Days out for less

PUBLISHED: 11:43 07 April 2014 | UPDATED: 11:43 07 April 2014




With the days getting longer and the countryside burgeoning with fresh new life, spring is the perfect time to get out and about in the county and discover some great days out on your doorstep. As an added incentive, this year, once again, Visit Essex has teamed up with top attractions and restaurants across the county to compile a cheque book of discounts and special offers, so that you can get more from your day out for less.

With a huge range of savings at more than 50 different locations, you’re sure to find something to do, whatever your interests. Here, Essex Life helps you pick some top treats from the themes of Get Active, Historic Houses, Museums & Gardens, Food & Drink, Fun Family Days Out as well as Pampering & Shopping. So get out and explore, experience and enjoy what makes Essex special.

Get active

Hatfield Forest

Takeley, Bishop’s Stortford CM22 6NE

01279 870678

The best surviving example in Britain of an almost complete royal hunting forest, perfect for tranquil woodland walks, family-friendly bike rides and lazy hazy picnics.

Offer: Half price car parking entry £2.50 (normal price £5)

RSPB Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve

Purfleet RM19 1SZ

01708 899840

Set on a mosaic of medieval marshland next to the River Thames, this is one of the best places in the county to spot birds, with boardwalks, huge picture windows and frequent sightings of birds of prey and other rare species.

Offer: 2 for 1 and kids go free. Entry for up to two adults and four children for the price of one adult

High Beech Riding School

High Beech, Waltham Abbey EN9 3QL

0208 508 8866

This family-run riding school is located right in the heart of Epping Forest, with more than 6,000 acres of woodland to explore, and caters for all ages and abilities, from beginners to experienced riders.

Offer: 20% discount for a ride out or lesson off the published price list

Blackwater Dawn

Sandford Lock, Chelmsford CM2 6NX

01206 853282 or 07802 514400

Step on board the Blackwater Dawn and enjoy a tranquil river cruise along the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation in the heart of Essex, passing through a traditional lock. One and two-hour trips and charters are available.

Offer: One free child passage with each fare paying adult on a confirmed Sunday River Trip

Rope Runners

Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood CM15 0LA

01277 364470

Test your nerve on six adventure rope courses through the treetops or have a go at archery, air rifle shooting, paintball targets, water zorbing or quad biking. There’s even a thrilling tunnel adventure – if you’re brave enough!

Offer: 2 for 1 on adult tickets only

Waldegraves Family Holiday Park

Mersea Island C05 8SE

01206 382898

Holder of the coveted David Bellamy Gold Award for Conservation, Waldegraves has been voted Best Holiday Park in Essex two years running and is located on Mersea Island with its own private beach.

Offer: 2 for 1 on a round of 18-hole Pitch & Putt Golf (open to residents and non-residents)

Warley Park Golf Club

Little Warley CM13 3DX

01277 224891

Relax over a friendly game while soaking up some good fresh air at this superb 27-hole golf course, one of the most established in the south east, with lakes, mature woodland and sweeping countryside views.

Offer: 2 for 1 offer on green fees

More great days out

West Essex Golf Club

Chingford E4 7QL

0208 8529 4367

Offer: Free introductory 30-minute golf lesson plus buy one 18-hole adult green fee and receive a complimentary glass of house wine or pint of beer

Mayhem Paintball

Abridge, Romford RM4 1AA

01708 688517

Offer: 100 extra paintballs with pre-booked paintballing packages

Historic Houses, Museums & Gardens

Audley End House and Gardens

Saffron Walden CB11 4JF

01799 522842

Uncover the secrets of life above and below stairs at this decadent 17th century mansion built to entertain royalty. New for 2014, Audley End reveals even more of its fascinating past when it opens up new rooms to the public, including the nursery suite, for the very first time.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Hedingham Castle

Castle Hedingham CO9 3DJ

01787 460261

Conjure up images of jesters and great feasts at this magnificently preserved Norman fortress set in gorgeous grounds, which creates a memorable backdrop for special events throughout the year including the action-packed Medieval Siege and Fair on April 20-21.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission (offer includes Medieval Siege and Fair)

Gardens of Easton Lodge

Great Dunmow CM6 2BB

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 now been partially restored to its former glory.

