Belwade Farm – Near Aboyne, Aberdeenshire there’s a special farm. Special because it’s the largest receiving centre in Scotland for neglected horses. This horse welfare centre offers sanctuary to animals from all areas of the horse world; working horses, pets, racing horses, from teeny Shetland ponies to huge Clydesdales.
In the stables you can meet the animals. Many of their stories of neglect are told on boards on the wall, with the before and after photographs, so as a parent you can decide if you want to talk to your tot about animal welfare. Empathy wasn’t exactly Mr Toddler’s strongest suit when we visited, as he’s only two, so we just focused on introducing him to the horses, letting him touch them and get acquainted with a new animal in close proximity.
There are around 65 horses on site at any one time but the animals are eventually rehomed/adopted where possible so there’s flow and progress at every opportunity. The current adoption horse in the spotlight is called Digger, and from 6 July 2016 the farm is holding numerous ‘Groom Digger’ sessions for those who want to book a session to get this deserving horse shiny and pristine.
Leaving the stables we took a walk down to the fields to see more horses outdoors in the Deeside sunshine. Mr Toddler was especially enamoured with the ‘he’s my height!’ Shetland pony and they looked each other in the eye for several seconds before both gallivanting off.
There are several nature walks at Belwade, we took the Riverside walk along the River Dee and then cut back through the woodland. The longest walk onsite covers five miles, but our one was certainly shorter. We just managed it with a city buggy and some raw grit (should have brought our off road buggy). Maps are available from the Visitor Centre and dogs on leads are welcome.
Lastly we tackled lunch at the new visitor centre. I say tackled as the portions are epic, the haddock was the size of Mr Baby. It was lovely homely food; Mr Husband sulked as he missed out on the last portion of venison stew but the whale (haddock) cheered him up. As you eat there are stunning views of the Deeside hills from the terrace, or you can watch the horses being rehabilitated in the indoor school as there are gallery windows looking down from the bistro to the animals below. The bistro was busy as local people stop here or meet here to dine so we were lucky to secure the last table.
And if you fancy exploring Aberdeenshire further then consider its renowned Castle Trail.
THE LOWDOWN – Belwade Farm is free to visit and the Dinosaur Adventure day is free entry and parking as well. We drove from Aberdeen to Aboyne, just under 30 miles away.