Longleat Safari Park, Warminster
Zoo/Wildlife Park/Centre, Park - Address: Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 7NW
31 reviews from the community
Review of "Longleat Safari Park, Warminster"
If someone says Longleat to me the first thoughts that spring into my head are Dairylea and Marmite sandwiches and plastic elephants! Why, I hear you ask? Well, Longleat was always the destination of the annual class school trip when I was in junior school, which sadly, was many years ago! It was always a case of a mad race to get to the back of the bus and the sandwiches were unwrapped within minutes of leaving the school gates and of course, as soon as we arrived us thoughtful kids simply had to purchase a little gift for Mum and Dad, which usually consisted of a naff plastic elephant or a cheap and nasty giraffe! When my younger sister and I were growing up our parents became members of the Caravan Club and Dad’s faithful bright yellow Morris Marina would tow our mobile home to Longleat for many a weekend. Sunday morning at 11am on the dot was a gathering of all of the campers around the flagpole where the proud kids presented their drawings and waited with baited breath for the winner to be announced. What happy and warming memories I have of Longleat. Of course, as I grew older the thoughts of plastic animals became totally horrendous and my hard earned pennies remained securely in my purse. However, the wonderful memories of Longleat always stay with me and my husband and I regularly return and this review discusses my thoughts and experiences of our regular visits.
WHAT AND WHERE IS LONGLEAT?I’m sure everyone is aware of Longleat, which is located in Warminster, Wiltshire and is owned by The Marquess of Bath, Viscount Weymouth and the Trustees of the Longleat Estates, Longleat Enterprises Limited. Longleat consists of a huge safari park, dozens of attractions suited to both children and adults and a mansion situated in the most stunning grounds. It wasn’t until I carried out a little online research that I learned that in 1966 Longleat was actually the first location outside of Africa to create a drive-through safari park. There is so much to see and do at Longleat and I could probably write pages and pages telling you all about it. However, my intention is to be as brief as possible whilst providing you with a good overview and to advise you of my experiencing of visiting.
You may be aware of the long-running BBC television series named Animal Park, which was created in 2000 where we see the presenters Kate Humble and Ben Fogle. The series takes us behind the scenes at Longleat where we learn about the animals, the staff at the park and the day-to-day dramas that regularly occur. The most memorable episode for me was when one of the sea lions escaped from the lake and he was discovered a considerable distance away. Unfortunately, the escapee was soon returned to his home and I believe the staff needed to put in place mechanisms to prevent the naughty mammal from trying to find his freedom once again! I have written this review in sections where I have aimed to cover each and every area of the park, so please feel free to skip through the sections if they are of no interest to you.
ARRIVING AT LONGLEATOur journey to Warminster is from South Wales and although I’m not the best with directions (when I first passed my driving test I ended up in Reading as opposed to Weston-Super-Mare; something I’ve never been allowed to forget!) as soon as you reach Warminster you will frequently see considerable signage to point you in the right direction. As far as I am aware there are two entrances in which you can drive, although I’ve only even driven in the one way and after a short distance you will reach a wooden style kiosk where a member of staff will approach your car and provide you with your required ticket. We’ve always purchased the Passport ticket (price provided at the end of this review) and this will give you entrance into every attraction in the park (other than those specifically for children, unless of course you are accompanied by children). You will also be provided with a free CD, which provides you with details of the enclosures as you drive around the Safari Park. The journey to reach the car park is extremely memorable, as you seem to be driving for what seems like forever and located on both your left and right are dozens of beautiful trees. You will then reach the top of the drive, which is located a good three quarters of a mile or so from the house and it is then that the magnificent view can be captured. You will see the stunning house in all of its’ glory and you will frequently see dozens of sited touring caravans, which regularly use one of the large grassed areas.
