A Day Out at Longleat
Having not visited for many years, I decided that a great day out during this not so summerish summer would be Longleat Safari and Adventure Park, and despite the hundreds of people (silly me to go in the height of the school holidays!) I was not at all disappointed.
The reasonable entrance price of £32.95 guarantees unlimited access to the safari route (so don’t worry if you missed that lion hiding in the bushes the first time, you can go round again), as well as entrance to Longleat House, grounds, and various attractions inside the main park itself - a full day out.
Personally, I would always start off with the safari, making sure that you stop at the African Trading Post so as not to miss the opportunity to feed the giraffes, and watch the Ring Tailed Lemurs leaping from pillar to post as they scurry around delighted visitors walking through their enclosure. There is also the option of walking up into Wallaby Woods and the wallabies are pretty cute. It’s probably a good idea to stop for a toilet break here too (at the public toilets, not in the woods) as if it is busy in the safari, you may well be stuck in lion country for the next couple of hours.
As you leave the African Plains, you will see giraffe, zebra, ostrich, (most likely bypass the monkeys to avoid an expensive car repair bill), camel and rhino. There is also the chance to feed the huge deer population, though be warned, as soon as they see that you have food in your car and your window is open, they will stop at nothing to try and clamber into the car to get at that white Styrofoam cup!
Anna the elephant’s enclosure has recently been moved to this area and so it is a great chance to see her gracious self as she has a dust bath.
Leaving the more docile animals behind, the next stop is Tiger country, and on a hot day, it will be difficult to spot those stripy beasts lazing in the undergrowth. Following this there are two lots of lion enclosures, followed by the relatively new cheetahs and finally, Wolf Woods.
By now, it is more than likely that the kids are hungry and you’ve had enough of being cooped up in a hot car, so the next stop out of the safari is a drive down past the beautiful Longleat House, and parking up to enjoy the rest of what the park has on offer- first stop, lunch.
Longleat offers a wide array of food, from hot dog and burger vendors around the central courtyard, to Costa for a coffee and a sandwich. There is also the main cafe where you can get hot meals, jacket potatoes, burgers, or the pizza plaza next door, to the Orangery Cafe situated next to Longleat House. For a slightly different dining experience, there is also the cellar cafe option underneath the house itself.
With full bellies and everyone refreshed, the next best port of call is the safari boat. In the height of summer, the queue can be ridiculous, so it’s good to get this crossed off your list whilst everyone else has paused for lunch. The boat offers the chance to feed the greedy (and noisy) sealions, whilst the commentary on board gives you information about the resident hippos, Niko the silverback (on his own private island) and the new group of gorillas on the other bank.
Once you have landed back on dry land, head for the central courtyard again, in which you will find your next collection of animals including otters, meerkats, anteaters and porcupines, to name but a few. Following this route will lead you round to Monkey Temple, as well as the site of the parrot show, and a hands-on centre where you may have the chance to hold a snake or a tarantula (no thank you…).
A word of warning if you choose to go through the parrot feeding enclosure, when parrots see you bearing food they get excited, and when they get excited, they poop. This is how I ended up with a parrot on my head and a new sort of conditioner running down my hair…
(Watch out for the new instalment of dinosaurs in this area - if they spot you, they may try and attack.)
As you leave the discovery centre, it is well worth a walk through the butterfly house, just because of the sheer beauty and elegance of the many species of butterfly that are flitting around the very humid walkway.
Don’t miss the new penguin enclosure before you leave this area of the park, and the chance to get hands on with the stingray tank as well.
A little sit down may be what you need next, so hopping on Longleat’s tiny train will take you all round the side of the lake, past the park’s reindeer (who go on leave to prepare for Christmas) and the pelicans, back to the centre of the park.
If you have the time, a visit through the bat cave is an amazing experience, with fruit bats zooming past within millimetres of you. Do check that you haven’t picked up any stowaways before you leave the dark interior!
Finally, though it may not be one for very young children, the house for me personally is one of the most underrated attractions of the park. Home to the 7th Marquess of Bath, the house was completed by 1580 and is set within 900 acres of ground. A treasure trove of hidden corridors and beautiful ornate decoration, the house really is spectacular and you might even discover a few ghost stories on your travels through the historical rooms.
The beauty of Longleat is that as an attraction, it never gets old, with something new to delight you with every visit, so it is well worth going back again and again when on holiday in Somerset.