10 great wildlife parks and petting farms to check out to keep the kids happy over summer


With summer not far off, thoughts will soon be turning to the best ways to entertain the family over the holidays as the warmer weather arrives.

Getting outside to enjoy the sunshine and rediscovering our love of nature has been two of the only benefits of the pandemic and what better way to explore than by getting up close and personal with some exciting wildlife.

Thankfully, Scotland has a vast array of excellent petting farms, zoos and wildlife centres, that are ideal for helping curious children learn more about the natural world around them.

From getting up and close with farm animals to learning more about exotic species, here are some of the best wildlife parks and petting farms to check out to keep the kids happy over summer.

This week’s top Scotland Now stories

Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie



Little Brodie is the UK’s youngest polar bear

This unique wildlife park near Kingussie is a great place for wee ones to discover some incredible sights they won’t be able to see anywhere else.

Recently three rare Amur tiger cubs were born at the park, while other residents like elusive snow leopards, cuddly polar bears and fascinating wolverines are all sure to wow.

The park is also home to Scotland’s rarest native creature, the Scottish Wildcat and you can learn all about plans to save this endangered species.

Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick

Combine a seaside trip with a visit to this excellent educational center in the picturesque town of North Berwick, where you’ll find interactive live cameras which can be used to explore the nearby gannet and puffin colonies on Bass Rock.

Afterwards, you can relax and enjoy the view from the Seabird Café, buy gifts from the shop, or if you are feeling extra adventurous, book one of their exciting seasonal boat trips.

LOVE Gorgie Farm, Edinburgh



Ziggy and Stardust
You’ll find plenty of cute animals like Ziggy and Stardust

This welcoming urban farm can be found right in the heart of the capital and is free for visitors.

You don’t need to book in advance, but the staff will be monitoring numbers in line with their space and capacity and government guidelines on social distancing.

You’ll find plenty of cute animals, a playpark, and even the chance to enjoy fun events like alpaca trekking.

Camperdown Wildlife Centre, Dundee

Those enjoying a trip to the City of Discovery can also enjoy a visit to the nearby Camperdown Wildlife Centre, this great value park has plenty of animals to spot including marmosets, lemurs, Golden Eagles, and of course the beautiful lilac-breasted roller.

Five Sisters Zoo, West Lothian



Adorable red panda Rufio will be arriving at the zoo soon
Adorable red panda Rufio is one of the Five Sister’s top attractions

Recent arrival Rufio is the star attraction here, you can view him in his specially built enclosure.

What was originally just a garden center with a small collection of rabbits, guinea pigs, goats, and pigs, has grown into one of Scotland’s top zoos, which offers homes to rescued animals following lives performing in traveling circuses.

Now home to over 180 different species, there are daily keeper talks, lemur feeds, animal encounters, and a large outdoor play.

SEALIFE, Loch Lomond



The otter family is one of the fun attractions at Sea Life Loch Lomond
The otter family is one of the fun attractions at Sea Life Loch Lomond

Found at the picturesque Loch Lomond Shores, which is a fun day out in its own right, SEALIFE offers all the fun of a top aquarium with over 1500 species of underwater creatures waiting to be discovered.

Featuring interactive Rockpool Experiences, a Tropical Ocean Tunnel and of course, their cheeky Asian Short Clawed otter trio named Lily, Pickle and Cub, it’s a magical way to discover a whole new variety of wildlife.

Scottish Deer Center



The Scottish Deer Center is a great place to learn about this wonderful animal
The Scottish Deer Center is a great place to learn about this wonderful animal

Though their 12 species of deer are the stars of the show, with reindeer, sika deer and the enigmatic Reeves Muntjac Deer just some of the herds you’ll find, the center is also home to many other exciting creatures.

You’ll find animals long lost from the Scottish countryside including the Lynx and the European Brown Bear as well as a wonderful array of Birds of Prey at their Raptor Centre.

If that’s not enough to keep even the fussiest kid enrapt, then there’s also a treetop walk and go-kart track for an added element of fun.

Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh



Yang Guang the Giant panda at Edinburgh Zoo.
Yang Guang the Giant panda at Edinburgh Zoo.

Opened in 1913, Edinburgh Zoo has been a Mecca for generations of animal-mad Scottish schoolkids. Set up on an 83-acre site on Corstophine Hill in the capital, the zoo was one of the first to have an open design rather than steel cages. The zoo has been home to a plethora of animals in the century since, none more popular than the penguins whose daily parade is a highlight.

Blair Drummond Safari Park, Stirling

Located near to Stirling, Blair Drummond has been a family favorite for decades.

Open seven days a week, the safari drive-thru is a fun way to see some wonderful animals including cheeky monkeys and majestic giraffes.

Oh, and did we mention the prehistoric forest (with actual dinosaurs) and giant outdoor play area?

Cairngorm Reindeer Herd, Aviemore



Reindeer gather around herder Anna Jemmett, from the Glenmore Reindeer Centre, to eat lichen from her hands
Reindeer gather around herder Anna Jemmett, from the Glenmore Reindeer Centre, to eat lichen from her hands

It might not be Christmas but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy these wonderful animals and a trip to the Cairngorm mountains is only made better by being able to get up close and personal with Britain’s only free-ranging herd of reindeer.

With 150 of these beautiful animals, daily herder talks and the chance to get up and close with the herd – be warned you will need to book in advance.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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