While undoubtedly the onset of winter means dark nights, cold weather and more than a fair share of cloud in the skies, for me there’s something special, even magical, about the impending festive season.
An annual event that occurs at this time of year is Longleat’s Festival of Light. It has been on my ‘to do’ list since it began three years ago, so grabbing the bull by the horns we booked up to visit this year!
The annual light festival starts at the beginning of November and goes right the way through to early January, making it a great option to do in the lead up to Christmas, or to dodge the crowds, something to fill in the less excitable days between Christmas and New Year.
Making it a double whammy, a day ticket entitles visitors to the infamous Longleat House and Safari Park as well as the light festival so as it’s a bit of a trek to Wiltshire, we hit the road early to take in the amenities on offer.
I won’t go in to too much detail on the safari element, but in comparisons to others I have visited, it was refreshing to see everything so spread out, including the cars, meaning the kids got to see a fair bit more than the bumper of the vehicle in front of us!
Animal interaction is always great fun for the kids and they thought it was so exciting to see the roaming zebras, monkeys and lions as we went through. Add on the animal handling and shows within the zoo/walk-able area and that alone made for a good family day out.
The Festival of Lights
However, we were really here for the ‘after party’, the Festival of Light, which this year is themed around Beatrix Potter. The loud shouts and giggles from the children within the car most definitely stepped aside for the gasps and wows from the spectacular displays.
This time of year is traditionally filled with twinkling lights and beautiful displays, but this is something else. Large-scale 20m tall exhibits exude a soft glowing light that allows them to portray a story against the night backdrop. As far as a display, it is beautifully curated; someone clearly has spent a lot of time and effort in this display and bringing to life the new tale of ‘Kitty in Boots’, which is truly stunning for adults and children alike.
Fans of Beatrix Potter will know that 2016 marks the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth and therefore the celebration of this landmark event, combined with Longleat’s own 50th anniversary pays homage to all things celebratory and includes a giant birthday cake and presents nestled amongst illuminated Beatrix Potter characters.
For a family with babies and toddlers it featured everything we wanted from a great family day out – excitement, history and a lot of sensory elements that will put any Baby Sensory class to shame!
My top tips would be to pack plenty of clothes as it does get cold at dusk, and a picnic is a wise choice to prevent falling foul to the usual attraction-inflated sandwich costs. Tickets don’t come cheap (I’m not sure much does nowadays!) however for a special unique day that will ultimately create memories for many years to come, it was absolutely perfect and I’d highly recommend.
To find out more and to book, visit longleat.co.uk/festivaloflight