Where the wild things are
Whilst it might not be quite the same as heading out across the dusty plains of the African savannah, the beautiful rolling hills of the Cotswolds are home to a plethora of wildlife encounters of all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re in search of lions and tigers, giraffes and crocodiles, incredible birds of prey, cute and cuddly farm animals or fearsome dinosaurs from the prehistoric age, there is a magical wildlife experience for all. Below you’ll find just a few of our favourite places where the Cotswolds reveal their wild side. Have a look at our Wildlife & Gardens Experiences for more inspiration.
Wild and Wonderful
Get your wildlife fix with some of the most magnificent animals on earth. At the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens, you can get up close and personal with giraffes on the Giraffe Walkway, see White rhino, lions, zebras, and leopards. Watch a penguin feed, or maybe get more hands on with a penguin encounter and learn more about the lemurs of Madagascar. Set in 160 acres of landscaped parklands this is one of the UK’s largest zoological collections and is home to more than 260 different species, many of which are endangered in the wild.
For a more exclusive experience, try a visit to Heythrop. The focus at Heythrop is to educate on animal welfare and behaviour, increase animal training standards worldwide and inspire and train the next generation of wildlife guardians. Heythrop is not open to the general public, visits are by appointment only ensuring a truly memorable and exceptional experience. Your guided visit will be with an experienced trainer who will share their knowledge and passion. It’s also possible to book animal encounters with hippos, sloths, tigers, monkeys, and wolves.
To come face-to-face with some of the most fearsome predators in the world head for Crocodiles of the World near Burford. Dedicated to the conservation of these much-maligned creatures, you’ll be able to see 17 of the 24 species currently found in the world including fresh and saltwater crocodiles, caiman, and alligators. For those who want to get even closer there are wild keeper experiences for children and grown ups alike.
Alongside the magnificent wildlife encounters the Cotswolds also offers some wonderful opportunities to learn more about our beautiful, feathered friends. At Birdland Park and Gardens in Bourton-on-the-Water, you’ll find a delightful setting inhabited by over 500 birds including flamingos, pelicans, penguins and even the elusive cassowary. The aviaries, which total more than 50, house parrots, falcons, ibis, whilst the Parliament of Owls, the newest attraction in the park, provides a home for 8 different species of owl.
The WWT Slimbridge Wetlands Centre is a 100-acre wetland paradise of wide-open spaces and the birdlife at Slimbridge changes from one month to the next. In Spring, kingfishers start looking for nesting sites, warblers begin to breed, and it’s usual to see lapwing and redshank chicks. During the summer, ducklings, goslings and chicks appear across the site and migrating birds including sandpiper, green sandpiper and the curlew sandpiper arrive. As Autumn rolls in, teal start arriving, snipe can often be seen and there is the potential to spot rare species as the migrating birds pass through. The winter months play host to significant bird numbers including Bewick’s swans, bittern, waders and wild wintering ducks, geese, and swans. It’s also when you might be lucky enough to catch an incredible starling murmuration in the skies above as dusk falls.
To experience the sheer power exuded by birds of prey however, the Cotswold Falconry Centre just outside Moreton-in-Marsh is hard to beat. Home to over 130 birds from 60 different species including vultures, falcons, eagles, and owls, it’s also common to see the native birds in flight and there is always something different to see. There are daily flying displays and aviaries to explore.
The Cotswolds is farming country and there are some wonderful farm animal experiences to enjoy. Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park is a much-loved Cotswold icon, adored by locals and visitors in equal measure. Arm yourself with some animal snacks and head out on the rare breed’s trail. The gentle walk takes you on a circuit of the paddocks for great viewing of the numerous mischievous animals and the ever-greedy goats! In the animal barn you’ll find new arrivals including donkey foals, piglets, calves, and baby goats whilst the Discovery Barn is home to the smaller animals, demonstrations, and there is often the opportunity to handle some of the animals.
The Fairytale Farm near Chipping Norton is a mix of classic fairy tales, animals, and adventure play. It is perfect for families and has also been designed as a space where children with disabilities come first. There are six main zones with different experiences to explore including Huff and Puff for adventure play and Alfie and Friends, where you’ll find pigs, rabbits, billy goats and miniature ponies. Take your little ones through the Wilderness Walk – a range of wildlife habitats where you can experience a mini world of seasonal senses.
Dinosaurs bring out the little kid in all of us and a visit to Jurassic Journey, part of the Birdland experience at Bourton-on-the-Water, is the perfect prehistoric adventure. Be transported back 65 million years on a prehistoric expedition where you’ll encounter Brachiosaurus, Spinosaurus and the toothy Tyrannosaurus Rex hiding amongst the flora, and don’t forget to look up to the tree canopy where you might spot Pteranodon soaring above you.
At All Things Wild near Broadway, you can combine a wonderful mix of indoor and outdoor activities including bug hunts, farmyard safaris, barefoot walks, soft play, and the reptile room with the Dino Field. Take the Dino Train to a land that time forgot to see Diplodocus, Triceratops, Stegosaurus and more.