Longleat House was one of the more interesting places we saw during our trip. The house itself was built beginning in 1568, and Queen Elizabeth I visited the site about six years later. It’s considered one of the premier architectural structures from that era in history. It’s still privately owned, but in the mid-1900s it opened to the public, with the first visitors admitted in 1949. It was the first home of its type to allow the public to visit.
The house isn’t the only attraction here, though. Surrounding the building is about 900 acres of grounds. Over the years, in order to attract visitors and bring in more money to help maintain the estate, the owners of Longleat have added a lot to those grounds.
One of the features is a full-fledged safari park. Not something you would necessarily expect to find in the middle of England! It opened in 1966 and was the first safari park outside of Africa. Here, animals aren’t caged. Wild animals that you might find in Africa, like lions, wander freely around the hundreds of acres of the park.
Back when the idea was first suggested, people in the area weren’t too thrilled, and some were just plain terrified. Some protested that if the owner of the estate were allowed to bring in wild animals, the entire area would be overrun by lions and other predators. But Longleat was given the permissions he needed, the animals were brought to the estate, and nothing dangerous or serious happened. Now people can drive through the safari park and see the animals roaming around.
The Safari Park only holds some of the animals visitors can see here. The grounds at Longleat also include the BBC Animal Park and the Jungle Kingdom, which includes some animals that aren’t native to England and are a bit safer for visitors to get close to than the animals in the Safari Park. These attractions also include a Jungle Cruise ride.
The Adventure Park portion of the grounds includes the Adventure Castle, a large playground and castle for children to play in and explore, along with the Longleat Hedge Maze, which is among the longest labyrinths in the world.
The beautiful house and grounds, along with the Safari Park, Adventure Park, and Hedge Maze, made this one of the more unusual things we saw during our trip. It was interesting to see how English property owners can sometimes find unique ways to fund the maintenance of their homes.
|Me at the TARDIS at Longleat