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Wiltshire’s wild side – the best wildlife parks and attractions

Posted on 27th March 2017

Wiltshire certainly has a wild side, as it boasts a number of fascination wildlife parks and attractions that you and the whole family can enjoy.

Wildlife parks and attractions in Wiltshire

The wildlife parks are great to visit all year round, no matter what the weather, so if you and your family are heading on a Wiltshire cottage holiday this year then here are some of the top parks and attractions you can visit during your stay.

Wild attractions and parks

Longleat Safari and Adventure Park 

Longleat Safari Park

One of the UK’s best and most iconic safari parks, Longleat is located in the heart of Wiltshire. 

This safari drive through takes you closer to wild animals than ever before as you pass through a lion paddock, hunt down the resident wolf pack, see the enormity of the white rhino and elephant and get an up-close look at friendly deer and cheeky monkeys.

You can also feed giraffes and meet zebras as well as go on a jungle cruise on the lake to visit Gorilla Island, watch playful sea lions and hand feed lorikeets. If you want even more animal encounters then the bat cave and Ray Bay are well worth a visit too.

Children can spend hours exploring Longleat’s Adventure Castle as different areas of the playground have been designed for different age groups. There’s a giant ball pool, softball cannons, a splash pad, a lion heart castle and an interactive art wall to name just a few.

You can also explore the famous house and work your way through the hedge maze. 

Forest Falconry

Forest Falconry

There’s just something spectacular about seeing stunning birds of prey spread their wings and glide through the air.

At Forest Falconry, near Landford in Wiltshire, you can explore 12 acres of woodland and meet 50 species of birds of prey, including eagles, owls, hawks and falcons. During your visit you will help train and fly these majestic birds.

Bush Farm Bison Centre

Bison can be seen at Bush Farm Bison Centre

It is pretty special to see bison in the UK and at Bush Farm Bison Centre you can learn all about this mammoth animal and get within touching distance of them.

The farm is tucked away in the woods at the southern tip of West Knoyle, but it offers a great day out for you and the family as there are other animals like raccoons, elk, rhea, chipmunks, praire dogs and guanaco you can see.

There are lots of lakes on the site that you can walk to and a 30-acre ancient woodland you can explore as well as a museum room and a gallery. The gallery is full of Native American artefacts such as buffalo robes and paintings.

Monkey World

Orangutan

Opened in 1987 as a refuge for confiscated chimpanzees that were stolen from the wild, Monkey World now homes the largest group of chimpanzees outside of Africa with more than 250 primates of 20 different species living at the centre.

You can walk around the beautiful woodland and watch the primates playing in their families just like you would in the wild.

You will be blown away by the orangutan crèche, which is the only one in Europe and offers a home to orangutans from around the world.

The centre combines conservation with education as it runs half-hourly talks about man’s closest living relatives. There are also picnic sites, cafes and a large children’s play area boasting slides, swings and climbing frames.

Roves Farm

You can see farm animals at Roves Farm

If you want to see a traditional British farm with a twist, then Roves Farm is a must-visit.

The attraction is a great family day out offering you free tractor rides around the 166-hectare site, and a large variety of farm animals like sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, donkeys and Shetland ponies. You can also handle chicks, rabbits and guinea pigs in the pet’s corner.

The attraction is great to visit all-year round as it is home to indoor attractions like an indoor heated play barn and kids craft sessions as well as outdoor attractions like an outdoor play area, den building activities, walks and animal races.

Wild animals you can see in Wiltshire

Wiltshire has a rich diversity of habitats and as a result, you may come across a number of species during your stay in one of our rural Wiltshire holiday cottages.

Birds

Skylark

There are a number of different birds that you can see across Wiltshire’s farmlands.

Common sightings include grey partridge, yellow wagtails, quails and tree sparrows, but if you decide to go for a walk in the evening you could see a barn owl on the lookout for some food.

