Lion dozing in the shade at Longleat Safari Park

Longleat Safari Park review: a family day out

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Longleat Safari park is in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside. A spectacular Elizabethan mansion and 900 acres of Capability Brown landscape would be worth a visit on their own. Now, throw in drive-through animal enclosures. Add a maze, boat ride and numerous other attractions and you’ve got a rather brilliant recipe for a family day out. We headed over to the park last week to see what it’s like.

Lion dozing in the shade at Longleat Safari Park

About Longleat

Longleat Safari Park opened to the public in 1966 as a drive-through lion reserve. The first safari park of its kind outside of Africa. The house and estate were, and still are, owned by the Bath family. The estate had already opened to the public in 1949, but it was failing to make enough money. An enormous big cat park allowed Lord Bath to generate funds through the estate. It started small, with Lord Bath personally greeting visitors and selling tickets at the entrance.

These days though, it’s an enormous operation and it’s no longer just about the animals. Whilst the safari drive through is most people’s main reason to visit, there’s plenty of other things going on as well. Most notably looking around public areas of the mansion, a huge children’s play area, small train, maze and the incredible boat ride.

Boat ride on lake at Longleat Safari Park

The safari drive through

A far cry from a time when people queued for hours to see the lions of Longleat, modern day visitors are treated to a huge drive-through safari. Anne the elephant was rescued from terrible conditions at a circus to live out her retirement at Longleat. She likes to nap inside so there’s no guarantee you’ll see her. As for the rest of the animals, you’d be hard pushed to miss them despite their pleasantly huge enclosures.

Sign with information about Anne the elephant at Longleat Safari Park

A walk-through safari allows visitors to get up close to giraffes and zebras. You can also walk with lemurs and meet sheep and pygmy goats. Back in the car, visitor can feed the deer through the car window when they’re hungry. We visited at a busy time and staff selling the food kindly advised us that the deer weren’t particularly hungry, so we decided against it.

Giraffe and zebra at Longleat Safari Park
Stag with full antlers at Longleat Safari Park

Big cats at Longleat include lions, tigers and cheetahs. Wolves and their cubs roam freely around wolf wood. In the big game area, rhinos are joined by camels, curious ostriches, oryx and Ankole cattle. Possibly the most entertaining area of the park though was the monkey enclosure. If you’re precious about your car or its aerial, bumper, wing mirrors, window seals, spoiler or other protruding parts then this may not be for you. Thankfully we’re not, and it was lovely to see the monkeys incredibly close-up.

Tiger dozing in the shade at Longleat Safari Park
Wolf sitting upright on a log at Longleat Safari Park
Two camels sitting down looking like they are kissing at Longleat Safari Park
Onyx at Longleat Safari Park
Baby monkey on adult monkey's back at Longleat Safari Park
Monkey looking into car window at Longleat Safari Park

Other things to do at Longleat

The safari drive through itself takes two to three hours. You’ll want to leave plenty of time to stop and admire the animals as you drive around. This still leaves plenty of time to explore the rest of the park, in particular its main square. Here, you can meet new residents. Crocodiles, giant otters, wombats and koalas.

Koala at Longleat Safari Park

Children will love the Adventure Castle play area. Inside a wooden fort, you’ll find huge slides and climbing areas. A mini soft play caters for little ones, and outside is a park with swings, trampolines, a zip wire and other play equipment. There’s even a fun splash pad to run through on a warm day.

Children's adventure castle at Longleat Safari Park
Little girl on trampoline in children's playground at Longleat Safari Park
Girl in children's splash pad at Longleat Safari Park

My girls loved the maze and Rockin’ Rhino ride, as well as a stroll around the jungle kingdom to see meercats, anteaters and other creatures. The highlight for all of us though, was the rather incredible Jungle Cruise boat ride. Living in and around the lake were hippos and sea lions. During the journey we passed a gorilla colony and some adorable colobus monkeys. Even the queue for the jungle cruise was fascinating because we were able to watch the red pandas while we queued.

maze at Longleat Safari Park
Girl on rockin' rhino ride at Longleat Safari Park
Sealion swimming in the lake at Longleat Safari Park
Red panda on treehouse at Longleat Safari Park

Other attractions in the main square include monkey temple, the bat cave, lorikeets that you can feed by hand, an interactive animal adventure zone, little explorers garden, a family farmyard and the Longleat railway.

Lorikeet at Longleat Safari Park

The house and grounds

Long before opening as a safari park, Longleat opened the doors of its house and grounds to the public. These days, a variety of guided house tours are available. Everything from a general tour to a guide to its scandalous history. Tours are only around 45 minutes long, easy to fit in during a day at the safari park. You do need to pay extra for a tour and they are not available during special events. Alternatively, visitors can look around the ground and first floors of the house any time from 11am during peak season.

Exhibitions regularly take place in the house, with artefacts from both Longleat and elsewhere. They often commemorate historical events or milestones. Additionally, visitors can see art, furniture and tapestries belonging to Longleat. Many date back to the Thynne family who built the house in the 1570s.

As well as driving around the estate’s land on the safari tour, visitors can look around the formal and pleasure gardens of the house. My girls were particularly excited to see a sign for the ‘secret garden’.

Longleat Elizabethan mansion

Further information about visiting Longleat Safari Park

  • Longleat tickets: Visitors save 15% by booking online before visiting. For information on ticket prices and to book, head to their website. Whilst pre-booking is cheaper, it’s not essential. You can book on the day.
  • Longleat Safari Bus: If you don’t fancy taking your car through the park, it’s possible to take a tour on the double decker safari bus. This is a guided tour, so you’ll learn more information about the animals on the way round. Further information is available here.
  • Opening times: Do check the website for opening times and dates before travelling because the park is not open every day. Longleat closes for much of the winter.
  • Staying longer at Longleat: It is possible to buy a two day pass for the park and we would definitely recommend this. We went for a day and there was a lot we didn’t manage to do. Details of where to stay are available on the Longleat accommodation page.
  • Getting close to the animals at Longleat: If you want to get up close to particular animals or experience life as a keeper, check out the Longleat VIP experiences.
Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire, UK | All you need to know about a family day out at Longleat Safari Park. Drive through safari what animals to look out for, boat and train rides and things to keep parents busy as well as children. #Longleat #SafariPark #daysout #familydaysout #UKtravel #familyfun

For more ideas for family friendly days out, check out some of my other posts. I have a particular focus on days out in the West Midlands and dog friendly days out.

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