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We're always looking for cheap places to go with our kids (3 and 9 months) and Doonies is at the other side of the city from us so we're regular visiters.
~~ Doonies - what is it? ~~
Doonies is a rare breeds farm situated at the edge of Aberdeen in Cove. It's in an ideal location if you're looking for something scenic too as it's settled on cliff tops with a spectacular view over the North Sea. They specialise in keeping rare and endangered farm animals so have a variety there for you to see and feed - including pigs, sheep, goats, cows, pigs and chickens. If you visit in the spring you get to see the lambs close up too. The farm used to be council run and there was a huge campaign launched when there was an announcement it was to close but a group was set up and the running of the farm has been taken over by the farmer and his family a lease. It's since then that there have been great improvements (in my eyes anyway although more could be done) and it is now possible to feed the rare breeds too.
~~ Things to do ~~
The obvious thing to do is to look at the animals and learn about the different rare breeds that you won't encounter at your every day farm. Since the farmer has taken over, you can also feed the animals as you go around with food purchased on entry and for us this greatly enhances the experience. All of the animals are friendly and my 3 year old loves feeding them and giggles as they follow you along in their fields hoping for a little bit more! There's also a little pond in the middle of the farm incase the kids get bored of your usual sheep and cows.
What does my little girl love the most? The fantastic play park where you can sit on the slide and watch the animals around you. It's not just your average park with a swing and slide, but something someone has taken effort to find with tyres to climb and a large climbing frame with rocking animals and other things to play on around the side. There are benches around the park too so after the walk around the park it's nice to sit down and rest.
There's also a little picnic area for you to eat as they don't currently provide anywhere to eat or drink although there are toilet and disabled facilites. In all honesty we've never taken food with us there as we always tend to go after lunch. The views on the clifftop might be spectacular but this brings with it a very windy place to be and I wouldn't fancy trying to eat there with my lunch blowing away!
~~ Admission ~~
Prices have gone up by quite a bit in the last couple of years and a family ticket is now £10 with adults £4 each and children £2.50. It could be better value but as you can spend a large chunk of your day there with the animals and play park then it is worth it. They're open all through the summer but only on weekends when the weather falls and visitor numbers fall.
~~ What I would do ~~
We've been to other places in and around the UK that have a similar set up and I can't help but think a few improvements would bring in new visitors. Somewhere to eat and rest for me would be a must as at the moment you can only really go in the morning or in the afternoon if your kids are anything like mine and need their lunch between 12 and 1. We've also been to a number of places that have indoor play facilities so if they were to add somewhere to eat then a little soft play area or something similar would tempt us to stay longer than we presently do.
~~ Final Opinion ~~
Doonies can be hard to visit if you don't have a car as there are no buses that I'm aware of go in that direction as it is out of the city and out of the way. They do make the most of what they have though and have a wonderful place that is buggy and disabled friendly the whole way around so noone misses out. Feeding the animals has brought a new light to the place and has taught my 3 year old how animals behave and what they eat so it's an educational experience too. The play park is definitely a bonus though and it's nice to see them breeding animals that may be extinct without the help of farms like this. Definitely worth a visit, but take a coat and some wellies!