Enlightened Chelmsford Review: Light Trail at Hylands Estate

Enlightened at Hylands Estate in Chelmsford is an absolutely magical light trail in Essex. They have managed to combine pretty lights and interactive features with a whimsical charm that makes you believe in fairies.

A light projection on to a building saying Enlightened
A light projection at Enlightened

Enlightened Light Trail At Hylands Estate Review

What Is The Enlightened Light Trail Like?

I would guess the trail is about 2km long and with 3 children and stopping to play with the interactive bits it took us just over an hour.  The displays are a combination of light tunnels, projections, light features, videos and more. There weren’t lanterns like at Lightopia, but there were some really clever designs and displays. 

Of the three light trails I visited this year Enlightened has the most interactive features for children and my children loved them. There is a small maze, a musical band, lights you can push to change colour, coloured circle lights that change colour when you step on them and light beams you can control, as well as the chance to write down your wish and leave it in a magical area.

2023 Edit: Much of the lights are the same, although the route and order has changed. The order of the lights below is the 2022 order. There are also some additional lights this year. The biggest change though is the route takes you up towards the Stables area of the house (just after the Make A Wish display). The outside courtyard space has The Dog House open for hot and cold drinks and snacks and a couple of food stalls, further round there is a pizza van (including a Christmas pizza option) and then in the Stables courtyard there is a bar selling mulled wine, hot chocolate and other drinks. We went at a weekend and some of the artists studios were open, as well as the toilets. After this section you go back on yourself and rejoin the trail. 

Some of what you will see: 

The light tunnel at the start has fairy lights which change different colours.

A light tunnel full of changing coloured fairy lights
At the start and end of the light trail you go through a long tunnel surrounded by fairy lights

After a talking tree (light projection) which welcomes you to the trail and asks you to stick to the paths and a small maze with tape glowing in UV light there is another light tunnel. 

A light tunnel made from tubes of light shaped into squares
A different style light tunnel which changes colour as you walk through

Snowflake shapes lights in lots of different colours.

The lights hang from the tree and are constantly changing different colours

There are quite a few interactive features for children on the trail. This one has a large keyboard, drums and guitar which have big buttons on. You press the buttons and the animals projected on to the house play the note. This allows you to work together to play music in a band.

Pressing a button to make an animal band play a keyboard sound
Interactive musical band

Make A Wish. When you get your tickets scanned they direct you to a table where you can get a label and write your wish on it. You carry the label until about half way through the trail where there is a section you can tie your wish and leave them to come true.

A woodland area with glowing letters saying "Make a wish"
Make A Wish at Enlightened Light Trail

As you come out of the woodland on to the grassed area there are moving butterfly lights, white deer lights and a large peacock. In 2023 the deer are in woodland and this patch of grass is covered in lights.

A large peacock light at Enlightened Chelmsford and a butterfly light
A large peacock watches over lots of moving butterflies

Enlightened sign. Next to the fish pond and wisteria tunnels there are letters spelling out ENLIGHTENED. On each letter there are lights which you can press and make them individually change colour. My children had lots of fun making the lights all the same colour on each letter.

Large letters with lights on spelling out Enlightened
Changing the colours of the lights on Enlightened

If you have been to Hylands Estate before you will remember these strange skittle shaped bushes and they are lit up in all their glory with changing coloured flood lights. 

Walking through an avenue of skittle shaped bushes lit with different coloured floodlights
The cool shaped bushes are flood lit and change colour

The next section takes you on a path passed a video screen showing an animation with a voiceover of The Night Before Christmas and along one edge of the lake where the fountains are lit in different colours. There is no complex display or pattern and my middle daughter thought it was boring, but I thought it looked pretty. (This section isn't in the 2023 trail)

Home of the fairies (my name not theirs) is one of the most magical areas. On the left are lots of fairy lights and miniature doors hidden amongst the trees and on your right there are a number of birdcages, look inside each one to see what’s there. They include a fairy, an elf and a dancing dinosaur created by the reflection of a tablet in the top of the cage. Some of these are a little high for children so you will need to lift them up so they can properly see the magic.

Bird cage with a fairy projection
Look inside each bird cage to see what is inside

Next there is a dome with lots of large circle lights in which change colour when stepped on. This was a very popular area with children hopping from one to the next. 

Round coloured lights being stepped on my children in the dark
Interactive lights change colour when stepped on

One of my favourite displays was these strings of balls that you walk through. They hang to below head height so you are walking through with the light all around you. 

Balls of pink, blue and yellow lights hanging down from scaffolding
Balls of light hanging down over the walkway

After a short walk with some flood lit trees, a lit up bauble arch and a few other lights you come to my eldest's favourite interactive feature. There are joysticks which control beams of light so you light up the sky. It was busy, but with 5 different controls you didn't have to wait long to have ago. 

Move the joy stick in the dome 

Near the end of the trail and before a video by a talking owl (no talking owl in 2023) you walk through a small wooded area which has mirror balls reflecting light everywhere. I have shared a video below as this is one of the displays that can't be properly shown in a photograph.

What We Thought of Enlightened: Hylands

I loved this light trail and thought it was absolutely magical in places. To make it even better I would love it if they could continue the enchanting theming from one display to the next so the magical aspects carried throughout, however this is me being very picky as it's a lovely light trail. Some of the less magical bits are the more fun parts for children so they would be a shame to not include. 

The trail is about 2km long which was a little far for my 3 year old to happily walk but my 6 year old was fine. 

My favourite sections were the fairy area with the fairy doors and bird cages, the hanging balls of light and the disco ball area at the end. My children enjoyed the interactive areas best.

I felt there was a real mix of features: some bits were really pretty lights, some fun bits and some were utterly enchanting.

What You Need To Know Before Visiting Enlightened


Hylands Estate, Adventure Playground entrance (off Greenbury Way) Chelmsford, CM2 8FS.
There is plenty of parking, including an overflow area and you don’t have to pay for parking, unlike during the day. If going to a later session leave plenty of time to park as there was a long queue to get in. 

Dates and times

Selected dates 24th November to 1st January. Entry slots are 15 minute windows between 4.30pm and 9pm (closes at 10pm).


Peak £18.50 adults, £12.50 children. Off peak £12.50 adults, £9 children. Children under 3 are free, but need a ticket.


The normal toilets next to the playground car park open and in the Stables area part way round.  If you haven’t been before the toilet block is square with individual toilets on each side so if there is a queue on one side walk round as there are often some free.


The refreshments are before your tickets are scanned so if you arrive a little early you can keep warm with a drink or warm up afterwards. Assuming the same vendors are there throughout there were 3 stands selling refreshments: one mostly selling hot drinks, one selling Dutch pancakes and another selling large German style hot dogs as well as macaroni cheese, pretzels and a few other things.

In 2023 there are also refreshments on sale part way round near The Stables area.

Useful To Know

There is a stand as you go in selling light up toys including light sabres for £7.50 each (cash or card).

The trail is mostly good paths so should be pretty easy for pushchairs, but there were a few bits, like the maze which are on grass and are very muddy, but most of the trail should be ok. We also experienced big puddles as it had been a wet day. There are some dark areas, but there is enough light children shouldn't be scared.

Dogs on leads are welcome and there were quite a lot so maybe not ideal if your child is scared of dogs.

The trail is entirely outside, although partly under trees. Wrap up warm and with waterproofs if necessary. 

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