Longleat Festival of Lights

By Theresa Hopwood

On an unseasonably warm and clear December evening I was delighted to have an opportunity to visit the Longleat Festival of Lights. Having visited and loved it last year there was a concern that they couldn’t possibly improve on that… but I should have known, being their 50th anniversary year that Longleat would do something even more impressive!

Unable to get away from the office too early, I arrived just as the sun was setting, and the lights were beginning to come on, a beautiful soft glow bathing the impressive Longleat House as I drove down the drive, and found a parking space in the busy, but not full car park.

My first stop was the Augmented Reality Arctic Experience where I found myself on a virtual iceberg with virtual arctic animals all around me. There was a small queue as only a limited number of people are allowed in at a time to ensure everyone gets the best possible experience, but there is plenty going on outside the building to keep you entertained during the short wait.

As I was at such an iconic animal park I couldn’t resist going to visit a few of the smaller residents before the areas closed for the evening. A quick “chat” with the parrots who were preparing for their last show of the day was followed by a photo shoot with the adorable red pandas. I am not sure they had got the memo though, as they refused to stay in one place and pose, hence a slight blur on all my pictures of them!

Red Panda

As darkness had by now well and truly fallen, and a clear moon risen, I headed off to enjoy the main event, the lights.  All around there are beautiful lanterns and illuminated flowers hanging in the trees, and free standing illuminated models of all shapes and sizes. The highlight for me was the Beatrix Potter themed displays, particularly Mr MacGregor’s Garden, which brought back wonderful memories of childhood bedtime stories. As you would expect, the famous lions, and other animals from the safari park feature in other parts of the grounds, and a special display celebrates the park’s anniversary, complete with cake and presents!

Mr McGregor's Garden

Every half an hour the Enchanted Christmas Tree adds a real festive feel to a visit and shouldn’t be missed.

The House itself is dressed for an Edwardian Christmas and is well worth a visit, and also offers an opportunity to warm up if you are not as lucky as I was with the mild weather.
Before leaving I grabbed a tasty snack at one of the many food outlets, and even managed a bit more Christmas shopping, perfect animal themed presents for the little people in my life!

The magic lasts to the final moments as I drove out past the house and got glimpses of the lights in the mirror.

The Festival really does appeal to all ages, I observed more mature visitors, arriving by coach, as bewitched by the sights as tiny toddlers in push chairs.



Safari Park
view of Longleat House, with reflection in fountain

Longleat, nestled within 900 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped grounds, is home to the UK’s original Safari Park, one of the best examples of Elizabethan architecture, and an abundance of exciting attractions including Jungle Kingdom and Animal Adventure where you can get up-close and personal with truly amazing animals.



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