Indi and I just spent a day at Longleat. I am pretty good at the solo excursion with child in tow, but am now stretching out of my comfort zone by travelling further with more spontaneity. This has its downfalls, such as forgetting clunky, reliable sat nav and using phone to get us there, which zaps the battery and loses navigation at the most inopportune moments. This led to a 20 minute detour on the way, and running on NO Fuel with no phone on the way back until we found a rural station which thankfully sold caffeine and paracetamol, plus the diesel of course! Still, even more of an adrenaline rush was doing the safari drive thru on NO fuel too, which as Steve Backshall, the narrator on our free CD safari accompaniment, would say, ‘Is totally deadly!’
The infamous car – wrecking monkeys…
The safari was good, but had it been a school holiday I might have thought otherwise. On a sweltering day, with the windows closed for safety reasons, I don’t think I could have tolerated a slow moving trawl on the path. There were plenty of interesting wild animals for Indi to observe, but the really exciting predators at the end of the safari were predictably sleepy, at a distance or, in the case of the cheetahs and the wolves, invisible. Thankfully the enthusiastic delivery of the commentary from our household favourite Steve kept Indi’s attention, plus the free trackers’ activity pack which involved ticking things off as we saw them. And Indi loved pausing and unpausing the CD for some reason?!?
Now time for the adventure park. This was my third visit, having come with Wills a couple of times, so I knew what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised that the Animal Kingdom, which Indi made a bee line for, had been given a overhaul and offered lots of close encounters and feeding experiences which would not break the bank.
He held a Chilean tarantula and also a snake,and we found the keepers to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
There were soooo many well kept beautiful creatures, many of whom had such freedom it was wonderful to see, this included tamarin and lemurs.
Baby lemurs having a ride…We were so close.
We got a little confused with the new Deadly Challenge activity, though I saw plenty of families with older children dashing about and completing the challenges, so this is something that would appeal to ages 7 and older. The huge maze is maintained beautifully and is a popular, but a stray stinging nettle caught Indi’s leg and put us out of action halfway through. The Play Kingdom looks good from a distance but I was annoyed to find a few too many areas cordoned off for fixing, and at this point in the season really everything should be in place. Perhaps I’m doing it a disservice here; the wooden structures were thoughtfully arranged and the welcome addition of a water play area makes this part of Longleat a go-to for younger children whilst elders enjoyed other parts of the park, if parents are happy to split up to accommodate this!
There is a new wild animal littlies ride which parents can also ride, this was sweet and reminded me of the dinosaur ride in Peppa Pig World.
The one area to bypass is Postman Pat’s village. Tired, weather- worn and creepy, this hasn’t been updated since Will was 2, and he’s now 10.5. Stay away or have nightmares!
Longleat House is beautiful, but is certainly for the adults and for older children. I look forward to going round in the future, though we did walk around the topiary of the orangery, and the mirror maze, which I loved.
I mentioned the close encounters with animals earlier, and one of my favourite moments was the ‘Batcave’, where you enter their dark and dank world and are nose-to-nose with these fascinating, misunderstood creatures. For some, the sensation of this nocturnal creature swooping over their shoulders fills them with fear, and Indi wasn’t too keen, so we didn’t stay long!
This was wonderful – feeding the lorikeets nectar! Both of us were lynched the second we got in the enclosure, which was a little disconcerting, but once we put cardigans on, the claws didn’t dig in so much!
The final attraction we had time for before Longleat closed at 5pm was the river cruise, my absolute favourite thing! There is so much to see, including waterfowl, hippos and the resident island gorilla Nico, who is now old and grey!
He was quite active today. There was a separate gorilla colony with some amusing youngsters, and the informative commentary kept us entertained. I remembered the sealions from my previous visit, and how enthusiastic they were, but the noises they made when we were able to feed them were hilarious! The pots of fish, like the nectar and deer food before, were just £1, and for the sealions it’s really worth it, they are just soooo funny as they leap out of the water fighting for the next fish. Indi just adored it.
Here’s the fish….
Here’s the sealion!
We missed the 3pm acrobatic show, but weren’t too bothered. When we left at 5pm I knew we’d be back again soon. Sadly all the shops shut at 5pm too, alongside the attractions, so it’s important to make any purchases before closing time. I think they’re missing a trick here; if the shops remained open for another 30 minutes, all the visitors leaving might make some pester power purchases!
Food, btw, is expensive and our take away pizza dinner for on the way home in the car was below par. Pack what you can in a picnic bag. We snacked all day on foot with picnic food so we didn’t waste any time sitting eating lunch!
I managed the route back without sat nav somehow, and passed by Stonehenge again. We went to go in but missed the last tour by ten minutes. Indi was pretty awestruck with it, and it is a sight to behold as you go past.
For animal lovers, this really is a great day out. It was made better by the fact Indi was by himself. I think if I’d come with buggy and toddler in tow we wouldn’t have packed as much in, and
I also think he’ll remember his experience. We have listened to the free
safari CD over and over since, and he has a renewed passion for nature programmes again, so this extra curricular activity has impacted our learning journey positively.