“ Address: Kincraig / Kingussie / Inverness-shire / PH21 1NL / Scotland / „
Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig near to Aviemore is set in the beautiful surroundings of the Cairngorms national park and is home to species of animals from mountainous habitats across the world. It combines a safari park and a zoo and is a lovely place to visit all year round, the park is open 365 days a year.
The first part of your visitor experience is driving round the wildlife reserves which contain Przewalski's horse which are extinct in the wild, deer, elk, buffalo, reindeer and camel which are free to roam around the huge reserve area. The animals tended to group together with others of their own species and the przewalkski's horses love to visit the cars to get a closer look at their occupants, in fact one started gnawing on our windscreen wiper and needed to be shooed away by a ranger! I also heard a man complain loudly to a member of staff about the damage a horse had done to his car so take care around the horses.
After you have driven round the reserves it is time to visit the zoo section of the park. The terrain is very varied here, the park is built on rocky hills so some parts were very steep with no access for disabled guests but other parts of the park had level wooden walkways. I would advise that you wear sturdy footwear like walking boots if you plan to climb to the top of the park, the walk is lovely with fantastic views of some lovely scenery but very steep in places.
The most famous inhabitant of Highland Wildlife Park is Mercedes, the only polar bear in a UK zoo. Mercedes was moved from her unsuitable accommodation in Edinburgh zoo where she had lived since 1984 to the Highlands in 2009 and for those of us who remember her and her partner Barney living in a desolate looking concrete basin it was lovely to see her in her new custom built enclosure with plenty of room to wander around. When I visited in January, there was snow on the ground and Mercedes seemed to be having fun digging with her paws and with parts of Scotland being colder than Antarctica over the past winter I am sure she felt right at home. Even when the weather warms up, she will have a huge enclosure to roam around in with loads of vegetation and her own pond to keep her happy. The enclosure is huge and can be seen when you are driving around the reserve but the best views come from inside the park where there are special viewing platforms set up.
There was only one solitary European grey wolf when we visited and he was in a small enclosure and did not look too happy. The wolves are one of the exhibits that the park is best known for and the keeper explained that a pair of wolves had been moved to a temporary enclosure to make way for Mercedes but that one had since died. The park is in the process of building a new enclosure for a wolf pack and in a few months when building work has finished then a pack will be formed by moving some animals from Edinburgh zoo to the Highlands and the lone wolf will then have company and more space. Wolves are fascinating creatures to watch, they look very similar to many domestic dogs but behave in a very different manner with a distinct pecking order within the pack.
The macaque monkeys with their comical red faces and bottoms also had a massive enclosure complete with a huge loch and trees to climb. When I visited the loch was frozen over and it was really comical watching a monkey run across the frozen surface of the water.
Scottish animals are well represented within the park with red deer, the Scottish wildcat which is native to the Cairngorm mountains and is known as the Highland tiger, pine martins, otter and the endangered bird the cappercaillie. I like this focus on native animals as well as the more exotic species.
More exotic animals include the red panda, snowy white arctic foxes, tigers and lynx. The setting of the park in a mountainous region is the ideal home to many of these animals as it is very similar to their natural environments so it allows them to thrive and express a lot of natural behaviour. Many of the enclosures had impressive viewing huts with glass windows allowing you to see the animals better.
Apart from the animals there is a café and gift shop and a small children's playpark, I think they could do with expanding these facilities a bit and especially building more playzones for the kids. There were a few picnic tables dotted around the park and the food in the café was well priced.
Highland Wildlife park is one of the smallest animal parks that I have visited but I was really impressed by the fact that it had some of the best enclosures I have ever seen and that the animals had a lot of space to roam around. The feel of the park is relaxed and friendly with the staff holding feeding sessions and talks throughout the day and the staff were also happy to spend time talking to the visitors. If you are in the Highlands then a visit to the Highland Wildlife Park would be a lovely way to spend a day relaxing in beautiful surroundings and seeing some unusual animals.
On a recent weekend stay in Aviemore we decided to visit the Highland Wildlife Park. The park has actually been in the news over the past couple of weeks as it has just received a new resident. Mercedes, the polar bear, has just arrived from Edinburgh Zoo, where it is hoped she will really benefit from her new environment, a huge enclosure of approximately 4 acres, which in the winter months will provide her with natural snow. Of course, unfortunately, we visited the week before she arrived so missed out on seeing this magnificent creature. However, there were still plenty other spectacular animals to see.
The park itself is situated 7 miles south of Aviemore on the B9152 at Kincraig, just off the A9. The park is well signposted and very easy to find.
