Longleat Safari and Adventure Park is an open-air zoo that was the first drive-through safari park outside Africa when it opened in 1966.
Longleat had been open to tourists since 1949 but as an increasing number of stately homes began opening their doors to tourists, Henry Thynne, sixth Marquess of Bath, needed a unique edge to attract visitors so he created the 40.4ha (100-acre) safari park. This transformed Longleat into more than just another stately home and on its opening day in 1966, the safari park was so popular that there was a 6.4km- (4 mile)-long queue to visit the park.
What to see at Longleat Safari and Adventure Park
The zoo is now home to over 500 animals and the park is divided between the drive-through animal park where large African wildlife roams free and smaller animal enclosures that are more in line with what you would find at a traditional zoo.
The drive-through safari park
Longleat’s focus remains on African wildlife in the drive-through part of the park.
After entering the drive-through safari park, you first drive through Bongo Pass where you can see elands before arriving at the African Village car park. At the African Village, you can get out of your car and visit the gift shop, cafe and public toilets and also visit the viewing platform where you can see giraffes and zebras and there is also a lemur walk-through area.
After leaving the African Village, you can drive through an area where you can see tapirs, vultures, warthogs and zebras. After this, you can drive through the monkey area, it is possible to bypass this area if you don’t want the monkeys to destroy your car (or more likely, your rental car company doesn’t want you to ruin their car).
Then there is a loop that takes you through the Anne’s Haven area where you can see an ex-circus elephant named Anne and another loop that takes you through the deer section.
The final part of the drive-through safari park takes you past tigers, lions, cheetahs, hyenas and wolves.
Longleat’s Main Square is the part of the park that more closely resembles a regular zoo. This is the area with more conventional animal enclosures as Longleat’s famous hedge maze, its miniature railway, a children’s play area and the adventure castle.
Some of the animal enclosures at the Main Square include the Bat Cave where you can see Egyptian fruit bats, the Jungle Kingdom where you can see aardvarks, giant anteaters, meerkats and porcupines, Monkey Temple where you can see lorikeets, marmosets and red pandas, Koala Creek where you can see koalas and wombats plus an area with crocodiles and giant otters.
The Jungle Cruise on Half Mile Pond lets you see sea lions, hippos and gorillas.
The Family Farmyard area (near the safari bus departure point) features tame animals including donkeys, goats, rabbits, emus and wallabies.
Adventure Castle is a popular area for children aged 14 and younger. It is an elaborate adventure playground complete with zip wires and tube slides.
The Longleat Railway is a miniature railway that has been operating since 1965. It takes you on a scenic trip around a 2km (1¼ mile) circuit of the woodland north of Longleat House. A trip on the miniature railway gives you the opportunity to spot wildlife including sea lions and hippopotamuses. The railway runs every half-hour starting at 11am and the journey lasts around 12 minutes.
With over 2.4km (1½ miles) of paths, Longleat’s maze is Britain’s largest hedge maze. The maze is made up of over 16,000 English yew trees. Most people spend anywhere between 20 and 90 minutes to find their way through the maze.
Christmas at Longleat
Christmas at Longleat is a seasonal attraction that operates throughout December and into early January. This includes a number of Christmas-themed attractions including the Enchanted Christmas Tree show, the A Flight Before Christmas owl show and a light display synchronised with Christmas tunes.
There is also a Santa Train that takes you to the North Pole where you can meet Father Christmas in his grotto.
Admission to Longleat safari park is slightly higher at this time of the year; however, you will still need to pay extra to ride the Santa Train.
Visiting Longleat Safari and Adventure Park
Longleat Safari and Adventure Park is located on the Longleat estate which is around 6.5km (4 miles) from Warminster. There is not any public transport available to the park and virtually everyone who visits drives here. However, it is possible to arrive by taxi from Warminster.
Motorcycles, scooters, convertible cars and cars with soft sunroofs are not allowed into the drive-through area of the safari park.
