Longleat, with its Safari Park, Maze, Pets Corner and other attractions provides more than a full day of activities for families with children. Together with several young friends, we visited Longleat during the last week in August - probably its busiest week. Yet despite the crowds, we all found more than enough to keep us busy and entertained.
Since my friends Nick and Lizzie were a pretty grown up 11 and 13, we gave those Longleat attractions aimed at really young children - The Blue Peter Adventure Castle and Blue Peter Maze, for example, a miss. And I let the others have a go on the Motion Simulators while I wandered in the gardens and in Longleat House. But most of what Longleat has to offer is fun for any age. Here's just some of what we got up to.
Mid Morning Queues
We arrived at Longleat around 11:30 during the busiest week of the year and we paid the price in a long queue to enter.
Once you are in the Safari Park no one rushes you along. You can stop your car and enjoy each of the animals for as long as you like. That can result in a wait during busy times of year. To avoid it, either arrive very early or plan on spending the first part of the day enjoying Longleat's other attractions, saving the Safari Park for last.
For an extra early start, you could stay overnight nearby.
How Do We Get Out of Here?!
The wait for the Safari Park was an hour at midday so we took on the huge and intimidating hedge maze first. Not to worry, here and there "Lift if Lost" signs revealed the escape routes.
Cast Members of the Bird Show Wait for Their Entrances
One of Longleat's Parrots counts with a bell, another separates trash for recycling, another does the shopping with a supermarket shopping cart and of course there's plenty of parrot talking and laughing.
A Rapt Audience for the Bird Show
Lizzie said the Parrot Show "went on a bit" but it looks like she enjoyed it anyway.
A Tapir at Longleat
It looks a bit like a pig crossed with a mule and is the size of a Shetland pony but apparently a tapir is an ancient relation to the horse and rhinocerous. Seeing one in the flesh was a first for all of us.
Lunchtime at Longeat
They may not share the same savannah in Africa but camels and giraffes will happily and peacefully share the same bunch of tender greens, hung up high for them at Longleat. Look closely and you'll see several generations of Longleat Giraffes.
We had our car windows open as this smiling dromedary camel approached us. I worried it might spit through the window, but it lost interest in us after having a good look. Later, we saw a camel taking on several slow moving cars, down the road.
Resting Siberian Tiger at Longleat
One of Longleat's three Siberian tiger sisters barely gives us a glance. I guess inside our car we don't look much like food.
One of Longleat's two adult male lions with a female from his pride. The two Longleat prides are subtly fenced apart.
Longleat's lions are famous throughout the world. They've been important at Longleat Safari Park since it opened in 1966.
Longleat has two dominant male lions, each of which has its own pride of females and cubs. Because lions are territorial, the two prides are kept separated. When you drive through the Safari Park, park staff will open one the gates of one pride's enclosure at a time to allow a few cars in. The individuals that of Longleat's prides came from were originally brought to the park from different zoological collections around Europe. Over the years, the Longleat breeding program has produced a distinctive looking lion. When fully grown, male Longleat lions have a fine black mane.
The Lion King
The King of Beasts sits aloof and well fed as his pride of females rests and preens