When visiting the park I would advise good sturdy footwear or wellies as there is quite a bit of walking involved and some of the paths can get quite muddy if it is wet. Most of the park is accessible by wheelchair users, with many of the paths covered by wooden strapping. There is only a small section of the path, which would not be accessible as it is quite steep and not the best of surfaces. The car park is quite a large car park and again this too can get a bit muddy when it is wet.
When we arrived at the park we decided to have a drive around the reserve first, it was pouring so we wanted to delay getting soaked a little bit longer. This part of the park we did actually find to be a little bit of a let down. I don't know if it was because of the rain or not but the only animals we really saw were the bison, a couple of camels and some deer. Quite a nice drive around a lovely well laid out park with stunning scenery in the background, but we were actually there to see the animals we wouldn't normally have the chance to see and we did feel slightly disappointed.
Once we parked the car we decided to have our picnic in the car because of the bad weather, although there were picnic tables dotted about for the drier days.
The visitor centre it situated at the end of the car park. A lovely chalet style building where you will find the Wildthings Gift Shop, a great shop offering a wide range of local crafts and loads of interesting wildlife and nature related products ranging from pocket money gifts to the more expensive items. In this building you will also find the Antlers Coffee Shop, a lovely warm and welcoming room with plenty of tables and chairs (enough to seat 50 - 60 people) with a wide range of homebaking, home made soup and a good choice of hot and cold snacks. A nice little respite from the elements outside. This is also where you will find the lovely clean and well kept toilets with baby changing area. This building is fully accessible for wheelchair users.
The remainder of the park is still very extensive and a good couple of hours, at least, should be allowed to have a worthwhile wander around the animal enclosures and take in the sheer wonder of seeing these otherwise elusive creatures.
What I really enjoyed about this park was the size of the enclosures. Really large areas for each of the different species with most of the enclosures having glass viewing areas. We loved the glass viewing areas, it was amazing just how close we could get to these wild animals. It was quite surreal being only a matter of inches from very large Amur Tigers, knowing how potentially dangerous these animals could be and yet being close enough to almost touch them! Each enclosure also had an information plaque with details about each of the animals, which was very interesting and educational.
The park has a really good wide range of different types of animals, not just from Scotland, but from all over the world giving the visitor the chance to learn a great deal and indeed see a large number of animals they might normally never have the chance to see. There are of course plenty Scottish animals, from red deer and wild cats to pine martens and red squirrels just to mention a few. There are European animals such as bison, elk, eagle owls, wolves, beavers and wild boar and a good range of the more exotic creatures from the mountains and the tundra such as Amur tigers, red pandas, Mercedes the polar bear, Arctic foxes and many more.
The animals and enclosures are obviously very well kept and looked after. All animals looked very healthy and happy giving the visitor lots of entertainment. I was amazed at the red pandas, I knew they were a lot smaller than black and white pandas but I hadn't realised just how big they actually are. While we were watching them, I think they were actually showing off a bit. They climbed very, very high into the trees and stood on the thinnest of branches, some of which didn't look strong enough to hold a bird let alone a red panda! It was good hearing the gasps from the visitors as we all watched these agile and brave creatures climb so high.
We were very lucky when we visited. The pair of Amur tigers have been mates for a while now and the female tiger gave birth to 3 healthy cubs, a male and 2 females, in May of this year. The cubs have only been out in the enclosure for the past couple of months. These 3 cubs alone gave us enough entertainment for the whole day! Feeding time was amazing. The tigers were all locked up and the keepers went out into the enclosure where they hung up some huge pieces of meat. Once the keepers were safe again the tigers were let back out into the enclosure again. It was amazing watching them feeding, almost like they really were in the wild. The cubs were gorgeous and so entertaining.
Another one of my favourites was the wolf enclosure. Again their enclosure was very large with the glass viewing area. The pair of wolves certainly knew how to entertain their spectators. It was almost as if they were playing a game of hide and seek. One would be hiding behind their den waiting for the other one who was creeping up quietly behind the first one, when the first one realised this he took off at full speed with the other chasing close behind. They were obviously having a ball of a time and looked so happy and contented.
Many of the Scottish animals were situated in enclosures in a small pine forest, obviously mimicking their natural habitat. It was quiet and peaceful in the dark pine forest with mad, hyper, red squirrels running around everywhere. I loved the way we were able to watch the wild cats. They were able to wander between enclosures by way of overhead wooden walkways, which were enclosed by way of a mesh netting. It seemed a very natural way to watch these predators in their own habitat.
The only animals we didn't get to see, which we had hoped to see, were the beavers. They were in hiding and just did not want to be seen.
Daily feeding times or displays for the animals are advertised at the visitor centre and are definitely worth taking a note of, especially for the tigers.
