“ Wildlife Park with over 140 deer and nine different species and plenty of falconry to keep you entertained and bewildered. „
===He's my Deer my darling one...===
My gorgeous fiancé's 30th birthday fell in October this year (the same as every other year) and I was trying my best to make him forget all about it by doing lots of fun and interesting things. Since he is a huge animal lover, I decided to take him and his cousin Sloan for a super secret surprise day out to the Scottish Deer Centre because we are all, in fact, five.
I'd really suggest a sat-nav to help you here as it's kinda in the middle of nowhere, between Coupar and Ladybank which usually means approximately bog all to most people. If you are heading from Dundee you'll be best to stick to the A92 for about 14 miles and then take the first exit at the Melville lodges roundabout. Go about a mile and a half down that road and it's on your right hand side. All in, it was about a 20 minute drive from Dundee but I doubt I could have found it without my trusty sat nav. The post code you'll need is KY15 4NQ. There's no house number or street name that I could get out of their website. Be aware, however, that with that postcode, my sat-nav did try to tell me that the centre was on the left hand side of the road and a little further down. There are huge signs for the entrance that you can't miss, but if your sat-nav does the same, you might find yourself going past the entrance and having to double back. Or you could do an emergency stop like I did and scare the bejesus out of your passengers! Happy birthday!! There is plenty parking at the centre so you won't need to worry about that. You'd be best to go with someone who drives as there really aren't many bus services and a taxi would cost a bomb. Being a rather large wildlife park the ground isn't always the best for people in wheelchairs but I don't see it being too much of an issue unless it's really wet. In the summer they offer tractor trailer tours of the park but as we went in October they weren't running.
You enter through a lovely courtyard which has toilets and a café in it, to get into the park you need to go in through the gift shop at the back of the courtyard and straight forward to the admissions desk. It's £7.45 each for adults and £4.95 each for children over three with any younger tykes getting in for free. You can also buy family tickets for £23.00 or £27.00. Something to keep in mind is that you'll probably all want to get a bag of animal feed and they are £1.50 each. You might want to bring an extra carrier bag to pop them in as the bags burst quite easily and could make a bit of a mess otherwise. Your experience won't be the same if you don't get some feed bags.
At the counter you'll be given a map and a schedule of all the talks and demonstrations that go on in the park as well as a sticker to pop on to show that you have paid so you can pop in and out (to the toilet and café) all day. We never had our stickers checked all day but I think that's because most of the staff had seen us come in.
===Playing your day away===
As soon as you enter the park through a rather dark and interesting tunnel, you come out into a big open barn. Within this barn there is a fairly big adventure playground come fort that you can let your kiddies run wild in if you aren't completely overbearing. I remember playing in this fort as a kid and I loved it. Most kids probably will, but I can't give you a more recent account than that.
Once you come out of the barn/ play area there is a path heading straight ahead of you and one heading to the right. If you go to the right, you'll find some pedal-powered go karts for everyone to enjoy as well as the otter enclosure and you'll see a circular area where they display birds of prey. Behind that is a forest area where the wolves and wildcats live. If you go up the path straight ahead of you, you'll enter the main feeding area of the park.
===Plan your day away===
There are a good few things scheduled at the park so you may be best to take a peek at them before you go so you can arrange your day. It all depends on what you'd like to see, and if you get there on time its possible to do everything. The very first thing on the schedule is a guided tour which starts at 11am. We weren't there in time for this, but with everything else we did that day, I don't feel like we missed much.
As a little extra, just behind the go karts is a house where some of the park rangers stay and they have their own personal ferret collection made up of rescued ferrets. We arrived at about 12:15 and the keeper was out feeding and tending to them so she brought one of them over for us to meet and pet. This isn't actually part of the park but you might get lucky and get to see the ferrets close up as well as the two beautiful herding dogs!
I'd recommend getting to the park around this time and taking a wander up to the feeding area, especially if you want to do all the talks they have throughout the park. Each display takes up most of the time till the next one so you won't get an awful lot of time between to do other things. Once you get into the main feeding area you can whip out your bags of deer feed and have the deer eat out of your hand! If you are one of those extra hygienic types then you probably won't enjoy this much as your hands do get quite covered in deer spit and food, but there are points on the path where you can get a squirt of cleansing alcohol gel and once you are done, there's a set of sinks with soap and hot water back at the barn. Personally I thought it was a fantastic chance to get up close to the adorable deer in the park, even if some of them give you the creepy stink eye at times.
===Nose to Nose===
The first "event" that we were there for was the "nose to nose" which begins right next to the sinks and notice board area just outside the barn. The keeper we had snuck up on while feeding the ferrets gave us a little talk about the deer we'd be getting up close and personal with. They currently have a deer who had been hand reared from birth by a woman who found her injured in the forest. The poor wee thing was nursed back to health with the help of the woman's dog before she passed the deer on to the centre. She can't be let back into the wild so they let her play with the visitors, and play she does. She acts a little like a dog, playfully charging at you and stopping and running away at the last second. A few kids that came into the pen with us were a little frightened by this, but that was probably because their mum was freaking out a little. No one actually got charged or hurt in any way so there really is nothing to worry about. You'll also get to feed this one a bit of carrot, that is, if she likes you. Allan offered his carrot and she huffed at him and trotted off, giving me some perfect pictures to mock him with later. While the deer was playing around the keeper gave us a bit of information on deer around the park and when we were done we got to play with the collection of antlers just outside the deer's enclosure while the keeper told us all about them.
