After many years of visiting our family in the Oxford countryside, last week we finally visited the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens. It was a great day out for all the family, including my sister-in-law and our fifteen-year-old nephew.
We arrived in separate cars at 10.20am, about twenty minutes after opening time. Parking was fine – cars went to a parking space on the left, while bigger vehicles (which included our van) were directed to the right to park up in another large space, located in front of the gift shop.
Covering 160 acres, the wildlife park and gardens are huge so we were there until after 3pm, and we could easily have stayed another couple of hours to see the animals we missed (there are around 260 different species).
We started out in the reptile housing, where we saw snakes and spiders, and there was even a crocodile bathing in a pool behind a glass wall. Much to Nathan’s delight there was a scorpion (he’s low-key obsessed), and all four of us were quite taken with the fruit bat enclosure (if you watch Bluey you’ll understand why). If you go, a word of warning – the reptile area stinks!
As we left the smelly but fascinating reptile enclosure, we discovered a fantastic park and play area with a little treehouse for little kids and a huge, tall treehouse for bigger kids. Of course, Kittie had to explore the biggest treehouse of all but I left this to Kris to deal with while I had a time-out with a latte. The park would have entertained them both for well over an hour had my nerves been able to cope, but we moved on to the wee train that loops around the park for a very mellow ten minutes or so before walking round to the cafeteria to get some lunch. A picnic would be more budget-friendly, and probably tastier too… lesson learned for the next family day out (though I’m pretty sure we’ve made this mistake before).
After lunch we walked through more of the park, with its dry grass and leafy trees, to visit the bigger animals which included giraffes, rhinos, zebras, lions, wolves… all kinds of animals that we’d never usually see here in the UK. The Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens has many safari animals which all seem to be really well looked after and as free to roam as can be expected within a conservation ground. They looked healthy and relaxed, and they were entirely unbothered by the varying degrees of crowds gawping and taking videos. Myself included.
As is typical of the British weather, we finished our day with an ice cream in the rain before being suckered by the kids at the gift shop.
If you’re in the area and looking for a fun day out that has that little something special, I’d highly recommend a visit here. It cost £54 for the four of us (two adults and two kids aged 3-16 booked online, which made it a few pounds cheaper). It might sound a lot, but it’s an entire day out that brought a lot of fun and joy to all of us, pre-schoolers and teenagers alike. We were all exhausted and happy at the end of our trip – I’d call that a success.