In what appears to have become a summer of seeing fancy animals (no objection, Your Honour), we recently took a trip up to the Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie in Scotland. It may come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog to learn that the main draw for us was tigers. To be precise, baby tigers!
We heard that little tiger cubs had been born and were out for the public to see. And so, we scooped up the kids, hitched up the caravan and scooted up north to see if we could catch a glimpse.
All photos in this blog are thanks to the supremely incomparable photographic skills of Edinburgh Dog Photography. Cheryl even puts up with me wanting her to take photos like this:
What can you see at the Highland Wildlife Park?
Tiger cubs weren’t the only draw to this lovely park. There are plenty of beautiful animals to see here, including no less than THREE polar bears! They keep momma bear in a separate enclosure to the other two male bears. When we visited her, she was having a lovely bath in her pool. It’s a bit of a hike up to get there, so taking a buggy for kids is a good idea. It’s a good, well-maintained path (as is the whole site) so you don’t need to worry about wearing any particular type of footwear or anything.
Other animals you can see here include elk, bison, horses, red pandas, wolverines and arctic foxes. The cranes were a nice surprise, especially as they had just had a little baby themselves. There’s a great drive-through safari area here which you can go around as many times as you want. They have planned the site so that the car parking is quite central, so you can go and drive around then come back and continue exploring on foot without having to worry about parking miles away.
There are two other animals that we didn’t realise how excited we would be seeing them until we saw them. They were the snow leopard and the European grey wolf. The Snow leopard gave us a special treat by coming right up to the fence. We were only a couple of metres away and got a great view of its beautiful face and huge paws.
The grey wolves were also fantastic to see. Again, we got lucky and saw them up close and asleep, so could really get to grips with the size of them. Such huge faces!
Stuff for kids
There’s a play area for kids here, which Sam really enjoyed. There was a polar bear type of climbable structure and some swings and see-saws for older children. There’s also plenty of places to get some grub although, of course, we took a picnic. What did we have? Hotdogs of course!
We took our caravan up north and stayed at Blair Castle Caravan Park. We chose it not because it was particularly close to the wildilfe park (it’s about an hour or so’s drive away) but because it had glowing reviews. It was a fantastic place to stay, with excellent, clean facilities, clearly marked out pitches with water and electricity and a good play area for the kids.
It also gave us free access to the grounds of Blair Castle, which was a wonderful opportunity to take an evening stroll with the boys. There is a play area (of course) as well as a stunning walled garden and pond with plenty of wildlife, fruit trees and little alcoves to discover. Totally worth a visit.
Let’s talk about these tigers, then.
So the star of the show, as far as we were concerned, had to be the tiger cubs. We’d wanted to visit the Highland Wildlife Park for a while. This is what finally got our bottoms in the car and up north.
At first, we had to peer through the trees and foliage to catch a glimpse of something orange. With the dancing sunlight bobbing its way along the ground, it was hard to distinguish possible tiger sightings from unusually shaped logs. But then, in the middle distance, we saw something. A cub playing with mum!
Due to covid, we couldn’t hang around too long. There could only be so many people in the area at once. This meant a long one-way walk around to the start again. But it’s only fair not to be a tiger hog.
Each time we went, we got a little better at spotting the tigers. The guides on hand we exceptionally helpful in pointing out where they were. In fact, as a side note, I found every member of staff that we came across, from keepers to the chap mending the fences, to be super friendly here.
If at first you don’t succeed…
It was lovely to see the tigers, even just from a distance. But frankly, for wifey and her fancy camera, that just wasn’t enough! Five times she took the hike along to see them. Five times! One of those times she snuck away under the pretence of getting me a coffee. I think by the end of the day the keepers thought they should just put up a tent and let her stay the night.
Five times it took for her to get the chance to see the tiger cubs up close. Was it worth it? You decide for yourself…
Should you visit the Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie?
This is a terrific place to visit, and our kids loved it. Just be aware that there is a lot of walking involved here. We took our double buggy and used it as a hop-on hop-off service, so the boys could walk when they wanted and get a ride when they were tired, or if it was a steep hill. This worked to both save my back from carrying them, and avoided tired tantrums.
Do be aware that the park is not dog friendly. Not even a little bit – they’ll ask if you have a dog in your car, and even take a quick peek just to be sure. We heard this was because some numpty took their dog for a walk here not long ago. You really can’t prepare for the stupidity of some people. We left our dog with a good friend, but the park does offer advice on where you can leave your dog for the day, if boarding them with someone you know isn’t an option.
I would heartily recommend a visit to the Highland Wildlife Park, but make sure you book your tickets before you go. We’d love to go back at some point and see how the kiddo tigers are doing! However, if you are looking for a wildlife experience a bit further south in Scotland, check out our blog on Blair Drummond Safari Park.