“When the mountains call, I must go” – John Muir
The quote adorns the walls of Highland Safaris and perfectly sums up not only how I feel about the wilderness, but how powerful the pull of wild can be. I have always been someone who is much happier outdoors; whether that is in my garden or out in the breathtaking scenery of Mull. There is something that can only be found when you are in the middle of nowhere – yourself.
On Saturday, we were lucky enough to get our little bit of peace as we journeyed 3,000 feet up to witness the spectacular Scottish scenery. We had been invited to try the Landrover Safari and Red Deer Centre near Aberfeldy. I must start by saying this area is my favourite part of Scotland. It is easy to love. Rich in both history and wildlife, it has an absolute sense of magic to it. Perhaps it is the legends that surround Fortingall or just the stunning scenery; whatever it is, I cannot recommend visiting enough.
The Landrover Safari
We arrived early at 9.30am, greeted warmly by reception staff and our guide for the day, George. He told us a bit about the tour we would be completing that morning; almost 3 hours of off-road travel climbing 3,000ft with a wee treat at the top.
Beginning our journey by seeing where the Beavers lived (highlight of my trip), I finally saw my first dam and just how effective those teeth are at destroying trees and branches in no time at all. George the Guide, however, wasn’t quite so thrilled that they had moved in and you can see why given the devastation they have caused in such a short time. I apologised on behalf of my namesake.
On we went, whilst he regaled us with his own backstory (fascinating), how much he adored his job (equally fascinating) and shared his wealth of knowledge and love of the local area. He was so friendly, likeable and the perfect Guide.
In no time at all, we entered a secure track which would take us to the most stunning of vantage points. We learned a bit about the mines that covered the area before heading up a steep road explore parts of the country many don’t get to see.
It is important to note, that when you attempt to go up a mountain (by foot or Landrover), you MUST wrap up. And by wrap up, I mean with proper attire.
There are a few things a bracing wind at 3,000ft is good for:
- Clearing a hangover
- Clearing your mind
- Clearing your lungs of air
- Clearing your body of its senses
I have to say, for once I was wrapped up pretty well but at around minus eight to ten you can’t help to have your breath taken away by the cold… and views. I thought back to the times I saw tourists beginning their climb of Ben Nevis in t-shirts. Eedjits.
I have seen many beautiful things in my life but the view of Scotland from the top of that mountain is one of the best. We were able to see from the Islands, through Ben Nevis, Schiehallion and all the way round to the Cairngorms and Dundee. It really shows you how small but majestic Scotland is.
On the way to the Summit, we were lucky enough to see a gorgeous red grouse and his two wee lady pals. Whilst wildlife spotting is a huge part of the Highland Safaris trip, if I am honest not much could have beaten the view – even an eagle or two.
The best part of the trip, however, was sharing the moment at the top with a couple we had just met and George. We escaped into the warmth of a bothy to enjoy whisky and tea (delicious) and shared a bit about each other. There was something quite special about enjoying our country from the sky with people we barely knew.
Following our refreshments and a brisk walk to what felt like the top of the world, we made our way back down the stunning mountain road. We were shown the geographical centre of Scotland, heard about local life (and how fun it is) and continued to marvel at how gorgeous our lovely country is.
The Highland Safaris Cafe
Back down on earth, we said goodbye to our new found friends and made our way for some welcome lunch at the Highland Safaris cafe. You know when a menu just has everything you like? This was the case here. The range was unique and impressive and all locally sourced – something they absolutely pride themselves on. For those not looking for adventure, it provides a perfect and delicious spot to bring family, children or friends.
Phil opted for the BLT and I went for my trusted ham and Lockerbie cheese panini – there is no amount of cold that cannot be warmed by melted cheese. The atmosphere was lovely, aided by the warming stove. The staff could not have been more helpful and whether you want to try a safari or not, it is simply a lovely place to come for a spot of lunch.
The Red Deer Centre
But we couldn’t sit about stuffing our faces. We had some friends to meet. We spent the afternoon visiting our deer chums in the Red Deer Centre and I couldn’t have been happier.
Did you know stags shed their antlers every year? I didn’t. I also didn’t know that they were able to regrow them so quickly – an absolute marvel. Donald spent around 15 minutes carefully educating us on the animals, their habitat and the Centre itself; both children and adults were enthralled.
The Red Deer at Highland Safaris live in idyllic peace. Whilst their relatives outside the Centre might not be so lucky, these deer are loved and live like royalty. With huge expanses of fields, they live their contented days with welcome visits from guests. They bounded over at feeding time, gobbling up tine grass pellets we offered them and loved the attention.
One stag in particular took a shine to me – Rua. He was absolutely gorgeous and clearly ruled the roost. No wonder, given his good looks and charm. I knew he was using me to get to his food but was quite pleased he liked me best (probably not true).
The last delight on our tour was to meet Ossian, the 5 year old Barn Owl who must be my spirit animal. She was a bit of a diva, affectionate and beautiful (see?). She did have an important role to play, however, and that is in educating us on the plight of the Barn Owl. In the past 30 years, the species have declined by 70% due to roads, rubbish and human interference.
It was at this point I realised that the Highland Safari experience is more than just fun. They are doing their bit to protect their nearby animal friends, educating the public in how we can help and giving back to the community and our country in a huge way. They pride themselves on offering sustainable tourism, present in everything they offer. This is something each of us should absolutely support.
When the mountains call, we should go. We should help to protect our country, to give back as much as it has given us and to allow us to continue to enjoy it. Highland Safaris are certainly doing their bit, and it is easy to support them whilst having such fun.
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