On a slightly cloudy, but nonetheless beautiful day in August, we drove up from Edinburgh to the Scottish Highlands. We were staying in the Cairngorm National Park and our journey took us past Highland Safaris, which is located in Aberfeldy. It was about a 2 hour drive from Edinburgh, with the last 30 minutes or so heading away from the A9 and being fairly rural. It was just amazing scenery. Every corner we drove around was a new delight and heading back to the A9 took us over the top of rolling hills and down through valleys. We were so glad we chose this detour on the way to our accommodation for the drive alone!
Highland Safaris offers a lot of exploration of the local area, with Land Rover Safaris, Biking Safaris, Loch Tay Boating Safaris and more, but since we had our 15 month old son with us, we were more interested in the Red Deer Encounter this time. We will definitely be up for a full safari to see the amazing Scottish wildlife when he’s a little older and we’re next in the area. For those who have only a short amount of time the Red Deer Encounter, or the experience of panning for gold are both things that can be done in an hour or two so ideal for a break if you’re on a long drive. There’s a large gift shop with some beautiful local items in it, as well as a cafe where we had a very yummy and well priced lunch.
For little ones I recommend the safari platter which my son absolutely loved and was huge – with cheese, apple, raisins, carrots, cucumber, tomato, crisps and thick cut fresh bread, all in quantities enough to feed an adult let alone a child. My husband and I had toasted sandwiches which were delicious. Even if you just have time for a quick break, a lunch here would be a great pit stop in beautiful settings. The toilet facilities were clean and the baby changing room was large and even had a potty provided for those who are potty training, which was a nice touch. Outside is a sand pit and play area for the kids, with a walking trail which is free to access if you want to stretch your legs.
All the staff, from the gift shop, to the cafe, to the rangers were so friendly, enthusiastic and just genuinely seemed to be enjoying their day and to be there talking to you.
The Red Deer Encounter at Highland Safaris
We chose to get up and personal with the deer with the Red Deer Encounter, at their purpose built Red Deer Centre. The encounter lasted about an hour, adults were £10, children £5 with kids under 4 being free. It was great value for the experience.
Andy was our ranger and he was engaging, enthusiastic and gave us lots of interesting information about the Red Deer. We all felt we learned a lot and it was great to do this at the start of our trip north as we then got to see deer several times in our trip and our enjoyment of that was enhanced by our new knowledge. My son was too young to take much from the talking part at 15 months, but he was given a little pair of antlers to hold onto which was very thoughtful. He enjoyed touching the different types of antlers as well.
After the talk you get to go outside and the deer will be called over and are very majestic. Everyone gets a pot of food and can feed the deer, who are very tame and quite keen to take it off your hands, whilst Andy gave us personal information about the personalities of the deer we were feeding. You could definitely see who the greedy ones were!
We returned to the centre where we were then given a demonstration with a barn owl who we got to see very close up, as well as watch her fly back and forth and eat. She seemed very happy and relaxed as she showed off just inches away from us and we learned some interesting facts about owls as well.
Overall this encounter was a great experience for adults or children of any age. We really felt that we learned a lot about the deer and the barn owls, giving us an enhanced appreciation for Scottish wildlife. Getting hands on and being able to touch and feed these majestic animals was a real treat.
We’ll definitely be returning for a full safari in the future!
If you’re visiting Scotland you may also like to read some of my other reviews in the area, including my Top 10 Family Friendly things to do in Edinburgh, Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh Castle and Highland Wildlife Park.