If you are staying in Salisbury then the Salisbury Plains are home to a variety of birds including endangered species like the skylark, linnet and stone curlew.

Butterflies

There are 40 species of butterfly in Wiltshire

According to the Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre butterfly fauna in the county is one of the richest in the UK as over 40 species of butterfly have been known to breed in Wiltshire.

There are even species that are only found in the county such as the silver-spotted skipper, silver-studded blue, grayling and pearl-bordered fritillary.

Mammals

Red deer live in Wiltshire’s forests

There is a large population of different mammals living in Wiltshire.

Some are seen all across the country as well-known mammals like hedgehogs, badgers, moles and foxes are commonly seen all over Wiltshire.

However, the county is also home to a number of protected mammals such as the dormouse and the brown hare.

There are even 13 different species of bats and they can be found at old working mines such as Box Mines.

If you are walking along Wiltshire’s rivers then keep your eye open for otters and water voles, while a stroll through a wooded area could see you come across roe and red deer and grey squirrel.

 

WOMAD festival comes to Wiltshire for 2017

Posted on 13th March 2017

WOMAD is a festival like no other, promising to entertain and alter perspectives while being both inclusive and informative. Due to be hosted at the glorious Charlton Park on the last weekend in July (27th – 30th), it is definitely something everybody should be marking in their calendars, whether you’re spending the week in a Wiltshire holiday cottage and just manage a day, or are a local looking to soak up the whole weekend. We have picked some of the more unusual events on offer that make this festival so special. WOMAD 2008 main stage

The Human Books revel in the art of conversation, as you ‘check out’ a person for half an hour and learn about their lives while moving away from the absorbing technology that defines this era. Go global with both the music and the food and discover new passions. The street food on offer is no meagre burger van, but instead offers an intense trip for the taste buds, as everywhere from South America to India is represented in cuisine, with both vegetarian and vegan options as a nod to the inclusivity that defines this festival.

The Global Market allows you to take a piece of WOMAD home, full of stalls selling everything from traditional clothing to instruments made from recycled materials. Like any bazaar, it is tantalising and a joy to discover.

Children under the age of thirteen are treated to free entry as well as many activities specially designed to include them, making this a truly family-orientated festival. The Arboretum combines discovery with nature as you are invited to try your hand at playing different instruments from a multitude of countries, as well as hearing your favourite performers talk about their own culture. All of this and more is nestled deep in the woodland.

There is also a spa for those looking for a little pampering to complement the bohemian lifestyle of WOMAD. It offers everything from massage and acupressure to the unique sound baths and, as with everything at the WOMAD festival, it is housed either outside or in tents.

This unusual festival has various counterparts across the world, featuring festivals in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and Chile. So if you feel you would enjoy a weekend that will take you across the world from the comfort of your Wiltshire cottage holiday, WOMAD is a festival to watch out for.

Image Credit: York Tillyer

Guide to shopping local for Christmas in Wiltshire

Posted on 13th December 2016

In recent years, many people have recognised the significant value of shopping local. Whether to support local businesses, boycott large corporations or simply fund more ethical, sustainable products, buying from independent shops has many benefits. If you live in the area or are planning a Wiltshire cottage holiday and fancy fitting a bit of Christmas shopping into your schedule, here are some of the best independent shops in Wiltshire to find unique, thoughtful gifts for all of your friends and family.

Stocking fillers

Jacks of Bath

If you’re looking to share some of the magic from your recent cottage holiday in Wiltshire with friends and family, why not consider giving them a Christmas stocking filler that reflects the county’s rich heritage? The Henge Shop in Avebury is situated at Stonehenge itself, and is the only independent shop to operate at the site. They offer jewellery, books and gifts ranging from beautifully-painted instruments to souvenir maps, local honey and ornaments. If you’re looking for slightly more playful additions to a Christmas stocking, c’s snow globes feature the landscapes of Bath and Stonehenge for a unique twist.

