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Here in Leeds we have so many places to visit for days out. This week we decided to have a trip to Lotherton Hall and Wildlife World.
Lotherton Hall and Wildlife World
The History of Lotherton
Lotherton Hall was the home of the Gascoigne family, who settled here at the end of the 19th Century, and built Victorian and Edwardian extensions onto the existing Regency property. They established lovely Edwardian gardens, and a sunken Italian garden. It has a deer park, orchards and lots of walking trails.
During World War I, Lotherton was used as an infirmary. Just as lots of stately houses around the country were used to treat soldiers from the front. The heirs to Lotherton, however, were sadly killed in World War II and the last of the family bequeathed the estate to the city of Leeds.
In 1968, it was reopened as a museum and stately home by Leeds City Council. A bird garden was opened in the grounds of the hall, and for many years this was a free attraction. Up to a few years ago you could come here and pay for parking, and the bird garden and other grounds were free. You only had to pay for visiting the hall and displays.
However, in recent years, the bird garden was looking a little tired, so the attraction has been upgraded. And rebranded to become Lotherton Hall and Wildlife World. For a set cost, you pay at the gates for entrance to the hall, deer park, estate, playgrounds and bird garden.
This has had mixed reactions if you visit Trip Advisor reviews. A lot of people baulk at paying to visit the house and grounds. They hark back to when the parking was cheap and the bird garden was free. However, I feel that the facelift of the new Wildlife World is where the money has needed to be spent.
At the time of writing this, it cost £6 per adult and £4 per child when paying at the gate. We paid £20 for the 3 of us to park.
On our visit this time, we were ushered around the estate to park on a dedicated back field. This did have cellular parking track on it, but I am not sure how muddy this would get in very wet conditions. We were a little further away than the original small car park next to the courtyard (which is now reserved for disabled patrons only) but not too far away, even for our 3 year old to walk.
It even meant that we had to walk through parts of the estate that I had never seen in all the years that I have visited the hall, so I was actually quite glad for this. The gardens and trails around the back of the house are really lovely, and often forgotten in favour of the bird garden.
The Hall is closed in January and February, apart from guided tours at 11am and 2am. Though you still pay the same full price all year round. This is something that I do not agree with. I feel that there should be an ‘off-peak’ price for these months. Having said that, we did not really want to see the hall.
Lotherton Hall features lovely furniture, decorative art and ceramics, and has some wonderful fashion galleries and costume displays. The upstairs of the hall is also not open all year round. (Again this is a little bone of contention if you see the reviews on Trip Advisor!)
The grounds of Lotherton Hall and Wildlife World feature an extensive deer garden with hides, two playgrounds and lots of lovely gardens. There is even a small cemetery where the pets of the Gascoigne family are remembered.
There is a cafe and toilets in the Courtyard and Stables of the house, which also houses some of the old carriages belonging to the family.
The Bird Garden
In recent years this has changed considerably. There is a new entrance, with a walkway and gift shop, and a brand new flamingo enclosure.
There is also a large new penguin enclosure, featuring viewing areas that show these gorgeous animals swimming underwater. This is a large area with other birds featured. And feeding times are a great time to visit and see the birds.
It is clear that there are new enclosures being built, whilst old enclosures are having a much needed facelift. Old favourites such as the Condor exhibit and Ostrich enclosure are still popular. Also, there are new enclosures for other animals such as warty pigs, tapirs and capabarra.
I am sure that this has all taken a considerable investment, and so can see why the price has been increased. We really enjoyed our day out to Lotherton Hall and Wildlife World, and still think it is worth the price.
However I can understand that people want to be frugal. Temple Newsham is a great alternative in this area. There the parking is free, but you have to pay to visit the farm and playground, and pay separately to visit the hall. Under 5s are free, but the current cost of visiting the hall and farm at Temple Newsham would cost about the same for us as visiting Lotherton. See this and other free places in Leeds.
Fancy visiting other places in Yorkshire? Why not read my post on Days Out in Yorkshire With English Heritage