Features · Places To Visit

Five Places To Visit Over Christmas:

This month I decided to make a list of five of the places that I think would be perfect to visit around Christmas. Originally I planned to get it typed up and posted much earlier in the month but I got distracted with planning posts for 2020 (I know, where’s the logic in that when I still have some December posts to finish off?) so this is much later than it should be. Some of these attractions have events going on into January however and the others… well there’s always next year? At least mentioning them now gives people plenty of time to plan trips to them next year if they want to. Hopefully I’ll get to go to a few of these next year too.

Please note that some of these places require you to book tickets in advance.

Longleat & The Festival Of Light:

I’ve mentioned Longleat several times in these posts now but I absolutely couldn’t not mention them in this list of places to visit at Christmas. Their lights are absolutely spectacular and honestly the best that I’ve ever seen. The pictures that I’ve included are from previous years as I don’t want to spoil the chance for anyone who does get the opportunity to visit to see them in person for the very first time. Trust me though, they are well worth visiting for.

So, like always, I think that Longleat is a wonderful place to go for the chance to see its animals within the safari drive through. I won’t go on about them too much, as I’ve mentioned them plenty in the past, but I will say that they’re wonderful to see at any time of year. During the winter – especially when it’s wet – you probably won’t get to see all of the animals that you usually would. When I went the giraffes were inside, as was Anne the elephant and several other animals. But I did get to see the tiger cubs who were absolutely adorable and playing around like rather big kittens! They were so gorgeous.  I was also lucky enough to see all five gorillas much to my surprise (I was convinced they’d all be inside) and the new wolf pack was on the move again. Plus the red pandas were climbing constantly too. So it really varies a lot as to what animals you will and won’t see in the winter but it’s still well worth a visit.

The house is beautifully decorated at this time of year and quite interesting to look around. This year it’s done up for the 1920s with some spectacular decorations and lovely costumes on display too. The grand staircase is breathtaking right now.

And, of course, there are the lights to see. These are giant lanterns that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. This year’s theme is Myths And Legends and it is definitely worth visiting for. There are Greek Gods and Goddesses, a ship under attack by a Kraken, a few beings from other mythology, dragons, Aladdin and so much more. I loved it so, so much! I honestly could gush about their lights for hours.

Ice Skating:

I’m not going to list a specific place for this activity but I’m pretty sure that it’s something that’s on offer in various locations around the UK and other parts of the world too. Where I’m from they actually get two different ice skating rinks in for this time of year but I haven’t been in years. I’ve actually only ever visited once and worry about feeling self conscious. I’d definitely love to go if I get a chance though. It’s so much fun and just the perfect winter activity in my opinion. What could be better than gliding about on the ice? Whilst probably falling, admittedly, but still… it’s fun, right? Afterwards, thanks to the cold environment, you also have the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a nice, toasty hot chocolate too.

Highclere Castle:

The time for visiting Highclere at Christmas appears to have been and gone but I still wanted to mention it here, maybe then it’ll inspire people to visit next year. I know that I’d certainly love to go there at Christmas time; it was absolutely stunning back when I explored the castle for my birthday so I’d certainly love to see how it’s decorated for the festive period too.

Getting to tour the house again would be a wonderful experience in itself. The decor, furnishings and various rooms are absolutely stunning to see. Visiting them at Christmas would be amazing; this place is breathtaking without decoration so I’d love to see what it’s like when decked out for the festive period.

There are various events available around this time of year including Christmas Tours with Santa’s Grotto and Evening Tours with Champagne And Carols. I have to say that it must be a wonderful experience to have carols sung around such a grand tree in such stunning surroundings. Doesn’t it seem like the perfect way to get into the festive spirit?

Christmas Markets:

Once again I don’t have a specific location in mind for this suggestion but I’m sure that there are hundreds of wonderful Christmas Markets to visit all over the world. And they’re the perfect way to get yourself into the festive spirit.

Naturally markets are a wonderful place to look for inspiration and gift ideas. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find something beautiful – one year I found some gorgeous wooden giraffes in one – or maybe you won’t find anything but either way they’ll lovely to look around. A lot also offer free samples of various food and drinks so, if nothing else, at least you’ll get to try out some tasty treats

Plus if you visit one later in the day you’ll have the perfect excuse to go and see that particular town’s Christmas lights once the sky gets darker. I love seeing the lights that everybody put ups and some can be so beautiful to see. I’d love to visit as many towns as possible to see lights truthfully but it’s not really an option. I still enjoyed seeing my local lights though.

Warner Brother’s Studio Tours:

In my opinion any time is the perfect time to visit Warner Brothers Studio Tour, whether you like Harry Potter or not. The sets, costumes and effects are all just incredible to see, making it well worth a visit for anyone. I went a few years ago, as a birthday treat, and definitely want to go again. Truthfully I wanted to return the second that I left – yes, it really was that good – but now I have even more reason to want to go again. Since I went the Forbidden Forest and Gringotts have both been added to the Studio Tour. So this is a place that I want to visit anyway but I do think that it’s the perfect place to visit at Christmas.