Image credit: Diego Delso (Wikimedia Commons)

Food and drink

Food and Drink Hamper

A delicious hamper of food and drink is a failsafe Christmas present for parents, siblings and friends alike. Luckily, there are an endless array of local home-grown produce shops and artisan food outlets in Wiltshire to choose from. Lick the Spoon Chocolate Factory in Corsham sells delectable boxes of chocolates, Christmas specials and even ‘chocolate salami’ in flavours such as fruit and nut and peanut caramel. For something more savoury, Allington Farm Shop near Chippenham offers over three generations of award-winning recipes such as pies, cheeses and hampers. Edington Farm Shop is not only full of fresh fruit and vegetables seasonally grown on their own farm, but is also a delightful place to spend an afternoon. To finish it all off, why not add some hand-selected loose-leaf tea from the Tea House Emporium in Bath, or a bottle of fine wine from Great Western Wine, which for thirty years has provided customers with distinctive, independent wines. For more local food stores in Wiltshire, search this local food map by Big Barn.

Image credit: Poppet with a Camera (Flickr) 

Kids’ presents

Wooden Childrens Toys

With so much of the Christmas hype aimed towards the latest big kids’ toy franchises, much of the classic charm of children’s presents has been lost. If you’re looking for a gift for a son, daughter or grandchild that avoids the mass-produced fanfare and will provide endless hours of fun, along with a keepsake to cherish, why not head to one of Wiltshire’s many independent toyshops? My Small World in Bath sells a huge range of handcrafted wooden toys, from outdoor activities to dolls houses, train sets and even musical instruments. Ducklings Toy Shop in Marlborough is another traditional toy shop that specialises in “quality toys with excellent play and educational value from birth to adult”.

Image credit: Pintoy WeLove (Flickr)

Pampering

Pampering

One thing that many of us wish for at Christmas is the chance to relax, and you can give a loved one just that with the many beauty shops in Wiltshire. No 8. Shop in Bath takes the exclusive experience of Thermae Bath Spa into the home, with bath and massage oils from their own range. For ethical indulgence, Goodfayre in Salisbury hosts a wide range of ethically-sourced pampering treats such as bathtub tea and bath bombs to unwind with, plus cruelty-free skincare and makeup products for the full luxury experience. Hive Originals is one of Wiltshire’s most famous independent skincare brands, offering creams, essential oils and many more natural and organic products, all using raw honey and beeswax harvested from their own hives. Who could say no to their key lime pie lip balm?

Fashion

Fashion Boutique

Wiltshire is home to many stylish boutiques, Chas H Baker in Salisbury has provided evening wear since 1902, whereas Spirit Fashion is one of the best independent designer boutiques in the country, featuring contemporary fashion, footwear and accessories brands from across the UK and Europe. If you’re looking for something extra special for a loved one this Christmas, the Gold & Platinum Studio in Bath is the perfect place to find a precious piece. Founded in 1970, this independent jeweller offers a fine range of exquisite jewellery designed and handmade on the premises. In Salisbury, HR Tribbeck and Son offers unusual, bold rings, whereas in Devizes you can find Tundra Jewellers, which create unique pieces such as an acorn necklace with squirrels on the chain.

Art

Ceramics Potter

For many, there is no greater gift than art. Unique, expressive and thoughtful, this is the perfect gift for someone special, and in Wiltshire there is a plethora of talented artists who are sure to speak to your creative side. One Two Five Gallery in central Bath sells the exclusive painted clothing of Carole Walker’s No Walking Canvas line, and stunning stoneware by Cary Wood, alongside various pieces of jewellery by Annie Beardsley. The striking shapes and textures of their products is sure to inspire. Alternatively, for the interior designer in your life, Verve, also in Bath, sells thought-provoking sculptures, unusual repurposed blow torch lamps, stylish ceramics and luxurious homewares. Stuart Wiltshire Glass provides a unique collection of handmade above glassware, from bespoke lighting to their sentimental baby hand casts, which are the perfect gift for a grandparent.