You can take the double-decker safari bus if you came here by taxi from Warminster (or if you have a vehicle that is prohibited in the park). The safari bus tour takes around 1½ hours and includes a 20-minute stop at the African Village. It includes the Monkey Jungle area but it does not visit the Deer Park. The bus tour costs an additional £5 per person.
There are also several VIP experiences which range from personalised safari tours in small groups (usually no more than six people on a tour) to animal feeding experiences. Some of these can be rather expensive although the Bronze VIP safari tour is a great option if you’re visiting without a car (or you don’t want to drive your car through the park) and many people recommend the animal feeding experiences.
Despite the higher cost, the Bronze VIP safari tour works out better value than paying for the damage that the monkeys will inflict on your rental car and it provides a much more intimate experience than visiting on the double-decker safari bus.
|Aardvark VIP experience||£80 per person|
|Big cat feeding VIP experience||£360 per person|
|Big cat VIP photographic experience||£195 per person|
|Giant anteater VIP experience||£80 per person|
|Giant otter VIP experience||£80 per person|
|Giraffe VIP experience||£89 per person|
|Gorilla feeding VIP experience||£135 per person|
|Koala Creek VIP experience||£200 per person|
|Lion VIP experience||£100 per person|
|Meerkat VIP experience||£80 per person|
|Red panda VIP experience||£85 per person|
|Tiger feeding VIP experience||£145 per person|
|Bronze VIP safari tour||£90 per person or £490 for the entire tour (up to six people)|
|Silver VIP tour||£160 per person or £860 for the entire tour (up to six people)|
|Gold VIP tour||£335 per person|
The VIP feeding experiences include entry to the Longleat Safari and Adventure Park for that day, which can make the price seem a little more reasonable.
Giraffe, sea lion and rainbow lorikeet feeding are much cheaper experiences than the VIP feeding experiences. Giraffe feeding costs between £2 and £5, sea lion feeding costs £1 for a cup of fish and it costs £1 for a pot of nectar for the rainbow lorikeets.
It is not a cheap place to spend the day but there is a lot that is included in your entry ticket and there is enough here to keep you busy for the entire day. Most attractions and activities are included as part of your entry ticket (including the Jungle Cruise and the miniature railway), however, the safari bus, the VIP safari tour and some animal feeding experiences are an additional charge.
Although annual passes are expensive, they may be a good option if you live nearby, particularly as these give you discounts if you’re visiting with friends or family.
It is open from February until the end of December.
There are two ticketing options if you’re visiting in December when the seasonal Land of Light attraction is operating. You can either book an all-in-one ticket that lets you visit the safari park and Land of Light or you can book a Land of Light-only night ticket that only gives you access to Land of Light. As this is a nighttime event, Land of Light operates from 4pm daily (it gets dark around 4pm at this time of the year) and all-in-one ticket holders can visit the safari park and see Land of Light between 4pm and 5.30pm. Then the park will close and reopen around 6pm for Land of Light-only ticket holders who can stay until 8pm.
The proximity of the Longleat Safari and Adventure Park to the manor house means that it is possibly England’s most child-friendly stately home. This makes it a great attraction for the entire family. You can get your dose of culture by visiting the big house and then your kids get to see the animals, play in the Adventure Castle, ride the miniature railway and get lost in the maze. It’s a great day out for the whole family.
Most of the complex is wheelchair accessible including the safari bus, the miniature railway, the maze and the jungle cruise.
Longleat is a large self-contained complex that includes several places to eat and drink. This includes the Watering Hole Cafe in the African Village at the drive-through safari park as well as the Chameleon Tree Restaurant and the Pizza Piazza in the Main Square. There are also a couple of places to eat and drink at Longleat House. There are also four different gift shops in various parts of the complex.
This is a full-day excursion, particularly if you bundle it with a visit to Longleat House. In fact, you can easily spend 90 minutes just trying to find your way out of the maze.