Festival of Light in Longleat

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I have updated this post to reflect my pre-Christmas visit.

Last weekend we returned to Longleat because, well, we just really wanted to look at some cute animals.

Going to Longleat in December meant some animals were less keen to come out, but it was nowhere near as busy as when we visited in the summer, which made a big difference, particularly when going round the safari. And there was still plenty of cuteness to appreciate. Like this porcupine munching on a carrot.

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Or the monkeys with their Christmas stocking snacks.

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The Longleat animals seem to eat better than I did at university.

Drive-through cats

Entering the safari is always a bit like one of the first Jurassic Park scenes – huge gates locking behind you and warning signs to stay in the car. As if I would really get out to stroke one of the ‘kittens.’

Antelopes, camels and deer are all sweet and chilled. The gloomy December weather made for pretty dramatic background – you wouldn’t think this is happening in the heart of England:

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The deer were not afraid of cars or people; some were actually bold enough too try get a smelly Bambi kiss.

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But it’s the animals you don’t see that often; the wild cats walking around within the reach of your hand that make the experience so special.

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They are so majestic.

It’s odd seeing such exotic animals in the green, wet British countryside, but as we were informed by a safari CD, they adapted pretty well.

Festival of light

This year, Longleat celebrates its 50th birthday. It was open in 1966 as the first drive-through safari park outside Africa. It doesn’t sound like much today, but back int he 60s that was an extravagant idea and a huge project. To mark this occasion, the park is running an amazing Festival of Light exhibition starring statues resembling Longleat’s animals as well as characters from Beatrix Potter’s books.

When I had a quick look at the festival on the website before heading over, I thought it was an adorable little thing kids would love. Some lit up ducks and stuff. Was definitely not my priority (tigers; tigers were my priority). But as we finished our safari tour and headed back to the main square just before 4pm, we thought we might as well check it out, since we were already there and the last boat for the jungle cruise had sailed.

It wasn’t just an adorable little thing kids would love. It was a major art project. An extremely impressive and magical one.

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