On Saturday 16th November, I finally visited Longleat’s Festival of Light event. After many years of wanting to go, I planned ahead this year & tickets were booked for my birthday weekend. I couldn’t wait. If you’re a theme park geek like myself, this is a perfect closed season trip to undertake. Longleat Safari Park is located just outside Warminster in Wiltshire. Right opposite Longleat Centre Parcs in Longleat Forest. There’s a lot to see and do at the park. And with the Festival of Light event, it’s clear to see why it’s so popular among guests. Of course any event has its high and low points. So let’s crack on with my full review of Longleat Festival of Light.
Highlights from Longleat’s Festival of Light…
I was in awe at the number of lanterns they had. Considering there were probably around 100 different lanterns in total! I thought they had a dedicated area for all the lanterns. Nope, they were dotted everywhere. This actually made it into an all-encompassing event where you truly felt immersed in the park. Nothing impacted the areas near any animal enclosures which was great. You can tell they’ve worked hard to ensure this event flowed as well as it could. From 4.30pm, the lanterns were turned on and it truly felt like a winter’s event. The theme for 2019 was Myths and Legends. Regardless of whether a theme is your favourite or not, you will still have a fantastic time regardless.
Safari Park & Animal Encounters
The Safari Park is an expansive area with a wide range of animals to see from the comfort of your car (or from a VIP truck – there is an extra charge for this). It’s best to allocate at least 3 hours for the Safari. Not only does it cover a vast area of land, but there’s also a stop-off point in the African Village featuring a shop, toilets, cafe and Lemur walkthrough. Not only that but once you’ve exited the Safari Park, your day doesn’t end there. There’s plenty more animals to encounter including Crocodiles, Bats, Koalas, Lorikeets and many more. Plus, there’s a Jungle Cruise located towards the back end of the park. Sadly we didn’t get to go on this during our visit as the queue was horrifically busy. Fingers crossed we can go on this on our next visit!
The projection mapping on Longleat House is new for 2019, and boy, I’ve seen projection mapping done really well along my travels. This is up there as one of my favourites. The facade of Longleat House is beautiful enough on its own but the projection mapping at night really adds to the atmosphere. It can be easy to miss if guests aren’t heading towards the front of the house once the lanterns have been turned on. Projections on the house included star constellations, mythical creatures and legends. It was beautifully portrayed and I couldn’t stop watching (and taking photos). If you are heading to Longleat Festival of Light this year, do not miss this!
There’s plenty of eateries around the park which is very important when it comes to feeding the family. One place that delivered high-quality food, fantastic customer service and an all-round great experience was Pizza Piazza. This place was quite hidden without the help of the park map. Serving a fab range of Pizzas & meal deals. It’s perfect for families on a budget. The average price was around £10 for a Margherita Pizza, £14 for a Texas BBQ/Meat Feast Pizza and £2.50 for either a soft drink or hot beverage. Meal Deals were also available from £15 to £25 depending on your group size. The food was high quality and incredibly filling, highly recommend. If you’re on the move, you can have a takeaway which I think is fantastic for families/groups on the move or if you can’t find a table to sit at during busy periods.
Lowlights from Longleat’s Festival of Light…
Okay, I understand that this event has grown in popularity over the years. Saturday’s visit was incredibly busy. It was very difficult to enjoy the experience without getting in people’s way or trying to manoeuvre the crowds. I’m not a huge lover of crowds anyway and can get very overwhelmed in these situations. However, there was a distinct lack of crowd control. Having more marshalls in different places to help ease congestion. A lot of people were standing in the way or stopping in awkward spots. Consequently, this meant us photographers couldn’t get the shot we wanted. If you are a family with young children, please keep in mind how busy certain areas get. If you can, please keep your children close at all times or try to wait until a quieter period.
A lot to cover in one day
Take it from me, you’ll need a plan to make the most of your day at Longleat. We arrived at Longleat around 12pm so didn’t get a full day at the park. Longleat opens at 10am, Safari Park opens from 9.30am. There is a LOT to cover if you really want to make the most of your visit. Aside from the Jungle Cruise and Longleat House, we still covered at least 85% of the park. Something to keep in mind if you’re looking to attend in the future. The main Festival of Light event gives you around 3 hours to walk the park and see the lanterns. The lanterns are switched on around 4.30pm. I believe this is ample time to take photos and see them all. With plenty of planning before your visit, you’ll be able to enjoy everything that Longleat has to offer.
Lack of signposts
For an event that becomes incredibly busy at this time of year, the signposts around this park are either too small to see or lacking in different areas. Whilst you have a park map to guide you, it’s still tricky to find what you are looking for. The layout of Longleat Adventure Park isn’t very logical in my opinion. There’s a lot of different walkways that steer off the main path. Some places seem hidden away so make sure you have that park map handy! Some temporary event signage to guide people around the park would help massively. This would help with the crowd control as there were a lot of people stopping in the middle of pathways looking lost. Given the number of guests on park, this caused a lot of congestion and didn’t help with the flow for people who were looking for shops, toilets and food places.
Despite the lowlights, I had a great time and would definitely recommend this event for anyone who’s looking for a weekend day trip with family & friends. Travelling from afar? There’s plenty of places to stay in the nearby area including Warminster, Salisbury and more. If this is your first time, enjoy it and make sure to allocate at least 3 hours for the Safari Park – it’s big!
Longleat Festival of Light runs on selected dates from 9th November to 5th January 2020. Hurry, tickets are selling fast and you don’t want to miss out on this amazing event – buy tickets on their website or find out more about the Festival of Light here.