Longleat Safari is set in the substantial grounds of Longleat, the beautiful Elizabethan stately home in the English County of Wiltshire, and the home of the 7th Marquis of Bath. He is apparently is quite a character and is a prolific amateur painter who has decorated rooms of his home with erotic scenes from the Kama Sutra! The Estate is large with many farms and tenants, and with over a thousand acres of parkland designed by Capability Brown. Part of the house is open to the public, though I doubt you get to see much of the erotic artwork, and back in 1966 it opened the first drive-though Safari Park outside Africa.
When family comes together during the holidays, a group day trip to Longleat is a perfect way to keep those of all ages happy! 11 of us had bundled into 3 cars and driven the 2 and half hours from Sussex west to Longleat House in Wiltshire.
We arrived at Longleat at around noon, and being the week between Christmas and New Year, and the fact that there was also the Festival of Lights, it was exceptionally busy. We had purchased tickets in advance online with little change from £30 each, but still had to sit in the line to enter. Once in, we parked in the parking area so that we could all take toilet breaks before setting out on the drive-through Safari which was wise as it would take us a good 2 hours to do the Safari. We had also brought a packed lunch with us, which worked out well as we could eat while driving through.
So once back into the cars off we went, following the signposts on a loopy drive through the Estate park and eventually arrived at the official entrance to the drive-through Safari.
There was another brief line here, and then we were able to drive though the entrance and on our way. After a short distance we came to the African Village, an area where you could stop for refreshments, toilets and view some animals including Wallaby’s, Giraffe, and Lemur. We did not stop here as we knew we had a way to go and having just started it felt too soon to be stopping to all jump out of the car!
So we continued on, driving by plenty of Zebra, Wildebeest and on past the Flamingo. Here you have the option to go into the Monkey drive-through, or take the by-pass. While driving past the Zebra we had a chance to look over into the Monkey area, and having seen how the monkeys were treating the cars, and hearing many horror stories of car parts being ripped off, we decided on the by-pass.
This took us into the Big game park area, and the first area we past by was Anne’s Haven. Anne was a Circus Elephant rescued after it was discovered that she was being abused. Having been in the circus all her life, and being about 60 years old, she could not be integrated with other Elephants, so now lives a life of retirement at Longleat. She was inside her building as we passed by, but we did get a quick glimpse of her through the open doors.
The drive continued on past Deer, Antelope and Camels before we hit the traffic jam to pass by the White Rhino.
From here we would inch forward about a car length, then stop for a few minutes before moving forward again – it was slow going.
But it did give us plenty of time to admire the beautiful and powerful White Rhino.
We didn’t move on fast after passing the Rhino enclosure as the next area was the Tiger Territory and as you can imagine there were big gates to drive though to get into this section.
I’m not sure if something particular caused a holdup here, but it appeared that they would allow a certain number of cars to enter, then shut the gate. We sat a few cars back from the gate for at least 20 minutes, and at one point the gate operator was shouting to attract the Tiger’s attention. Eventually the cars starting inching forward, and the gates opened and we were allowed in. We got some really good looks at the Tiger’s walking right by the car, they are so majestic.
By this time we seemed to be crawling along at a steady slow pace and were able to stop a little when we got close to one of the animals.
The next enclosure was the Longleat Lions, the first inhabitants of the original Longleat Safari back in 1966, and there certainly were plenty of them, so no shortage of chances to take some photographs.
On our way out of the Safari drive-though we passed by an enclosure with the most adorable 2 Cheetah cubs and their mum, the cubs are the first to be born at Longleat, were just a couple of months old when we were there. The road brought us back around to the parking area, which by this time in the afternoon (just after 4 pm) was a lot fuller than when we had left to go our on the Safari.
Festival of Lights.
We wrapped up warmly as it was very cold out, and as we all walked over to the entrance of the Festival of Lights by the main house it was sort of still half light, by no means fully dark. The lights had been turned on at 4 pm and it was already looking pretty at dusk, so to start we walked through the lighted archway and avenue of the Longleat Lions all lit up in Lantern form.
We continued on by the front of the house passing more Arches and the Peacock garden with fabulous Peacock birds and a cluster of snowflake flowers. Part of the theme of the display was Beatrix Potter, and so the next section we walked through was full of characters from the books, like Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Kitty-in-boots, Jemima Puddle-Duck etc. which was just charming.
Also, because it wasn’t fully dark yet, the lantern lights had a lovely view of the Longleat house as a backdrop.
There were even lanterns out on the Lake next to the gardens, which cast great reflections in the water.
The walk took us on past the Autumn harvest area with adorable Squirrels on the ground and half way up the trees retrieving their nuts and then into Mr McGregor’s Garden with bunnies frolicking among the vegetables, and Mr McGregor looking over the hedge waving his fork!
The path then led us into the large stable yard enclosed with buildings on all 4 sides and in the middle was a large Enchanted Christmas Tree. Every hour, starting at 4.40 pm the Tree would come to life in a Show with a lovely story and light show projected on to one wall of the stable yard and we just happened to be able to catch the first show of the evening which I have to say was quite magical.
By now the young ones in our group were getting hungry, so we exited out of the stable yard into the area that food and drink for sale and managed to find an area inside that we could sit down and have a snack and a hot chocolate to warm up.
The light of day had completely gone by the time we continued on through the Flower walk area with a lovely array of mixed flowers, many over 12 feet tall and in lots of different colours – very striking to look at.
As the darkness gave the full effect of the lanterns, we walked back through the areas we had already covered enjoying them all over again. I had wanted to go into the house to do the tour, but by now it was close to 7 pm, the young ones in our group were getting tired, and so with a 2 and half hour drive ahead of us, we decided it was best to call it a day, and head for home. It had been a long day, and pretty busy with the sheer number of people visiting at this popular time of year, but we had fun and who knows, one day I might get back there to tour the house and see if I can spot any of that erotic artwork! Date of visit; 27th December 2016.