroft Art Gallery and Central Museum. Combined with Southend’s award-winning beaches, they make for a packed family day out by the sea.

Admission Free (excludes Planetarium & Cliff Lift)

Southend Pier

Southend on Sea


01702 618747

This well-loved Southend icon, with its quirky train, is the longest pleasure pier in the world at 1.33 miles. Breathe in the sea air on an energising walk, check out the RNLI station and the special events at the Royal Pavilion or just soak up the views from the Pavilion Café.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission (excludes summer walk tickets and special events)

Great value rainy day ideas

Laser Kombat


SS13 1LJ

01268 208660

Offer: Buy one game get one game free

Partyman World of Play


RM20 2ZP

01708 890033


SS13 1LJ

01268 208660

Offer: £5 Eat & Play voucher (not valid during Feb/Oct Half Term or Bank Holidays)

Something different

Mayhem Paintball

Abridge, Romford


01708 688517

The ultimate in paintball excitement, this established venue includes 15 different themed playing areas and top-quality equipment and facilities making for an exhilarating day out for all ages.

Offer: Receive 100 extra paintballs on arrival

Farm Attractions & Outdoor Spaces

Barleylands Farm Park & Craft Village


CM11 2UD

01268 290229

Jump on the miniature train, meet farmyard friends, run wild in the play zones, hop aboard the trailer ride and join in the daily animal activities at this popular attraction which also boasts a free-entry craft village and twice-monthly farmers market.

Offer: One child free with a full paying adult

Bobbits Hole Nature Reserve


CO12 3HJ

01255 553610

This small wooded reserve, complete with boardwalk and beehives, is set around a lake and is a valuable haven for wildlife including seabirds and kingfishers.

Admission Free

Hatfield Forest

Takeley, Bishop’s Stortford

CM22 6NE

01279 870678

Whether you want somewhere for the children to run off steam or a place for quiet reflection, this ancient hunting forest, once owned by kings, is perfect for family bike rides, building dens, picnics by the lake and tranquil walks.

Admission Free. Charge for car park.

Lee Valley Park Farms

Waltham Abbey


01992 892781

Enjoy animal encounters, toboggan rides, exciting play areas and a range of events at this popular farm adjacent to the Lee Valley Country Park. Catch a tractor ride to milking time and look out for the new outdoor play zone and meerkat enclosure opening this spring.

Offer: One child free with paying adult

Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park

South Woodham Ferrers


01245 321552

Children love getting up close to the animals at this working farm, which is the weekend home of Shaun the Sheep when visitors can also take part in the Championsheeps Live Games! With goat racing, pony rides, shows, birds of prey and trailer rides into the adjoining country park, it’s a firm favourite for a full day out.

Offer: 2 for 1 on off-peak days; 20% off weekends and school holidays

Old MacDonald’s Farm


CM14 5AY

01277 375177

Set in 22 acres of countryside, Old MacDonald’s houses a range of animals from farmyard favourites to exotic species like wallabies and meerkats, together with an exciting choice of rides, play areas, amusements and shows to entertain and educate young visitors.

Offer: £12 off child admission online or £10 off at the gate

Redwings Ada Cole Rescue Centre

Broadley Common, Nazeing


01508 481000

Sanctuary for more than 50 rescued horses, ponies and donkeys, this heart-warming attraction provides the perfect day out for pony fanatics with walking tours, horse care demonstrations and plenty of opportunities to make friends with the residents.

Admission Free

Call of the Wild

With its long shoreline fretted with tidal estuaries, mudflats and great swathes of saltmarsh, the Essex coastline is a haven for birdlife. The county’s largest wetland area is located around the South Essex Marshes, home to the RSPB reserves at West Canvey Marsh and Bowers Marsh (both free entry), wonderful places to explore on foot along the miles of nature trails, dotted with viewing points.

Just up the coast, RSPB Wallasea (free entry) is also well worth a visit with its rich birdlife and sweeping views across to Burnham on Crouch. The reserve is the location of a unique conservation project to recreate an ancient wetland landscape with soil excavated from London’s Crossrail and a breezy walk along the seawall allows you to watch this incredible engineering feat in progress.

There are many other RSPB sites throughout the county – from Rainham Marshes on the fringes of East London, with its boardwalks, hides and huge picture windows, to the reed fringed creeks and coastal wilderness of Old Hall Marshes near Maldon. Some carry a small entry fee but many are free. For more information visit

Green-fingered Glories

Bridge End Garden

Saffron Walden

CB10 1HR

01799 524002

Tucked away in the back streets of pretty Saffron Walden near the Fry Art Gallery (also free entry), this lovingly restored Victorian garden consists of seven interlinked areas, and includes a formal knot garden and popular hedge maze.

