Scotland’s Reindeer

cairngorm reindeer scotland

No doubt you know of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. Likely you’ve come across — even told — tales of Donner and Blitzen. But Springbok, Jara, Macaroon — and Elvis? These are reindeer names too. These reindeer live in the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland and you can visit them.

The Cairngorm reindeer herd live in the Cairngorm Mountains and the Cromdale Hills, about six miles south of Aviemore in the eastern Highlands. The herd, which generally has between one hundred and one hundred fifty deer, represent the dream of reindeer herdsman Mike Utsi, from Sweden. Back in 1952, he and his wife Doctor Ethel Lindgren had the idea that reindeer would flourish in the Highlands, and after research and working out breeding types and working through red tape and environmental considerations, they made this dream come true. Cared for by herders, today the deer, descended from a mix of Swedish, Norwegian, and Russian breeds, live freely in their natural habitat out on the mountains.

If you have seen reindeer in Christmas parades in the UK they very likely came from the Cairngorm herd. The herd’s headquarters are decorated up for Christmas and there are special events for children to enjoy at this time of year, too — but you do not have to be a child, or wait for Christmas, to greet Scotland’s reindeer in person.

You can arrange in any season, weather permitting, to go out on the mountain with the herders on scheduled trips to see the deer, and in summer, you may be able to go for a half day trek leading a deer across the landscape. Whatever time of year you stop by, though, there will be friendly reindeer in the paddock, so that visitors of all ages and abilities may meet up with them.

There’s a cafe, and a gift shop with all things reindeer, too. There’s an online shop with books and films as well. Through the shop, living in Scotland or not, you may choose to adopt a deer if you’d like. At present, the cost to do this is thirty seven GBP per year. Could make in unexpected holiday gift…

Cairngorm Reindeer Scotland

Aviemore, the nearest town of size to the herd’s headquarters, is a hub of winter and summer sport in Scotland and so is well served by roadways and transport links. Inverness lies an hour or less to the north, Edinburgh and Glasgow three or so hours to the south, so meeting the reindeer in person is a reasonable drive from many places in Scotland. It is a journey you might easily combine with a trip to several of Scotland’s holiday markets.

Care for a soundtrack for your journey to see the deer? Nicola Benedetti’s recording Homecoming: A Scottish Fantasy is one that works well for me with travels through the Cairngorm Mountains.

Photographs by and courtesy of Alice at GeographUK and The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd.

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