Covid-19: Protecting our visitors, staff and donkeys

The health, safety and wellbeing of our visitors, staff and donkeys is paramount at The Donkey Sanctuary and is the overriding factor in our decision making.

During these continuing unprecedented times we have introduced a range of new measures that seek to reduce the risk associated with the presence of Covid-19 that are in line with government advice and the requirements of our local health authority.

Some of the measures set out below may be clearly visible to you across the sanctuary, others require consideration and cooperation before visiting to help ensure that everyone has an enjoyable but safe visit.

Before you arrive

  • Visitors will be required to pre-book their visit between 24 October and 1 November. You can book a free ticket here.
  • Where possible, we are asking visitors to make payment using a 'contactless' bank card, rather than cash.
  • Visitors will be required to wear a face covering indoors, including the Gift Shop, The Kitchen (not when seated at your table) and toilets, unless you are exempt from doing so.
  • We politely request that you DO NOT visit the sanctuary should you start displaying any of the symptoms associated with Covid-19 including a high temperature or a new, continuous cough.

On arrival

We have capped capacity at the sanctuary to allow for social distancing and the best possible visitor experience. If arriving by car, we request that you follow all instructions regarding the parking arrangements.

Visitors will notice new information signage informing them of key safety messages and instructions - we have a new, temporary visitor welcome area and have introduced a new one-way route in most areas outdoors and indoors. Please also wash/sanitise your hands on arrival.

We kindly ask that you adhere to and respect all the instructions given by our team members.

During your visit

Please make regular use of our hand washing and sanitiser stations situated throughout the sanctuary. As with our staff, we politely request that all visitors uphold the highest possible hygiene standards.

We have introduced new arrangements for the application of social distancing within queues. Clear markers or signage have been installed at the toilets and in dining queues to help visitors keep a safe distance from one another. Our staff will monitor the queues to ensure that social distancing is being maintained.

We have introduced new capacity limits for our indoor facilities (The Kitchen, Gift Shop and toilets) and new navigation routes to help ensure social distancing. We have also installed new hygiene screens at our service counters.

Tables, chairs and picnic benches have been reconfigured to ensure enough distance between seated parties. Please do not move tables or share tables with anyone not in your group.

Visitors can either choose to dine in at The Kitchen (subject to table availability) where table service has been introduced or purchase refreshments to takeaway and enjoy in our outdoor picnic areas. Only refreshments purchased from The Kitchen can be consumed inside the restaurant; please use the picnic areas if you wish to consume food and drink you have brought with you.

Daily menu

Choose to eat in or outside

Please note, in order to maintain social distancing we have a reduced capacity for dining in The Kitchen and we will therefore not be allowing dogs (except guide dogs) in the restaurant at this time. Please do not leave dogs in your car. Instead, feel free to bring them on site, where takeaway food and drink will be available to enjoy in our picnic areas (we have a covered picnic area when the weather is inclement). Buggies will also need to be left in The Kitchen’s dedicated buggy park. 

We have introduced enhanced cleaning measures throughout the day, which seek to disinfect high-frequency touch points, such as tables and chairs, service counters, toilet flushes, door handles and taps. We have also introduced new deep-cleaning measures in the event that a person presents themselves with symptoms consistent with Covid-19.

We have revised some of our standard operating protocols in order to reduce the proximity of our staff to visitors, this includes how we undertake activities including first aid.

We have closed or suspended some facilities and experiences to ensure that social distancing is suitably maintained - please refer to the map above for full details.

Our team has participated in Covid-19 specific training programmes instructing how to keep you and our staff safe.

After your visit

We value all feedback which we will use to inform developments at the sanctuary, so please do let us know how we did during your visit. You can leave us a review in the following ways:

We hope these new measures provide you with the confidence to visit The Donkey Sanctuary. These are unprecedented times for everyone, and while every effort is being taken to protect the safety and wellbeing of our visitors, staff and donkeys, everyone should inform themselves of the risks, conditions and personal responsibilities before deciding to visit.

We thank you for your support and understanding and above all else, hope you have a great donkey day out.

Frequently asked questions

Why have you decided to ask visitors to pre-book a visit during October half term?

