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Best Zoos & Safari Parks in the UK

Friday 04 August 2023

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There are an estimated 8.7 million individual species in the animal kingdom, each beautiful and fascinating in its own way. While it isn’t possible to see each and every one in real life, zoos and safari parks offer us the chance to see some of our favourites up close and personal. 

In the UK, we are lucky to have an abundance of zoos that are home to some of nature’s greatest creations. So, whether you want to enter the lion’s den or look up to a giraffe, there’s an excellent zoo near you. Discover the best zoos and safari parks in the UK with CrossCountry.

Chester Zoo

Home to over 20,000 animals, Chester Zoo is widely regarded as one of the best in the world. It’s the most visited zoo in the UK, featuring over sixty different animals over 128 acres – and growing. Its wide range of species takes you on a trip around the world, with the African painted dog, Caribbean flamingo, and Bornean orangutan some of the more popular animals to visit. Award-winning gardens also give you the chance to discover other life forms that make the world go round.

How to get to Chester Zoo by train:

Hop on board to Chester station, followed by a 15-minute bus ride.

Colchester Zoo

With two-hundred species to discover over sixty acres of parkland and lakes, Colchester Zoo is renowned as one of the best zoos in the UK. While its range of species – the white rhino, Komodo dragon, and leopard, to name a few – matches any other zoo in the UK, much of the allure comes from over fifty displays, four adventure playgrounds, and several hands-on experiences. If you’re looking for a family-friendly place to take the kids, Colchester Zoo should be high on the list.

How to get to Colchester Zoo by train:

From Colchester station, you can take an onward bus journey to Colchester Zoo.

Paignton Zoo

Like all the UK’s best zoos, Paignton Zoo hosts an array of incredible wildlife, from the mighty lion to the attentive meerkat. But what separates this zoo from others is its world-leading ethics on animal trading. It’s an animal charity and part of a wider group which cares for and breeds rare species, ensuring their safety at all costs. It was also one of the first zoos in the UK to combine botanical gardens with its zoological spaces, so it really was – and still is – ahead of its time.

How to get to Paignton Zoo by train:

Take the train to Paignton station with CrossCountry. From here you can walk for twenty minutes to Paignton Zoo.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is a jumbo-sized zoo in many ways. At six-hundred acres it’s the biggest zoo in the UK by a long stretch. It’s home to some 2,500 animals, including some of the largest on the planet: elephants, tigers, rhinos, lions, brown bears, hippos, moose, and zebras. It also has the largest herd of Asian elephants in the UK, which take a stroll around the park most afternoons. If hundreds of acres sound intimidating for a day trip to the zoo, don’t worry; a steam railway can take you around most of the park, giving you a great view of all the animals.

How to get to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo by train:

From Luton station, you can take a bus to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

ZSL London Zoo

One of the oldest zoos in the UK and the world’s first scientific zoo, ZSL London Zoo is known for breaking zoological boundaries. It was the first to launch an insect house, an aquarium, a children’s zoo, and a reptile house – all of which we’d expect to feature in any modern zoo worth a visit. Now, it’s home to more than 750 different species and 20,000 animals, making it one of the biggest zoos in the UK. Live demonstrations and late-night events will keep you coming back time after time.

How to get to ZSL London Zoo by train:

ZSL London Zoo is accessible by bus and tube from a range of London terminals, including Paddington, Euston, and Marylebone.

Bristol Zoo

So, Whipsnade has the UK’s biggest zoo, but Bristol Zoo is the country’s smallest, spanning just twelve acres. But don’t let its size put you off; the small area has meant the owners have had to be creative and efficient in utilising as much space as possible. The result is an award-winning and world-first gorilla enclosure with a glass roof that allows you to see the animals from above. They’ve focussed their attention on other attractions, too, with one of the best aquariums in England and an insect house consisting of giant animatronic bugs. If you have a fear of creepy crawlies, beware!

How to get to Bristol Zoo by train:

You can get to Bristol Zoo from Bristol Temple Meads station with a 30-minute bus ride.

Edinburgh Zoo

If you’re looking for something different to your regular zoo and safari park animals, Edinburgh Zoo has just the thing. It’s the only zoo in the UK to house koalas and giant pandas – two species particularly at risk of extinction. There’s also Penguins’ Rock – Europe’s largest outdoor penguin pool – and one of the most innovative and interactive chimpanzee enclosures in the world. Conservation plays a big part at Edinburgh Zoo, so you’re guaranteed to find animals you wouldn’t see elsewhere, and you can trust that your visit is contributing positively to the animal kingdom.

How to get to Edinburgh Zoo by train:

From Edinburgh Waverley station, you can hop on a 20-minute bus to reach Edinburgh Zoo.

If you’re planning a visit to one of the best zoos in the UK, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or the CrossCountry app. If you need more information, you can contact us here.

Written by Julia

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