Does your dog go crazy whenever a wildlife programme comes on TV? Whether they’re entranced by tigers, amazed by monkeys or fascinated by ferrets, I guarantee they’ll love the Cotswold Wildlife Park.
Plenty of farms and animals sanctuaries allow pets these days but the Cotswold Wildlife Park takes things to the next level. Here, your dog can come face-to-face with lions, penguins, rhinos, giraffes and a whole host of other exotic animals.
The 160-acre park was created by John Heyworth on the Bradwell Grove estate in Oxfordshire – his family home. Centred around a stunning manor house, it opened in 1970 and has been dog-friendly since day one.
The park is home to one of the largest zoological collections in the UK and is the only one that welcomes dogs. More than 260 different species live here – we spent a good few hours exploring and I still don’t think we saw them all.
It describes itself as a cross between a zoo and safari park and, thanks to carefully-landscaped enclosures and non-intrusive fencing, you can get surprisingly close to the animals. In fact, the pens are so open and spacious, there were a few moments when we actually wondered if there was fencing at all!
The park is split into four sections – birds, mammals, primates and reptiles and amphibians. Dogs on leads are allowed everywhere, apart from indoor areas, the Bat House, Reptile House and Children’s Farmyard. They cannot go into areas with free-roaming animals either, which is absolutely fair enough.
Once you have bought your ticket and parked your car (don’t forget to ask for some poo bags at the pay desk), you’re free to explore. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll around or, if you visit between April and October, pay £1 to hop on a narrow-gauge railway, which gives a great overview of the site and is a quirky attraction in its own right.
When we visited, I would say that at least a third of people in the park had dogs, which was really lovely to see. Many of the small-breed owners were also lifting their pets up so they could get a better look at the animals. It was reassuring to see I wasn’t the only crazy dog lady doing it!
Disappointingly, Ernie wasn’t as wowed by the giraffes or rhinos as I was but I think that was because they were a fair distance away. He was, however, fixated by the farm animals – who were just as interested in him – and loved watching the prairie dogs and meerkats scuttling around. That’s definitely the terrier in him.
The park puts on a number of daily talks and feeding sessions and there are also regular events throughout the year. If you’re particularly keen on a certain animal, you can even sign up for a “close encounter” or be a keeper for the day.
Visitors are invited to bring their own picnics to the park or enjoy a meal in the Oak Tree Restaurant onsite, which serves a great selection of reasonably-priced meals and snacks. But whether you’re visiting on a budget or spending all your cash in the gift shop, a day at the Cotswold Wildlife Park is sure to be a good one.
Adult tickets cost £16 on the gate, or £14 when bought online. It’s £10.50 for children and senior citizens to enter, or £9.50 if purchasing an e-ticket. To find out more or book your visit, check out the Cotswold Wildlife Park website. Be sure to let us know which animal was your dog’s favourite!