Highland Wildlife Park

When we mapped out our trip to the Cairngorms National Park, we knew we’d spend the bulk of our time there Munro-bagging. But there was another spot I was keen to visit while we were in the area: Highland Wildlife Park. And so, after four days of Munro-bagging (and with four more to come afterwards), it was time for a rest day – in the form of a pootle around Highland Wildlife Park.

Like Edinburgh Zoo, Highland Wildlife Park is managed by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS). We swung by Tesco to pick up croissants for breakfast and some snacks for lunch, and then drove out to Highland Wildlife Park. When it says it opens at 10.00, it means it. We arrived fifteen or so minutes early – as the timed ticket had said we mustn’t be late or we wouldn’t be allowed in – and the gates were closed. We pulled into a side road and parked; others queued down the hill. On the dot of ten, a man appeared at the gates and began to usher cars in.

Highland Wildlife Park is split into two parts: a ‘Main Reserve’* and a ‘Walk Around Area’. We decided to start with the Main Reserve, which is home to deer, vicuña (a wild relative of the llama), elk, Przewalski’s horse and European bison, and then wander round the Walk Around Area. Highland Wildlife Park is smaller than other zoos I’ve visited, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in the variety of animals that call it home. We saw polar bears, snow leopards, wolves, wolverine, reindeer – and one of my personal favourites, Scottish wildcats, to name but a few.

*Note: the Main Reserve is cars-only.

Here are fifteen of my favourite photos from Highland Wildlife Park:

Vicuña in the Main Reserve
European bison on the move in the Main Reserve
Can you spot the great grey owl?
Victoria, the UK’s only female polar bear
Himalayan tahr
One of the male polar bears (Arktos/Walker)
Now you see me…
… now you don’t! (Or can you?)
Turkmenian markhor
Wolf Wood: European grey wolves
European forest reindeer. Fun fact: reindeer are the only deer species in which both males and females grow antlers
This wee red squirrel stole the show in Wolf Wood!
A snoozing Scottish wildcat
Wolverine. Fun fact: their Latin name is gulo gulo, literally meaning ‘glutton, glutton’
Just chilling (yak)


  • Getting there | Highland Wildlife Park is seven miles south of Aviemore, and well-signposted from the A9. Despite much Googling, I’ve not been able to find an alternative (besides a taxi) for those without their own wheels; it looks as though a number of bus services have changed, and there isn’t currently one which stops near Highland Wildlife Park.
  • Tickets | Tickets must be pre-booked, unless you’re an RZSS member (or accompanied guest). Visit www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk for more details.
  • Misc. | If it’s a stonking hot day when you visit and you fancy a scoop (or two) of gelato to cool off, head to Miele’s Gelato in Aviemore. For the chocolate-cone fiends amongst you, I recommend their Smarties cones.
Miele’s Gelato, Aviemore

16 thoughts on “Highland Wildlife Park

  1. I would love to visit there!
    But maybe I have. I remember as a little girl ( my family always took a caravan to Scotland) going to a wildlife park near Avimore. This would have been late seventies or early eighties. I remember seeing Snowy Owl, Pine Martin, Reindeer and Scottish Wild cat. I wonder if it could have been the same park, but maybe not as big then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like one and the same to me 🙂 There’s (to the best of my knowledge, at any rate!) only one wildlife park near Aviemore. I didn’t spot any snowy owls or pine martens on my visit, though, but I imagine a fair few exhibits have changed over the years. Thanks for sharing your memories of Highland Wildlife Park.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Highland Wildlife Park is chock-ful of unique species! Like Diana, I had a hard time finding the snow leopard in the second photo (and I couldn’t find the grey owl, either). Must’ve been a peaceful day after munro bagging (I actually had to Google this, as I didn’t know what it was)!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Some of the animals blend in so well against their surroundings. Took me a while to spot the owl when we were there – if you look to the left of the tree trunk, about halfway up, you’ll see it 🙂 Absolutely – it was so hot that week that it was extra nice to have a chilled day in the middle and a bit of shade!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Masters of disguise – the snow leopard blends in scarily well against the rock! In the second photo, if you look to the right of where the snow leopard was in the first photo (same ledge) you’ll spot it 🙂 There was a great mix of animals – something different, and a nice way to break up the trip!

      Liked by 1 person

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