Review & Vlog : Longleat Safari Park

Longleat are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, as part of their celebrations they invited us to go along as a family* for some roar-some adventures. Come on safari with us and go through the monkey enclosure, on an ocean cruise, through the lion den and much more!

A review of Longleat safari park including a vlog - photo of monkey on car

The park is split into several sections, there are walk through attractions, train ride attractions, a river cruise and of course, the drive through safari. We started our day with food followed by the walk through attractions, ending with the drive through safari.

deer eating food out of hand at Longleat safari park

We managed to get up close and personal with a lot of animals, we even fed some! (tip, take pound coins with you as you can purchase animal feed for £1 in quite a few of the enclosures).

There were huge queues for the River Cruise for the majority of the day that we were there, please do not let this tempt you to skip it, the sea lions pretty much follow you all around the river and are so funny, especially when it comes to feeding time.

If you are brave you even have the option of holding certain animals, Spencer held two tarantulas but decided against the snakes. I on the other hand didn’t hold anything, not a chance!

We had a fantastic day and would definitely re-visit. Mine and Aria’s highlight was most definitely the monkey enclosure, if you don’t watch much of the vlog I urge you to watch that part, it was so funny, those monkeys really are little terrors!

Animals aside the gardens and play area are fantastic, there are so many beautiful places for picnics and, if you’re anything like me, photo ops.

Longleat gardens - photo of dad and daughter flowers out of focus in foreground

Visit the Longleat website to find out more and book your tickets.

Have you been to Longleat recently? If so, what was your favourite part?

 

*Disclosure – we received complimentary tickets in exchange for an honest review*

Day Out : The Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo at Symonds Yat

I decided to make the most of Spencer being off work on Bank Holiday Monday and plan a family day out. Spencer wanted to go to a garden centre to have a look at the fish (he is planning to buy a fish tank) and I decided to go to the Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo at the Wye Valley Visitor Centre. I hadn’t ever been before so wasn’t sure what to expect, but I thought that Aria may like to watch the pretty, colourful butterflies flying around.

We arrived quite late in the day which wasn’t a problem as the zoo is open until 6pm, the last entry at 5pm. The large car park was busy but there are several other attractions in this area, a hedge puzzle, miniature golf, warfare laser and my personal favourite, a tea room.

the butterfly zoo at the wye valley visitor centre

 

You enter the butterfly zoo via the gift shop where you are given advice, a magnifying glass and an information pack detailing the different butterflies that you can expect to see. We were also told that the temperature in the enclosure at that particular time was 27 degrees.

 

black & white butterfly at Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo
As soon as we entered the enclosure a butterfly landed on our information pack. My camera lens also steamed up due to the heat which is why this photo is a little misty! The butterflies are not phased by us humans at all, there people wandering around with butterflies on them, I looked at Spencer at one point to see him stood there with two on his head, annoyingly they flew off before I got my camera out.
butterfly with clear wings at Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo

 

The butterfly enclosure is full of leafy areas, trees and flowers. The butterflies and the flowers make it a great place to practice photography. There were quite a few photography enthusiasts in there, myself included.

 

thick black white & red butterfly at Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo

 

The variety of butterflies in the enclosure is amazing, I never knew that there were so many different types, all beautiful in their own right.

 

white butterfly at Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo

colourful blue butterfly at Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo

My personal favourite was the vibrant blue butterfly, when their wings are closed they look quite dull with their brown wings, when they open their wings a beautiful transformation takes place as they reveal the gorgeous blue on the inside of their wings. It was very difficult to catch the blue on camera as they are quick movers, I’m pretty sure that every photography enthusiast in there was trying their very best to catch a snap of their blue wings.

 

close up shot of big butterfly on stalk at Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo
butterflies in the tent at Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo

 

There are literally butterflies everywhere you look, on every plant, in every corner, everywhere. They fly into you and will happily land on you, as long as you aren’t jumpy like me.

 

caterpillars on a leaf at Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo

 

Of course, where there are butterflies there are caterpillars waiting to blossom. These were harder to spot and a lot less active.

 

big butterfly on man's arm at Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo

 

Spencer didn’t realise that he had picked up a friend until I pointed it out.

 

comparison of hand to huge butterfly at Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo

 

This butterfly was very impressive, it was absolutely massive. Tucked away at the back near the fire equipment we very nearly missed the biggest butterfly of them all. I couldn’t bring myself to get too close to it because I found it very scary.