First opened in 1972 the running of the park was taken over by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland in 1986 and it has obviously been very well run since then. They pride themselves in providing their visitors with "the wonder of living animals". They specifically promote the conservation of endangered species and have many co-ordinated breeding programmes. Many of their animals can be adopted with the proceeds going towards research, raising awareness of wildlife issues and the ongoing upkeep and welfare of the many animals the park is proud to own.
I would definitely recommend a visit to the Highland Wildlife Park. It is a very well run park. It is very clean and well maintained with the animals all obviously very happy and healthy and really benefiting from the wonderful environment which has been created for them.
==Opening Time and Prices==
The park is open every day of the year except Christmas Day.
April to October 10am to 5pm with the last entry being 4pm
July to August 10am to 6pm with the last entry being 6pm
November to March 10am to 4pm with the last entry being 3pm
If there is heavy snow then you should probably phone the park beforehand.
If you are on holiday and have a dog with you there are free kennels and an exercise area available at the exit.
Adults - £11.50
Senior Citizens/Students/Registered Disabled £9.50
Children (age 3 and under free) £8.75
Family Ticket 2 adults & 2 children £37.00
Family Ticket 2 adults and 3 children £42.00
Season tickets are available, which allows a year's free entry:
All prices include a voluntary 10% donation, which is to help raise funds for the enclosures. This obviously does not have to be paid, but when you see the quality of the enclosures it's definitely well worth it.
Published on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
The Highland Wildlife Park is a safari park and zoo in the Cairngorm National Park in the highlands of Scotland.
The zoo was opened in 1972 with the aim of showing visitors the amazing wildlife of the Scottish Highlands. This includes animals that currently live there (but can be rare, shy, or both), as well as animals that humans have hunted to extinction in Scotland.
Recently, the remit of the park has been expanded to include species from mountainous regions across the planet. This has allowed the park to expand and include more spectacular animals.
The park is not cheap to visit, with an adult ticket at £10.50, and a children's ticket at £8.00, but family tickets do save a bit of money on this (two adults, two children, £34). Having both safari park and zoo elements, it is reasonable for a one-off visit, however.
The tour starts with the safari park, although in my case, the entrance was blocked by a pair of stubborn yak who refused to budge out of the way (I politely declined my girlfriends request to get out of the car and move them!). This wasn't a problem as we went round that part later.
The park is well laid out, some of the enclosures are quite large, and nearly all of the animals have a reasonable amount of privacy (not in all cases, however). The Scottish wildlife is mostly in this area, and it was these animals I found most fascinating. We were able to get within two feet of an otter who was quite interested in us, and managed to see the really secretive pine martin and huge capercaille, something which would have been almost impossible in the wild.
The Scottish wildcat enclosure was really impressive. There were several cages, connected by wire tunnels. Watching a wildcat pass two feet over our heads on his way to another cage was amazing. Despite their small size, these are genuine wild animals and look every bit of it.
The highlight of this part of the zoo was the wolf enclosure. There is a small pack of wolves present in a large field. There's a viewing area above the field which gives superb visibility. Despite this, we had to wait a few minutes for the wolves to appear. They padded past in single file, and when I made a noise, the leader stopped and stared at us for a few seconds, before calmly walking on. Being stared at by a wolf was quite chilling, and we were glad of the fence between us!
There's a campaign running at the moment trying to re-introduce wolves to the highlands to control the huge population of red deer. I can see the sense in this and think it would be fantastic to see this animal in the wild. Sadly, I doubt it will ever happen.
The park is expanding all the time, new arrivals for last year included a pair of Amur tigers. They've apparently been housed in a new, impressive enclosure (they hadn't arrived at the time of my visit).
The safari park is reasonably well laid out and compact, allowing visitors close views of European mammals such as elk, bison, reindeer and Yak. Whilst seeing the animals without cages is good, I must admit, I preferred the zoo part because of its close views of the predators. The safari drive does give another aspect to the visit, however.
The facilities at the park were quite good, with toilets, a viewing area over the nearby Spey valley, a café and a small shop. As expected, the prices were not cheap, but the food was of reasonable quality.
I can heartily recommend a visit to the Highland Wildlife Park, especially if like me you're interested in Scotland's native wildlife. I couldn't help a feeling of sadness, however, when looking at the species we've exterminated from Scotland, knowing that these animals may never be seen in the wild in the UK again.
A safari park and zoo near Kingussie, Highland, Scotland. Explore the Wolf Territory via a raised boardwalk. Learn about the wildlife from the past and the present: European bison, elk, Highland cattle, red deer and wild sheep to name a few.