In order to safely manage visitor flow during this peak time, we’re asking all visitors planning to visit The Donkey Sanctuary Sidmouth between 24 October - 1 November, to pre-book their visit in advance. Sadly, if you don't book, we will have to turn you away due to the limited capacity in place.

Who needs a ticket?

Please book one ticket for each person visiting (up to a maximum of 6), including babies and toddlers. Tickets are for your use only and not transferrable.

How do I pre-book my visit for October half term?

All visitors are required to book their tickets in advance.

  • Please book one ticket per person (up to a maximum of 6 allowed), including babies and toddlers.
  • You’ll need to choose a 30-minute arrival time between 9.30am – 2.30pm for the day you want to visit. This timeslot is for your arrival time only and you are free to stay until closing time.
  • Tickets for each timeslot are limited and available on a first come, first serve basis.
  • Tickets are for your use only and not transferrable to another timeslot or day.
  • We’ll send you a booking confirmation with your tickets by email. Please make sure you fill in your email address correctly to ensure you receive your confirmation email.

Do I need to print off my tickets?

No, you don’t have to, you can also show your tickets to our attendant using your phone. They will be wearing PPE. We will also have a list of all booked visitors in case you are unable to access your tickets.

What happens if I am running late?

If you arrive after your selected timeslot, we will do our best to accommodate you but it will be at staff's discretion based on visitor numbers. Please note the tickets are not transferable to another timeslot or day.

Are you restricting the numbers of visitors on site?

Yes, we have a limited number of tickets available for each timed entry slot, which are staggered throughout the day to ensure we can safely manage visitor flow. Please ensure you arrive within your chosen 30-minute timeslot, as we cannot guarantee entry if you arrive after your selected timeslot.

Will you be running any activities during October half term?

Due to current circumstances, we will not be running any of our usual activities this October half term including the Halloween trail and pumpkin carving.

Will I be required to pre-book a visit at other times of the year?

We only require visitors to pre-book their visit during peak times such as school holidays and will provide advance notification for times when pre-booking is required, via our website and social media channels.

During quieter periods, we are able to facilitate a safe and enjoyable experience based on the number of visitors we have without the need for pre-booking.

Procedures are in place to manage visitor flow and react if crowding becomes an issue. Rest assured your safety and the safety of our staff and donkeys is our priority.

Will you be taking visitors’ details on arrival?

We ask all visitors to comply with the government’s Test and Trace scheme. The QR code will be displayed at all entry points for you to scan with your smartphone. It is mandatory that you provide your contact details when dining at The Kitchen. These details will be held securely in line with our privacy policy and deleted after 21 days. Please see our Privacy Notice for Coronavirus Test and Trace.

How can I provide my details if I do not have a smartphone?

For visitors not in possession of smartphones, data may also be collected via The Kitchen Restaurant’s EPoS system. These details will be held securely in line with our privacy policy and deleted after 21 days. Please see our Privacy Notice for Coronavirus Test and Trace.

Will I still be able to see the donkeys when I visit?

Yes, although some outdoor areas will be closed to the public in order to ensure staff can continue to care for the donkeys. Please do not feed the donkeys; their diets are carefully managed by our staff to ensure they receive the appropriate food.

What are you doing to keep staff and visitors safe?

We have a new Welcome Zone situated outside of the Visitor Centre; this will ensure we can provide you with information in the safest environment possible.

We have introduced a new one-way route in most areas outdoors and indoors, with floor markings and white lines - please look out for the clear signage around the sanctuary and adhere to these measures.

We have introduced a number of new hand hygiene stations/sanitiser points. Our staff will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.

We have closed all our indoor areas apart from The Kitchen and Gift Shop. A large part of the outdoor area remains closed to protect our grooms so they can continue to care for the donkeys.

Tables in The Kitchen and picnic benches have been reconfigured to ensure distance between seated parties. Please do not move tables or share tables with anyone not in your group.

We have installed hygiene screens at the tills in The Kitchen and Gift Shop.

We have introduced enhanced cleaning procedures throughout the day, which seek to disinfect high frequency touch points.

We have marked out parking bays so you can park and disembark safely.

