On an overcast day in August we headed to ZSS (Zoological Society Scotland) Highland Wildlife Park. Highland Wildlife Park is located in the Cairngorms National Park, about 90 minutes south of Inverness, or within 2-3 hours of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. It’s easy to find, well signposted, and not far from the A9 which is the main road which runs through the middle of Scotland heading north and south. We were pleasantly surprised at the good quality roads and how fast it was to get around – whilst also being breathtaking scenery. Wherever you’re traveling from, the drive is going to be beautiful.
Finding Highland Wildlife Park
My advice for driving in the Scottish Highlands would be not to use post codes for your sat nav. They cover large areas and are often unreliable. Instead, if you use google maps or similar, input the destination name such as Highland Wildlife Park. We had no problem finding places this way, whilst postcodes would often take us 30 minutes off route! Highland Wildlife Park is well sign posted and we found it very easy to find.
Once you’ve found the zoo you have two options – the road safari or the foot zoo.
Ticket Prices at Highland Wildlife Park
We have an annual pass to Bristol Zoo, which has a reciprocal agreement with Belfast Zoo, Colchester Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo, RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, Chester Zoo, Marwell Zoological Park, Twycross Zoo and Woburn Safari Park. This means if you have a pass for any of those zoos, you get into all of them for free! I love this so much – and used it for 5 different zoos in 2018! Absolutely crazy value – so if this is one of your local zoos and you’re considering travel to any other area, take a look at the savings you can make. At the time of writing, prices range from £9.95 to £17 each, with age 2 and under being free.
Always check the official website for up to date information before traveling.
Safari at Highland Wildlife Park
There is a small road safari that you can choose to go around first, after, or any time during your visit. It takes about 30 minutes to go around, which is the perfect length of time in my opinion to keep little people occupied and to make it fun to go around more than once to see the animals at different times of the day. There aren’t a massive amount of animals to see, but they are animals that are happy to get quite close to the cars and the scenery is beautiful and rugged – very natural and authentic.
At the start you’ll get chance to see the male polar bears in their exhibit and we watched them for ages as they were quite happy to come close to the fences. Then you’ll see Bukhara, Red Deer, European Bison, European Elk, Przewalski’s horses and Vicuna.
Red Deer in the Main Reserve at Highland Wildlife Park
European Bison in the Main Reserve at Highland Wildlife Park
You can join a guided land rover tour by signing up in the cafe and this was free when we visited!
The Zoo at Highland Safari Park
The zoo is located on the side of a hill, with well paved paths winding through forest and enclosures that are extremely natural and well designed, both for visitor viewing and of course for the animals themselves. This felt like a really genuine and authentic zoo – where animals could exhibit natural behavior and we could watch. It doesn’t have a massive amount of animals compared to some zoos, but the animals they did have were amazing to see, with some fantastic species that hadn’t seen elsewhere.
Amur Tiger at Highland Wildlife Park
Polar Bear at Highland Wildlife Park
Seeing the polar bears – including the mother bear with the only polar bear cub in the UK right now was a real treat, and we were astounded at how close to the fence the male polar bears would come. They seemed very relaxed, as did the massive Amur Tiger. The snow leopard enclosure with its steep cliff and incredible foliage was really impressive, whilst we had the amazing experience of seeing the Lynx walk confidently out into the open – with her tiny kitten ambling behind her!
Highland Safari Park with a Toddler
If you’ve got a toddler or a baby then you’re probably wondering how friendly it is for a stroller / pushchair. I know how difficult it can be to get them around some places! Highland Safari park has wide open paths, with plenty of ramps and I’d consider it good for anything on wheels. However, it is on a hill and does have some steep walks up and down, so you’re going to be giving your leg muscles a little workout. We didn’t find this a problem, and actually found it easier to navigate than Edinburgh Zoo which has some very steep hills!
The gift shop and restaurant are quite small and have narrow spaces, so I would recommend parking the stroller outside for those.
There is a large play park right next to plenty of toilets and a stand selling drinks and delicious ice cream, with more than ample seating for parents, a little ways away from the main restaurant and gift park. We spent an hour here, although it is geared somewhat to older children. We would definitely recommend it with families with toddlers.
Finishing the day at Highland Wildlife Safari park by sharing a bit of ice cream!
An Amazing Day Out
I hope this review has helped you decide whether to spend a day out with your family at Highland Wildlife Park. This is one of our favourite zoos in the UK, and we’ve been to a lot! It felt like this was what a zoo should be – spacious enclosures, interesting animals, natural behaviors, reasonable prices, clean facilities and something for families to do to burn off energy as well. I don’t know when we’ll next be back in the area but I’d love to visit again and it’s going to be one of my top ten recommendations for Family Friendly Attractions in the Scottish Highlands.