I was rather sad to discover, when we visited Legoland Windsor last year, that Legoland occupies the spot that used to be taken by Windsor Safari Park. I have vague memories of visiting Windsor when I was very little (there's a family photo of me watching a giraffe from the safety of my dad's arms) and it seems a shame that the source of those memories no longer exists.
So, we decided to take our kids to a safari park this summer and eventually made it to Longleat a couple of weekends ago. We had a really good time there -- there's a lot of interesting stuff to see and do and, although there were many visitors, the park seemed to absorb them and didn't feel crowded.
We managed to fit in a stroll around the jungle kingdom, a visit to Longleat House, a safari drive through (two hours in total!), and a play (for our kids) on the adventure playground. Things that we particularly enjoyed were feeding lettuce leaves to the giraffes, walking amongst the lemurs, and the house, which is beautiful and very interesting and has very few visitors compared to the rest of the park.
It was a real experience to see so many wild animals so close up on safari. We had a rhinoceros standing (literally) right next to our car, and lions and tigers just a few yards from us. It was also quite an eye opener to see how blase the staff were about opening and closing the gates between the big cat enclosures with no protection for themselves!
One of the highlights of Longleat, of course, are the mischievous monkeys. We didn't dare drive through their enclosure for fear of the damage they might do to our car (I remember monkeys all over the windscreen and roof when I was young, and feeling really quite scared...). But we were able to watch all their antics from a safe distance by taking the bypass lane.
All in all, Longleat was a very enjoyable day out. Safari parks may have been around for a long time, but they have managed to maintain their allure over the years, and I'd prefer a trip to a safari park over a trip to Legoland any day!