Longleat House and Safari Park

Watching a pride of lions from a car at Longleat, Wiltshire

“I loved seeing the animals up close, especially the wolves. The mirror maze was great and the parrots really made me laugh.” Jaymee, 11

Passing through scenic English parkland dotted with basking lions and giraffes is a surreal experience, but the up-close views of the animals that you get at Longleat Safari Park are as close to the magic of an African safari as you’ll find without leaving the country.

The safari driving route takes you through enclosures containing zebras, flamingoes, vultures and rhinos. Visitors are allowed to lower their windows to feed the fallow deer and also get out at the East Africa Game Reserve section – but make sure you keep everything firmly shut as you pass the lions and tigers. You don’t have to leave your car at all, though after the safari you may want to park and experience the other Longleat attractions that help to make the place a must-visit for all families. Longleat House is a dazzling example of an Elizabethan stately home with a series of lavishly decorated rooms – famous as the home of Lord Bath and his murals, which can be viewed on a tour. Outdoors, younger visitors may be better entertained by the miniature train ride, play-park and opportunities for snake-handling and parrot shows in the Animal Adventure zone – not to mention the boat on the lake, from which they can feed leaping sea lions. Other attractions include the Watering Hole, where visitors can hand-feed the giraffes (pre-booking may be required), and Cheetah Kingdom – the first chance to see the world’s fastest land animal at Longleat. New attractions for 2014 include Penguin Island, Stingray Bay, Gorilla Colony, Rockin’ Rhino and Postman Pat Village.

Disabled visitors are pretty well catered for throughout the Longleat site. All the smaller attractions are within two hundred to three hundred yards of the house and car park. Outdoors, surfaces are generally level, except for in some of the safari park viewing areas, which have some rough tracks. The Wallaby Walk is fairly steep. For visitors without cars, a safari bus service is available, but unfortunately is not wheelchair accessible. The wheelchair access point to the house is via the Victorian kitchen. This is a fairly narrow entrance, but following the lift journey to the first floor and main part of the house (ask a member of staff if you need to use it) you’ll find the rooms are spacious, the corridors flat and that there are no narrow passages or doors. There is also a lift to the top floor. Wheelchairs can be borrowed – they should be booked in advance on 01985 844400 and can be collected from the visitor information centre which is around one hundred yards from the car park. Because of fire regulations, only six wheelchair users are able to enter the house at one time. Assistance dogs are welcome in the house, but not in the safari park (a kennel facility is available for £1). The boat has a flat loading ramp, as does the miniature train, which also has a carriage for wheelchair users. Some of the guides at Longleat are Makaton trained (a sign language for children and adults with learning and communication difficulties).

Food & drink: There are various on-site cafés and kiosks including the newly opened, Tropical Storm Café, where you can immerse yourself in a tropical rainforest environment, including a cascading waterfall – just watch out for the thunderstorms! It’s wheelchair-accessible via a ramp at the front, and there’s indoor and outdoor seating available.