Offer: 2 for 1 on adult admission to the gardens on any of our public open days – saving £3.50

Ingatestone Hall

Ingatestone CM4 9NR

01277 353010

One of the county’s hidden treasures, this exquisite 16th century manor house was built by Sir William Petre, Secretary of State to four Tudor monarchs, and contains many treasures. Look out for special spring events including an exhibition by the Guild of Essex Crafts on April 26 and 27.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Layer Marney

Nr Colchester CO5 9US

01206 330784

Featuring the tallest Tudor gatehouse in England, Layer Marney Tower was originally intended to outshine Hampton Court Palace, though sadly it was never completed. Children will love meeting the livestock along the farm trail, while there’s also a packed programme of activities.

Offer: One child goes free with every full paying adult

Paycocke’s and Grange Barn

Coggeshall CO6 1NS

01376 561305 and

Enjoy a history-filled day out in the pretty pastel-washed village of Coggeshall, bristling with antique shops and home to two fascinating properties – the Tudor merchant’s house of Paycocke’s and the vast medieval Grange Barn.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission at the Coggeshall properties

RHS Garden Hyde Hall

Rettendon, Chelmsford CM3 8ET

0845 265 8071

Constantly expanding and improving, this is a garden of inspirational beauty with a range of spectacularly-planted horticultural styles complemented by sweeping panoramas and big open skies.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Green Island Gardens

Ardleigh CO7 7SP

01206 230455

Year-round interest is guaranteed at this beautifully-designed 20-acre garden, packed with unusual plants. Spring highlights include the camellias and azaleas in the woodland garden, carpeted with bulbs.

Offer: 20% discount on all adult admission tickets to the gardens


Colchester Castle (Re-opening May 2, 2014)



01206 282939

Colchester’s most famous landmark welcomes back visitors from spring 2014 after a £4.2 million refurbishment. Come and discover the new-look museum with its fresh interactive displays, hands-on fun and exciting new exhibits.

Offer: £15 family ticket (2 adults 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children)

More great days out




01206 577067

Offer: 10% off membership, free family activity pack plus 2 for 1 on hot drinks at MUSA Café Restaurant

Valentines Mansion & Gardens

Ilford IG1 4XA

0208 708 8100

Offer: 10% off purchases in the gift shop

The Beth Chatto Gardens

Elmstead Market, Colchester CO7 7DB

01206 822007

Offer: £1 voucher for each person paying full admission to be used in the tearoom or shop on day of entry

Prittlewell Priory

Southend on Sea SS2 6NB

01702 434449

Southchurch Hall

Southend on Sea SS1 2TE

01702 467671

Offer: Buy a hot drink and Island Bakery biscuit deal for £2 and get another free

Food & drink

The County Hotel

Chelmsford CM1 2PZ

01245 455700

Treat yourself to a meal or afternoon tea at this AA Rosette hotel, where the emphasis is on good food and customer care. This hotel is the perfect partner to a trip to the theatre or a day of retail therapy.

Offer: 15% off afternoon tea finger sandwiches, homemade scones, jam and cream, a selection of homemade cakes and tea or coffee (2.30pm to 5pm) plus free dessert with every two-course meal when choosing items from the normal two-course restaurant set lunch

Down Hall Country Hotel

Hatfield Heath, Nr Bishop’s Stortford CM22 7AS

01279 731441

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

Offer: £5 off afternoon tea (per person)


Chelmsford CM2 6FA

01245 252086

Right by the river in the centre of town, giraffe is all about freshly-cooked food inspired by the best flavours from around the world together with great music, guaranteed to make you feel good.

Offer: 30% off food

Waltham Abbey Marriott Hotel

Waltham Abbey EN9 3LX

01992 717170

Nestled on the outskirts of historic Waltham Abbey, between the ancient woodlands of Epping Forest and the Lee Valley Regional Park, and just a stone’s throw from the Lee Valley White Water Centre, this four-star luxury hotel is the perfect choice for a celebratory meal to round off that special day out.

