You may think visiting a reindeer herd is so last month, but this is a timely reminder that a reindeer is for life, not just for Christmas.
The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd is open to visitors all year round. The main attraction is booking a Hill Trip up the rugged Highland countryside to visit them in their mountain wilderness. Guests walk freely amongst the herd, learn about them from the guides and feed them. These scenic walks run all year long at 11am, but increase to three daily hikes in the summer season. This is ideal for intrepid mini adventurers but if your tots are still quite little, and not capable of a trek uphill, there’s also the option of visiting some of the herd at ground level in the paddocks. This option runs from February to New Year and we plumped for this over the festive season.
The reindeer come down from the hills for 2-3 weeks at a time and rest up by gazing at the tourists lining up to see them. We turned up just as a feed was taking place and we were all invited to hand feed Santa’s most nimble helpers to fistfuls of lichen. I worried about how my toddler should hold his hand to feed the reindeer, as I wished him to return to our hotel with ten fingers, but was informed that as reindeer don’t have top front teeth I could stop fretting. Factoid alert – no top front teeth- now that’s a quirky conversation starter at a dinner party if you’re truly stuck.
Up close we could see the male reindeers’ bloodied antlers, as they prepared to lose them for the year and start a new growth for 2017, ready for the autumn rut. The females keep their antlers over winter which allows them to protect any food they find and defend themselves whilst pregnant against the larger males. The antlers were warm to the touch due to the blood circulating through them. I was expecting a cold bone so the heat was surprising.
From the paddocks we entered the exhibition, reading the various information boards explaining the seasons and cycles of the herd. We made little antlers for the tots in the craft corner, visited Santa’s grotto and read stories in the cosy BarBQ hut.
Visiting the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd Exhibition and Paddock is a good way to spend an hour or so with family, learning and getting up close to animals children don’t usually see. At Christmas it brings an element of reality to the gorgeous Rudolph – Mr Toddler was hugely excited to visit Santa’s helpers – but this informal day out could work all year round so get it in the diary for February.
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