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Old 12-02-2014, 01:56 AM   #1
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Lions, lanterns and lots more! – a unique Christmas celebration at Longleat COMPLETED

Lions, lanterns and lots more! – a unique Christmas celebration at Longleat

Ok, a quick confession before I start this - this should've been posted before we went away for this weekend, but I completely forgot, so here goes now - a pre-trip report just before we start the trip report itself...

Pre-trip report: perhaps we should come back for the Christmas celebrations?

Dates: Saturday 29 – Sunday 30 November
Adventurers: Me, Cheryl (41) and DH Mark (49)
Destinations: Longleat, southern England
Resorts: The Red Lion, Warminster
Celebration: nothing particular, but heck do we need one?

Earlier this year, we had a week’s break away in Southern England, and as part of that, we visited Longleat House, that’s home to a safari park. If you read the trip report I wrote at the time, you’ll know that we absolutely adored the safari, and had some amazing encounters, particularly with the lions and the cheetahs. If you didn’t read it, well the link is above, so what are you waiting for? I can certainly promise you some great animal photos…

Anyway, as we left Longleat, we saw this sign….



… and that set us both thinking… after all, we’d really enjoyed our time here so much, perhaps we should come back for the Christmas celebrations? I kept an eye on the website, but as often happens with these things, as all planners will know, it takes time for organisations to actually get the details up, but eventually they added them to their site. It didn’t take us long to decide that we were sold on doing this!

What we’re most interested in are the Chinese lanterns, and apparently this is Europe’s largest display of them, so hopefully they’ll be spectacular. I hope the artisan market they have is good, but you just never know with these things. Sadly, we’ve been to some in recent years, and to be blunt, they’ve been awful, with very little that was “artisan” about them, but hopefully that won’t be the case here.

Unsurprisingly, we’re not really interested in the Santa Express, and as I can’t ice skate due to an old ankle injury, that’s out as well, but we definitely want to do a winter safari, and hopefully the animal interaction will be just as good the second time around. I’m looking forward to seeing the house decorated as well, although I have to confess I am really not sure about the 50 feet high singing Christmas tree.

The plan is to set off as early as possible, as Longleat is a three hour drive away. We won’t make it for opening, but hopefully we can be there by around 11:00am, and the place opens at 10:00am. The priority will be to get at least one safari in, as the last safari is at 2:00pm, which I can understand, as it takes a while to get around it, and of course by then, we’ll be losing the light quite early on.

Obviously we’ll also hit the various Christmas activities that we want to see, and we have a lot longer to do that, as Longleat is open until 7:30pm on the day we’re visiting. Of course, that works well, as the Chinese lanterns will be more spectacular after darkness falls.

We’ve booked a bed and breakfast place nearby in Warminster, which is very well rated on TripAdvisor, and is very well priced, as there was no way we wanted to do a three hour drive each way in one day if we could avoid it.

We’ll head home the next day, although whether we’ll do something before we do remains to be seen. Stourhead, which is a National Trust property, is only 20 minutes’ drive away and we may go there. We have been before and it’s spectacular, and apparently some of the house is open with some rooms decorated, so that might be worth seeing. We can decide a lot nearer the time or even on the day, depending how we feel.

So there we go, our plans for a unique Christmas celebration in Longleat…

Next: “red sky at night, shepherd’s delight, red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning”…
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Old 12-02-2014, 08:27 AM   #2
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Old 12-02-2014, 08:33 AM   #3
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Giant singing Christmas tree? I'll join you in being dubious about this one, but looking forward to hearing about it!
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Old 12-02-2014, 11:05 AM   #4
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Great start! My mom used to sing in a very tall Christmas tree every year. Due to her dizziness at heights, she was always placed on a lower level though.
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Old 12-02-2014, 02:09 PM   #5
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Great start!!
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Old 12-02-2014, 03:07 PM   #6
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Giant singing Christmas tree? I'll join you in being dubious about this one, but looking forward to hearing about it!
I know, right? I will say here and now that we were so disinterested by it that we didn't actually bother with it, so I have no idea what it was like, but the sound of it just did nothing for us!
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Old 12-02-2014, 03:08 PM   #7
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Great start! My mom used to sing in a very tall Christmas tree every year. Due to her dizziness at heights, she was always placed on a lower level though.
Cool!
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Old 12-02-2014, 10:33 PM   #8
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Your title of the next installment is interesting, although I always heard the saying in reference to sailors, not shepherds. One of our local churches has a singing Christmas tree each year and it is quite impressive.
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Old 12-03-2014, 01:28 AM   #9
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Your title of the next installment is interesting, although I always heard the saying in reference to sailors, not shepherds.
That's really interesting, as it's definitely shepherds over here.

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One of our local churches has a singing Christmas tree each year and it is quite impressive.
I feel really bad not seeing it now - maybe it would've been good.
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Old 12-03-2014, 01:31 AM   #10
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Saturday 29 November – part one: “red sky at night, shepherd’s delight, red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning”…

The alarm went off at 5:45am, which is a very unsociable time for a Saturday, and not something I’m used to. During the week weekends not so much – thankfully. We finally got up closer to 7:00am, and got ourselves ready. The reason for the early alarm call was because we wanted to be on the road by around 8:00am, as it would take us a couple of hours to get to Longleat, and it opens at 10:00am.

As I was getting ready, I spotted this amazing sky outside…



Mark cheerily remarked “red sky at night, shepherd’s delight, red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning”… yeah, thanks for that love! In fairness, the forecast wasn’t looking too bad. In fact it’s probably more accurate to say it was looking really good, given it’s the end of November. It’s supposed to be dry all weekend, and with temperatures in the low 50s.

