Thursday the 4th was my 24th birthday. I haven't celebrated my birthday for many many years as I just don't like it. After much convincing, my boyfriend agreed that we would treat Thursday like any other day as long as we could go out over the weekend and celebrate then. I agreed and on Saturday he surprised me with tickets to the Festival of Lights at Longleat. The only time either of us have ever been to Longleat has been to see the Safari so we had no idea what to expect.
We got there just after lunch so we had time to get good parking and to have a little look around as well. It was surprising what was available to do before the lantern parade started. All the Lanterns were up ready and some of them you could go and see before they were lit. Even in the daylight they were very impressive and I would have been content just seeing them as they were. The main house was open to the public as well and still decked out for Christmas. I adore old houses and this one is way up there in my top 5. It was absolutely massive, and even though we only got to see about 5 rooms is was incredibly impressive. The walls were lined with oil paintings of Kings and Queens, Lords and Ladies and other historical figures who had visited over the years as well as amazing paintings done by famous artists. And the Ceilings! I've never thought to look up before when visiting old houses but ... I have never seen a grander ceiling in my entire life. Unfortunatley you weren't allowed to take photo's, partly because it is technically someone's home and also because any flash photography could damage the paintings.
Next stop was King Arthur's hall of mirrors. It wasn't very big, and a bit crowded but it was still fun to do. I've never ran headfirst into quite so many mirrors before. The bat caves were also open to explore which I wasn't expecting. They were also lit which meant we could see all their little fluffy faces. I hadn't realised how completely adorable bats were until one flew into my face and gave me a minor heart attack. There were other animals out and about for us to see as well, for a few hours before going off to bed because it was freezing, like Meerkats, Penguins and Otters which were very cute.
4 o'clock the daylight faded and the lanterns came to life. As I said, they looked great just as they were but when they were lit ... it was like being in a fairytale. All the lanterns were fairytale themed which music to accompany each one. Beauty and the Beast took top spot as my favourite. We headed back round to the start and followed the lantern trail to see some that we hadn't been able to before. It was quite busy which made getting photo's a bit difficult, we probably should have waited. It also rained on us for about 15 minutes which meant that some of pictures came out rather blurry, but most of them came out well. I have to say, I wasn't expecting much from my little samsung (Which despite my denial is slowly dying on me) but I think it did a damn good job. At the end of the trail was a huge Christmas tree and a story was projected onto one of the walls of the building about a little boy searching for the magic tree. The tree itself also had patterns and colours projected onto it and it looked utterly brilliant. Unfortunately I am very small and I couldn't take any good pictures through the crowd.
Lastly, we took a wander through one of the biggest mazes in the country. It was lit with hundreds of little fairy lights and only took us 10 minutes to find our way through ... after which I ran back in and poor Matt spent a good half an hour trying to find me!
We took a quick walk back around the Lantern tour as it was now empty and then headed back home for a cheeky McDonalds.
If you're ever in the area next Christmas, I would definitely reccomend that you go and see it, just seeing it in daylight was worth it.