If you’re looking for a jaw-dropping, absolutely magical family experience this Christmas, Longleat’s Festival of Light is it. As my sister said when I showed her some pictures last night, it simply doesn’t look real; at some points you feel like you’ve been transported to another world.
If you’ve never heard of it, then, briefly: at this time of year Longleat Safari Park transforms itself into a sculpture park of wintery, festive light displays. It has a theme – travelling the world through the eyes of two small children and their pet dog, Monty. You go with them on their journey which is a carefully curated path, predominantly around the gardens and grounds of Longleat house. The displays also spill out into the main concourse where the entrances to the animal enclosures and playgrounds are.
It is breathtaking.
Here are my tips:
- There are a great variety of ticket types and prices. This is a treat experience, and full price, it’s something you’d need to budget for. You can go for the whole day and do the animals and and safari, you can arrive after 3pm, or on Thursdays you can simply go late for the lanterns. I can’t tell you which is best because I think it depends on your family and your budget. But if you go for the whole day, ensure you get every bit of value out of the place and do everything.
- You don’t need a car to go to Longleat, there’s lots of ways to arrive and get round. A popular misconception is that you need a car for the Festival of Light – you don’t, it’s all on foot
- If you’ve got little kids, take a backpack, sling or buggy, I promise you, you’ll need it, and if you can get them up on your back, do it, because there are LOTS of people and lots to see from adult height
- If you have a family member with disabilities, Longleat is one of the most accessible places I’ve been, and it was a real eye opener to see so many adults and children in wheelchairs, on scooters and with walkers enjoying the park
- The toilets in the new restaurant, The Chameleon Tree, are much the best, and the queue is shorter. They have good baby change too
- The Chameleon Tree is really decent, lovely food. The kids portions are pretty big for little kids, in fact I had a child’s meal too!
- You can take your own food and drink to Longleat and there’s loads of places to sit and eat. There are lots of lovely festive food options on site though – we enjoyed a terrific hot chocolate and some immense doughnuts
- Don’t miss the Christmas Tree show in the courtyard, it was utterly beautiful. In the main, the Festival of Light is completely non denominational, but the tree show does contain Carols and traditional Christmas songs, which we really loved
- Try and be near the lights when they switch them on at 4.30, it’s really something to watch and the noise of the kids getting excited will really get you in the mood
- If you have glow sticks or things like that already at home – it’ll save you being pestered to buy more
- Don’t miss going into the house, it’s all set up for a 1920s Christmas and is stunning. We didn’t go in as a family this year, our boy was getting a bit tired two-year old by then, but I loved sneaking a quiet peak alone
- The Hall of Mirrors in the courtyard is hilarious and strange, but as a slight claustrophobe, it freaked me out a little too much. The kids were loving it though!
- Everything is open until 7.30pm, so maybe take the kids’ pyjamas and pop them in them before you head home. Ours were fast asleep by the time we clicked them into their seats!
Our top five light displays:
- India – just absolutely stunning
- Egypt – wait till you see the pyramid!
- The castle and the knights
- The polar bears
- The Longleat Flyer arriving at the station
One of the most special family experiences we’ve had in a long time.
We were guests of Longleat on this occasion, although we have been a few times before hence some of the extra tips.