When it comes to smells which leave you with an enduring sense of a great time at a visitor attraction, a farm is surely up against it.
But Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo in Pembrokeshire managed it for us.
No, it wasn’t that farmyard smell (which wasn’t very evident anywhere) and it wasn’t even the aroma of the candy floss and popcorn from the vintage fairground area.
No, strangely enough, the smell which stimulated our nostrils most emerged from the toilets!
The state of the loos will always be a key factor when we rate a visitor attraction. For us, if a place is paying care and attention to the areas from which there is no income, it says something positive about how it regards its visitors. The toilets at Folly Farm were not only very clean (throughout the day, importantly) but had the most amazing fruity-but-not-cleansing-product perfume emanating from them, which made walking into them an unexpected pleasure!
However, the brilliance of this place is obviously not in the toilet blocks – and we were impressed with the amount of bang for your buck.
Giraffes, zebras, lions, lemurs, rhinos, penguins, wallabies, flamingos (to name but a few) living just yards away from a whole host of farmyard animals.
Education throughout the site is achieved in a subtle but effective way. For instance, the Rhino Ranger Trail was a rather nice ten-minute worksheet (which didn’t feel like a worksheet) for children, reinforcing the need to protect the species and the constant fight rangers endure with poachers. That was one of the things that stayed with our son long after we’d returned home.
We were shocked and saddened to discover that the rhino could be extinct by 2026.
“I still won’t be very old,” added our seven-year-old son, rather poignantly.
With that thought weighing a little heavy, he needed perking up a little and we found the stimulus in the form of the fantastic Carousel Woods indoor play centre.
This largely wooden three-storey structure is usefully set in the middle of dozens of tables and chairs to enable grown-ups too reserved to tackle the cargo nets, slides and rope bridges the opportunity to keep an eye on their youngsters having fun (while they themselves grab respite with a cuppa and a snack).
If we thought the indoor play area was great, Pirate Adventure outdoor playground raised things rather more. Two huge pirate ships and a castle to explore plus perhaps the best-ever trim trail make this a stand-out attraction. Simply one of the best outdoor play areas we’ve ever come across.
We were at Folly Farm on a showery day but with about half of the things to do indoors, it mattered little. Among the attractions under cover are Jolly Barn (animal viewing, petting and milking), the vintage fairground (tokens required but at a reasonable cost) and, on this particular day, an enchanting 20-minute live entertainment show with members of the audience getting to go up onstage. Earlier we’d caught the main man – magician Luke Jugglestruck – wowing visitors to a fast food outlet with a card trick.
We managed to catch the popular feeding of the penguins and talks on the the rhinos and lions and got up close and personal with a pair of giraffes munching in their covered quarters. A minor gripe was the lions talk sounding as though it was being read (er, parrot-fashion?), which slightly detracted from the enjoyment.
Folly Interactive is a lovely undercover walk-through area encouraging youngsters to think about really using their sight and smell, and considering products which come from rainforests. Here there are exotic birds, animals and reptiles just feet away, and incubation areas to again reinforce the requirement and dedication needed to protect the species for future generations.
It’s worth noting that even though Folly Farm is not a massive site – you could walk across the park in ten minutes – even during a visit on a busy day in the summer school holiday, it didn’t feel rammed and there was no problem seeing and doing everything you wanted..
However, time beat us and we had to skip a handful of attractions – an indicator of just how much there is to see and do. Unfortunately we weren’t able to avail ourselves of the offer which enables visitors to return within seven days for half-price.
That would be worth it for the play areas alone since we know of indoor centres with not as much interesting and stimulating equipment which charge more than the £6 it would cost for a child to enjoy Folly Farm all over again.
Adult full price is £13.95, but all tickets bought online get 10% discount.
That’s value not to be sniffed at…unlike the toilets!