We love adventures as a family so when we were kindly invited by the lovely folk at Longleat to visit as part of their year of celebration we said yes please! The lions have been at Longleat for 50 years and special events have been taking place throughout the year to celebrate.
Having visited the Festival of Light last year we knew it was a spectacle not to be missed. The lights really are something else, we’ve not seen anything like it anywhere else.
The lanterns are the largest display of Chinese lanterns in Europe, and set within the beautiful grounds of Longleat in Wiltshire, with the house as the backdrop it’s no wonder that people come in their droves.
As part of our invitation we were sent a gorgeous plush lion who Jon immediately named Brian the Lion. I asked on Facebook whether another name would be more suitable, as I preferred Leo. I was out-voted by literally all of our friends, and Brian the Lion has stuck ever since. We decided to take him with us around Longleat to enjoy the sights and visit his relatives! Harry and Katie adore Brian!
The safari has been at Longleat for 50 years, isn’t that incredible? We tried it last year and it takes about 2 and a half hours, sometimes longer. There are exit points along the way and it is wise to use these if needed, the queue today was 4 hours to get through the safari. Having young children makes this untenable for us with loo stops to consider and the risk they might not enjoy or really understand the worth of the experience. When the children are older we’ll try it again.
Harry was not in the right frame of mind for the day, he has a cold and is worn out from the excitement of Christmas and although he’s a really happy boy most of the time, he does have a rare off day like all of us. His cough got worse as we approached Longleat and generally when he’s feeling like that our day can be a stressful affair. Our top priority is always to put our children first. The temperature at Longleat was a noticeable 2 degrees colder than home. It was a beautifully bright, blue skied, super cold, crisp day.
We arrived around 2pm and headed straight for the Beatrix Potter display which was included to celebrate 150 years of the books we all love. Even though they weren’t lit, they were still stunning. I would definitely recommend getting ahead of the crowds and seeing it before light up time at 4pm because the crowds were immense. We’re so glad we saw them while we could.
The kids LOVED the displays Harry especially liked the giraffes and radishes in Mr McGregor’s garden and they didn’t really know where to look first, the display is extensive and runs from the entrance all the way around the great house.
As parent to young children we found the crowds quite hard to negotiate at times, we lost Katie twice for a couple of minutes and this was in daylight, we stayed calm and found her quickly both times. However I couldn’t help but think how easy it was to lose track of each other within the grounds, especially when it got dark and the illuminations went on. It was a funny mix of bright, dazzling light and super dark everywhere else. We both felt a tagging system where families could register details should a child go missing could be really useful. We would also invest in some hi-vis vests for them for our next visit.
As it got dark the lights came on at 4pm and most people started to head towards the singing Christmas tree which was our highlight! Head to my instagram feed to watch the video! We really enjoyed the singing Christmas tree and it’s clear to see the effort throughout the grounds, it must have taken hours and hours to set up. We were in awe of the time that must go into such a high quality Festival of Light.
The lights are truly amazing, really breath taking. What an experience!
The huge Chinese dragon is truly spectacular and we really liked that the lights were different from last year which kept the children interested.
We didn’t make it to see the Beatrix Potter display lit up, because the crowds were immense, it didn’t look like there was a queuing system, just a huge mass of people trying to get through a small entrance and the temperature had dropped again to just above freezing. Although we all had extra layers on, we were freezing, and our toes had turned to ice cubes.
Instead of pushing on through and risking losing each other again we opted for home.
We had a great time at Longleat Festival of Light and will definitely return. Thank you so much to Longleat for inviting us.
*We were gifted a family day ticket in return for our honest feedback. As always photo’s and opinions are my own.