 

huge butterfly at Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo

 

father & baby girl

mother & baby girl

We had a fantastic time at the Wye Butterfly Zoo, unfortunately Aria didn’t enjoy it quite as much, much to my surprise she really wasn’t bothered by the butterflies flying around and started getting quite grouchy, I think it was too warm for her in there. We will definitely re-visit when she is a little older and more interested.

 

chocolate and coconut cake

 

We finished the day with a latte and a cake at the tea rooms, my chocolate and coconut slice was beautiful.
This may be an odd mention but the toilets really stood out to me, the disabled and nappy changing toilet is combined, you have to request the key from a shop. I was given the key without any problems and while the toilet wasn’t the prettiest ever what really impressed me was the fact that there were complimentary nappies, nappy bags and baby wipes provided.
We paid £4.25 per adult, Aria was free of charge. There are offers available if you book other activities at the visitor centre at the same time, there are also amazing deals if you pre-book your tickets on-line, such as £5.50 for entrance to the Butterfly Zoo, hedge maze and mini golf.
You can find out more about the Butterfly Zoo and other activities here.

1940s Weekend at Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway
Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway, home to traditional steam trains, is fast becoming a popular tourist attraction. With free parking, train rides and a cafe it makes for a great family day out, especially when they hold one of their popular events.

Last week the railway held a 1940s themed weekend, they are well known for throwing good events, their Halloween and Christmas events often sell out as they have such a good reputation. The railway is only a five minute journey from us so we decided to pop along for this event.

The event was free to attend but we did have to pay to ride the train, we bought the tickets from Living Social beforehand, they aren’t currently available there but they are on Groupon. As it was a special event there was a small surcharge on top of the ticket cost of £1 per person, on top of the £5 ticket this really wasn’t a bad deal. 

Once you have your train ticket  you can hop on and off the train all day, the train departs from Furnace Sidings and takes you on a scenic journey to a local, traditional pub, Blaenavon High Level and Big Pit. We sat in the ‘VIP carriage’ which was very Harry Potter-esque! Aria really enjoyed sitting on my lap and watching the world go by outside.

If you aren’t familiar with the area Blaenavon it is very high up, as a result the views are beautiful! 

  
I’m not going to go into detail about the trains because I don’t know anything about them and would probably end up making myself look silly. I will say that they look very traditional and that there is something very picture-esque about seeing them chugging up the line with the beautiful mountains in the background. 

As I mentioned above the railway are well known for making a big effort with their events, the 1940s one was no different. It really did seem as if we had stepped back in time. There were people dressed up everywhere we looked, I felt really silly in my maxi dress and Converse!
The Tea Room went down the 1940s route with fancy dress, vintage posters and a special wartime menu.

I decided to go along with the theme and ordered a spam sandwich, I’d never tried spam before and I actually really enjoyed it, I can see it becoming a guilty pleasure! 

Once we had enjoyed a train journey and a bite to eat we decided to wander around the tents set up especially for the event. There were several demonstrations including bomb defusal (and exploding!) and gun shooting. 
Everyone looked amazing and they were all really enthusiastic about what they were doing, taking their time to happily chat away and no doubt answer the same questions all day long. 

The attention to detail was fantastic, it was clear to see that a lot of effort went into making this event extra special.

The railway is a non-profit organisation which is run by volunteers, I personally think that this is why it is such a good attraction, because each and everyone one of the volunteers are there because they are passionate about it and want to make a success of it. 
The volunteers are helpful and will bend over backwards to ensure that you have a fantastic experience at Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway.
Have you ever been to this particular railway? If not, is it on your ‘to do’ list?

