Last weekend I took my brother, his wife and my niece and nephew to see the Cairngorm Reindeers at the Cairngorm National Park near Aviemore. They were staying with me for a short holiday during the kids half term break and I thought it would be a nice idea especially as Christmas is not far off. If I’m really honest I wanted to go myself as guests recently went there and told me how great the experience was. I’ve been up here in the Highlands for nearly eight years but have never had the time for a visit before.
If you’re visiting the Highlands I really recommend going to see the reindeers and they’re nothing like I imagined they’d be. I assumed they’d behave like horses or deers but they behave more like dogs. They’re really friendly and quite greedy and cheeky. When they see or think you have food they nudge you and sniff your hands a pockets and you can see they all have their individual characters.
You go to the Reindeer Centre which is on the road from Aviemore to the Cairngorm Mountain and purchase tickets as well as hiring wellie boots is required. You then wait in your car outside until the reindeer van drives past sounding its horn and you follow the guide along the road for a couple of minutes as it leads to the Sugar Bowl Car Park. Once everyone is ready the guide leads you on foot for a short trek across the road, down to the river and then up the side of the hill. The trek only takes about 10 minutes and the guide stops by the river to give information about the reindeers and the person the re-introduced them to Scotland. The trek is pretty simple as steps have been created so it’s suitable for any ages. One thing to note is that you really need to wrap up warm. It was sunny but fresh when we were there and although we didn’t feel cold down in the car park it was considerably colder up on the mountain in the exposed enclosure. Plenty of layers, a good coat, plus hat and scarf are well worth taking as you stand still for a while.
The guide takes everyone across the field where you get the chance to touch and feed the reindeer. As soon as you’re given a handful of feed the reindeers make a move on your hands. They are so gentle when they take the food as unlike horses they don’t use their teeth they use their lips. When your hands are empty you hold them up and when the reindeer sees you’ve got nothing left they move away to someone else. Something that was really surprising was their fur – you assume it’s going to quite coarse but it’s not at all and feels so soft.
We all agreed that seeing and feeding the reindeers was a brilliant experience. Every year at Christmas we all see reindeers on greetings cards, or wrapping paper or on the TV but so many people have never seen or touched a real one.
There are daily visits to see the reindeer herd at 11:00am and in summer they also have an afternoon visit at 2:30pm.
The Reindeer Herd visitor centre location and contact information is:
Reindeer House, Glenmore, Aviemore, Inverness-shire PH22 1QU, Scotland.
Telelphone Number: 01479 861228