Firstly, in all honesty, what could be better than visiting Hogwarts at Christmas? As someone who absolutely adores the books and movies it sounds like a dream come true. Visiting the Studio Tour it honestly is like being there so, even without the Christmas features, I’d have wanted to visit here over Christmas.

Whilst at the Tour you get to see a lot of familiar sets and find out just how much time, effort and detail went into every aspect of the movies. The books, the portraits, the costumes, the scenery, the effects; all of it took some amazingly creative effort and hard work.  As I mentioned above you can visit the Forbidden Forest and Gringotts but there’s also Diagon Alley, The Great Hall, the Gryffindor Common Room, Privet Drive, Dumbledore’s Office, the Weasleys’ kitchen and so much more.

Especially for the festive season the Great Hall is lined with Christmas trees, decorated with golden baubles and topped with witches on miniature broomsticks – how awesome do those sound? The dining tables are set up for the seasonal feasts – including Christmas puddings surrounded by real flames . And the stage is decorated as it was for the Yule Ball. This must all be stunning to see! You also get to discover how snow that never melts was created and learn all about the different types of ‘snow’ used in the films. Plus you can learn how flames without fire were created too. Other sets are also dressed for the occasion and the Hogwarts castle model – which completely took my breath away in the past – is also covered in snow.


So those are five places that I think would be perfect to visit over the festive period. Have you visited any of them in the past? Do you want to? What’s your favourite place to visit at Christmas? Do you love going to see the lights in different places?

Features · Places To Visit

Five Places That I Want To Visit – Abroad

This month I decided to mention some of the countries that I’d like to visit and give a brief idea of why. Whilst doing so I ended up looking them up and as a result some of these entries – Paris in particular – ended up longer than anticipated. But here are some of the places that I’d most like to visit abroad.

Paris:

I’ve wanted to visit Paris for as long as I can remember really. I think, maybe , it was inspired at first by Sarra Manning’s Diary Of A Crush: French Kiss but I’m not entirely sure. I’ve just always loved the idea of visiting this place. It’s always supposed to be so romantic; it has so many fabulous sights and sounds so glorious when read about in books. Here are a few of my top reasons for wanting to visit:

The Eiffel Tower – Of course this is one monument that I’d love to visit in Paris. I want to see it for myself, in person, and get a chance to take in the surely glorious views!

Notre Dame – I can’t get over what happened here. Even if it’s a place that can’t be visited right now it still deserves a mention on this list. It’s stunning and I truly hope that it can be restored.

Louvre –
There are a few modern artists that I love but I honestly don’t know that much about art and I don’t always find it particularly interesting – it really depends on what type it is. But I don’t feel as if I could visit Paris without taking the time to explore the world famous Louvre.

Shops & Cafes – I’d also love to explore the many shops that Paris has to offer and see exactly what I could find. And, of course, to visit a few of the cafes there too; they always sound so dreamy in books.

Château de Versailles – The second that I saw a picture of this place I just knew that I needed to visit it one day. It’s been the royal residence of the kings and queens of France and has some truly fabulous rooms to visit. It’s most famous for its ‘Hall Of Mirrors’ but it has 2,300 rooms! And the few that I’ve seen pictures of whilst looking it up for this post look absolutely stunning. There are some really impressive grounds there too with various fountains including… a dragon!  Seriously look this place up, take in the glorious pictures, then tell me that you don’t want to visit.

The Cemeteries
– I didn’t think of this before looking Paris up for this list but they look, and sound fascinating. I’ve got to admit that I’ve gotten a little unnerved in graveyards in the past but these too, I feel, deserve a mention.

I’m going to stop there or else I think I’ll just have to give up on having a top five and write a post purely about my desire to visit Paris :L

Rome:

This is another place that I’ve wanted to visit for years… and another location that I first fell in love with through fiction. I’m pretty sure I originally decided that I wanted to visit Rome because of The Lizzie McGuire movie but it wasn’t just because a show that I loved had a film set there; it was because the architecture and surroundings looked so stunning on screen. I’ve also just remembered that Sabrina The Teenage Witch – my one true obsession growing up – had a movie set there too… now I can’t help but wonder how much that had to do with this desire but anyway. Reasons why I want to visit:

The Colosseum – I feel like this is probably the best known of the city’s ancient sites and it looks – and sounds fascinating. Who wouldn’t want to stand where gladiators once did and learn the history of such an ancient wonder?

The Trevi Fountain – I think this was the site that I first fell in love with and it always comes to mind when I think of Rome now. This fountain is just stunning; absolutely breathtaking. I’d so love to see it in person one day,

Roman Forum – Another sight that looks stunning to say the least. Yes it’s ruins but they can be so fun and intriguing to explore. It just looks… honestly wow. Seriously look it up on Google – it’s so worth it.