Books

Book Shop

Books are a classic choice for Christmas presents, but you don’t have to buy the latest bestseller to give the gift of a world of words. Bookbarn in Bath is one of the largest sellers of used books in the UK, with academic monographs, fiction, coffee-table books and more, all with a recycled twist. The White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough opened in 1943, and offers over 25,000 titles in-store and a further 200,000 on their independent online store. Offering all the biggest titles, small-publisher novels and rare and collectable volumes, all at discounted prices.

Image credit: Gpoo (Visualhunt) 

Crafts

Crafts

For the creative souls in your life, why not give them a gift that they can enjoy for years to come, perhaps even gaining or developing a skill? The Makery in Bath is the perfect alternative to chain supplies stores, and offers everything from crafty stocking fillers to beads, fabrics and patterns. For knitting buffs, Born to Knit in Fisherton Mill offers yarns in every colour, style and texture to spark the imagination of a loved one who is a whizz with the needles, as well as kits for beginners.

 

Watch the world-famous Wiltshire Christmas Festival of Lights

Posted on 21st November 2016

If there’s one thing that stays in the mind of people young and old around Christmas, it’s the sight of beautiful coloured lights glowing on fir trees, hearths and in shop windows during the festive season. This year, if you’re looking for a way to take the excitement of Christmas to the next level with a Wiltshire holiday cottage retreat, there is no better way to do so than by visiting the world-renowned Longleat Festival of Light!

 Wiltshire Festival of Lights

Image credit: Papa Studio (Shutterstock)

As Visit Wiltshire explains, “This winter the unmissable Festival of Light at Longleat returns to transform the park into a glowing winter wonderland.” This year, it is Longleat Safari Park’s 50th anniversary and so Europe’s largest Chinese lantern festival will be even more exhilarating. This year’s event is a celebration of all creatures great and small, and will appeal to family members young and old!

The wonderful scene of Longleat’s famous lantern displays is a memory you will never forget. Their momentous giant lanterns will take centre stage with epic scenes honouring the most exciting residents of the park, such as lions and zebras. To mark her 150th birthday, iconic characters from the beloved works of Beatrix Potter will accompany the animals, so you can follow Peter Rabbit and his friends around some of the most famous scenes of the books!

But there’s more to this wonderful festival than the beautiful, intricate lights. The winter safari will be a real eye-opener, taking your mind off the Christmas rush for a moment as you ogle at zebras, rhinos, monkeys and more. As Longleat say, this is a great time to beat the crowds and see unusual sights up close:

“Keep your eyes peeled and you might even see our animals displaying some different behaviours to those they would display during the rest of the year. Our tigers and lions, who are partial to a catnap in the sunshine, are often much more active in the cooler weather.”

There are a huge range of other festive activities that make Longleat’s Festival of Light a prime destination for families on holiday in Wiltshire. Their enchanted Christmas tree show sees a grand 50ft tree made to dazzle with high-tech multimedia technology and mind-blowing projections. Step through the doors of Longleat House and into a real Edwardian Christmas, with each room decorated as it would have been for traditional Christmas celebrations during the early 20th century.

To mark 150 years of Beatrix Potter, the Great Hall will also host a special exhibition of costumes used in The Royal Ballet’s production of Frederick Ashton’s ‘Tales of Beatrix Potter’. For nature lovers, the brand new Arctic Corner is the perfect winter wonderland for kids to play in and learn something new in the process.

There is even an augmented reality experience of being an Arctic explorer to stimulate their greatest ambitions. Take a trip on The Santa Express and take in the beautiful reflections of the Half Mile Lake before reaching the grotto with a special gift for the little ones. Anything is possible during the magical Festival of Light!

The festivities begin on selected dates from 11th November, with fireworks on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. You can also save 10 per cent through online bookings.

