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Butterfly and Insect World (Edinburgh)

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Address: Lasswade / Midlothian / EH18 1AZ / Edinburgh / Scotland

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      03.06.2009 23:48
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      Lovely day out - one to visit again and again :o)

      I remember years ago visiting a butterfly farm near where we lived and it being the most amazing place I'd ever been to! Unfortunately that place closed down not long after but, now that I have my own children, I was really keen for them to visit something similar as I was sure that they would also love seeing so many butterflies up close. Our nearest such place is then 'Butterfly and Insect World' which is around an hour from us so we decided to make a visit...

      Butterfly and Insect World is located south of Edinburgh, just off the city bypass near Dalkeith. It is therefore quite easily reachable from most areas of central Scotland and not all that far from the Borders, Perthshire, etc too. The building is a large greenhouse/shed looking building and you firstly enter into a bright and attractive gift shop area. From here you get your tickets, or at least have your hand stamped (you are then free to come and go as much as you like all day) then you proceed through plastic sheeting (presumably to stop the butterflies escaping!) and into the hot greenhouse area. As soon as you step in here the heat quite literally hits you!! It obviously has to remain at a high temperature and high level of humidity to support the various tropical species housed inside. The greenhouse part is also fairly noisy as a makeshift 'river' flows straight through and the water makes quite a racket!

      It's not long at all before you start to notice the butterflies fluttering around you - clearly used to humans, they're not frightened at all and come up quite close to say hello! Some of the butterflies are quite enormous really and the most amazing colours and patterns - beautiful. There are also various other creatures to spot in and around the plants, trees, foliage and river including chameleons, catfish, other insects, etc. Lots to see! There is also a huge amount of fruit lying around for the butterflies to eat - amazing fact learnt from my visit: butterflies that feed on rotting fruit live longer than those that eat fresh fruit!

      To the rear of the greenhouse area you then go through more plastic sheeting and into a series of rooms. The first has tanks with some really HUGE snakes and lizards - interesting but scary! The second is a sort of educational room that has tables set up with books about insects, spiders, etc and is where they do handling of the creatures, talks, etc and also has the most amazing ant display! In fact, I'm not sure that, despite how great the butterflies are, maybe the ants stole the show a little and may come out on top as our favourite part of Butterfly World (don't tell the butterflies that though!). Basically, there is a big pile of leaves at one side of the room to which a few ropes dangle down into the pile. The ants ('Leaf Cutter Ants' to be precise) sit in the pile of leaves, chomp off a bit they like then carry their leaf up on to the rope. The rope then meanders it's way right round the ceiling in a very indirect route and the ants carry their pieces of leaves all along the rope and into a hole at the other end of the room where, I assume, they're building a big nest or something. It's amazing to see them carrying such huge pieces of foliage on their backs - just like a cartoon picnic scene! There is also a camera focused on one part of the rope which is then hooked up to a TV screen so that children and shorter people (like me!) can see exactly what the ants are up to - amazing!

      There is also another dark room full of nocturnal creatures including snakes and scorpions. The scorpions even have a UV light you can turn on to see them glow! I like this room but it definitely made me a little uneasy to be in there with snakes, etc in the dark!! Wimp?? There is also an outdoor section which would include honey bees but unfortunately we arrived at the wrong time of year for the bees but managed to see a mother duck complete with babies who had taken over the enclosure in the meantime - awwww!

      So....good stuff?? A VERY interesting and also fun day out. There is a lot to see here and you could easily spend a full day having a good look at everything. The prices aren't bad (£5.95 for adults, £3.95 for children - under 3's are free) especially when compared to other similar attractions and they also take the Tesco Clubcard Deals Days Out tokens so you could get in for free that way! The shop is well stocked with nice trinkets and souvenirs and the staff seemed really friendly and helpful. Butterfly World is also right next to a large Dobbies Garden Centre so you can get lunch and snacks in there if you're out for the day or use the picnic benches outside in the playpark area.

      Bad things? Nothing bad at all really BUT be warned...we took our daughters who are 3 and 1... our 1 year loved it as soon as we went in but our 3 year old was a bit freaked out to begin with - she seemed to have more of an idea of what she THOUGHT she was going to see i.e. she's seen butterflies in our garden and thought it would be a bit like that but actually was met with a hot, noisy room full of HUGE butterflies that flap quite close to your head sometimes!! So be wary that young children may find it a bit much to start with. Also, be aware that 1 year olds don't know that the fruit is for the butterflies!!! Other than these 'problems' it's all good :o)

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