This is where our problems started, particularly due to the fact that our last visit was on the Saturday of the August Bank Holiday weekend and despite arriving at 10 am on what was initially a rather overcast day, the queues to park were absolutely horrendous. My husband is a blue badge holder and I proceeded to look for the disabled parking bays. However, I was somewhat concerned to discover that there were very few parking spaces available and a large amount were taken up by people not displaying a blue badge. This is a real annoyance of mine, particularly as I witnessed an extremely able-bodied man and woman stepping out of their flashy sports car and walking towards the attractions as fast as their legs could carry them! Consequently, I waited for a while in the hope a space would become available, but this was not the case, so I was forced to park at least a dozen rows behind, which resulted in hubby having to walk a fair distance. However, I would state that the car park is huge and there is remove for literally hundreds of cars.
ENTRANCE TO THE PARKThe queues were absolutely horrendous when we reached this area and there were probably in excess of 150 people waiting to pay for their tickets. What frustrated us was that only three kiosks were manned and if my memory serves me correct there were a further three or four kiosks, which remained unopened. Consequently, the queues deepened and many people were starting to impatiently push and shove others in an attempt to jump the queues! It was a further 35 minutes before we reached the front of the queue and were able to pay for our tickets and it was at that point we were informed that the safari park was closed until 2 pm. I cannot say that I was best pleased, particularly as we always plan our day at Longleat whereby we initially visit the safari and provided the car still has its’ wheels after driving through the monkey enclosure, we then return to the main car park to visit the remaining attractions. By now hubby was feeling a little hungry and as he is diabetic I decided to return to the car to fetch our food and I would advise that there is no problem in doing this, as you are provided with a receipt at the kiosk together with a large ticket and a map of the park. We were offered a brochure, which was priced at £5, but I’m rather a skinflint when it comes to extra costs, so I had politely declined.
We sat adjacent to the car park in a pretty area, which is dedicated for eating your food where you will find a large number of wooden picnic tables, benches and plenty of bins for your rubbish. However, a real negative as far as we were concerned is that the bins were located too close to the seats and consequently, dozens of wasps buzzed around the stinking rubbish and were a real nuisance when we were trying to eat our food. This seems to be a problem in many places we’ve visited where the owners always seem to place bins directly next to seating. This is an issue that seriously needs to be addressed, as during the entire time that we were eating the stench of rotting food inside the bins was clearly evident.
ANIMAL ADVENTUREWe were in two minds on how to proceed with our day, particularly as our main aim was to visit the safari, as hubby is a keen photographer and wanted to capture images of both the tigers and lions. Consequently, we decided to firstly visit Animal Adventure, which was previously known as Pet’s Corner. To enter each of the attractions you simply need to hand over your ticket and the staff member will punch a small hole against the appropriate attraction. Unfortunately, this attraction was extremely busy in some areas, so we decided to visit some of the quieter sections and work our way backwards. My favourite has to be the parrots who were all sat quietly and very patiently awaiting the next parrot show, which is shown at numerous times throughout the day. I think one of the gorgeous parrots fell in love with me, as he simply gazed at me for ages, so I said hello to him and he responded several times. He was such a cutie and seemed rather shy when I blew him a kiss, as he pushed his head down into the coloured feathers on his chest. When hubby eventually managed to drag me from my new boyfriend we stepped indoors where there were two staff members holding my most hatred and feared things of all times – a tarantula and a snake! Hubby is not particularly fond of either, but decided to be brave and ask for a hold! However, he had to get in the queue as the young children who clearly had no fears whatsoever took great delight in holding each of my most feared creatures! Eventually hubby had the female spider in the palm of his hand and he asked me to take a photograph! However, I felt a fast thudding in my chest and my skin became rather clammy as the nerves set in! The young children looked at me as if I was mad, so in an attempt to be a brave 43 year old woman I quickly took the photograph and made eyes at hubby to hand the spider back! He then decided he wanted to hold the snake, so again my heart started racing, but to make my embarrassment even worse a little girl who was probably no more than 6 years old looked at me in sheer sympathy and said “it’s nothing to worry about, as it won’t hurt you”. Yikes! Aren’t adults meant to reassure children and not the other way around?! As hubby held the snake in his two hands I pondered for what seemed like hours as I contemplated on whether to touch it and eventually I struck up the courage and with just two fingers I gently touched the back of its’ head and as soon as I did it looked up at me and poked out its’ tongue! Time to go ….. Located directly next to this area were several sinks, taps and antibacterial soaps where you can thoroughly wash your hands before you proceed to the next area of the park.
