Aberdeenshire Highland Cow Experience

Highland Cows are regal beasts, icons of Scotland. Recently we underwent a Highland Cow experience at Aberdeenshire Highland Beef. Highlights include brushing the coos, and eating stew! As the name suggests, this isn’t a petting zoo, it’s the passion of a quality beef farmer in Royal Deeside. She is proud of her herd and of the meat she produces. It graces many four and five star hotels in the area, including Meldrum House and the Chester.

Meeting the regal Aberdeenshire herd

Coming face to face with real life Highland Cows

Before you get excited about taking your kids to meet the cows, this may fall into a ‘No Tots’ experience because there are no concessionary rates for children. Adults and children pay the same. Kids are totally 100% welcome and included in the experience, don’t get me wrong, so it’s up to you how much you wish to pay for a family day out. Ticket prices are here, and I’ll describe a day out with the coos below.

Every Sunday at 2pm, guests are invited to participate in a Farm Experience. After introductions from farmer Grace and her Stockman Iain, the trip starts with a ten minute march down to the fields where the animals graze. Grace talks about the animals, their lifestyle, and the advantages and disadvantages of rearing them. Folk can ask questions en route.

Farmer Grace tells the story of her herd and her farm in rural Aberdeenshire

Meet the Herd

Frangag, a fearsome handsome beas.

When we arrived at the field there were no cows – AWKWARD – but then Grace called them and they came running over the hill at the sound of her voice. Kids and adults alike melted. We heard how the animals can live outside all year round and calf outdoors- they’re truly hardy beasts. We then retraced our steps back to the shed.

Here we were introduced to some of Grace and Iain’s prize animals, and learned the relevance and importance of showing your animals at the likes of the Oban Show. Iain’s cow, Frangag, was a majestic, fearsome creature, and we met heifer Una and her adorable calf.

 

Grooming the Cattle

Junior grooming Una

Una was taken out of her pen and we all got the chance to groom her. The tots were invited to go first. The cows are used to grooming, they are show animals and get their fur washed, combed and coiffed relatively regularly. Of course, we were still cautious around large animals. Also housed in the shed were cattle taken indoors for ‘finishing’. As mentioned, this is a working farm, not a petting zoo, and the cattle are ultimately sold for meat.

Cattle during the finishing period

The farmer doesn’t slaughter her show animals or her breeding heifers. It’s mainly the male calves that are reared for beef. In the last six weeks of their life the cows are taken indoors to be fed a diet of silage, potatoes, and draft from a local brewery. This gives them the layer of fat that the chefs and the market desire.

I want my kids to know where their food comes from, so we explained everything to Mr Tot and he took it on the chin. We were also shown a freezer full of fresh beef. Grace explained that her butcher visits once a week. A pop up shop is open every weekend for folk to swing past and pick up meat that they know the provenance of.

Weigh-In

Frangag’s Weigh-In

We were shown a contraption that secures these huge animals, be it for vaccinations, weigh-ins, or even occasional emergency c-sections.

We all guessed the weight of Frangag- admittedly I was nowhere close. The talks aren’t aimed at children, but we found there was enough to look at and discuss to keep them occupied.

Tasting

Aberdeenshire Highland Beef

The afternoon wrapped up with a small pot of stew. The meat was slow-cooked and  tender. The boys quaffed squash, the adults had tea or coffee accompanied by shortbread and Grace’s own home-made tablet.

The day ended with my husband buying beef shin. I don’t buy vast quantities of meat but, when I do, I’d prefer to know its origins. It looked like the cows had a grand life on the Cairn o’ Mount hills.

Our Story

We drove from Aberdeen to the Aberdeenshire Highland Beef farm at Lochton of Leys near Banchory in Aberdeenshire. Private transport is certainly the easiest method.

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13 Comments

  1. Reply

    Claire Jessiman 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿🍽🥂 (@foodiequine)

    September 3, 2018

    What a great way to experience the whole farm to fork ethos. I must admit that I have a real soft spot for the Hairy Highlanders, they are such beautiful creatures with real character. Great to see a new adition to the local agri-tourism scene.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      September 3, 2018

      A good mix of people in attendance too so it’s proving popular. From foodie folk, to a girlfriend surprising her boyfriend with a day out in the countryside, it was a chatty mix. And we all loved the coos.

  2. Reply

    Nadine

    September 3, 2018

    Oh my, lovely pictures, they look so cute! I once saw them ‘live’ when I was up in the highlands in Scotland. They came towards me in a group and looked quite intimidating. But there was a fence and I think they were just curious 🙂

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      September 4, 2018

      They are such handsome beasts, but large and powerful too.

  3. Reply

    Kathi Kamleitner

    September 4, 2018

    Personally, I don’t eat meat or other animal products, but I appreciate when people are conscious about the food on their plates and also want to teach their children where it comes from, so they can make their own decisions later.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      September 4, 2018

      I’ve switched to soy milk, having fed two children myself I can’t imagine life as a dairy cow – so trying to show the children the whole picture.

  4. Reply

    Migrating Miss

    September 4, 2018

    I have such a soft spot for Highland Coos but also believe in the importance of knowing where our food comes from. Sounds like a great experience and educational for young ones!

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      September 10, 2018

      I don’t want the boys to just see meat in plastic cartons. If they want to eat it, I want them to a little about it.

  5. Reply

    Gemma Armit

    September 8, 2018

    That’s farm to fork right there. I really liked a foodie road trip I went on last year for this reason.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      September 10, 2018

      They supply a range of Aberdeen and Scottish restaurants so quite a range of activities and and dining experiences.

  6. Reply

    MummyTravels

    September 9, 2018

    The coos do seem such characters, sounds fascinating to be able to get so close and learn about their lives. And a very useful lessons for kids to understand where food comes from.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      September 10, 2018

      They were a bit shocked at the reality of it all, but they loved grooming the animals.

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