Day Out : Weston Super Mare Sand Sculptures Festival
When we saw a deal for the Weston Sand Sculpture Festival on Living Social we couldn’t resist buying a voucher, priced at £6 for entry for two and a hot drink each there was no reason not to! 
gorilla sand sculpture at weston sand festival 2015

the caravan club sand sculpture at weston sand sculpture festival
The festival is in Weston throughout the Summer, from 3 April until 27 September 2015. If you don’t manage to bag a bargain deal on Living Social or Groupon it is still a cheap day out, adult tickets cost £3.50 and children’s £2.50 with under 3’s going free, there is also a family ticket available for £10 which admits two adults and two children.
What is the sand sculpture festival I hear you ask? I’m not sure why it is called a festival to be honest, I would describe it more as an exhibition. There is a small cafe as you enter, serving hot drinks, ice creams and selling programmes, then you walk through the cafe to the sculptures outside, these are all behind a fenced area so you can only see them properly if you pay for admittance. 
Once you have finished looking at the sculptures there is an area where you can attempt to make your own if you so wish, great for children! The sculptures really were fascinating to see, the fact that these intricate designs are made from nothing more than sand and water is mind blowing! 
As this is the tenth year of the festival the theme is the previous ten years, so there is something from every theme that there has ever been.
fairy tales sand sculpture at weston sand festival 2015
sand sculpture at weston sand festival 2015
minion sand sculpture at weston sand festival 2015
sand sculpture at weston sand festival 2015
under the sea sand sculpture at weston sand festival 2015
cafe sand sculpture at weston sand festival 2015
giant sand sculpture at weston sand festival 2015
chess board sand sculpture at weston sand festival 2015
Frozen Elsa sand sculpture at Weston sand festival 2015
bed sand sculpture at weston sand festival 2015
Alice in Wonderland sand sculpture at Weston sand festival 2015
The festival itself isn’t that big, if, like us, you don’t want to stick around and have a go at making your own you may only be in there for about half an hour. If you are hoping on having a full day out there think again, though there is plenty more to do and see in Weston Super Mare which could turn it into a full day out. We walked along the beach and then went onto the Grand Pier for some lunch before heading home. I spent a lot of time in Weston as a child so it was lovely to go back and reminisce, although the Tropicana where we spent most of our time has long since closed down.
scenic shot of roof at Weston Super Mare
Big wheel at Weston Super Mare
Weston Super Mare beach
Weston Super Mare Beach
Weston Super Mare Beach scene with plastic ice cream and hot donuts stand
sea food stand on Weston Super Mare beach with Grand Pier in background
Weston Super Mare Grand Pier bunting
View from Weston Super Mare Grand Pier
Have you been to Weston Sand Sculpture Festival, or do you plan on visiting?

Bluestone Wales : Summary
I’m hoping by now you aren’t fed up of seeing Bluestone related posts, this is the last one I promise! I’ve reviewed the lodge and told you exactly what we got up to on each day, today I am going to share my overall impressions of our holiday at Bluestone Wales.
Grassholm lodge at Bluestone Wales
If you are considering booking a holiday at Bluestone but aren’t quite sure, these are a few points to bear in mind.

  • While our lodge wasn’t too far away from anything some of them are, there are also quite a lot of steep hills around the place.
  • There is a free bus running throughout the resort at regular intervals.
  • You can also hire a golf buggy for the duration of your stay or just a day. If you do decide to book one I strongly recommend booking it in advance to avoid disappointment.
  • Think about what you want to do during your stay and book in advance as things do get fully booked – the website is very easy to navigate making booking activities in advance simple.
  • The staff are very friendly and helpful.
  • Bluestone isn’t just for families, it would be perfect for a holiday with friends or a couples holiday too, read how Porcelina enjoyed her stay as part of a couples holiday.
  • The check in process is very easy, we checked in on-line to save time. When we arrived it was a drive through system, we simply gave our booking number at the window and were handed information leaflets, key cards, etc.
  • Check in at 4pm is too late for my liking, this combined with the early check out of 10am means that you pretty much lose two days.  That being said you can use the facilities at Bluestone before you check in and after you check out.
  • Aside from the noise created by us in the lodge it was very quiet, we didn’t hear any noise from our neighbours.
  • Despite it being fully booked while we were there it was quiet and not too busy anywhere, though phase three is currently being built so this may change.
  • After midnight on check in day the resort is completely car free, this is a great idea as you can let your children run around without worrying.
  • On check in we were handed an activity guide, this is a timetable of all of the activities taking place that week, both paid and free. This is a great idea and came in handy.
  • If you are wanting to go for walks you can pick up maps free of charge from the adventure centre, there are a variety including nature trials and geo caching.
  • The village shop stocks a wide variety of objects and isn’t as expensive as you may think, it is very convenient.
  • There is free wifi in the lodges and throughout the resort.