Located directly next to Animal Adventure is the Longleat Railway, which is a small train with at least a dozen carriages and will take you on a short ride around the park. Unfortunately, there were probably around a hundred people in the queue, so we decided to give this a miss, particularly as we have previously been on the train many times before. This is most definitely a children’s attraction and it was so wonderful to watch their beaming faces as they waited to set off on their magical journey. As you walk around various locations in the park you will see the train passing where many of the children (and adults!) will give you a wave as they pass you.
SAFARI BOATSWe decided to walk to the safari boats, an attraction we both absolutely love, particularly as in one area you will meet the Californian sea lions. Again, the queues were extremely lengthy and we waited 45 minutes before we could board the boat. Unfortunately, prams and pushchairs are not permitted on the boats and there is a large area where they can be safely stored until you return. Boarding the boat was extremely easy and staff were helping those who were a little unsteady on their feet. I would also advise that this attraction is suitable for those in wheelchairs. As the boat started to move a staff member provided a running commentary of the animals that lived in this area and we were able to witness a six day old sea lion who was basking in the sun on one of the wooden platform areas located next to the water’s edge. The boat then stopped in order for the staff member to throw small pieces of fish into the water for the huge and noisy sea lions who were jumping into the air to catch their breakfast. It was an absolutely glorious site and the children on the boat (and me!) were thoroughly entertained. I would say that you can sometimes get a little wet, particularly when the sea lions splash heavily back into the water! We were taken to Gorilla Island where we saw the home of Nico, the Lowland Gorilla and the boat turned around the island and proceed to sail back up the lake. We stopped at one further point where we could see a pair of huge hippos named Spot and Sonia. We then returned to where we had started with the journey taking approximately 15 minutes in total. I have probably sailed on the safari boats at least twenty times over the years and each and every time is an experience in itself and is well recommended.
Unfortunately, time was running out for us, particularly as we were fast approaching 2 pm and desperately wanted to see the safari, so we left the park and headed for the lions. However, there were many attractions that we missed and although we didn’t visit them in August we have visited them in the past and I detail some of them below:-
THE HEDGE MAZEThe first time I visited the maze was a good few years ago and I have to say it was also the last! The reason being was that my sister and I set us a challenge on who could get out the quickest. From the outside the maze appears to be extremely easy to negotiate, but I couldn’t have been more wrong when I stepped inside. I seemed to be walking round and round and continued to hit a dead end! There are many wooden look out towers whereby you climb a few steps and look downwards to plan your escape. However, this was of little use to me, as I was never any good at the mazes on paper, let alone a real one made from leaves! After approximately one hour of desperately attempting to recapture my freedom I resorted to extreme measures whereby I walked through the hedge and in doing so, scratched my arms and probably ruined some of the hedge in the process! Had I not done this I would strongly suspect I would still be wandering around at this moment in time, some five years later!
