In addition to our beloved Edinburgh Zoo, Highland Wildlife Park is part of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) family, and visiting it has been on our to-do list ever since we became RZSS members. Therefore, we were thrilled when we finally had the opportunity to head up north and spend the day there. So, join us as we head out on an exciting 'explore and discover’ trip filled with fascinating animals and adventure!
The journey to Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie is a little over 2 hours from Edinburgh. It can be reached via car, bus (there is a bus stop at the entrance to the Park), or train. Understandably, no pets are allowed at the Park- not even in the car park. Therefore, the Wee Walking Tours canine crew weren’t able to join us on this adventure, but were happy to spend the day being spoiled by their dog sitters. If you are touring Scotland with your pets and want to visit Highland Wildlife Park, they have a list of nearby kennels on their website.
Located in the picturesque Cairngorm National Park, Highland Wildlife Park is situated on a vast expanse of land that is home to an incredible variety of animals. Some of them are native to Scotland, but many make their home in the mountains and tundra around the world. Similar to the drive-through at Blair Drummond Safari Park, Highland Wildlife Park also has a reserve that you can drive through. In fact, as soon as we entered the Park, we were greeted by some very curious camels.
Two of my favourite animals that we saw on the reserve were Przewalski’s horses and European bison. In fact, we were thoroughly delighted to see that there was a bison calf that came running over to the herd. However, the herd got a little protective at that point and one of the bison from the group came forward to ‘tell’ us to keep our distance (pictured at the beginning of the post). Przewalski's horse was just as majestic:
Visiting the Park
After we drove through the reserve, we parked and made our way to the Park. However, we didn’t get far (we were still technically in the car park) as the aromatic smell of fresh frying onions that wafted our way, stopped us in our tracks. The Tomintoul Venison food stand has Scottish burgers, fries, and more and we highly recommend that you get a bite to eat there.
I had the ‘Ghillies' Choice’ which was a venison burger topped with brie, freshly fried onions, and red currant sauce on a brioche bun. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was one of the best burgers I’ve had in Scotland! While our venison burgers were positively delicious, I did feel a wee bit guilty as we came across various deer species as we ventured around the Park. I’m pretty sure they were looking at us in judgement at one point, but that just might have been my paranoia 😬.
There are over 200 cold weather adapted animals at Highland Wildlife Park, and while I enjoyed seeing all of them, I did have a few favourites. It will probably not come to a surprise to long-time readers of the blog (who have read the various adventures that our canine crew have undertaken) to hear that one of my favourite attractions was the Wolf Wood. Wolves have long had a bad rap, and I believe have been given unfair status in popular culture. However, I think it’s important that we recognise their importance in our ecosystem. Fortunately, Highland Wildlife Park feels the same and they are home to a beautiful pack of European Grey wolves. On the day of our visit, they were clearly enjoying the mild September temperatures and napping together.
One of the highlights of our visit to Highland Wildlife Park was seeing the polar bears. The Park is home to two males- Walker and Arktos- who have a huge habitat where they can roam around. On the day of our visit, one of the males (not sure which one but we think it might have been Arktos) was enjoying some time at top of the hill and we were able to view him up close and personal. As a fun side note, we couldn't help but laugh when we saw that he likes to stretch out his back legs just like our wee Golden, Stirling 😂.
Situated way across the Park in her own large habitat (separate from the males) is Victoria- the only female polar bear in the UK. However, she isn’t alone as she is busy taking care of her cub, Brodie, that she gave birth to in December 2021. We could only see them from a distance as they were enjoying some quiet time in their wooded area.
However, Brodie isn't the only youngster at Highland Wildlife Park. He is joined by Amur tiger cubs as well as some rambunctious snow leopard cubs. It was delightful to watch the snow leopard cubs play around and then settle into a well deserved nap.
It’s not just the animals that you enjoy seeing around the Park, but you also get to take in some stunning vistas that surround it. The Highlands truly are magical in their ability to rejuvenate the soul and bring a sense of calm and pure joy.
We’ve previously written about the incredible conservation efforts done by the RZSS in our post on Edinburgh Zoo’s Budongo Trail Centre. Their conservation work also extends to Highland Wildlife Park, and there are many success stories you can learn about throughout the Park. However, we have a particularly amazing example that we want to share with you as it demonstrates the importance of their work.
There is one animal habitat at Highland Wildlife Park that is conspicuously empty. However, it isn’t that the beavers that once lived there are hiding out in one of their lodges. I am happy to report that they have been relocated to the wild in Knapdale Forest in Argyll. What is even more amazing about this story is that beavers were sadly hunted to extinction over 400 years ago in Scotland. However, now thanks in part to the conservation efforts by RZSS (in conjunction with the Scottish Wildlife Trust), the Scottish Beavers project has ensured that the beaver population is returning successfully. To further help, Eurasian beavers were granted legal protection status by the Scottish government in 2019.
Here are more photos from our adventurous day at the Park:
Well, that’s going to do it for this week’s virtual journey to the Highlands. We hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek of Highland Wildlife Park, but we highly recommend that you visit in person if you will be in the area. There is so much to see and do and we recommend that, if possible, you set aside the day for your visit. Highland Wildlife Park is open 7 days a week, however, pre-booking is required (unless you are a RZSS member). Please visit their website for the most up to date information on planning your visit.
Until next time- Explore & Discover!