Aviemore and the Highland Wildlife Park

I've spent a fair amount of time in Aviemore and the surrounding area over the last seven years or so. It's a beautiful part of the country in either summer or winter, with a whole host of activities and stunning scenery to offer its visitors all year round. 

It's a place that's come to hold many fond memories for me - of accidental detours up a mountain and minibus sing-alongs; of gorge-walking with nine year olds and mountain biking with teens; of educational conferences and relaxing hotel pools; of smoke-filled wigwams and emotion-filled balloons; and of one slightly surreal moment involving my friend in a monk costume in the middle of a stream...

Admittedly, all of my time in the area has been distinctly Youth Work themed. It was a slightly strange but liberating experience, this time round, to have two entire days to explore and do exactly as I pleased! 

So what did we decide to do? Well, we Geocached a lot, of course, walking the shores of Loch Morlich and the river at Kincraig, following the Feshiebridge sculpture trail, and totally exceeding my caching goal for the year.. 

And then we decided to be massive kids and take a trip to Kingussie and the Highland Wildlife Park!

Red Deer

Run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, alongside Edinburgh Zoo, the Highland Wildlife Park covers some 260 acres of land within the Cairngorm National Park. Its vast safari and zoo areas are home to a range of native Scottish wildlife alongside some of the world's most endangered animal species.

The park's visitors seemed to be primarily children and it certainly has a family-focused feel, but it's a fascinating attraction for animal lovers of any age. I would certainly consider myself one of the latter, even choosing my Standard Grade subjects at school on the basis that I desperately wanted to be a vet. (All those years of Maths, Biology, Chemistry AND Physics and I end up studying Theology!) I'm a little more wary around animals these days, but I still love to admire them from a safe distance and the park provides plenty of opportunity for that.

I was a bit nervous about driving through a safari area for the first time, but it was actually good fun. I'm just glad I wasn't in the car that got stuck behind some very stubborn bison!

Himalayan Tahr
Northern Lynx
Turkmenian Markhor
Snowy Owl
All of the animals were beautiful - even the camels in their own unique, smelly way - but I think the polar bears were probably my favourites. The only polar bears in the UK, Walker and Arktos are huge, majestic creatures and utterly fascinating to watch.

I'm perhaps showing my ignorance here, but I've only ever pictured polar bears living in frozen, snowy conditions, devouring fish and walrus for every meal. We arrived at the park in time to see the bears being fed and the keeper taught us that the latitude of the Scottish Highlands is much the same as that of Alaska, making their conditions very similar to those they might experience in the wild. That's an amazing but slightly scary thought -- I'm glad we don't encounter such huge creatures roaming freely in this country! I was also very surprised to see that lunch consisted not of buckets of raw fish, but of carrots and seeds and nuts. 

It's certainly true what they say about learning something new..
Polar Bear!
Snowy Owl
The tigers and monkeys also played a starring role in our day..

Amur Tiger

Japanese Macaque

So very cute!
Strictly no howling! Included here because it made me chuckle.
European Grey Wolf

Really, this post was just an excuse to post photos of lots of cute animals..

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, as you can probably tell. If you ever find yourself in the direction of Aviemore with some extra time on your hands it's well worth checking out. At £14.50 a head (£10.50 for kids) it's not the cheapest way to spend a day, but children and animal lovers will certainly enjoy it and the ticket cost helps to keep these animals in good condition and allows the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland to further their work. It's win-win for everyone! 

Kincraig, Kingussie, Inverness-shire, PH21 1NL

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  1. I was in Aviemore at the weekend and was at the Highland Park too! Your pictures are much better than mine though! I'll be doing my post this week too and we had such a great time, what a beautiful, tranquil place it is!

    1. That's funny - it appears to be making an appearance in a number of blogs in recent weeks! I'll look forward to reading your post :) xo

  2. That looks like a great place. We recently went to Blair Drummond Safari Park, which was wonderful. I didn't blog about it, though, because a blog post I did about the zoo a few years ago made a certain reader very publically angry with me, and I didn't want to have those conversations all over again... And I really like Aviemore and the Cairngorms very much. My daughter went to a CofS Children's Assembly there a few years back, and planted a tree.