Christmas Family Trips

Longleat Festival of Lights 2018

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Longleat Festival of Lights 2018

Longleat Festival of Light

I’ve heard wonderful things about the Festival of Light at Longleat for the last few years, so we decided to take the twins in November. It was a bargain of a family trip! Longleat is a 3 hour drive away from home, so we booked a room in a Travelodge about half hour away from the Safari Park, which only cost us £37. The twins got into the Festival of Light for free, because of their age, so we only had to pay for me and Mr Becca. Then we booked a trip on the Santa Train! All in, the trip cost us less than £150, which I thought was really reasonable for a family of four.

The Safari

Three hours in a car with 2 toddlers is not my idea of fun…But they were actually pretty well behaved and we got the Longleat without too much fuss. After turning their carseats round (I intend to keep them rearfacing for as long as possible, but figured they’d be able to see more, while still being safe, if they were forward facing for the slow crawl around the safari), we went to see some animals!

We knew ahead of time (Longleat make it clear on their website) that some of the animals might be tucked away keeping warm, so we weren’t surprised when there were a few missing, compared to when we visited before, a few years ago, during the Summer.

I asked Jack and Alice what their favourite animals were.

Jack liked the sheep, which were walking around the Lemur Walkthrough and Alice liked the elephants (which we didn’t actually see) and the cows (which were in a field nearby…). So, it’s a good thing we didn’t go to Longleat just to see the safari!

Sheep on safari

They did both love feeding the deer and they were in awe of the giraffes. They found it hilarious when a monkey pooped on our windscreen, too. Since that was the full extent of the damage done to my car, I think we got off lightly!

The Santa Train

I love Santa. In my opinion, a trip to the Longleat Festival of Lights would not be complete without a ride on the Santa Train. Jack loves trains and he was very excited about this part of our trip. After driving round the safari, we went on the Jungle Cruise and Jack cried when we were in the queue, because he wanted to go on the train instead. He cheered up when he saw the hippos, though. And it wasn’t long before it was our turn to go and see Santa.

The twins loved the train!

It set my anxiety off a little bit, because there are no doors, except on the wheelchair accessible carriage, and the carriages are quite small. I was worried the twins would wriggle too much and fall out the entire time we were on that little train, even though Mr Becca and I were both there to hold on to them.

Santa Train at Longleat

Anxiety aside, it was a nice little ride to the grotto, which was absolutely beautiful and all lit up. This was the main reason I booked a late afternoon session – I wanted it to be dark – and I’m so glad I did!

Santa Grotto at Longleat

The twins didn’t like queuing to see Santa. Jack, in particular, is not a patient panda. He pretty much kicked and screamed until it was his turn, which was fun. In hindsight, I wish we’d sat closer to the front of the train, because then maybe we would have been closer to the front of the queue to get into the grotto!

Queue for Santa at Longleat

Santa was lovely once we got there. Jack gave him a high five and happily sat on his knee for a photo. Alice… did not. We were expecting this. Alice doesn’t like having her photo taken and doesn’t really like Santa (or unfamiliar people in general). We did get our family photo… it’s not a great one, but it’s proof we were there! The gifts from Santa were cool, too! Toy planes, complete with pilots and pet cats (obviously). Very gender-specific though. I’m not sure why Alice needed a pink plane, with a female pilot and a pink cat, while Jack was OK with a yellow plane, male pilot and a yellow cat, but apparently she did. They’ve been fighting over the pink one ever since.

Reindeer lights at Longleat grotto

Finally… the Festival of Lights!

By the time we made the return trip on the scary door-lacking train, it was dark and the lanterns had been switched on. This was the bit I was so excited about. The twins were a bit grumpy by this point. It had been a long day for them and they weren’t happy about being trapped in the buggy. But it was quite busy and it’s quite a long walk around the Festival of Lights. The buggy made it easier for everyone.

Longleat Festival of Lights 2018


The lanterns were beautiful. I’d read a few things online where people said they didn’t think the theme was as good as previous years. This was my first time visiting the Festival of Lights, so I had nothing to compare it to, and I thought it was amazing. The dinosaurs were a favourite with both me and the twins. The underwater, arctic and space displays were also amazing, and we finally saw elephants in India!

Elephant lanterns

Arctic lanterns

Jungle lanterns

Space lanterns

Train lantern

Octopus lantern

Fish lanterns

I can honestly say, I’ve never seen anything as stunning as the Festival of Light lanterns.

The work involved in putting these displays together must be extreme and they definitely didn’t disappoint. My photos really don’t do them justice. If you get the chance, you should definitely go and see them for yourself!

I’d love to take the twins back again next year. It was such a lovely family day out!


  1. Kay December 5, 2018
    • Becca December 5, 2018

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