 

 

Wiltshire’s top five most charming Christmas markets

Posted on 18th October 2016

Christmas is one of the most magical times to visit Wiltshire, as the ancient landscape becomes dusted in a smattering of frost and visitors flock to the county to experience the blissful retreat the countryside offers. You’ll feel like a character in a Dickensian novel spending the festive period in Wiltshire, from the cosy fireside of a Wiltshire holiday cottage to the bustling streets of historic Salisbury, lit with glowing lanterns. For many people, there is nothing more festive than a Christmas market. Given the rich history of local traditions in the area, Wiltshire is one of the best places to find captivating Christmas markets, and here are five of its best.

 Christmas Market

Wealth of Wiltshire Christmas Fayre

One of the largest Christmas events in the entire county each year is the Wealth of Wiltshire Christmas Fayre. Organised by the county council, the fayre is usually part of the A Legacy for Wiltshire programme, seeking to support local economy and businesses. This year’s Wealth of Wiltshire Christmas Fayre will be held on Thursday 1st of December 2016 in the Atrium, County Hall, Trowbridge. It will include everything from local craft and gift stalls to magic shows, local choirs and even Frozen princesses Elsa and Anna to keep the kids entertained.

Devizes market town lights up

Another popular Christmas event in Wiltshire is the Devizes Christmas Festival and Lantern Parade on the 25th of November 2016. This occasion attracts crowds of up to 3,000 people to the market town, where onlookers stare in wonder at a river of hundreds of stunning lanterns created by members of the local community. Everything from classic shapes to elephants, dragons and birds will grace the streets in gorgeous colours. Expect captivating street theatre masterpieces, handmade gifts, delicious dishes and live music topped off with an explosive fireworks display finale. And, of course, Father Christmas switches on the seasonal Christmas lights.

Salisbury Christmas market

From the 24th of November to the 18th of December, the breath-taking gothic location of the Guildhall Square in Salisbury will be home to one of the county’s biggest markets. The Salisbury Christmas Market offers an array of locally-made delicacies and foods to sample, all accompanied by delightful festive music played live around the site. The architecture of the area adds to the sense of grandiosity, in stunning contrast to over 100 decorated wooden chalets inspired by the finest traditions of European Christmas markets. Expect Gluhwein – or mulled wine, Bratwurst, Stollen and Lebkuchen (gingerbread) alongside many British specialities supporting the local economy.

Made in Bradford on Avon Christmas Market

If you’re looking for local handcrafts and creations, the Made in Bradford on Avon Christmas Market is the perfect choice. On the 12th of November in St. Margaret’s Hall, local artists will showcase their finest work, selling all manner of gifts and crafts. The event is run by the Bradford on Avon Community Arts Centre, which is home to over a hundred local creatives. Exquisite paintings, chic ceramics, woodwork, handmade jewellery, cakes and much more will be on offer. There’s even a raffle to get that lucky Christmas spirit spreading through the air!

Christmas Country Fair in aid of The Soldiers’ Charity

There really is something for everyone at the Lavington Community Hall’s Christmas Country Fair. On the 12th of November, hundreds of people will make the most of the free entry to this fantastic event and peruse stalls selling local crafts and produce: jewellery, textiles, glass crafts, Christmas decorations, cards, skincare, cakes, hats, bags, handmade wooden toys and much more. Some new stallholders this year along with many of your old favourites. A brilliant atmosphere plus delicious soup lunches, a raffle and tombola will make this a very fun event for all the family. Best of all, profits and donations all go to The Soldiers’ Charity, which offers valuable lifelong support to British Army veterans and their families.
There will also be Sunday markets hosted in Salisbury throughout November and December, and the weekly markets in towns such as Melksham and Corsham on Tuesdays, Trowbridge and Amesbury on Wednesdays, Devizes on Thursdays, Calne on Fridays, Chippenham and Marlborough on Saturdays. All of these local stalls are sure to get into the Christmas spirit throughout November and December. So wherever you are in Wiltshire this Christmas season, you’re sure to have a very merry time!