We found this place on Trip Advisor, saw excellent reviews and since we only live 25 minutes away, decided to take our three year old and one year old. To be perfectly honest, we weren't expected a great deal from a place tucked behind a garden centre that was only charging £5 for adult entry but we had a spare day and nothing to lose.
Well, what a brilliant surprise! As far as I was concerned, they'd earned the entrance fee in the first ten minutes, and this was despite the fact that (mid week, term time, windy weather) the mini railway wasn't running and there were no bird exercise demonstrations. It was bigger than I expected, with more animals on display. Obviously, there's always a melancholy element to seeing animals in captivity - especially birds of prey, they have a couple of eagles - but it was apparent throughout that this was a rescue centre and they'd been saved from worse fates. In some cases birds had been rehomed to "better" places but had to come back. Some of the monkeys were ex-laboratory and hadn't seen daylight before coming to Gentleshaw. There were plenty of staff around (far more than visitors the day we went, we pretty much had the place to ourselves). The animals seemed well-cared for.
Not knowing the food situation prior to arrival, we'd packed a picnic. Notices state that only food bought on the premises can be consumed on the premises, despite plenty of outdoor picnic tables so we ate in the garden centre restaurant, where the food was of reasonable standard (recommend the Moo-shakes) and price and the staff were friendly, tables were clean. A decent meal for the four of us was about £20.
There's a play area for younger and older kids, and the garden centre's a decent sized one, selling a mix of toys, books, household items too.
All in all, it's one of those places where the value for money makes you feel a bit like you're taking advantage of their good nature. We've spent ten times as much on entrance fees for other places and had less fun. We will be going back regularly.
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