All three of us loved the nose to nose session and there was a lot of really interesting information given by the keeper. All the children in the enclosure seemed to be kept amused the whole time, though only a few stayed for the talk about the antlers. You'd have to judge your own kids to see how you think they'd like it, but this big kid and his two friends thought it was great. This activity took half an hour which leads perfectly up to the next activity scheduled!
===Birds of Prey===
In the area up to the right of the barn you'll see a big circle shaped mound with picnic tables in the middle. Take a jaunt up here and at 1:30pm you'll be treated to a little show from the birds of prey. When we were there it was a little wet but the keepers still battled through the weather anyway with the birds not caring a bit about the rain. The first bird they took out was a rather large owl that took turns flying to each picnic bench which meant there were a few fantastic photo opportunities, but also meant that if your child was scared of a bird that is almost as big as they are, they might not enjoy this part. That's up to you to judge, however. There were kids at almost every table and only one of them freaked out when the owl came over to investigate. They took out another couple of birds too that were less "friendly" than the owl but just as impressive with shows of how fast and accurate they are when hunting prey. All of the birds are in the habit of getting very close to the crowd when flying so if you are a bit scared of birds, probably best you avoid this. Sloan managed to get hit in the face by the wing of two out of three of the birds of prey. I think she was upset she didn't get a slap from all three. I was also taken by surprise by the same two birds whereas Allan escaped untouched! We all really enjoyed this demonstration and the keeper was great at explaining about the birds and letting them show their stuff. It took half an hour so it wasn't overly long either meaning (hopefully) the kiddies won't lose interest! A big thumbs up from us!
===Take a break===
At this point we found ourselves with fifteen minutes before the next display while also being a bit damp and cold. Assuming the timings are always the same I'd suggest this point as a good time to pop out to the café in the courtyard and get a coffee and/or a hot bite to eat. You'll probably need to get it to go so you can get to the next item on the agenda without missing anything. Thankfully that's not a problem. We got a couple of hot chocolates, a coffee and some chips and took a wander back into the park just in time to catch the next feeding while regaining a little warmth! It wasn't even too expensive!
===The magical Hairy Otter===
Feeding the otters starts at 2:15pm. A slight warning, otters eat meat so they feed them chicks and mice (already dead) so if you are a little squeamish about things like that, you might want to look away. If you aren't, then you'll get a great chance to see the otters out and about, though, if I'm being honest, we managed to see them no problem before the feeding time anyway. The keeper that took us in with the deer and showed us the ferret was doing the talking this time and she told us all about otters and gave lots of fascinating information about them, all the while the otter family were trying their best to take her wellies off of her. Another very enjoyable item on the schedule and it leads nicely up to the next item on the agenda, giving you about ten to fifteen minutes to have a slow wander up to the next area.
===Wolves in cute clothing===
The Carnivore feed walk and talk starts at 3pm in the wolves wood, which is just up to the left of the birds of prey display area. Also nestled in this area you'll find another play park with zip lines and climbing frames to keep the kiddies entertained. Once the presentation begins you'll be told all about the wolves and their importance in keeping the population of deer in check and also a little bit about their eating habits. We did see one prudish woman huff off when they mentioned about wolves rooting through their poo for leftover undigested food. That being said, I'm not sure that woman would have enjoyed much of any of the presentations as they do touch on reproductive and eating habits of the animals. It's all done incredibly tastefully though, so really you shouldn't have anything to worry about unless you are the world's biggest prude.
===High School Musical===
Once the wolves have been fed you'll be told to continue up the path to the wild cat enclosure. These cats look very similar to household moggies the only real difference being the size of their tails. As such they are really cute. Vicious as hell, but cute. Again they'll be eating what looked like birds so if you are squeamish probably not a good idea to get too close. You'll pop up past a lynx who was a beautiful creature and then on to the last carnivore on the tour.
Lastly on the carnivore walk, you'll come to a little fox called Ginge. If you are lucky you'll even get to see her, however, she's very shy and even food doesn't lure her out like the other animals. Unfortunately for us, we had a family in the group who didn't quite understand the meaning of "if you are quiet she's more likely to come out" and proceeded to crunch around in the leaves and gravel, shake the fence and generally make enough noise for the entire group to be judging them. The same family arrived half way through the bird show and let the kids run after the birds before being asked firmly to take a seat by the lady in charge. As such we didn't get to see Ginge other than a quick flash as she weighed up the prospect of food versus being caught by humans. Oh well!
===Tree Top Walking===
Just before you get to Ginge, you'll see a large raised wooden walkway through the trees on your left hand side. It's about as tall as an adult and a half so it's not quite the treetops you'll be walking along... more like almost the middle...assuming it's a small tree. It's not very high at all. That being said, it does give you a slightly different view of the reindeer and elk in the area, though I'd not say it would be any better than the view you'll get from the ground as they don't really hide anywhere and will happily come right over to the fences to get fed. An interesting, but strange addition to the park and not one that we were particularly bothered about.