The Sistine Chapel – A place that’s regarded as Michelangelo’s masterpiece and has had many important artists work within it over time. It has a ceiling that is known the world over and I’d love to see this sight in person too.

Pompeii – This isn’t in Rome but it’s still a place that I’d love to see for myself. I learnt about it in school but it’s still amazing to read about whilst researching this blog post. Most of the city is extremely well preserved – it’s buildings, streets and even inhabitants preserved in ash. There are numerous buildings to visit – including temples – and it’s such a monumental site that I’d definitely be determined to go there.

Venice:

Is it weird that I want to visit Venice basically because it’s a city that’s travelled by water rather than streets? It sounds beautiful and mesmerising, as a result, and I’d just love to see it one day for myself. I actually don’t know much about Venice, so the following attractions I learnt about whilst writing this article, but because of its unique modes of transport I’ve always wanted to visit there which means it belongs on this list.

Palazzo Ducale – it’s described as a ‘pretty Gothic confection‘ and that definitely sounds fitting from what it looks like.

Gondola Ride – I’d definitely need to take a trip on one of these if I ever get the chance to visit Venice. My main attraction is, after all, the fact that it’s a place travelled in such an unusual and unique manner.

Basilica di San Marco – Another cathedral that’s sure to be exquisite and stunning to visit. It was founded in the 9th century to house the corpse of St Mark but burnt down in 932. It was then rebuilt with Byzantine domes, a Greek cross layout and walls clad in marble.

Verona – Again this isn’t technically in the place that I’ve listed but a day trip to there is highly recommended whilst visiting Venice. I’ve got to admit that, although I’m not a fan of Shakespeare, I’d adore the chance to go there after falling in love with the movie Letters To Juliet. It looks like it has a lot of beautiful architecture, again, as well as Juliet’s house which thanks to the movie I’d love to visit. I can’t believe that people write letters to her in this place; something about the idea just makes me smile. It’s so sweet.

Iceland:

I guess I have two main reasons for wanting to visit Iceland; secondly I always hear nothing but good things about it and firstly well…

The Northern Lights – Although technically called the Aurora Borealis it’s more commonly referred to as the Northern Lights. These always look absolutely stunning. I know you can’t guarantee exactly when – or if – you’ll be able to see them but the chance to do so is reason enough to visit Iceland on its own. There are so many stunning pictures of them online.

The Waterfalls – Iceland has some truly awe-inspiring examples of these; there are certainly a lot of them too. The most famous of the Skjálfandafljót waterfalls is Goðafoss which is 12 meters high and 30 meters wide. That’s simply one of them however and I highly recommend looking up ‘Iceland waterfalls’ to discover a whole lot more.

The Landscape – This contrasts so vastly that it’s pretty unbelievable. There are lava fields and glaciers; mountains and smooth hills; lush green areas and bare desert. There’s just such a range that surely there’s something for everyone.

Honestly if you want to learn more about Iceland then I suggest looking at this article. Don’t be put off by the name; it’s certainly a list that made me even more desperate to visit.

Greece:

I’ve wanted to visit the first four places on this list for quite some time and initially thought I may have struggled to think of a fifth. Then Greece popped into my head and it was oh so obvious. It’s the place that Ancient Greek Mythology – which I’m fascinated by – originates from and it looks so beautiful too.

The Temples – As I mentioned above I love Greek Mythology so visiting the temples that remain there is reason enough to visit by itself. There are a fair few of these – some with more remaining than others. The Temple Of Olympian Zeus, for example has only a few columns remaining whilst The Temple Of Hephaestus is the  best preserved Greek temple in the world.

The Ancient Sights – There are a lot of ancient cities and sights within Greece that must surely be filled with history and culture. These include Mycenae, Athens and Delphi to name a few. All of which look absolutely stunning and out of this world. Or, at the very least, out of this time.

The Beaches – I’m not really a fan of simply sitting on a beach, relaxing in the sun (I get uncomfortable if I get too hot and if it’s crowded I’d be tense to say the least) but these ones look so beautiful that I’d love to at least walk along some of them. How can you go to Greece, which has one of the longest coastlines in the world, and not visit one of it’s beautiful beaches at least once?

The Greek Islands – Do I want to visit these because of Mamma Mia? Yes. Would I make sure I visit Skopelos as a result? Double Triple yes! They sound dreamy and beautiful though. So surely a few of these are worth a visit whilst there?


So those are five of the places that I’d most like to visit which are abroad for me. Do you want to visit any of them too? Have you in the past? Where would you most like to travel one day?

Features · Places To Visit

Five Places To Visit At Halloween

Sorry that this post is late after my illness then connectivity issues last month. As it was written up I thought I may as well still post it however.