Offer: 20% off food when dining in the Thyme Restaurant

Holiday Inn Southend

Southend on Sea SS2 6XG

01702 543001

Treat yourself to a meal in this contemporary restaurant on the 5th floor of the Holiday Inn, with far-reaching views across Southend Airport and the surrounding Essex countryside.

Offer: 20% off food and beverages plus 4 traditional afternoon teas for the price of 2 in the 1935 Rooftop Restaurant Southend

Loch Fyne Chelmsford

Chelmsford CM1 1GD

01245 293620

Loch Fyne Loughton

Loughton IG10 2RB

0208 532 5140

Starting life as an oyster shack on the west coast of Scotland, Loch Fyne restaurants are famous for delivering the freshest sustainably-sourced seafood, complemented by a warm welcome.

Offer: 25% off food

West Street Vineyard

Coggeshall CO6 1NS

01376 563303

The contemporary eco-barn at this working vineyard blends into the landscape among the vines and offers an informal cafe, tasting cellar, wine school and stylish wine and gift shop.

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

Wilkin & Sons Ltd - Tiptree Jam Company

Tiptree CO5 0RF

01621 814524

The popular tea rooms at Wilkin & Sons are also the location for the company’s museum (free). Miniscule and quirky it provides a fascinating insight into this Essex institution. As luck would have it, the company also has four more tea rooms across the county, all within a teaspoon’s throw of some fabulous country walks.

More great days out

Food Company

Marks Tey, Colchester CO6 1ED

01206 214000

Offer: 10% off your food bill in The Food Company Restaurant

Marlborough Head Inn

Dedham CO7 6DH

01206 323250

Offer: Free dessert with every adult meal

Mill Race Garden Centre

Aldham, Colchester CO6 3QT

01206 242521

Offer: Buy one get one free on hot drinks or hot food

Naze Tower

Walton on the Naze CO14 8LE

01255 852519

Offer: 2 for 1 on tea and coffee

Fun Family Days Out

East Anglian Railway Museum

Wakes Colne CO6 2DS

01206 242524

Adjacent to one of the largest railway viaducts in the east of England, this open-air museum houses 100 years of railway history with a varied collection of rolling stock, working signal boxes, a restoration shed and railway ephemera aplenty. Regular steam days and special events also take place.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Barleylands Farm Park

Billericay CM11 2UD

01268 290229

Enjoy free range family fun with plenty of opportunities to feed and cuddle the animals, plus a narrow gauge railway, tractor and trailer rides, indoor and outdoor play zones and daily animal activities to make this a packed day out.

Offer: Free child entry with every full paying adult

Epping Ongar Railway

Ongar CM5 9BN

01277 365200

Take your seat on a period coach and travel back in time on the longest heritage railway in Essex. Tickets are valid all day allowing you to get off and explore and include vintage bus links from local stations.

Offer: Free child entry with every full paying adult

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker
Kelvedon Hatch CM15 0LA

01277 364883

Buried 80ft 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 a nuclear war. Today it offers a fascinating day out.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park

South Woodham Ferrers CM3 5WP

0845 034 511

Find close encounters of the furred and feathered kind. Meet the animals along the farm trail and enjoy a range of farming demonstrations and brilliantly bumpy trailer rides. There is an adjoining country park with walks along the River Crouch – perfect for post-picnic strolls.

Offer: One free child entry with a full paying adult

Southend Pier

Southend on Sea SS1 1EE

01702 618747

This well-loved symbol of Southend, with its iconic train, is also the longest pleasure pier in the world at 1.33 miles. Check out the RNLI station and the events, concerts and exhibitions at the Royal Pavilion or just soak up the views from the Pavilion Café.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Lee Valley Park Farms

Waltham Abbey EN9 2EF

01992 892781

Discover the best kind of farm fun for a great value day out with cuddly creatures, tractor rides, indoor and outdoor play and fantastic events. For even more family fun, combine your visit with the Easter County Fair at Lee Valley Country Park on April 20 to 21 to witness birds of prey flying displays, The Goat Show including bottle feeding lambs & kids, terrier racing and motorcycle stunt riding. Adult admission is £7.50 with children just £3 and under fives free.

