Chris is great at finding animal related surprises for me on our road trips. Back in March, during our 4 week trip around Scotland, he found a total gem in Kingussie – Highland Wildlife Park. Home to over 200 animals, some native to Scotland and others from around the world, the Park is owned by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS). Their core aim is to encourage and support the study of zoology by making wildlife more accessible, so people can understand and value it and therefore learn how to help protect it. As animal lovers, we expected to be wowed by the huge range of animals during our visit, and we were! But we also left with a great appreciation for what the Park aims to achieve. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your visit:

Where is it?

Highland Wildlife Park is situated in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, with the nearest train station in Kingussie – four miles away. It’s also possible to arrive by bus, but we arrived in our van so we could enjoy the drive-through main reserve! (More on that below) For up to date information about arriving by public transport, check out the Highland Wildlife Park website. If you’re arriving by car, see the map below.

What animals are there at Highland Wildlife Park?

Highland Wildlife Park spans over 100 hectares and is home to more than 200 animals! As you arrive you’ll pass the yaks and Bactrian camel – both enormous and very impressive! In the walk-around area you’ll find everything from snow monkeys, lynx and European forest reindeer, to Scottish wildcats, Great grey owls and Amur tigers! The highlights for us were seeing the polar bears playing with toys, the European grey wolves running in their pack, the snow leopards with their 3 adorable cubs and the colourful Himalayan monal – also know as the Impeyan pheasant. We also made it to the Arctic fox enclosure just as a keeper was giving them a meal, so we got to see them up close and talk with the keeper to learn more about the foxes’ personalities! It’s worth checking the chalk boards at the cafe when you arrive for the times of daily rangers talks and feeds happening during your visit.

If you’re arriving by car you’ll be able to drive through the main reserve and see Przewalski’s horse, red deer, European elk, Bukhara deer and European bison. You can drive through the main reserve as many times as you like, and we chose to do so once at the beginning of our visit and again at the end of our visit to see as many of the animals as possible. On our second drive through, we spent a little more time than anticipated as the European bison blocked the road with their young! We didn’t mind though – this meant we got to see them up close which was an incredible experience.

How long does it take to see everything?

Our visit to the Highland Wildlife Park took around 4 hours – this includes two drives through the main reserve, and exploring every corner of the Park in the walk-around area. There were a few enclosures we visited where we initially didn’t manage to see the animals, so we visited those again later in the day in order to see them – the only animal we didn’t manage to spot were the elusive wolverines! If making sure you see every animal is high priority, you’ll want to allow time to walk around the Park more than once as each animal is active at different times. Even though the enclosures are relatively close together, it can still take time to see everything, and enclosures such as the polar bears and the yaks take slightly longer to walk to from the central area.

Thankfully, the Park is mostly made up of flat pathways which makes it easy to get around, though some are slightly sloping. You’ll find ample seating space around the Park where you can sit and enjoy the views, or just have a rest! There’s also indoor and outdoor seating at the cafe, which overlooks the snow monkey enclosure, though we chose to enjoy our lunch after leaving the Park. If you’re planning to eat here you’ll need to allow more time for your visit.

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What should I bring to the Highland Wildlife Park?

It should go without saying that the weather in Scotland can be unpredictable! We were very lucky during our visit that we had an overcast day, but no rain, which meant the animals were happy to roam around in their enclosures instead of hiding away. As most of the Park is outdoors it’s essential to wear appropriate clothing – think about bringing a raincoat if it’s looking wet, or suncream if it’s looking like a hot, sunny day! You’ll want to wear comfortable shoes too, as you’ll be on foot for the majority of your visit.

While there are cafes and local food vendors onsite, the Park are happy for visitors to bring their own food, so you might consider bringing a picnic to eat while watching animals in a nearby enclosure!

You might also consider bringing a camera if you have one (unless you don’t mind filling up your phone with photos – trust us, it’ll happen!) as a lot of the enclosures are wide open, and you can enjoy uninterrupted views of the animals without chainlink fences or glass in the way.

Do you have to pre-book tickets?

Unless you are an RZSS member, you must book your tickets in advance online. This hasn’t always been the case – we believe it’s a leftover Covid-related measure – but either way, you’ll receive a discount by booking tickets in advance! We’d recommend choosing the earliest time slow available when you book your tickets, as with any attraction the Park will become busier as the day goes on. The earlier you arrive, the less people you have to peer around to see animals at each enclosure!

Is the Highland Wildlife Park worth visiting?

In a word – yes! Even though we had to pay for entry as non-members, we didn’t mind doing so as we know the cost of our tickets goes towards supporting the animals and furthering the public’s education about endangered species. It’s a great family-friendly day out, with play areas and activities for children, enough variety of animals to keep all ages entertained and an easy-to-move-around layout for older generations. Taking the time to see all the animals is well worth it, and a visit to the gift shop, bursting with all kinds of treasures, is a great way to end your day and pick up a souvenir to support the Park!

We were astounded at the array of beautiful, rare and endangered animals in the Park, some of which we’d never seen with our own eyes despite spending our entire relationship to date visiting as many wildlife parks as we can! The enclosures are well-designed to give the animals space to hide away or roam as they please, and we felt they were truly being well cared for. We’d highly recommend a visit here when you’re in the Cairngorms.

Our top tips for your visit:

  • Arrive early. Choose the earliest time slot when booking your tickets to enjoy the Park with the fewest visitors and tour groups – it’s worth it!
  • Visit enclosures multiple times. We missed some animals first time around as each animal is active at different times. Only when we re-visited some enclosures later in the day did we manage to catch animals like the lynx and European elk.
  • Check the weather. If you have a choice of when to visit the Park, consider the weather as some animals may hide away in rain or snow.
  • Check the Park’s website for current animal activity. The Highland Wildlife Park website not only updates visitors when new babies arrive (like the 3 snow leopard cubs we saw!) but it also lets visitors know when certain animals won’t be on display. During our visit, the Red pandas were being housed in Edinburgh Zoo while construction work took place in the Park. If there’s a certain animal you’re hoping to see, check the website first to avoid disappointment.

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