As it’s Halloween this month I thought it was only fitting to make my list all about attractions that are perfect to visit at this time of year. I have to admit that there are two on here that I’m pretty sure I’d freak out at and wouldn’t handle very well (looking into them they sound terrifying!) but I decided to keep them on this list as they certainly fit in with this month’s theme.

Once again all of the images here are of semi-related gifs, rather than the actual places but each of the titles links to the locations mentioned so you can learn plenty more by clicking on them and also see what the places in question look like.

Muncaster Castle

What could make a better Halloween destination than a haunted castle? There are quite a lot to choose from if you wish to visit one but, in this post, I’m going to focus on Muncaster Castle as it has an array of attractions that could appeal to a mixture of people and is said to be one of Britain’s most haunted castles.

Firstly, of course, there’s the castle itself which has a lot of ghostly rumors surrounding it. A lot of these tales revolve around Tom Fool – a spirit who is said to play tricks on family, staff and visitors. It’s also said that footsteps can be heard in corridors, door handles turn, a woman sings and that a child can frequently be heard crying towards the window end of the Tapestry Room. There’s also a fair few stories that mention the ‘Muncaster Boggle’ or White Lady – a ghost that is said to haunt the gardens and roadways around Muncaster. So this is one castle that certainly has its fair share of ghostly tales. And, at Halloween, you can even go on a special theatrical tour.

Also in the castle at Halloween they have a lot of information about witches on offer – including mentions of spells, potions, charms and folklore. Because who doesn’t love learning about witches?

Then there are the grounds that are surely nice to visit at any time of year with their 77 acres of woodlands and gardens.

They have a ‘Monster Cabaret’ which features entertainment, including fire juggling shows after dark.

There’s a Hawk & Owl Centre which sometimes offers different shows.

Lantern making and other crafts are on offer (some for a price).

And they have their own scary maze to venture into too.

Other haunted castles include: Chillingham Castle, Croft Castle & Warkworth Castle but honestly there are loads. If you search for ‘haunted castles’ on Google you can find plenty, a fair few detailing exactly who the ghosts are suspected of being.

The London Dungeons

Okay so I’ve wanted to visit the London Dungeons for a while but honestly? I’m too much of a wimp to go there. I also don’t think I’d cope well with some of the guest interaction involved (I have social anxiety and if I was called upon as an unwilling volunteer I’d definitely want to flee). Scratch that looking it up for this post I definitely don’t think I’d cope but it’s staying on this list because honestly? It does sound like the perfect Halloween attraction.

The London Dungeons is an attraction with 19 live shows and 2 rides including the Tyrant Boat Ride (a water ride where you join Anne Boleyn on her final journey to the Tower Of London), shows involving Mrs Lovett & Sweeney Todd and a whole lot of other shows and information about figures including Guy Fawkes and Jack The Ripper and events such as the Great Fire Of London and the plague.

And exclusively for Halloween they have ‘Hide and Seek’; a new seasonal show where you can come eye to eye with one of London’s most infamous characters.

The London Bridge Experience & Tombs

This is another attraction that I don’t think I could cope with but needs to be mentioned on a list all about places to visit at Halloween. Read on and I’m sure you’ll discover why.

Okay so this is from The 100, not Boudica, but it was the closest I could find when I failed to find any gifs of her. That said there is a show that features Boudica called ‘Barbarian Rising’.

During the London Bridge Experience you can learn a lot of history and hear a fair few tales of terror. The bridge itself has seen everything from murder and intrigue to collapse, fire and so much more. Figures featured in this experience are Queen Boudica’s Iceni tribe, Jack The Ripper, Ben Crouch and The Keeper Of The Heads…based on history can you figure out what he does? There’s the Chapel of Thomas Becket to pass through before arriving on the shop lined streets of London Bridge – just as the Great Fire of London takes hold. After that it’s onto The Tombs… The tombs have been crowned the UK’s scariest attraction and really, what says Halloween better than that? It’s a scare maze with walls that drip blood and house an array of unspeakable horrors including evil clowns, nesting spiders and a manic butcher.

Afterwards – if you need a sweet treat to get your nerve back – there’s a Creams Cafe to visit serving treats such as crepes, waffles, gelato and milkshakes.

Longleat

As far as I’m concerned Longleat is the perfect place to visit at any time of year. The safari with its big cats, giraffes, zebras, elephant, rhinos, monkeys (if you’re brave enough to take your car through their enclosure) and so much more is just amazing. I adore the Jungle Cruise and the chance that it brings to see the sea lions. Then there’s a vast range of other animals to see too ranging from otters, meerkats and red pandas to the recent addition of koalas and a whole host of other creatures too. There’s also a maze, if you enjoy getting lost within them. And, of course, the house.