Offer: One child goes free at Lee Valley Park Farms with every full paying adult or adult concession

Redwings Ada Cole Rescue Centre

Broadley Common, Nazeing EN9 2DH

01508 481000

Trot along to Redwings, home to Dolly together with 50 or so other rescued horses, ponies and donkeys. Established in memory of its namesake animal campaigner, the centre offers a range of walks and horse care demonstrations to satisfy even the biggest pony fanatic. Free admission.

More great days out

Colne Valley Railway

Castle Hedingham CO9 3DZ

01787 461174

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Old Macdonald’s Farm Park

Brentwood CM14 5AY

01277 375177

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission

Pampering & Shopping

Aqua Springs at Leisure World

Colchester CO1 1YH

01206 282010

After a spot of self-indulgence? Allow yourself to be caressed and cosseted at this Mediterranean-themed spa with its pools, saunas and steam rooms. A wide range of spa treatments are also available.

Offer: 2 for 1 on admission


Thorpe le Soken CO16 0JD

01255 860050

Located ten minutes from the pretty seaside town of Frinton on Sea, this award-winning spa is surrounded by 12 acres of English Heritage gardens and offers a range of exclusive treatments. It’s the perfect place for adults only to relax and unwind.

Offer: 15% off Spa Days for two people, Monday to Thursday

Charlie 6, Dedham Art & Craft Centre

Dedham CO7 6AD

01206 323800

Treat your home to something special at Charlie 6, with its hand-picked range of traditional and contemporary furniture, interiors and home accessories. Located in a converted church in the pretty village of Dedham, the shop forms part of the Dedham Art & Craft Centre, home to more than 60 artisans and specialist retailers.

Offer: 15% off all purchases over £15

The View at Epping Forest

Chingford E4 7QH

0207 332 1911

Nestled between the Royal Forest pub and the Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, The View is Epping Forest’s flagship visitor centre. Find out the story of Epping Forest and how to make the most of your visit or browse in the shop for books and gifts. Free entry.

Offer: 10% off all gift shop purchases at The View

Short Breaks

Lee Valley Caravan Park, Dobbs Weir

Hoddesdon EN11 0AS

0845 677 0609

With 26 miles of regional park on your doorstep offering endless opportunities for outdoor activities, this is the perfect site to enjoy a short break in the beautiful Lee Valley. Onsite fishing coupled with great facilities make it an ideal choice for tents, caravans or motor homes.

Offer: 25% off pitch fees

Park Resorts

0843 308 8823

Choose from seven holiday parks in Essex with free pools, sports courts, children’s activities and family entertainment. All offer fantastic value self-catering holidays while four also offer camping and touring with the use of all the free facilities.

Offer: Save up to an extra 10% on self-catering family holidays plus save 25% on camping and touring holidays. For self-catering holidays quote: LIVELOCAL. For camping and touring quote TOPARTNER

Essex Farmers’ Markets

Why not turn your weekly shop into a visit to one of the county’s many excellent farmers’ markets this month and give your children the chance to learn more about where their food comes from and meet the people that produce it. Head for one of the following, entry to all is free:

Wanstead Farmers’ Market on Wanstead High Street: 1st Sunday of every month

Southendon Sea Farmers’ Market on Southend High Street: 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month

Chingford Farmers’ Market, Station Road, Chingford: 2nd Sunday of every month

Gants Hill Farmers’ Market, Valentine’s Mansion, Ilford: 4th Sunday of every month

For more information visit

Launched during English Tourism Week (March 29 to April 6) the Live Local Love Local cheque book is FREE and available in libraries, Tourist Information Centres, attractions and hotels throughout the county. Pick up your copy today or download the vouchers at, where you will also find useful information and have the chance to join in as Visit Essex celebrates everything visitors love about Essex.

Latest from the Essex Life