Unfortunately, as previously stated, we were unable to access the safari until after 2 pm and my first piece of advice is to remove your car aerial before the monkeys get hold of it! There are ladies and gents toilets situated directly in front of the entrance and it is advisable to use these facilities, as you are likely to be sat in your car for quite a while. Whilst we had the option to travel on the safari bus at an additional cost we decided to use our own car and please remember this is at your own risk. I say this because the last time we visited we noticed a section of a car bumper, a registration plate and several windscreen wipers lying in both the grass and hanging from the trees! We placed our free CD into the player and slowly drove through the entrance. Kate Humble will talk you through each of the areas and provide you with information on each of the animals that you see. You are permitted to park your car at the first area within the park where you can study the giraffes in the African Game Reserve. However, parking in this area was somewhat minimal, but we were fortunate that we were able to find a disabled space and use hubby’s blue badge.We returned to the car and proceeded on our journey and our next port of call was Flamingo Valley. There are dozens of signs located throughout the safari, which inform drivers who wish to stop to park on a designated side of the road. However, drivers were parking wherever they wished and huge backlogs of traffic were building up making the experience somewhat disappointing. We carried on driving around the safari and were disappointed to discover that the monkeys were in quarantine, so this area was closed off. Further on we came to the deer park where we saw several notices offering pots of deer food for £1. Whilst I nagged hubby to purchase one he refused stating we’d paid enough already! This area was hilarious as we were permitted to open the car windows and the deer wandered carefree in amongst the cars. One rather scruffy looking deer walked up to hubby’s window and poked his head through as he sniffed for some food. When he realised that hubby was a skinflint he gave him a rather snooty look and walked off! It was at this point that hubby wished he’s listened to me, particularly as I’m always right!! We carried on driving throughout the park when we next came to the Tiger Territory and as real cat lovers it was absolutely fascinating to witness the beautiful tigers basking in the boiling hot sun. The last but one enclosure is Lion Territory where we discovered two prides of beautiful lions, which are kept apart for obvious reasons. The final enclosure was Wolf Wood and whilst hubby thoroughly enjoyed this I felt a little spooked as I always think of horror films! Unfortunately, due to the huge back up of cars the entire safari took us almost two hours, but I have to say that it was an enjoyable experience.
POSTMAN PAT VILLAGE
Unfortunately, this attraction is only for young children who are accompanied by an adult and during a visit last year I was desperate to have my photo taken with good old Pat. As I am rather mischievous I persuaded hubby to walk through the exit with me where I sat on a bench next to Pat and hubby quickly snapped away with his camera, then we ran like mad!
OTHER ATTRACTIONSOther attractions include the Motion Simulators, which I have entered in the past. However, as hubby has both a heart and spine condition it is not recommended he visit these attractions due to the sudden movements, so I decided not to brave them alone! Whilst there are two available attractions your Passport ticket will allow you to visit only one. For the younger children there are the Teacup rides and for those a little older is the Adventure Castle. Unfortunately, as I’m a little too old for these attractions I cannot speak about them, but I can state that I’ve heard the children shrieking with laughter. There is also Old Joe’s Mine, but again as this is only for children I am unable to discuss this area.
If you have purchased a Passport ticket you will be able to gain entry into the magnificent house, which was built in 1580 and is now home to the 7th Marquess of Bath and is set in 900 acres of parkland with a further 8,000 acres of woodlands, lakes and farmland. As you can probably imagine the house is absolutely immense and according to the Longleat website it is regarded as one of the best examples of high Elizabethan architecture in Britain and one of the most beautiful stately homes open to the public. During your visit a guide will talk you through the various rooms where you will see the great hall, the red dining room, the state library, the dress corridor and many more. You need to allow yourself a good couple of hours to explore the house, as there is simply so much to see. As far as I can recall photography is only permitted in certain areas in order to protect the antiques from the camera flash. You may be aware that Lord Bath and his family live in the West wing of the house, so you may seem him wandering around during your visit. I could go on and on discussing the house, but this is most definitely a must if you visit Longleat as seeing is believing!
FREE ATTRACTIONSThere are many free attractions situated through the park such as King Arthur’s Mirror Maze, which is real fun until you walk straight into a mirror and bang your head as I did during our visit in August! Although I’ve entered this attraction on many an occasion I always find myself walking around with both arms outstretched and giggling like mad! There is an attraction where you can see a scale model of Longleat House, Meet my Ancestors, Family Bygones and State Chariot. I would advise that you are free to enter the park without purchasing a ticket, as you are able to explore the free attractions at your leisure.