By the time we'd done everything in the park, we were quite surprised that it was almost time for the park to close! 4:30pm is the closing time though you are welcome to stick around till that time and then make your way to the exit. If you continue in forward you'll find that the path loops round and takes you back down the main feeding area so you'll get plenty of chances to get rid of any extra feed, albeit with a little bit of a time pressure looming over your head. I did notice that less people were hanging around at the end of the day in the feeding area, but the place is big enough that it's never too busy to get in to feed the deer so it's not any better to leave feeding till last.
The toilets are a bit grubby, but given that you're essentially on a giant farm I wasn't really expecting much. At least the hot water works and the soap dispensers are all fully stocked. If they were in a restaurant I'd take a star off, but they aren't. The facilities are just there and shouldn't pose any issues for disabled customers either.
So you can probably tell we all had a really fun day at the park, mostly because we are total children at heart. That and animals are ridiculously cute at all times, even when ripping things apart with their teeth. My tips for a successful day would be as follows:
1. Get there early enough to spend a little time feeding the deer before things start.
2. Get a feed bag each
3. Take a carrier bag/ separate bag to carry leftover feed in.
4. Take waterproofs/ wellies, it's all outdoors and the weather is very changeable here.
5. Plan, plan, plan. Make sure you check the website for times of events and discuss what you want to see with the other half or kids before going and then double check the times on the notice board when you get there. The web address is www.tsdc.co.uk
We had a fantastic day. The weather went from wet and windy to blistering sunshine and back again, but even that couldn't stop us smiling and enjoying being around the beautiful animals. They are all clearly well cared for by people who are passionate about them which is great to see. Assuming you get the weather for it, I'd say this is a great day out for all of the family, unless, of course, your mum's a prude in which case you'll be marched right out as soon as "mating season" is mentioned. Five stars out of five from all three of us!
Scottish Deer Centre is one of those glorified country parks with vaguely local animals in them that seem to be a common attraction in Scotland. I am not saying it in a dismissive way, as I generally like them (and already wrote a positive review of another one near Comrie).
They are located very near Cupar, Fife, about 30 minutes drive from Dundee, 40 minutes from Perth and a bit over an hour from Edinburgh. There is ample free parking at the site.
The site, obviously, includes the deer park itself (which is my second favourite part): an extensive areas of enclosures with many animals (apparently over 140 deer from 9 species) happily (as far as I can asses deer's happiness) munching their way through grass. Walking around the deer part is enjoyable and easy (it's all flat) and they also have trailer rides (extra charge) for those feeling less like exercise or wanting to go through rather than round the enclosures.
There are also guided tours with their rangers, which seem quite good but we didn't partake so can't comment on the details.
The Deer Centre is not all deer, though, and they also run regular bird of prey displays in a pleasant outdoor earth-banked theatre. On our visit we saw a falcon, a hawk and a snowy owl and it was a fascinating and a compelling show, with the falconer running it clearly knowing his stuff and quite happy to answer any questions afterwards.This was a definite highlight and it's well worth seeing.
In addition to the deer and the birds, they also have a thing called a Wolf Wood (it's really a large, wooded enclosure behind high fences, not an open wood) which, as the name suggests, does indeed contain a number of wolfs. The feeding time at 3pm (except Fridays) makes for an interesting if slightly gory spectacle. I rather like wolfs and those at the Centre seemed reasonably happy, with nice shiny coats and quite a bit of interesting space for the whole pack. Still, keeping territorial, carnivorous animals in captivity of such kind is always slightly questionable and those more concerned about such things might dislike it.
The Centre also has some other native animals including the iconic Highland coos and less iconic foxes and Soay sheep.
There is a good outdoor play area with what is termed "treetop walk" - probably more suitable for children from three upwards, as well as a rather impressive indoor one (also not really for the smallest ones), so there is a place to hide in a rain emergency.
The country-park part is altogether rather good and if you live or stay anywhere within about an hour's drive (but probably not more than that unless you are very keen on wolfs and deer) it makes a nice day out on a sunny day. The admission price is comparable to similar attractions - not exactly a great bargain but not terrible either.
What I dislike about the Deer Centre is the way it seems to try to "seamlessly" blend the animal country park part and a shopping outlet. In order to get to the wild bit, you have to not only pass the cafe (crowded and not particularly cheap), but also what they call "Courtyard Shopping" which houses, in addition to a typical gift shop, also Edinburgh Woolen Mill shop, and a (decent enough, but I object to such mixture of facilities in principle) deli cum whisky shop called Highland Smokehouse.
All in all, a decent enough day out, especially if staying nearby, but the shopping parts are an unnecessary blemish. I would rate this as 3.5 stars, but as dooyoo doesn't allow half-star ratings, it will rounded up to a generous 4.
The Scottish Deer Centre
The Bow of Fife
Open every day (except Christmas and New Years Day)
Summer: 10am - 5pm
Winter: 10am - 4pm
tel:+44 (0)1337 810 391