A blue and yellow parrot at Wetheriggs Zoo & Animal Sanctuary.
A small rabbit in the grass at Wetheriggs Zoo & Animal Sanctuary..
Three white baby goats, two with horns, looking at the camera among the hay in a barn at Wetheriggs Zoo & Animal Sanctuary.
Three volunteers at Wetheriggs Zoo & Animal Sanctuary, with the man in the middle holding a baby sheep.

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Located at the Thorpe Farm Centre, close to Barnard Castle, Wetheriggs Zoo & Animal Sanctuary is the perfect place for a fun family day out. Established in 2006 as an animal rescue centre, concentrating on a range of animals, from those who were unwanted domestic pets, to injured animals that needed some extra care. As a small family-owned charity, Wetheriggs is reliant on the help of volunteers, who aid in the running of the centre, as well as animal care. There are over 500 animals who call Wetheriggs Animal Rescue & Conservation Centre home.

For kids and grown-ups who love animals, there's no better place to learn all about different types of animals, their welfare and how to care for them. There are lots of opportunities to see animals at the farm, including the alpacas Rayburn, Camilla and Geeda, or Heidi, the fox. Because the animals are often recuperating and have sometimes come from difficult backgrounds, there isn't a guarantee as to what animals can be seen on certain days. There are, however, open days a few times a year when the staff at Wetheriggs Animal Rescue open up the exotics building, and there is a chance to meet the residents who live there. Therefore, if you're lucky you might get to meet Vegas, a beautiful parrot with bright feathers and great dancing skills, or the friendly little meerkats. From royal pythons to pygmy goats, there are hundreds of different types of furry, feathery and scaly friends to meet.

There are plenty of opportunities for kids to meet and handle the range of animals at the farm centre, including sessions put on, especially for kids. These include special education sessions where volunteers will take children through the different types of animal at the farm, as well as meet-and-greets, where the kids can handle and feed the animals. While Wetheriggs Animal Rescue Centre is a little different to a farm or zoo, in which the animals are likely to be very settled in their environment, you might find that some of the rescued animals are a little quieter or more reserved. This is perfectly normal for a rescue centre, and the love and care given by the volunteers make sure the animals all have the best lives they can. By visiting Wetheriggs Animal Rescue Durham, you are also helping to support the charity, which will inevitably add a feel-good factor to the day!

As well as cuddling up with the animals, Wetheriggs zoo is filled with much more for kids to explore. As well as a large paddock to visit the larger animals, there is also a barn that you can take a tour of. For more adventurous members of the family, there is a playground with some mini quad bikes that kids can play with.

New animals arrive all the time, and as this is an animal rescue centre, lots of the residents often move on to new homes with a loving family. Therefore, if you have been thinking about getting a new pet, Wetheriggs Animal Sanctuary is a great place to start. Whether you'd like the kids to know what it's like to cuddle guinea pigs before you take the plunge, or are keen to adopt a little animal such as a rat, mouse or rabbit, Wetheriggs Zoo & Animal Sanctuary could give you the answers. There is also an opportunity to volunteer at Wetheriggs, which is often taken up by young people, including older children and teens. For a chance to work closely with animals and learn about their care, and perhaps even gain some work experience, Wetheriggs is always looking for new volunteers to help out.

If you get a little peckish on your visit, head to the Thorpe Farm Centre Bistro & Coffee shop, where you can find everything from cappuccinos and cake to tasty hot meals. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, with picnic tables outside the cafe. For a souvenir or something to take home, there is the Wetheriggs gift shop, as well as the Thorpe Farm Centre shop. Here you'll find gifts, handmade soaps, cards and much more.

If you want to continue your County Durham adventure with the kids, head to Adventure Valley in the outskirts of Durham for a day filled with play and discovery. Alternatively, history lovers will have a day to remember at Locomotion in Shildon, where they can see collections of trains, have a trip on a locomotive and learn about the history of the local area.

What to know before you go

  • Wetheriggs Animal Rescue opening times are normally from 10am-5pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am-4pm on Sundays.
  • Toilets, including accessible toilets and baby changing facilities, are available next to the gift shop near the cafe.
  • Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead. They aren't allowed in the cafe or the animal areas, however.
  • An adult must accompany children if they are under 14 years old.
  • Food and drink aren't allowed in the animal areas, and children should always be under careful supervision when they are near the animals.

Getting there

  • Wetheriggs Zoo & Animal Sanctuary is located in the Thorpe Park Centre in Barnard Castle, County Durham, and can be easily accessed by car via the A66. Wetheriggs is a 15 minute drive from Darlington, and 40 minutes from Penrith. There is car parking available on site.
  • If travelling by bus, you can find Wetheriggs on the route of the number 79 bus, which travels between Barnard Castle and Richmond.

Please follow the latest government guidelines if travelling by public transport.

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