We’re lucky living here, as there’s so many places to visit animals in the UK. I think my love of visiting wildlife parks and zoos was started way back when I lived in Windsor and we used to have season tickets to visit Windsor Safari Park (in its pre-Legoland days). We could hear the lions roar from our garden. Over the years, my mum took us on lots of days out around the country and now I’m able to pass those experiences on to N as he’s growing up.
I have to admit, he’s less interested in wildlife and animals in general, but he likes certain animals, we have traditions on which animals we like to spend more time watching. And a trip to a zoo quite often means a meal out and other activities to do as well. It’s one of the day trips he won’t say no to, and I hope that continues.
Nowadays, zoos are all about conservation, so it’s good to know your entry fee is helping some of these animals survive and grow.
We’ve been to so many places around country on days out. Here’s some of the places to visit if you want to see animals in the UK.
Don’t forget to check out the websites in advance as most a pre-booked tickets only and have restricted opening.
Marwell Zoo, Hampshire – a lovely, easy to find your way around the site, and not too large. You can also visit the house. We’ve been during Brick Safari events, so watch out for these special displays and activities.
Blue Reef Aquarium, Portsmouth – handy location right on the promenade, just one of the locations around the UK. See the usual sea creatures and other animals. Smaller than Sea Life Centres, but still a fair option for a couple of hours. Large outdoor play area.
Cotswold Wildlife Park, Oxfordshire – large wildlife park with all the large animals you’d want to see like lions, giraffes, rhinos, zebras, wolves and more. Large countryside to walk around, good accessibility as it’s flat. There’s a train around the grounds, a lemur walk, and penguins to watch up close.
Green Dragon Eco Farm, Oxfordshire – small farm park with a green theme. Food options aren’t great when open, so take a picnic. Can be muddy so wellies are needed if wet. N really enjoyed the go kart area. Better for younger children, plus there’s indoor softplay.
Falconry at Millets Farm Centre, Oxfordshire – If you just want to see a few animals and falconry displays, getting up close, Millets farm is a good option, as it’s an add on to all the other things you can do when there (pick your own fruit, garden centre, restaurant, farm shop and farm animal walkway).
Odds Farm Park, Buckinghamshire – great for a full day out. A good selection of farm animals to walk round and meet. Brilliant play areas covering all areas, and in school holidays watch out for the circus and other special events.
Beale Park, Berkshire – lovely wildlife park which features smaller animals, but plenty of favourites like meerkats, monkeys and lemurs. There’s a train to ride around and a massive outdoor play area including a large paddling pool. There are also some lovely themed gardens based on areas of the world to explore.
Bucklebury Farm Park, Berkshire – great for younger child, with farm animals to walk through and get up close. There’s also an indoor play area for rainy days.
London Zoo – not really one you’d expect to see in London, but part of the same group as Whipsnade.
Howletts Wildlife Park, Kent – set in ancient parkland, and home to the world’s largest collection of gorillas, plus other animals to see.
South West England
Birdland Park and Gardens, Gloucestershire – If you want to see penguins you probably wouldn’t expect to see them in a small Cotswold town, but Birdland has them, as well as hawks, owls and more exotic birds. Small play area and cafe. A nice morning or afternoon day out.
Cotswold Farm Park, Gloucestershire – focusing on rare breeds, there’s plenty of farm animals to see. Enjoy the woodland adventure trail, play areas and lots of picnic places. You might even see Adam Henson from Countryfile walking around.
Paignton Zoo, Devon – a traditional conservation zoo with plenty of ammals, birds and reptiles to see. Easy to find your way around and not too large.
West Midlands Safari and Leisure Park, Worcestershire – one of our favourite places to visit. Take the car around the safari route as many times as you want, do the animal walk throughs, see the Ice Age displays and enjoy the play areas.. Then spend the rest of the day on the theme park rides (extra cost). Here’s our more recent visit post lockdown.
All Things Wild, Worcestershire – A lovely relaxed wildlife park, with talks, different play areas and activities as well as a dinosaur walk.
Drayton Manor Park and Zoo, Staffordshire – a smaller zoo with over 100 animals, birds and reptiles. Great if you want a day of animals and theme park as there’s something for everyone.
Trentham Monkey Forest, Staffordshire – go on a walk through past all the monkeys, watch feeding time, and you might find they come right by you to get to their lunch. Lovely walk and sight to see. Play areas and cafe available. Spend a few hours at Monkey Forest, then head next door to Trentham Estate, garden centre and shopping area.
Dudley Zoo, Dudley – we loved how small Dudley Zoo is because it’s not too large as it’s based on a castle site. There’s a bit of steepness, so not all will be great with a pushchair or wheelchair. There is a land train to get around if needed though. Being smaller means you don’t have to plan your route because you can go back to areas without trekking miles. Watch out for feeding times in the different areas.
Twycross Zoo, Leicestershire – another of our favourites. A pleasant walk around, and some great opportunities to see different big cats amongst the 500+ animals. Huge restaurant, and soft play available at extra cost.
East of England
Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire – large safari park with all the large safari animals as you drive through. Along with the drive through there are walk through areas, as well as Go Ape on site, play areas and train.
Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire – not the cheapest day out, and if you don’t want to walk a long way around the sprawling site (it’s the UK’s biggest zoo), you can pay a lot of money to drive your car in and around the site from car park to car park, or take the kids’ scooters. If you’re visiting out of season or it’s raining, it’s hard to find somewhere to eat as not every place will be open or have space, although there is a large marquee set up for picnics under cover. However, you’ll see all the animals you could want to, and it doesn’t feel crowded because of the size.
Amazona Zoo, Norfolk – small zoo with South American animals. Some nice education tents and more unusual animals to see.
Wimpole Hall and Home Farm, Cambridgeshire – if the children aren’t keen on stately homes, then the addition of a working farm at Wimpole Hall is a draw. Not a large amount of animals, but enough to enjoy and pet. Plus some fun interactive areas and role play costumes.
North of England
Chester Zoo, Cheshire – a lovely zoo with all the popular animals and more. You can even take a boat ride..
Lake District Wildlife Park – a small wildlife park in the middle of the Lake District. Better for seeing smaller animals (you won’t see big cats or typical safari animals), but plenty for a few hours, and a nice play area. Take a picnic because the food is expensive and not great.
Manor Wildlife Park, near Tenby – small wildlife park, with lots of walk through opportunities including wallabies, giant rabbits, goats and lemurs, plus indoor play areas useful for when it’s raining.
Folly Farm and zoo, near Tenby – over 750 animals, from petting zoo and farm, to exotic breeds, and other activities for families.
I’m looking forward to more animal based days out over the years. They always provide so many memories to look back on.
Where are your favourite wildlife parks or zoos to visit?