A guide to Wiltshire, England, highlighting attractions, history, and visitor information.
Longleat has worked hard to create a reputation as a major family attraction, with a plethora of theme park activities and the world-famous safari park, but at its core the estate still revolves around the superb Elizabethan country house.
The symmetrical three-story house was built by Sir John Thynne, who employed Robert Smythson (also responsible for Hardwick Hall) and French architect Allan Maynard. The house stands as a splendid focal point in the 900 acres of parkland landscaped by Capability Brown.
Thynne finished his grand home in 1580, shortly before his death. Though the exterior maintains its exquisite Tudor facade, the interior has been much altered to follow the changing dictates of comfort and fashion. The great hall still boasts its Tudor hammerbeam roof and carved fireplace, but the rest of the furnishings are Victorian. Much of the interior decoration is in opulent Italian style, modeled after estates in Venice and Genoa. There are superb Flemish tapestries, but the collection of fine period furniture is even better. Fine art dating as far back as the 16th century hangs in gilded splendour on the lavishly decorated walls. The original long gallery (90 feet long) has been converted into a saloon.
Family portraits in the great hall trace the Thynne family back to Tudor times, and more modern murals by the 7th Marquis are on display in the West Wing.
The Marquis of Bath
The drive-through park, opened in 1966, was the first of its kind outside Africa. Here, animals such as giraffes, Bactrian camels, elephants, monkeys, rhinoceros, deer, tigers, lions, and timber wolves roam through grassland and woodland settings. Visitors can drive through the park, board a special bus, or cruise past the park in 'Safari boats', accompanied by sea lions swimming alongside looking for snacks.
Longleat for Families
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© David Ross and Britain Express
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