At Halloween, for an additional charge, you have the opportunity to join in with one of Longleat’s ghost tours and take a trip through unseen cellars, up into attics and down dark corridors. You’ll get a chance to hear stories of the Grey Lady who is said to wander the house in search of her murdered lover. It’s an experience involving live actors and comes with this warning:

‘You’ll hear all about Longleat’s ghostly residents but be careful not to disturb the dead… Who knows what might happen if you do.’

As well as the house tours there are a range of activities for younger visitors – like pumpkin carving – and giant pumpkins dotted around. There’s also an opportunity to see a parliament of owls in their daily displays.

As stated above I’d love to visit Longleat at any time of year but I’m actually really intrigued by their ghost tours. It’s a chance to see rooms that you never normally enter and hear chilling tales at the same time.

Disneyworld & Universal Studios

Is there really any better way to celebrate Halloween than by taking a trip to Hogwarts of all places? The chances of me getting to do so are practically non existant but I just had to include these attractions on this list. The main thing that draws me to this place is the Wizarding World which I would just love to visit. There’s Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade to explore; there’s a chance to go on a few themed rides and to enter the places that you read about in the books and saw on screen. Locations include Gringotts, Honeydukes (because who doesn’t want sweets at this time of year?) Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and Ollivanders to name just a few. You also have a chance to take a trip on the Hogwarts Express. And just yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes; I’d so love to visit here for this side of things alone.

Yet there’s more at the Universal and Disney parks than just the Wizarding side of things. Between all of their many parks there is one hell of a lot to see and do. Obviously there are a lot of rollercoasters and other fantastically themed rides, some of which I just know I’d adore. There are rides that inspired movies and rides that are based on films. Jungle Cruise comes out next year based on one of their rides too. There’s lots of Marvel themed attractions and a couple of Jurassic Park ones to explore. There’s also a water park and various different shows. And animals; I just love seeing them so obviously I notice when they’re listed on an attraction’s website.

For Halloween specifically Disney has some added extras including its own Halloween parade and a show featuring the mischievous Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus! (Looking this up may have been a mistake as now I’m desperate to go there).

Universal Orlando says it ‘takes fear to the max’ with its Halloween Horror Nights. This year the 80s return along with some of the biggest frights of the era. There are 10(!) haunted houses to make your way through and five different scare zones. Not to mention the live entertainment that takes place as well. Some of their haunted houses include one featuring horror classics: Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman; a Ghostbusters one and even a Stranger Things one. I still need to watch the show (I know, I have no idea how I haven’t started it yet) but I imagine that a lot of people would love the chance to visit it.


Have you been to any of the places mentioned here? Do you want to – at Halloween or at any other time of year. What do you like to do at this time of year? Let me know in the comments.

Features · Places To Visit

Five Places That I Want To Visit

One of my goals for the year was to visit some of the places that I most wanted to. It’s kind of hard to do, given my social anxiety, but after finally going to one of those places when I visited Highclere Castle last month, I decided to write up a post mentioning a couple of the other places that happen to be on that list too.

All place names link to their own websites for more information including opening times, prices and images. Sorry for the lack of them within this post; I never know if you can include pictures or not when I haven’t taken them myself. I’ve included a few, somewhat related, gifs instead. If any of them are yours and you’d rather I remove them please let me know.

The Tower Of London
Reasons I Want To Visit:

♥ I’m curious to learn more about the prisoners who have been kept there; even if some of the details are sure to be grim.
♡ I find the legend of the ravens interesting.
♥ Seeing the crown jewels and the armor that is also kept at the tower would be amazing.
♡ It was used as an animal menagerie in the past. Creatures such as lions, an elephant and even a polar bear (who hunted for fish in the Thames) have been kept there. I found that fact surprising but fascinating so I’d love to learn more

Hampton Court Palace
Reasons I Want To Visit:

♥ The Tudors – of course. I’ve always found that period of time fascinating so this is definitely one castle that I need to visit.
♡  It’s supposed to have a haunted gallery. Okay so if anything spooky happened I’d probably freak out but this fact definitely still intrigues me.
♥ The gardens look and sound amazing.

Kensington Palace
Reasons I Want To Visit:

♥ Another period of time that has always fascinated me is the Victorian era. The recent TV series about Queen Victoria has only heightened my desire to visit here.
♡ I’d love to learn more about the Kensington System and see where Queen Victoria grew up.
♥ And, once again, the gardens there look beautiful.

Osborne House
Reasons I Want To Visit:


♥ The film Victoria And Abdul featured this house and it looked amazing. I’d love to see some of the items and rooms from the film.
♡ Both the interior and exterior appear stunning.
♥ Many of Prince Albert’s things still lie where he left them all those many years ago.
♡ It even has it’s own beach!
♥ And, of course, this is another location that’s sure to contain a mountain of information about Queen Victoria.

