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Cornwall has many attractions, but some of the more offbeat options are my favourites. The Flicka Donkey Sanctuary near Penryn is one such choice – it’s not really an attraction, per se, but the work they do (and the sight of those adorable donkeys) is sure to warm your heart.
Winter is not easy in Cornwall, especially for an Aussie import that runs for cover at even the hint of a light shower. At times, it seems easier just to cuddle in for the winter – after all, the adorable Cornwall cottages are just perfect for cozying up in.
You can’t stay indoors forever, though (I know, I tried). While many of Cornwall’s attractions shut up shop entirely over the chilly months, there are still a few things to do in Cornwall during winter. One of my favourites is the Flicka Donkey Sanctuary in Penryn.
I mean, come on. If you don’t love donkeys, you probably don’t have a soul. What’s not to love?
What is the Flicka Donkey Sanctuary?
The Flicka Donkey Sanctuary is home to over 100 neglected and abused donkeys. It was started in 1995 when Mary Berryman took in a neglected strawberry roan pony called Flicka.
Sadly, Mary Berryman passed away in 2008, but those who were inspired by her work have been determined to keep the sanctuary.
Today, there are more than 100 donkeys, horses and ponies at the sanctuary. They have been rescued from all kinds of situations, and from places as far away as Romania.
One thing they all have in common is that they’ve found a safe home at the Flicka Donkey Sanctuary. It’s a huge space that gives each animal room to roam, although there are also plenty of covered spaces. Perfect for when the donkeys feel like cozying up in the wintertime, just like us!
Visiting the Flicka Donkey Sanctuary
We visited the Sanctuary on a rainy day, but we still had a wonderful time. Here’s a few things to help you out on your visit.
It’s a sanctuary, not a petting zoo.
First things first – before I visited the Flicka Donkey Sanctuary, I decided to check out the reviews on Tripadvisor. Although I don’t take Tripadvisor as gospel, I do like to get an idea whether any visitors have flagged any concerns about how the animals are treated.
I was pretty disappointed to read some reviews speaking poorly of the sanctuary and the staff because the donkeys weren’t interactive.
As a sanctuary first and foremost, Flicka does not force any donkeys to come up and interact with you. Although many of them seemed to love attention and poked their adorable little noses over the fence, others looked at you from afar, turned their noses up and coolly strode off.
Honestly, I think this is a great thing. I think it’s important that places like Flicka make sure that the welfare of the donkeys come first, before the interests of visitors. I don’t feel comfortable about forcing animals to interact with visitors, especially if they’re already been treated poorly in their short lives.
If you want an ethical animal encounter, then I think Flicka Donkey Sanctuary is lovely. If you want a petting zoo, though, you’re probably going to be disappointed.
Getting there, opening hours and fees
The Flicka Donkey Sanctuary is located near Penryn. There are pretty clear signposts from the A394, off onto Anton Hill and then finally to Trenoweth Lane where the donkey sanctuary is located.
Entry into the sanctuary is totally free, but they do appreciate donations. If you can leave without parting with at least a few pounds, you’ve got a far stronger will then me! After seeing the great work they do on limited funding, my wallet practically opened itself!
The opening hours for the Flicka Donkey Sanctuary are:
- Mondays: CLOSED (except for public holidays)
- Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday:
- Friday: CLOSED
- Saturday and Sunday: 11am – 4pm
What to do at the Flicka Donkey Sanctuary
It’s an expansive property, so there’s quite a lot to see at the donkey sanctuary. There are a number of big barns, some of which have stables, and one which is a large space where the donkeys are fed.
Make sure to look for the profiles on each of the donkeys. Each one has a name as well as some information about their personality and back story. It’s super cute.
Apparently during summer, the donkeys are usually out wandering around the big paddocks — fair enough, the view is pretty stupendous. It was pouring with rain when we arrived, so the sensible donkeys had headed indoors.
There’s also a lovely little cafe which served as the inspiration for this blog title – it’s called the Take a Bray-k. It does tasty vegetarian food and lovely coffee. There are also some very tasty cakes and slices to enjoy.
They do have credit card facilities but they weren’t working when we were there. We just headed over to the office and fixed up the bill, but I’d say it’s probably worth bringing cash along if you can.
There’s also a gift shop to buy some gifts for the donkey enthusiast in your life (or yourself…).
If you are looking for a more hands-on experience, then Flicka Donkey Sanctuary does offer some special “Donkey Care Days” where you can help look after the donkeys for a day.
The cost is £65 and includes a tasty afternoon tea. During the day, you’ll learn about the donkeys, the sanctuaries, and how to care for them. I didn’t do this, but it sounds like a super cute way to support the sanctuary.
Trying to find things to do in Cornwall when it’s raining can be a challenge. However, there are definitely some great options – like the Flicka Donkey Sanctuary!
It’s a bit of a cliche, but it really is heartwarming to see how much care and enthusiasm the volunteers have put into giving these cute donkeys a safe home.