When we were staying at the Moness Resort in Aberfeldy one of the memorable day trips was spent hand-feeding red deer at Highland Safari in the nearby village of Dull (humorously twinned with Boring in Oregon).
The centre offers adventure and exploration in the Perthshire countryside with a range of safaris, be they walking, biking or in 4x4s. The safaris can take you up mountains or delving deep into forests, with opportunities to see some of the finest Scottish wildlife in its natural habitat, from the famous grouse to eagles and hares.
We weren’t entirely sure that our toddler and baby were ready for several hours of rugged adventure in the hills so we organised a slightly gentler option – the Red Deer and Barn Owl Experience. We had to prebook our visit as numbers are limited, but we did this with ease the day before, and by staying at the Moness Resort we picked up a 2 for 1 offer on adult tickets. The babies were free so we felt we were getting a bargain altogether.
We turned up for our allotted slot and a small group of us were led into the red deer centre (a perfect wet weather option) where our engaging kilted Safari Ranger, with the assistance of a dvd, ran through every totally random fact you could ever wish to know about red deer. I had no idea that red deer antlers (which are bone rather than horn) grew and shed annually, I hadn’t really thought about it before. Another top factoid – female red deer eat the discarded antlers, especially whilst pregnant, for the calcium and nutrients. Who knew!? We were able to handle and pass around antlers which intrigued Mr Toddler and Mr Baby, who love handling anything.
Then it was time to feed the UK’s largest native land mammal. Everyone got a canister of little pellets and fed the deer from a flat palm. I hoped my toddler would lay his hand straight, rather than his tempting chub-paws becoming deer snacks- of course he didn’t quite obey but the deer chose not to consume his fingers. Mr Toddler LOVED feeding the deer, he absolutely adored it. The elegant beasts walk right up to you, antlers pointing skywards and it’s quite breathtaking for visitors of any age to engage with an iconic Scottish beast in such close proximity.
Back in the deer centre our Safari Ranger brought a barn owl into the room and we witnessed its eerily silent flight and were able to introduce our children to another intriguing beast that’s incredibly difficult to see in the wild up close.
Once the official ‘experience’ was complete we took a walk around the short 500 metre trail so we could see the Red Deer herd at grass. Then it was tractor time – the centre has a mix of toy tractors for tots to play with so this was another highlight for our little ones. Once we’d dragged the kids off the tractors – tears – we finished up at the cafe, which offers wholesome Scottish fare, from soup and a sandwich to chicken pie or haggis, neeps and tatties.
THE LOWDOWN – We stayed at the Moness Resort in Aberfeldy and then drove the 4 miles to the Highland Safari Red Deer Centre.
DURATION of the Red Deer Experience- 60 mins approx
ADMISSION TIMES April – October: 1000hrs – 1200hrs – 1400hrs
November – March: 1200hrs
COST Adult: £8 – as we had a 2 for 1 ticket we only paid £8 in total/Child: £5/£25 for a family of 4/Kids under 4 FREE
INCLUDES – Exclusive access to the Red Deer Barn, Deer Food &d Safari Ranger/A Safari Pass with savings of over £50 – we used some of these vouchers so they were a great wee bonus./Highland Safaris Badge for children – worn with pride!
ACCESS – Parking at Highland Safaris is free, along with the Discovery Trail and viewing platform. Disabled Access to Red Deer Barn for the Red Deer Encounter and Barn Owl and Red Deer Lookout (approx. 150 metres)
Another good option for little ones is the gold panning – click here to find out more.
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