Waddesdon Manor
Reasons I Want To Visit:

♥ I saw the exterior of this whilst re-watching Downton Abbey and knew that I had to find out where it was.
♡ When I looked it up online I discovered that this place looks stunning both inside and out.
♥ It houses plenty of furniture that once belonged to famous historical individuals.
♡ It even contains a mechanical elephant!


So those are five of the many places that I’d one day like to visit. Have you been to any of them before? Do you want to? I’ll be back with this new feature next month, featuring five of the places that I think would be perfect to visit for Halloween.

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Birthday 2019 – Part Two – Longleat

Sorry for the double post today but, as I said in the previous one this was originally meant to be one single post before it got too long. This is the trip that I did on my actual birthday and it was absolutely amazing (:

I’ve been to Longleat countless times in the past and honestly don’t think I could ever tire of it there. I love getting to see all of the animals and am particularly fond of visiting at Christmas when the house is decorated so gloriously and the lights that are put up in the grounds are truly amazing to see. This was my first time doing one of their VIP tours though and I can’t thank my parents enough for the tickets and the chance to do so. It was truly amazing to get in one of the park’s safari trucks and get closer than ever to the animals, learning all about each of them from someone who has fascinating details about both the breeds in general as well as each specific animal that finds it home at Longleat.

The Safari:

To start with we went to the big cats section to see the Tigers, Lions, Cheetahs, Hyenas and Wolves. Unfortunately the tigers weren’t out at this time but, as one of them was prowling back and forth by the fence, we still got to see it and they’re just such fascinating creatures to see. I love their coats and their size is shocking to say the least. Everybody still got to see one of the parks newest tigers up close and learn some fascinating facts about them. Then it was into the lions to see some of these gorgeous creatures lounging around together. They’re fascinating to watch and it was amazingly sweet to see them bump heads as a greeting to one another. We were told about the three ‘mean girls’ and how things settled down, for the most part, once another male was added to the mix. The cheetah was curled up sound asleep but it was still lovely to see him (later on in the day we got to see one of the younger members of the family too) and we were quite lucky to catch a glimpse of the hyenas which apparently remain unseen quite often. It was the wolves who I was pleasantly surprised to see dashing around all over the place though. In the past I’ve generally only seen them in the distance but there’s a new pack in the enclosure now and, full of young, excitable energy, they were charging all over the place. They were gorgeous and I loved getting to see them up close for once! We even got the chance to see some of the previous pack, in retirement, in an exhibit behind the newest pack as one of its members was curled up on a hill, watching.

After seeing the big cats we went to feed the deer which is always quite exciting to do. The second they realize you have food they flock to the car and give you a truly up close encounter. The antlers are so impressive to see up close and it’s lovely to have such a personal encounter with the creatures. I love getting to see the deer at Longleat. Once we’d fed them we were taken over to the other sections of the safari where we got to see a pelican up close – it was almost blocking the path – and I must confess that they looked a lot fluffier than I’d ever imagined. We got a much closer view of the flamingos than ever before too as we were taken right next to the fence of their exhibit. I’m pretty sure I saw more rhinos than usual as well, although perhaps that is simply as they were together. Either way the mix of creatures, great and small, that I got to see up close was fantastic.

It was then time to visit the African Village and explore on foot for a brief time. It was up to each member of the tour what they did but my family decided to go up to the lemur walkthrough as they’re such lovely creatures to watch. I was surprised to find goats in there now too who seemed quite pleased to get a fuss from visitors (so that was another creature that I got to stroke). We got to see the lemur groups switch over (different individuals go out at different times, due to squabbles) which meant they were pretty excited as they came swooping into their outdoor enclosure. I love these creature’s tails! And it’s such fun to see them swing about all over the place. We also briefly got to see the giraffes on the way back to the truck which is always wonderful.

Once back in the truck we got to see the giraffes and zebras up close which, simply put, was amazing. I’ve always loved these beautiful creatures and I learnt some fascinating facts about them both. I even got to see an incredibly young giraffe. From there we were going to head to the monkeys but the keeper saw that Anne was out so we instead headed to her enclosure next. In all the years that I’ve been to Longleat I have never before spotted Anne the elephant as she tends to spend a lot of her time inside. This isn’t something that I’d ever complain about however because, truthfully, I’m just happy that she’s finally somewhere that she’s being looked after properly. Before being brought to Longleat she lived in a circus and was mistreated for years; when she arrived at the safari park she couldn’t use her trunk properly and she was incredibly wary of people. Now though she’s got that movement back (although she does sadly have arthritis in her legs) and a dedicated team of keepers to look after her. So, after being gawked at in the circus for years, you can hardly blame her if she prefers to stay inside a lot of the time. It was definitely a rare treat to see her on my birthday though and I learnt that, adorably, she has a trio of goats for company.