What are your new opening hours?

Our new opening hours are: 

9.30am - The Kitchen and Gift Shop
10.00am - Outdoor areas
4.00pm - The Donkey Sanctuary closes

We are open 365 days a year, but The Kitchen, Gift Shop and Visitor Centre are closed on Christmas Day.

Do I need to wear a face covering?

As per government regulations, you will be required to wear a face covering indoors, including our Gift Shop, The Kitchen (not when seated at your table) and toilets, unless you are exempt from doing so. There are some circumstances, for health, age or equality reasons, where people are not expected to wear face coverings.

Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances, noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings, and that the reasons for this may not be visible to others.

Will I be able to visit my adoption donkey?

Yes, you will be able to visit all of the adoption donkeys.

The shelters walk is open and so is Main Yard between 10am-12pm and 2pm-3.30pm.

Can people catch coronavirus from donkeys?

There is no evidence that people can catch coronavirus from donkeys.

Can donkeys catch coronavirus from people?

There is no evidence that donkeys can catch coronavirus from people.

Is The Kitchen open?

Yes, The Kitchen will be open from 9.30am-4pm, with breakfast served from 9.30am-10.45am, lunch from 11am-3pm and snacks, cakes and drinks – all day. We offer the option of dining in the restaurant where table service is provided or you can purchase food and drink to takeaway and enjoy in our outdoor picnic areas.  Pre-booking is not required. It is mandatory that you provide your contact details when dining at The Kitchen. These details will be held securely in line with our privacy policy and deleted after 21 days. Please see our Privacy Notice for Coronavirus Test and Trace.

Please note, in order to maintain social distancing we have a reduced capacity for dining in our restaurant and we will therefore not be allowing dogs (except guide dogs) in the restaurant at this time. Please do not leave them in your car, instead you can purchase food and drink to takeaway and enjoy in our picnic areas (we have a covered picnic area when the weather is inclement). Buggies will also need to be left in The Kitchen’s dedicated buggy park.

Is the Gift Shop open?

Yes, the Gift Shop will be open from 9.30am-4pm and access will be via a one-way entry and exit route. We will be limiting the amount of people inside the Gift Shop at any one time, so you may need to queue outside at busy times. You will be required to wear a face covering unless exempt from doing so and please refrain from touching anything that you are not intending to buy.

Will The Maze be open?

No, sorry as we can’t provide a socially distanced solution for The Maze.

Will the Play Area be open?

Yes, but please follow the government advice displayed on the sign at the entrance.

Can I visit the Field of Dreams?

No, we are really sorry that we have had to make this difficult decision in the current circumstances. We can arrange access to scatter ashes, but please call us in advance on 01395 578222 so we can facilitate this.

Which indoor areas will be open?

Only The Kitchen, Gift Shop and toilets will be open.

Can you show me the new map of the site?

Yes, this is available to view above. It will also be displayed on a big board at our new Welcome Zone.

Can I bring my dog?

Yes, dogs are welcome at the sanctuary but they must be kept on a lead at all times. Please note, dogs (except guide dogs) are not currently allowed in The Kitchen due to reduced capacity but please do not leave dogs in your car. Instead, feel free to bring them on site where takeaway food and drink will be available for you to enjoy in our picnic areas (we have a covered picnic area when the weather is inclement).

Will you be accepting cash?

Yes, although cards are the safest payment method for you and our staff.

Are you accepting group visits?

No, our coach lane is being used to ease visitor flow around the site. We hope to review this later in the year.

You can arrive by transit van and park in the main car parks but please maintain you distance when you alight.

Will your scheduled events be going ahead this year?

Due to government restrictions on large gatherings, Carols by Candlelight will likely go ahead in a different format, but please keep an eye on our website for the latest information.

Will you be resuming donkey experiences when you reopen?

At this time, we are currently unable to arrange donkey experiences, but please keep an eye on our website for details on when these will resume. Experience vouchers purchased this year have had their validity automatically extended until the end of 2021.

Are your other centres open to the public?

Our other public-facing centres across the UK, Ireland and Europe currently remain closed but please keep an eye on our website for updates.