The Lake District Wildlife Park, situated close to the northern end of Bassenthwaite Lake, is home to a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles. One of its most popular species is the ring-tailed lemur, a colony of which emerges whenever the sun comes out. They sit upright with arms outstretched, allowing the rays to warm their undersides. The curious meerkats also get a lot of attention, using branches and other prominent locations around their compounds as look-out posts.
Throughout the day, there are events going on around the site, providing visitors with an insight into the behaviour and conservation status of some of the more unusual creatures. These range from reptile encounters, where you get to meet and touch snakes and lizards, to talks by the keepers on the otters, red pandas and lynx. Birds of prey flying displays, involving owls, falcons, eagles and vultures, are normally held twice daily. There’s a hand-feeding zone for some of the more domesticated species, and petting sessions when children have the opportunity to cuddle a guinea pig.
Even once you’ve seen all the animals and enjoyed one or two of the regular events, there’s plenty on the 24-acre site to keep families entertained for at least a few more hours. There’s an animal-themed outdoor adventure playground, an indoor soft play centre with ball pool, picnic benches and a café serving hot meals and light snacks.
Special ‘experiences’ can be purchased, enabling individuals or small groups – adults as well as kids –to get to know the parks’ inhabitants better. These range from walks around the neighbouring Armathwaite Hall Estate with alpacas to lemur and meerkat encounters, where visitors get up close and personal with the inquisitive animals in their compounds. The hour-long ‘apprentice keeper’ experience gives would-be zoo-keepers a chance to prepare animals’ meals, feed them, groom them and generally learn about the day-to-day work of the staff at the wildlife park.
Open daily, all year round, the site is a 20-minute drive north of Keswick or about 15 minutes from Cockermouth, and has a large car park. The X4/X5 bus stops nearby on its journey from Workington to Penrith via Cockermouth and Keswick.