From there we headed to the monkeys but we saw several other animals along the way such as the camels, oryx, tapir and bongos. I’ve already said in here that I’ve been to Longleat plenty of times in the past but I have never actually been inside of the monkey exhibit before. This is because they’re very fond of pulling anything that they can – windscreen wipers, parking sensors, even number plates sometimes – off of cars. Some cars get through entirely unscathed; others come out missing plenty. So we’ve never taken the risk of going through in the past. Whilst in one of the park’s own safari vehicles that naturally wasn’t a problem however and wow was it worth it! Getting to see these little creatures at work was amazing; watching them climb over cars and scamper off with their newfound trophies; seeing the baby ones carried around by their mothers or playing with each other in the grass; getting peered at by them through the truck’s windows when they jumped on top of our truck too. It was fantastic! They’re so mischievous to watch and the babies are just unbelievably sweet. It was a fantastic final stop for the safari tour and I could have happily stayed in there, watching those cheeky beings at work for hours.

After the tour was over we returned to our own vehicles and had the remainder of the day to explore the rest of the park. As giraffes are a favourite of my mum’s – and mine – we went to watch them for a little longer and took the time to visit our favourite store which happens to be in that area (they sell some gorgeous wooden giraffes and zebras in it). From there we planned to head to the rest of the park, so that we could see as much as possible in the time available, but we accidentally took the wrong turn and ended up going through the big cats once more. This did allow us to see all of these gorgeous creatures again however so it was totally worth it.

Jungle Cruise:

Another family favourite, of ours, at Longleat is always the Jungle Cruise. If you’ve been before then I’m sure you’ll know all about it but for those that haven’t it’s a short boat trip that allows you to see a few more of the animals that Longleats home to. You take a journey around an island, that was once home to Nico the gorilla who sadly passed away last year, but is now home to some Colobus monkeys. There’s a new colony of gorillas on a separate island who were all outside, enjoying the sunshine. There’s two hippos that I’ve always looked for in the wrong place until last year (I’ve generally thought they were in the water when I’ve heard that they’re out of sight but actually they’re quite often tucked beneath the muddy banks instead). And, of course, there are the sea lions who flock to the boat demanding the fish that they know is about to be fed to them. I just love seeing these animals at Longleat and find them so fascinating to see. Afterwards, on the way off of the boat, we got to see the red pandas up close too which were just so gorgeous and vividly coloured. If you ever get a chance to see them clearly – they quite often seem to spend their time curled up at the top of trees – they have the sweetest faces imaginable.

The Rest:

Once we’d finished the Jungle Cruise we had a cream tea with the voucher that came in our VIP experience before heading off to see the rest of the animals within the park. There are so many other creatures there to see but here are a few of the highlights:

♥ The koalas who are fairly new additions to the park. This was my first time ever seeing these creatures in real life and they were unbelievably sweet.

♡ The giant otters who I have to admit I was excited to see. I’ve always loved seeing the Asian Small-Clawed Otters at Longleat so the chance to also get a glimpse of another breed was fascinating for me. Our timing at this exhibit was perfect too; when we arrived the otters were underwater and when we headed back out, they’d decided to go and roll around in the mud. It was definitely entertaining to see them playing in such ways.

♥ The meerkats who were having fun tearing apart newspaper in search of their food. This was another case of ‘perfect timing’ as it was interesting to watch them hunt for their dinner.

♡ The lorikeets which are beautifully coloured birds that I’ve wanted to walk through for quite a while. In the past I never have as I’ve always visited Longleat with someone whose afraid of birds; this time, finally, I got the chance to enter their exhibit and well… this happened:

Yes, for some bizarre reason one of the birds landed on my head and didn’t want to budge. I was carrying a pot of nectar to feed them but so were plenty of others yet somehow I seemed to be the only one to receive this extra special treatment.


Altogether I had an absolutely fantastic day and I’d definitely do it again. Going on a VIP tour at Longleat is definitely worth it. I did, unfortunately, run out of time to see the house but I’m hoping that I’ll get a chance to do so at some point in the run up to Christmas.

Have you ever been to Longleat? What are your favourite animals? Have you ever had a chance to see any of these fantastic creatures – or others – in the wild? Let me know in the comments section below.

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Birthday 2019 – Part One – Highclere Castle

Last week was my birthday and I had two fantastic days out around that time. One was an actual trip, and gift, to celebrate my birthday and the other was a day out that I’ve been meaning to do forever but only just gotten around to last week. I was going to write about both trips in one post but it ended up longer than I anticipated so here’s part one about my recent visit to Highclere Castle. Sorry for the lack of pictures, photography isn’t allowed inside of the castle.