Admission Free

The Gardens of Easton Lodge

Great Dunmow


01371 876979

This idyllic Grade II-listed haven was designed by Harold Peto for renowned hostess and mistress of Edward VII, the Countess of Warwick, and has been partially restored to its former glory.

Offer: 2 for 1 on adult admission

Green Island Gardens



01206 230455

This beautifully-designed 20-acre garden is brimming with unusual plants. Spring highlights include the camellias and azaleas in the woodland garden, carpeted with flowers.

Offer: 25% off adult admission

Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum



01376 563796

Choose from a range of trails at this 200-acre estate, set around a formal lake. With an 18th century walled garden, exotic trees, play area and leafy woodland walks, it’s a beautiful place to witness the changing seasons.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Myddelton House Gardens

Bulls Cross, Enfield


0845 677 0600

Created by famous plantsman EA Bowles, the enchanting gardens at Myddelton are full of quirky touches and a tranquil place to wander.

Admission Free (fee for car park)

RHS Garden Hyde Hall

Rettendon, Chelmsford


0845 265 8071

This stunningly-planted garden, with its sweeping panoramas and big open skies, is one of four RHS gardens in the country and is packed with interest, while an excellent programme of holiday activities make it a great day out for both plant lovers and families.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Country Parks

Nestled in a variety of landscapes from heathland teeming with butterflies to lonely coastal marshes, the county’s country parks are the perfect places for the whole family to blow away the cobwebs. Criss-crossed with footpaths and cycleways, they offer a huge range of activities from the simple pleasures of kite-flying and summer picnics to horseriding, fishing, sports grounds and adventure playgrounds. All are free to enter and at some you don’t even have to pay to park. For more information visit

Eating, Sleeping & Indulging

1935 Rooftop Restaurant & Bar

Southend on Sea


01702 543001

Indulge in a meal in this contemporary restaurant on the fifth floor of the Holiday Inn - the only roof top restaurant and bar in Essex, with far-reaching views across Southend Airport and the surrounding countryside.

Offers: 20% off your bill; 4 Afternoon Teas for the price of 3 and more

The County Hotel



01245 455700

Just a short stroll from the High Street, this AA Rosette hotel is a great place to treat yourself to a meal. With the emphasis on good food and customer care, it’s the perfect partner to a trip to the theatre or a day of retail therapy.

Offer: 20% off food (pre-booking essential)

Down Hall Country House Hotel

Hatfield Heath

CM22 7AS

01279 731441

Nestled in 110 acres on the Essex/Hertfordshire border, Down Hall is a luxury country house at its best, the ideal choice for a relaxing escape, traditional afternoon tea or a special meal.

Offer: 25% off Traditional Afternoon Tea

Lee Valley Caravan Park


EN11 0AS

0845 677 0609

With 26 miles of regional park on your doorstep offering endless opportunities for outdoor activities (from onsite fishing to white water rafting), this is the perfect site to enjoy a short break in the rural Lee Valley.

Offer: 25% off pitch fees

Lifehouse Spa & Hotel

Thorpe le Soken

CO16 0JD

01255 860050

After a spot of self-indulgence? Ten minutes from the pretty seaside town of Frinton on Sea, this award-winning contemporary spa, set in historic gardens, offers a range of exclusive treatments allowing you to relax and unwind.

Offer: 15% discount on Spa Days; 2 for 1 on Midweek Lunch; 10% discount on Afternoon Tea

Park Hall Country House

St Osyth

CO16 8HG

01255 820922

Romantic short break or relaxing holiday, this exceptional 14th century former monastery set in 400 acres is a very special place to stay with its oak beams, open fires, luxurious bedrooms and award-winning breakfasts.

Offer: 3 nights for the price of 2

Waldegraves & Cosways Family Holiday Parks

Mersea Island

C05 8SE

01206 382898

Three-time winner of the Best Holiday Park in Essex award, Waldegraves, like its sister park Cosways, is set on its own private beach on Mersea Island. Both parks make for a memorable break with private slipways, swimming pools and a full programme of entertainment.

Offer: 2 for 1 on desserts in The Granary Restaurant

West Street Vineyard



01376 563303

This working vineyard combines prize-winning wines with great-tasting food, all dished up in a contemporary eco barn with lovely countryside views. There’s also a wine school, tasting cellar and stylish wine and gift shop.

Offer: 2 for 1 on cream tea PLUS 2 for 1 on a wine tasting session

Vouchers for all the offers listed here together with full details and conditions can be found at The site is also packed with useful information, so download your vouchers today and start planning your own day out for less.

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