Toddlers' Day Out @ Longleat Safari Park
As little A had started to feel better over the weekend (read more about that in our previous post - Fashion Friday; What Did The Fox Say?), we decided to take him out for the day as a treat. We umm'ed and ahh'ed over a variety of places, such as Paulton's Park and Wookey Hole, but decided to go to Longleat Safari & Adventure Park as the journey wasn't too long and I knew A would love seeing the animals (and Mummy might've got excited about driving through the monkeys).
We coincided our leaving time with nap-time so that A could sleep on the way, and after around an hour we arrived just as A started to stir. Traffic wasn't too bad considering it was a bank holiday and though we queued to get in, there was someone filtering the traffic into three lanes so that time passed by quickly. We bought our tickets online the previous day and just had to quote our reference number to get our tickets, easy peasy! I hadn't visited since a long time before A was even thought of, so I was looking forward to seeing the improvements and hoping it would be a toddler-friendly day. Luckily, I had nothing to be worried about..
The safari park was closed for an hour when we arrived (not sure why!), so we decided to head to the adventure park first so that my Dad could stretch his legs and we could get some fresh air and have a look around. We parked relatively close (a few minutes walk away) and took A in his pushchair along with the changing bag, but we didn't really need to. A was mostly running around or being held by one of us so we eventually took the pushchair/changing bag back so we didn't have as much to drag around with us.
Our first stop was Jungle Kingdom to see a few animals, such as the meerkats and anteaters (and whatever he is above). The one thing I love about Longleat and what makes it stand out above other safari parks is how close you're able to get to the animals. We walked through the meerkat pen, where they're freely allowed to roam and I got to feed Lorikeets and get up close & personal with some (very smelly) penguins, but more on that below.
Next up, we trotted through Dinosaurs Alive which is a new and fantastic attraction! The dinosaurs move and roar very realistically (well, as realistically as I imagine dinosaurs to be) and are strategically placed behind trees and bushes as if you're really treading your way through Jurassic Park. A was extremely curious and very wary (especially of the T-Rex) but completely fascinated. There were a couple of huge Apatosaurus models (Google informs me there's some debate over the name Brontosaurus) swaying their necks and swinging their tails that were fantastic (I tried to get a picture, but they were too huge to fit in the shot!).
As I mentioned earlier, we had the opportunity to feed the Rainbow Lorikeets and it was so much fun (contrary to my face in the first picture). Initially, around 7 or 8 landed on Archie and I but most of them flew off just as these pictures were taken! It was so much fun to feed them and to be able to get so close, they're really beautiful birds. If you visit, I'd highly recommend it, it's totally worth the £1 it costs for a pot of nectar.
We then trudged on to see the penguins and the stingrays, which was just as enjoyable. It's pretty common to be able to get close to stingrays, but not penguins! You can walk through the middle of the penguins pen where they're allowed to roam free and we were inches away from them. They were completely chilled out and I had to keep a close eye on Archie as he just wanted to stroke and grab them. We were both in awe of being able to literally crouch right down next to them, it was so much fun!
After seeing the animals, we wandered down to Postman Pat village which I assume must be among one of the oldest parts of the park, as it was a little overgrown and the models had a bit of wear & tear, which was a shame as it was one of Archie's favourite parts of the day. He ran around, excitedly pressing and holding the buttons that make the characters move around and he could've easily spent all of his day there, so at least the fact that they were a bit on the worn side didn't bother him.
We also queued up to take A on the Jungle Express, which was good but I'm not sure it was worth the queue! A started to get tired at this point (hence the below image), and the wait frustrated him more & more. Even once we had boarded the train, it seemed to take forever to get going! There's also a boat cruise nearby that we didn't have time to go on but we got talking to some other guests who said it was great; it's also the only way you can see the gorillas on Gorilla Island.
After lunch, we headed down to the Adventure Kingdom which is alot bigger than I remember! Not only are there a series of different parks, ground trampolines and soft play, but Archie swiftly spotted the splash park and wouldn't take no for an answer so I let him have a little runaround and get a
bit lot wet. Luckily, we had a spare set of clothes and Nanny's shawl to dry him with (improvisation). You can probably tell from the expression on his little face above that he absolutely loved it! If you're heading to Longleat on a warm day, definitely pack the kids swimming wear and towels; we could have easily spent hours in there without A getting the slightest bit bored!
House & Gardens
As the afternoon wore on, it became clear that A needed a good ol' nap as he became more & more tired, so we stuck him in the pram and had a walk around the grounds (which are beautiful). 10 minutes later, he was out, so whilst Nanny graciously sat outside and watched him, Dad and I had a look around the house (or part of it; Lord Bath and his family actually live in the other half). Pushchairs aren't allowed around the house and it isn't particularly toddler-friendly so I wouldn't recommend lugging the young children around with you.
The part of the house that you can view is magnificent, huge, grand and just insanely glamorous! It's extremely old, beautiful (how many more adjectives can I use?) and all I could think was 'So, are the family lounging in a big, historic room watching a 42" TV in the West wing?' as modern technology would seem completely out of place! It's really interesting to walk around an ancient house that's still lived in as the modern portrait paintings are the oddest thing to see (completely freaked me out). You expect to see portraits of Lords and Ladies in historical clothing, not a modern young woman with a sharp bob cut, very odd!
What I particularly enjoyed were the two parts of the tour where they hint at the house being a little haunted - in the first room you walk into, if you look up, every now & then there's a white shadow of a ghostly figure on the door. Secondly, half-way through the house, there's a hallway that you can peer down to hear creepy footsteps, see flickering lights and a shadow walk down the stairs and across the hallway, creepy! I'm sure there are more than a few old figures floating through the house & grounds at night..
After walking the house, we had a little look around the equally as huge grounds, and I was completely amazed to come across a tiny pet cemetery, almost hidden, around the back. I've never quite seen anything like it, ten's of graves, each with the name of the pet, what they were and when they died. There's also two statue figures of cats almost guarding these teeny tiny graves, it's fascinating and hidden behind the tennis courts if anyone's interested in seeing it.
Once Archie woke, we decided to hop in the car and head round to the Safari Park before going home. The only downside was it was pretty busy, perhaps due to it being closed earlier and everyone deciding to head there at the end instead. We had so much fun driving through the monkeys and seeing them pounce all over the cars (including ours) and we saw quite a few of them running past with electrical parts in their hand, but luckily we got away mostly scot-free.
After the monkeys, we saw a few other animals before parking up to feed the deers which was fun, and on to the tigers, lions and cheetahs. Unfortunately, this is where the traffic really built up and we spent the best part of an hour making our way through at snails pace, and not seeing many big cats! This is where A started to get really bored and frustrated, so it wasn't ideal for him.
Overall, we had a fantastic day at Longleat Safari & Adventure Park and wouldn't hesitate to visit again, and soon. There's still so much we didn't get to do (such as the hedge maze and the cruise!) and we didn't get through even half of the Adventure Kingdom. It's something that definitely needs a good two-day trip to really get around everything thoroughly. The adventure park is fantastic for toddlers and the safari park was enjoyable, but expect bored, hopping mad children when driving through the slow parts!
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