I have no idea whether you’ll know this or not – although I’d imagine a lot of people could figure it out, based on the image – but Highclere Castle is the setting of Downton Abbey. The ‘downstairs’ scenes are filmed in a studio but most of the ‘upstairs’ ones featuring the Crawley family are filmed within Highclere Castle. There are some absolutely stunning rooms there and it was a true joy to explore such an iconic location; especially as I’ve been re-watching the TV series lately, ready for the amazing film which I’ve now seen (and hope to watch again). Whether you’re a Downton Abbey lover or not I truly do recommend giving this glorious castle a visit; it’s absolutely stunning and left me in awe of its beauty.

The Castle:

What can I say about this magnificent castle that could possibly do it justice? It’s incredibly impressive both on the inside and out. Its architecture and furnishings left me stunned, truthfully. Whilst following the route through the state rooms I saw sights that I recognized from the show, along with ones that I didn’t, but both were absolutely stunning. I love seeing the decorations, details and impressive furniture in these kinds of places. Whilst walking through the castle I certainly saw sights that left me in awe and learnt a lot of fascinating history about the family that lived there. Every one of the rooms that I explored was impressive, to say the least, but for me the stand out room, that even over a week later I cannot stop thinking about, was the saloon. If you’ve watched the show you may remember Miss Bunting going upstairs to look down into this room in wonder and that is just how I’d imagine most people would feel upon seeing it. The detail in the stonework, the stunning tapestries that blend so well, the ornate furniture… it’s all absolutely awe-inspiring to see. Although, like I said, I loved every room on display within Highclere Castle.

Highlights, For Me, Included:

 The ornate fireplaces – whenever I get to visit a castle or house like this I love getting to see these truly stunning pieces which can vary from one another so greatly.

The Music Room – this is a room that I hadn’t seen before but it was absolutely gorgeous. The tapestries in here, too, were breathtaking.

 The ‘serving tables’ in the dining room – okay so I’m not certain that’s what they are but I’m not sure what to call them. In Downton Abbey you sometimes catch a glimpse of the staff placing food on this table though and it’s just so exquisitely detailed that I could not believe it. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it.

The Wyverns – has anybody else spotted the ‘dragon’ by the front door? I did whilst watching the show and then, much to my surprise, found several others whilst touring the castle. They vary in designs and settings greatly but they’re dotted all over the place and I loved spotting them everywhere. Only at the end of my trip through the castle did I realize that they were actually wyverns, not dragons. But honestly if you ever get a chance to visit do keep an eye out for them.

The Egyptian Exhibit:

I’ve got to admit that I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this part of my day out and I must confess that I only learnt of its links to the Carnarvon family whilst there. What I was fascinated to find out though was that the 5th Earl of Carnarvon discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. I had no idea that the Carnarvon family had ties to this amazing discovery so that was definitely fascinating to find out. There were so many interesting artefacts in this exhibit too with some truly stunning details. I learnt interesting facts about the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and saw some of the wonderful artefacts that were found by him and those working with him. So if you do get the chance to visit HIghclere Castle I highly recommending visiting this part of the tour too.

The Grounds:

What can I say about these beside the fact that they’re absolutely massive? Seriously they go on forever and there are some gorgeous sights to find within them too. Whilst in full bloom I’d imagine the rose garden is absolutely stunning – I’d love to walk through the tunnel whilst it was – and there are some other impressive statues and features dotted throughout the grounds. I love seeing trees as old as the ones on the grounds here. And, of course, I loved Jackdaw’s Castle. You get views of it from the house and, when you get up close to it, you learn some fascinating facts about its columns too. Luckily for me I visited on a gloriously sunny day and it was just wonderful.

Books – Yes My TBR Grew Whilst Here:

Before visiting I’d already planned to write a post about my experience at Highclere but I didn’t actually intend to mention books on it. Yes this is a book blog but, occasionally, I do plan to write about other things that interest me too. Whilst at Highclere I found more books to add to my TBR though so I couldn’t resist the urge to mention them briefly here.

Firstly I saw Lady Catherine And The Real Downton Abbey described in one of the rooms of the castle and thought it sounded fascinating. The way it was described reminded me of a real life version of Downton Abbey with true stories of both the family and the staff at Highclere Castle.

Later on I learnt quite a bit about Lady Almina and just knew that I had to add the book about her (Lady Almina And The Real Downton Abbey) to my TBR too. What inspired me to check this book out the most was discovering the fact that Highclere Castle really did in fact transform into a hospital during the war.

So I think it goes without saying that I had an absolutely fantastic day at Highclere. I could have said so much more than I did but I didn’t want to carry on forever in this post. Plus it’s a wonderful place to discover for yourself. Whether you love the show or not I highly recommend visiting the castle; it’s well worth a visit and absolutely awe-inspiring to see.

And now, to finish off, here’s the trailer for the wonderful Downton Abbey movie:

To learn more about Highclere Castle please do visit it’s official website here.

Have you ever been to Highclere Castle? Do you want to? What about Downton Abbey; do you watch that? Have you seen the film yet? Which characters do you love or hate? Let me know in the comments section below.