This week we are spending Christmas in the very beautiful Scottish highlands. As a surprise TIG’s mum booked us all on the ‘Winter Watch Safari’ at Highland Safaris in Aberfeldy. It was clear to see why this attraction was awarded the winner of the ‘Best Visitor Experience’ in Scotland. A truly exhilarating 4×4 landrover safari experience, led by experienced and knowledgeable safari rangers who made the trip enjoyable, great fun and educational. We even stopped in a mountain bothie for a little light refreshment…in true Scottish style (whisky!).
What’s the idea: A visit to Highland Safaris, Aberfeldy, Perthshire PH15 2JQ
Who for: This is great fun for the whole family
Cost: We booked the Winter Watch Safari (2 1/2 hours) £40, (Tesco vouchers came in very useful!) We also added on the Red Deer Encounter for an additional £5. Take a look at their full range of safari options here.
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Yesterday was a very cold December morning so we layered up and wrapped up warm in preparation for the ‘Winter Watch Safari’. We were on the 9.30am safari with one other person in a 6 seater 4×4 landrover. Caitriona was our guide and she was brilliant, extremely welcoming, informative and made the tour really enjoyable. After an initial briefing about where we were heading, we clambered into the landrover and off we went! Once we left the main roads, the terrain became rather bumpy in places. It felt like we were escaping into the sub-artic wilderness, marvelling at the breathtaking snow covered mountains as we went. Our landrover was well-equipped with snow chains so they do run the safaris in pretty much any weather, if visibility is good enough.
On this Safari we were on the look out for the elusive white mountain hare, the snowy white ptarmigan and the majestic red deer. Along the route up to the top of the mountain we had already seen osprey, swans, grouse and pheasants but we hadn’t seen any of the Winter Watch big 3 yet! We meandered through a working mine, learning all about what and how they mine, which was fascinating. Just before we reached the peak of 3000ft, we pulled over and grabbed the binoculars in search of red deer on the mountain side. We were almost blown away at this point and it didn’t look like any of the wildlife was braving the weather either, so we got back into the landrover and carried on up the mountain. On our way up to our destination mountain bothie we saw many hare tracks in the snow, however, there was no sign of them anywhere. We reached the bothie and the views were just stunning with the sun peaking out through the white clouds. Inside the bothie Catriona got out blankets for everyone, lit the gas burner and produced some very welcome coffee, tea, local shortbread and even a dram of Dewars heartwarming whisky!
After we were all fully refreshed we headed back down looking for the elusive hare and deer that certainly seemed to be hiding from us! Then, all of a sudden our ranger (I don’t know how, but she did) spotted in the distance one lonely red stag. We got out the binoculars and observed the deers’ movements for the next 10 minutes. It was incredible to observe this great animal in its natural environment. We then carried on back down the mountain side and arrived back at base at 12noon. Despite, only seeing one red deer, this safari was great fun, informative and educational and I would certainly recommend this to anyone staying in the area.
12noon was the start time of the Red Deer Encounter so we made our way over to the starting point, where there was a group of 30 other people. I was concerned that this was going to be too many people for a relatively small feeding area but it worked out to be absolutely fine. We met our new ranger who was Andy, and absolutely brilliant – very witty – making the activity extremely entertaining. We sat inside the Red Deer Centre where there is a huge window that looks out over the fields where the red deer are kept. We sat on benches in the deer centre listening to Andy talk about the animals, we looked and touched real antlers and learnt about the behaviour of these great and powerful creatures. Andy then gave us all a mug of food to feed the deer with. We went out into the enclosure and the deer knew exactly what time it was! The deer happily took the food from our hands and they even let us stroke them – don’t worry they can’t bite as they don’t have any top teeth! We were given about 10 minutes to feed and stroke the deer which felt about the right length of time – we even had time to get the perfect red deer selfie!!
After the deer were all fed and watered we sat inside the deer centre again and Andy brought out the barn owl. The ranger fed the owl in the barn area where we were all sitting round, and we watched the owl fly and swoop across the room whilst Andy filled us in with the history, behaviour and personality of the barn owl species. The deer and owl encounter lasted for about 1 hour.
At 1pm we headed into the Highland Safari Cafe where there was the most welcoming peat burning stove to warm up by. This cafe was incredible, the menu was packed full of fresh, locally produced, homemade breakfasts, lunches, cakes and coffees and the staff were extremely helpful when coming to make the ever-so-difficult decision about what to choose!
They also have a fabulous little gift shop where you can purchase outdoor gear, books, toys, cards, gifts and even deer antlers (which TIG’s mum did purchase to use as a hook for coats!).
Overall, this is a fantastic attraction, we were there from about 9am – 2pm experiencing the Winter Watch Safari and the Red Deer Encounter. The staff certainly make the experience, they are so welcoming, informative and really engage with each individual. Despite not seeing much on the safari this was certainly a highlight of our Christmas in Scotland and we will be back to experience it all over again.
- Wrap up warm, even in Summer at 3000ft you might get a little chilly! I had my full ski gear on and I felt the cold at the top.
- I would highly recommend you reserve a table at the Highland Safari Cafe when you book – this is a fantastic little cafe and I wouldn’t want you to miss out!
- For the children there is a playground, tractor park, Biketrax and a discovery trail.
- There is also a Gold and Gem Panning Centre, where you grab your very own pan and bucket of dirt, scoop and swirl to hunt for real gold, as well as many beautiful semi-precious gem stones.
Any bad points?
- Obviously, there is no guarantee you will see any wildlife on a Highland Safari tour. However, the tour guides know exactly what to look for, the tracks, sounds and sights so, if there is something out there, they will spot it! Even if you don’t see anything, this tour is extremely informative and great fun for all the family.
Would I go again?
We would definitely visit Highland Safaris again if we were in the area. I think next time we would love to experience a safari in a different season or even a different type of safari. They do forest safaris, private charters, a mountain safari trek, cycle and walk safaris, plus a 4×4 off road driving experience which I know TIG’s boyfriend would love! Plus, we would certainly go back to the cafe for lunch – absolutely delicious.
Have you been on Safari?
Where did you go and what did you see?
Share your experiences below…