There are plenty of toilets situated through the park, but unfortunately, on the day of our visit we found both the ladies and gents to be rather grubby with urine and toilet paper on the floor. Longleat had let themselves down here, as they clearly were not being regularly checked. However, when you have to go you have to go, so it’s simply a case of holding your breath for as long as you can, doing your business and running back outside for some fresh air! There are numerous toilet facilities located throughout the park, which are suitable for those in wheelchairs.
REFRESHMENTS AND FOOD AVAILABILITYBoth food and drink with readily available, but in my opinion the prices were extremely over the top. Whilst we did not purchase anything, particularly as I took plenty of food and drink, hubby decided he wanted a cheeseburger and chips until he saw the price of around £8, so he promptly walked away and settled for the remainder of his ham and tomato sandwiches! There were various machines located throughout the park, which sold both hot and cold drinks.
TICKET PRICES AND OPENING TIMES
As hubby and I were intending to visit all of the attractions during our one day visit we purchased a Passport ticket for £24 each. The great thing about this is that if you have not had the opportunity to visit all of the attractions in one day you are able to return at a later date with the expiry date of your ticket being during November of that particular year. Unfortunately, as Longleat is now closed for the year they have not provided 2011 prices on their website, which are yet to be confirmed. Consequently, I am unable to give you this information, but I will update this review as soon as it becomes available. The opening times differ from one attraction to the next and I would suggest you check on Longleat’s website for information when the park opens again in 2011.
OTHER INFORMATIONI learned from studying the Longleat website that they are associated with the Tusk Trust charity and have worked closely together for several years to perform conservation projects in Africa. I had never previously heard of this charity and discovered that they are based in the UK and have been working and developing programmes with Africa for the past 17 years.
A large proportion of the attractions are wheelchair accessible, but it is advisable to check on the website before your visit. A concern we had was that many of the paths located around the park are poorly maintained and many paving slabs were jutting out. Although there were signs warning people of this, I feel those with sight impairments may experience problems with tripping and you should be aware of this before your visit. There are beautiful gardens located near to the house where you can sit down and relax and simply watch the world go by. An area which tugged at my heartstrings was the pet cemetery where all of the deceased pets belonging to the residents of the house are buried. The area is considerably large and each and every pet’s grave is marked with a small headstone giving details of their names, date of birth and death. I cannot recall seeing any baby changing facilities, but that does not mean that they weren't available, so I would suggest you contact Longleat Customer Services prior to your visit if this is likely to be an issue for you.
PLACES TO STAYWhilst I have no experience of Centre Parcs, on two occasions my sister has previously stayed in one that is located within the grounds and she speaks quite highly of the service she received.
Longleat is easily accessible and as previously stated is extremely well signposted. However, I do not feel it would be accessible with public transport, particularly due to the fact that the journey to the park itself is far too long for anyone’s legs.
MY OPINIONLongleat is an absolutely beautiful place to visit and I feel it is worth the money that you pay, particularly as there is so much to see and do for the whole of the family. Unfortunately, there were a few issues with our most recent visit during August Bank Holiday weekend, which on reflection, was a bad time to visit and on this day alone I would have awarded only 2 stars. However, as this is somewhere I have regularly visited since childhood I feel Longleat deserves 4 stars, together with my full recommendation.
If you’ve got to the end of this review – thank you! I hope it has given you a flavour of what you can expect from visiting Longleat.This review also appears on Dooyoo under the same user name.
Product Information : Longleat Safari Park, Warminster
Manufacturer's product descriptionZoo/Wildlife Park/Centre, Park - Address: Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 7NW
Address: Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 7NW
Type: Zoo/Wildlife Park/Centre, Park
Listed on Ciao since: 27/08/2002