Last updated on September 28th, 2020
The Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore, Highlands
Situated in the Cairngorms, the Highland Wildlife Park showcases many of the animal species that can be found in the mountains and wilderness areas of Scotland and the rest of the world.
Category: Animals, Park, Themed rides
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 9 out of 10
About The Highland Wildlife Park
Sitting in around 260 acres of beautifully managed parkland in the Cairngorms, the Highland Wildlife Park showcases some of the wildlife that can be found in the mountains and wilderness areas of Scotland, as well as several species that are currently endangered in mountainous regions all over the world.
Visitors get the chance to view wild animals like wolves, elk, bison, tigers and even polar bears in enclosures that perfectly replicate their natural habitats.
Starting in the main reserve you’ll drive through the various sections of the park in a highland safari before heading out into the walk-around areas to view animals in more ‘zoo-like’ pens, which makes a visit here a lot more interesting than the standard stomp-about-between-enclosures you get at other zoos.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland charity has been working to promote public awareness of the need for animal conservation since they were established all the way back in 1909 and just like Edinburgh Zoo they’ve done a fantastic job of presenting the animals in a way that’s both interesting and educational, with conservation an on-going theme throughout the park.
The Highland Wildlife Park is regarded as one of the premier tourist attractions in the Scottish Highlands, and with good reason. It offers a great family day out that’s a little bit different to a normal zoo yet it has a range of animals that’s just as diverse.
If you’re in the area and you’ve got kids then you owe it to both them and yourself to visit this attraction – it’s a genuinely brilliant day out.
Discover more attractions in my Guide to the Best Places to Visit in the Scottish Highlands.
Things to do at The Highland Wildlife Park
Because the park is affiliated with Edinburgh Zoo there are many species there that are on the endangered list, and the Highland Wildlife Park aims to safeguard the future of these animals as well as provide entertainment and education for visitors.
The enclosures have been specifically designed to replicate the habitats that exist in the wild and you can expect to see both tundra and mountain regions as you explore the attraction.
The highlight of any visit here has to be seeing the polar bears that roam freely inside their massive enclosure. Huge in size, these animals are a truly impressive sight and if you manage to time your visit right you might even be lucky enough to watch them being fed.
All I can say is you’ll be glad there’s a steel fence between you and the bears.
Incidentally, these are the only captive polar bears in the UK so if you’ve never seen one in real life the Highland Wildlife Park is the only place that will allow you to view these amazing animals up close.
The other prime attraction are the Amur tigers (otherwise known as Siberian tigers) that live near the polar bears. While these big cats aren’t as large as the bears they’re equally impressive which is probably why there was a near-constant crowd around them when I visited.
The breeding pair have successfully raised one litter which is great news seeing as there are only 450 left remaining in the wild, so let’s hope they manage to raise more cubs in the future.
The drive through the main reserve doesn’t actually take much time but you can stop to take photos as much as you like depending on the queue of traffic in front and behind you and you’ll more than likely get some great shots of the bison, elk, and deer that roam around the enclosures.
The walk-around area is about the same size but you’ll spend a lot longer there as you’re on foot, plus this is the section where the majority of the animals live.
You’ll have loads of animal-spotting opportunities as you walk along the paths and there are regular keeper talks and shows throughout the day so you can get an expert’s view of what it’s like looking after all these animals.
The facilities are pretty good although not quite in the same class as Edinburgh Zoo but even so there’s a gift and souvenir shop, coffee shops (with a selection of really, really good cakes) and ice cream kiosks so you can have a good munch before heading back home.
It’s not just the wildlife park that draws thousands of visitors to this part of Scotland though, because it’s located in one of the prettiest regions of the country.
The Cairngorms are an area of outstanding natural beauty that offer a huge number of activities to tourists and there are enough walking trails that you could easily spend your entire holiday there.
In fact, after a day at the park you might even be inspired to take a detour onto some of the back roads and look for some Highland wildlife yourself.
All in all I think a visit to this attraction makes a great day out, and while I wish the tickets were a bit cheaper there’s no denying you’ll enjoy your visit.
- The Highland Wildlife Park is one of the few places you’ll ever see polar bears running semi-free. They’re absolutely enormous and worth the price of admission alone.
- There are lots of animals to view in the safari as well as the indoor areas. The fact the safari plays such a big part in the experience means it doesn’t really matter if you visit when it’s raining. Unless you’ve got a convertible and the roof gets stuck I suppose…
- The visitor facilities are excellent with more cuddly polar bear gift shops and sticky sweet shops than your kids will be able to handle.
- Save time at the entrance by buying your tickets in advance online.
- The park holds regular talks about their animals throughout the day. I found it really useful to check their website on my phone to see which talks were coming up next.
- If you’d like to get into the great outdoors after a visit to the Highland Wildlife Park I recommend heading north and visiting Loch Morlich and Cairngorm mountain.
Photos and video
Address and map
The Highland Wildlife Park is 7 miles south of Aviemore. Travelling north on the A9 (Inverness), turn off for Kingussie / Kincraig, and follow the B9152 north.
Travelling south on the A9 (Perth), turn off south of Aviemore for Kincraig and follow the B9152 through Kincraig to the Park.
The Park is open every day of the year except the 25th of December.
|April to September||10 am to 6 pm|
|October and March||10 am to 5 pm|
|November to February||10 am to 4 pm|
Getting there: Car park on-site
Getting around: Disabled access, Easy-access paths, Pushchair access
On-site conveniences: Gift shop, Hot drinks, Picnic area, Restaurant or cafe, Snacks, Toilets