Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie
It was a roasting hot day in July and we were staying at Aviemore so we decided to head out to Highland Wildlife Park... The kids were excited to see the polar bears, my wife wanted to see the snow leopard and I was keen to see the tigers!
What is Highland Wildlife Park?
Highland Wildlife Park is basically a zoo but set over a large area (260 acres) of the Scottish countryside. There is both a walking area with many enclosures and also a driving "safari" section. The park is owned by The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and welcomes around 140,000 visitors per year. The park contains a wide variety of exotic/endangered animals but also a great deal of Scottish wildlife too.
We arrived at Highland Wildlife Park at around 11.30 and were guided by staff to the monkey field car park. We decided to have a quick lunch first so we headed to the play park which had picnic tables. The play park was great and the kids played there in between mouthfuls of sandwiches. It was so warm so we topped up on sunscreen too.
We started our journey through the main walk round area at the snow monkey enclosure. The snow monkeys were super cute, with many younger monkeys visible behind the plexiglass.
Next up was the Tiger enclosure, unfortunately, we didn't see the tigers this time, I think we just hit it at the wrong time... I think we have been in the past and the best time to see them was feeding time. The photo below is from a previous visit.
Victoria the female polar bear
The female polar bear "Victoria" was our next stop, there is a great walkway up to this with information boards along the way, the kids enjoyed taking a turn each to read the signs. There are some nice photo opportunities here too with a rectangular frame with mock vegetation around it. Seeing Victoria was fantastic, the kids were really interested and learned lots of interesting facts.
In December 2017, Victoria successfully gave birth to "Hamish" at the park marking the first time in 25 years a polar bear cub has been born in the UK. Hamish left the park in 2020 and now lives at Doncaster's Yorkshire Wildlife Park along with four other polar bears.
Backtracking we went back to the main circular walking route and up to the Arctic Fox enclosure. We weren't lucky enough to see them on this occasion but have in the past (see pic below), they are very cute. Following on from here was a great viewpoint of the drive-through section around the main reserve.
Arktos the male polar bear
A short distance around the route we arrived at the male polar bear enclosure, again packed with information and great views of the polar bear. "Arktos" was simply chilling in a cool water pool watching the cars go by, it seemed like he had the right idea in the blazing mid-day sun.
Afterwards, we saw these goat-like animals called "Markhor" jumping around on the little cliffs there.
My wife was very keen to see the snow leopards, and this visit didn't disappoint. The enclosure is quite an open plan layout so it's easy to see the snow leopard, and this time it was high up looking down on us.
Ending our walking tour at Highland Wildlife Park
Further along the path, we saw more markhor, eagle owls, and lynx.
From there we ended our walking tour with the European wolf, red squirrel, and European forest reindeer areas.
Dragged to the gift shop
As usual, my wife and kids wanted to check out the gift shop! There were a good variety of items in here including educational stuff. We got our fridge magnet (our mission on every place we visit now) and the kids got a plushie each. Expensive but the kids were happy.
The facilities at Highland Wildlife Park are great; there are plenty of clean toilets, picnic spots, viewpoints, informational boards, food stalls, and a takeaway cafe and gift shop.
The Main Reserve
We made our way back to "monkey field car park" and decided to end our visit with a drive around the main reserve of Highland Wildlife Park. This is a fairly long drive, and to be honest, sometimes it can be difficult to see many animals as it is such an expansive park (great for the animals), but we did see a wide variety of different animals such as red deer, European elk, and European bison.
This driven section naturally leads you back out of the park and to the main exit back onto the main road. You can see Bactrian camel and Yak on your left as you leave.
Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
Since 1909, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) has been working to promote awareness and conservation of rare species from around the world. RZSS also runs Edinburgh Zoo. A fantastic organisation worthy of support via membership or by adopting an animal.
Common Questions about Highland Wildlife Park
Do you drive around Highland Wildlife Park?
Yes, there is a driving section of the park as well as a walking section. It's worth doing the driving part last so you can just leave the park when you have finished at the park.
Can you take dogs to Highland Wildlife Park?
No dogs are strictly not permitted in the park or car park, guide dogs however are allowed.
Highland Wildlife Park is a must-see attraction on your visit to the Highlands in Scotland; the spectacular setting and viewing the polar bears alone is worth the price of admission. You can also visit the ruin of Ruthven Barracks before or after your visit.
If you are interested in the native wildlife of Scotland, please see this article on adders, the only venomous snake in Scotland, newts, and bears in Scotland.
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