Firebird

By Louisa McRobb

 
This was the first time I'd been to Longleat, and with the Festival of Light in full swing there was no better time to visit. 

The festively decorated drive up to the main gates definitely gets you into the spirit of things! And as we came down the long driveway overlooking the House, grounds and Festival of Light for the first time, I was definitely in awe of the place. The first lantern that caught my eye the most was the boat in the lake, and I was immediately excited to see more.

We first made our way over to the Safari Park as we were told this would get very busy! So top tip, make sure to head to the Safari Park as soon as possible. It takes a couple of hours to make your way round and  there’s a chance to feed the deer, get up close and personal with monkeys, and admire zebras, camels, ostriches, and more.

Deer

It's quite strange to think that there are lions, giraffes, monkeys, cheetahs and hippos living in the Wiltshire countryside, so close to Warminster, but they do look very much at home here. Hardly surprising as Longleat was the first location, outside of Africa, to open a drive-through Safari Park and has been running for over 50 years!

Longleat Lion

So after the Safari Park drive-through, we made our way over to the House, and the main attraction, the Festival of Light.

All around the site there were lots of hidden gems, I especially liked the trail of penguin lanterns leading us to the Penguin Island and Monkey Temple. Due to the new Paddington film out a couple of weeks prior to this visit, Paddington Bear was in town and came along too. So the penguins took him under their wing!

We managed to make the last boat trip for the Jungle Cruise, on this voyage you are met by Californian sea lions making a splash, shown the lakeside Gorilla colony, and if you're lucky see Spot and Sonia the hippos emerge from the water! As dusk settled over Longleat the lanterns were switched on, and we were lucky enough to see the lanterns from the boat, which was an added bonus as it was a completely different angle to what I'd seen in photos before!


This years theme for The Festival of Light's is fairy-tales, the splendour and intricacy of each display was rather impressive, and whilst admiring each display whether it be Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, or Rapunzel I definitely felt a sense of nostalgia.


I particularly liked the  ‘Firebird’ display, which is the image featured at the top of this page. It's a Slavic folklore tale, which is known for being one of the most colourful tales in Russian history and you can definitely understand why.  On the other side of the Firebird was a dragon from 'The Gurt Wurm of Shervage Wood', which was equally as dramatic, and to my surprise puffed out real smoke!

Last stop was the Enchanted Christmas Tree Show, and if this doesn’t get you into the Christmas spirit; I’m not sure what will! Although probably aimed more towards children the story of the enchanted Christmas tree definitely captured everyone’s attention and is well worth a watch!

Open from 5th November – 7th January make time to head down and see one of the best outdoor festive activities this winter! There’s a magical train taking you Santa’s grotto (book in advance), the decorated Christmas House, a hedge maze, an adventure playground and so much more. So to see it all make sure you put a full day aside! 

If you’re coming from afar and need to find a place to stay, look no further than here

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