Where to See Highland Cows, Shetland Ponies & Reindeer in Scotland – Scotland is known for its animals and wildlife but catching a glimpse of them is very different to spending time up close. We’ve pulled together some key experiences that allow you to ‘meet the animals’ in a unique and special way. [Features some historic press trips and affiliate links.]
There are many animal experiences across Scotland, but each of the sites mentioned we have visited in person. [Short term changes will have been made due to Covid-19 so please check each attraction’s individual website for new updates and alterations.]
Highland Cattle – Where to See Highland Cows, Shetland Ponies & Reindeer in Scotland
Tourists and Scots alike love a Highland Cow. To learn more about these hardy free range beasts head to Aberdeenshire Highland Cattle near Banchory in Royal Deeside. Farmer Grace welcomes you onto her working farm and shares a wealth of information about these mighty animals, you even get to groom them, as farmers would before a show. Read a full review here. [Children pay the same entry fee as adults.]
Shetland Pony – Where to See Highland Cows, Shetland Ponies & Reindeer in Scotland
These small but mighty beasts can be spotted grazing across the Shetland isles, but drive to the island of Burra to meet them up close and personal. Guests meet foals in the field, guide a pony around an obstacle course and then take a wonderfully scenic walk down to the beach for photo opportunities. Little ones, if they’re small enough, can even ride a pony. Discover more here.
Nip to Aviemore to meet the UK’s only free range reindeer herd. It’s possible to undertake a hill walk to approach the animals in their natural habitat. Or, for little legs, get really close to the reindeer in their paddocks. The reindeer come down from the hills to the paddocks for 2-3 weeks at a time, so it’s possible to learn so much about them, from antler shedding and rutting, to the fact they don’t have top front teeth! Get more info here. This experience feels so festive in the run up to Christmas!
We met beautiful alpaca and a host of animals at Skate Rumple Farm in Orkney. This farm keeps its animals for life and adopts animals, so perhaps a more vegetarian-friendly option. They also house a host of rare pigs and sheep, and it’s a very chilled experience. [You can also spot some alpaca at Love Gorgie Farm in Edinburgh.]
Rent a shepherds hut for a very comfortable night of glamping at Craigduckie Farm near Dunfermline, then march up the track to spend time with the lambs. The farmer, Katie, and her two boys, give you an informal tour, let you ask all the questions you want, bottlefeed the lambs, muck them out and even attend a birth if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. Obviously this is seasonal so book for Spring! Read all about it here. [Lambing experience currently only available to glamping guests.]
In Aberfeldy, Perthshire we booked tickets for the red deer and barn owl experience at Highland Safari. We were able to hand feed the deer, ask questions, and learn more about their life and lifestyle – did you know that female red deer eat discarded antlers, especially whilst pregnant, to enrich their diet with calcium and nutrients? Random fact! Getting close to a snowy white barn owl and watching its silent flight was also memorable. Get the lowdown here.
Introducing my children to these beautiful animals was a real pleasure. It was a great way to get the kids outside, I learned far more than I expected, and the kids were full of chat and memories at the end of it all.