We set off just after 8:00am, and the sun was casting some beautiful light on the trees as we left our house…



We got a bit of a shock when we set the GPS, as she kindly told us that we wouldn’t be there until nearly 11:00am. Ok, not sure what’s that’s all about.

As we drove along, the sun continued to cast some beautiful light, both in the wing mirror of the car….



… and in the sky itself….



It really was one of those beautiful winter days. You just never get light like this in the summer months.

We hit some roadworks as we drove along one of the motorways, but really they were fine, and we were still able to move at the speed limit. I took the opportunity, while we were going a bit slower, to write up some trip report, both this trip and our recent Disneyland Paris break.

Soon we were coming off the motorways, and headed on to the more minor roads, and again, we passed some beautiful scenery. It was just a perfect day for taking photos, so I took the opportunity (unsurprisingly! ) to do a lot of that…



Then we saw Stonehenge:



Shortly afterwards, we found some pigs – what a great view they have!



We had to stop for various roadworks, and at one point, there was a guy out what I assume was metal detecting. With my neat zoom, I was clearly able to see exactly what he was up to!



When we got to Longleat…



… we discovered it was a heck of a lot busier than we’d been here before in May – look at the lines to get in at the main entrance!



In fairness, the lines didn’t move too badly, and it was probably just over five minutes’ wait, although goodness knows what the guy in front of us was doing, as he seemed to take forever!

Next: monkey destruction tactics
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Old 12-03-2014, 07:55 AM   #11
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Nice drive through the countryside with beautiful skies. That's a lot of cars headed into Longleat!
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Old 12-03-2014, 08:25 AM   #12
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Great pictures from your drive!
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Old 12-03-2014, 12:33 PM   #13
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Nice drive through the countryside with beautiful skies. That's a lot of cars headed into Longleat!
I know! We were surprised, but I guess their marketing of the Chinese lanterns really worked...
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Old 12-04-2014, 01:24 AM   #14
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Saturday 29 November – part two: monkey destruction tactics

Once we’d exchanged our vouchers for tickets, we headed off on the long drive over to the safari park, as we’d both agreed this was what we wanted to do first. We passed Longleat House and could see some of the Chinese lanterns. We both commented that they didn’t look much in the day. I certainly hope (and I’m sure they will….) look a lot better after dark…



Already the car park looked pretty full, so we resigned ourselves to the fact that we’ll probably have a long walk from the car when we finally make it back here from the safari park. Oh well, maybe the parking fairy will smile favourably on Mark like she often does… Anyway, there was no way I was parking up here and missing the safari.

We made our way over there, seeing a rather unusual sight on the way – a tractor driving backwards that appeared to be blowing leaves out of the way!



We finally got to the entrance for the safari…



… and the trees here were beautiful:



We headed inside. We weren’t originally going to stop at the African Village, but as you can get food and drink here, and they have toilets, we decided we would. Good call, given it was now coming up to 11:00am, and it had been a while since we’d left home, and we needed to stock up on supplies…

My goodness, they must have been making a fortune in there! We got a cookie, a bag of crisps (chips to you guys), a Cornish pasty for Mark and a couple of hot chocolates, and all that came to £12 ($19). I headed back to the car with the food, and Mark waited for the hot chocolates. As he said when he got back to the car, “that’s half an hour of my life I won’t get back”, a slight exaggeration, but in truth, he’d probably had a 10-15 minute wait, because of all the coffees they were making.

He pointed out when he got back that there were some giraffes just in front of us, although in fairness, they were totally hidden from my view in the passenger seat by the car in front of us. So that’s where they are then! We hadn’t seen them out in the African Village earlier, and they had warned us that some animals may not be out, so I’d just assumed that was the case with the giraffes. I’m glad we got to see them…



We headed off on our safari, and the first thing we saw were these guys…



We then spotted the zebras, including a cute little baby.



From here, we also had a view of the antics going on in the monkey drive-through. Once, many years ago, we went with my parents to Knowsley Safari Park, which is near where they live, and we must’ve sat at a viewing area, looking out over the monkey drive-through for about half an hour, just enjoying the antics of the monkeys, and looking at how much destruction they were wreaking on the cars that went through. Well, it wasn’t half an hour today, but we did sit there for a while enjoying the spectacle!



Once we’d finished enjoying the monkey destruction tactics we headed past the flamingos and buzzards. The flamingos were very active, chasing each other around, and there were loads of buzzards, but sadly with the fencing they use here, getting photos here is impossible.

Then we past the entrance and exit to the monkey drive through, and I got this shot of this group of people trying to tackle the damage the monkeys had inflicted on their cars! Now you know why never do it….



From there, we headed through the big game drive, although it was missing a lot of its big game. The rhino area was being refurbished, and they were nowhere to be seen, which is fine, as we knew that was a possibility.

There were some camels though, and they looked a lot better than the moth eaten remains we’d seen in May – honestly they all looked terrible back then, now they looked much better.



Next: the tigers are active today!
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Old 12-04-2014, 07:49 AM   #15
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Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Connecticut
Concierge Level: 9
Posts: 136,854

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Great pictures from the safari park! I don't think I'd go in the monkey enclosure either!
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My Previous TripsAUG '16 - POFQ, APR '12 - POFQ, JUL '10 - DL, AUG '09 - DCL Western, AUG '08 - POFQ/BC, AUG '06 - AKL/BC/DisneyWonder/Poly, DEC '05 - AKL, APR '05 - AKL/BC, DEC '04 - AKL, MAY '04 - AKL/BC, MAY '03 - WL/BC, MAY '98 -offsite, MAY '94 - BC, AUG '85 - Poly, AUG '83 - Poly, AUG '81 - Poly, JUL '79 - World Inn, JUL '76 - World Inn
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