If you’re searching for Cotswold’s attractions for kids, look no further than the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens in Burford. A mix between a zoo and a safari park, the Cotswold Wildlife Park will delight visitors, young and old. The park boasts of over 260 different species of animals & has the largest privately owned zoological collection in the UK.
As you walk around the grounds, you’ll notice spacious enclosures for the animals that blend in with the natural environment, taking advantage of the beautiful Bradwell Grove Estate. Visitors can get closer to animals than in many of the other zoological collections we’ve visited. Even the kids noted how nice it must be for the animals to have so much space.
The park is divided into several sections, each with it’s own unique plant and animal life. Our first stop was at the Large Animals section, home of the giant tortoises and the parks oldest resident, both in age and duration. These massive reptiles were fascinating to watch. They may be slow and ponderous but their size amazed us when compared to their smaller turtle cousins we were used to seeing. We had seen the giant tortoises at only one other park.
Next, in large paddocks you’ll see the white rhinoceros up close and personal. Never have we been this close to one. They are usually so far back at our home zoo that you need the long-range camera lens to get a good picture. These guys were just hanging out, having breakfast near the moat. While we were safe from the animals (and they were safe from us), the design of the wildlife park made feel it like you could just walk right up to the them.
Nearby are Bactrian camels, Chapman’s zebras and three adorable giraffes. Two of the giraffes were play fighting and whacking each other with their heads during our visit. You’ll also find Asiatic lions, Clouded leopards, and porcupines. There are new lion cubs at the park as well, but we didn’t get a chance to see them.
Moving on past the zebras, we crossed the train track into the Woodlands area first checking out the ducks and Chilean flamingos. This section has a ton of south American animals such as the capybara, Visayan warty pigs, Brazilian tapir, parma wallabies and giant anteaters. My favorite animals from this area were the wallabies.
Kids will enjoy the farmyard with Shetland ponies, Pygmy goats and pigs. You can walk into the goat enclosure and pet them as well as the pigs in the barn. The rabbits were hanging out just out of reach. A hand washing station is located in the barn, so kids can clean up after touching the animals.
We spent more time than I had intended in these areas, so we missed the penguin feeding. The kids were okay with it once they got a chance to run and play at the Adventure Playground near the Manor House. There are play structures for young and older children including a large tree slide. Both kids also took advantage of the rope course and K, of course, showed off his gymnastics skills on the monkey bars.
After a playtime break, we walked though the Invertebrate House, Bat House & Reptile House. We found some of the usual reptiles here but were surprised to find Morelet’s crocodiles and black mambas. We don’t usually see these reptiles in the typical zoo. I think I was more freaked out over the black mambas than any of the others, though. Interestingly, the park was able to breed the crocodiles making it the first successful breeding of that species in the UK.
The Bat House is another unique feature. We saw Seba’s short-tailed bats and Egyptian fruit bats. A display on the wall shows the wing span of the world largest bat. Derrick’s arms were the only ones that stretched the full width! I do NOT want to see that bat in the wild!
There are 131 birds species in the park including our all time favorites – PENGUINS! We also enjoyed seeing the great variety of owls. After visiting the houses, we wandered the aviaries, owl enclosures and saw vultures. The area also includes cute siamangs and fierce wolverines. Cotswold Wildlife Park is also the first UK zoo to successfully breed wolverines, marking another first for them. Also, at this location and for a fee, you can hop onto the train for a ride around the park.
Continue your tour to the Walled Garden which was once the Manor kitchens. In addition to the animals, the gardens in this area are fantastic! We saw many exotic plants and flowers. Even the grassy areas are somehow perfect. The Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens aim is to demonstrate the wonder and diversity of the plant kingdom. I think they succeeded. Even in October, the gardens are a sight to behold.
The big draw of the Walled Garden is the Humboldt penguin enclosure. These little guys were having a blast putting on a show for us. Afterwards, strip off your coat and wipe down your glasses on your way to the Tropical House. Here you’ll find more exotic plants, tropical birds and free-roaming sloths – which we didn’t see. I think they were hiding from us.
Don’t hurry out of the garden, but instead take time to see the Oriental small-clawed otters. Lucy happened to start whistling and they started to run toward her. They looked a bit disappointed it wasn’t feeding time. You’ll also find prairie dogs and meerkats plus small primates such as the squirrel monkeys and emperor tamarins.
Lastly, we moved on to the popular walk-though Madagascar exhibit. The Lemurs are fantastic creators and the enclosure is a true gem. You’ll find several lemurs including the mongoose lemurs, collared lemurs and ring-tailed lemurs. The lemars are another successful breeding program at the park with regular births.
If you brought a picnic lunch, there are spots all over the park to stop for a bite to eat. You could also eat in the Manor restaurant. We were on a time crunch trying to make the most of our road trip, so we chose to eat in the car after visiting the park. You could easily spend a leisurely half day here at the park exploring and watching the animal feedings.
Try to time your exploration around the park with the animal feedings and talks. I’ve included the schedule below, but make sure to verify the times once you arrive at the park.
:: Penguin Feeding at 11am and 3pm
:: Lemur Feeding and Talk in the Madagascar Exhibit at 12 noon
:: Duck Feeding in the lake area at 2pm
Wildlife conservation and education is a large part of the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens as well. In addition to supporting organisations and charities, they also also directly support several reserves in Madagascar. Take time to read the plaques throughout the park to your kids to help raise awareness of endangered species and environments.
Don’t miss your chance to introduce your children to wildlife right in the UK. The wonderful diversity of animals and plants make it an ideal destination for families.
Can’t see the video? Click HERE
*Get Cotswolds Wildlife discounts by purchasing tickets online in advance.
Adult £15.00 or £14.00 online
Children (3-16 years) £10.00 or £9.50 online
Infant (under 3) FREE
Arriving by car: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens is located 2 miles south of Burford, Oxfordshire – post code OX18 4JP
Parking is free for visitors
We are open 7 days a week from 10am.
Closed on Christmas Day
T: +44 (0) 1993 823 006
Looking for more to do in the Cotswolds? Stay tuned for our family road trip itinerary and check the Cotswolds Tourism website for more family-friendly activities.