Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve put together some answers to common questions we’re asked below, but if you have any further queries please just get in touch.
What time should I arrive for the Hill Trip?
We recommend arriving as early as possible to allow yourself time to buy tickets. In school holidays and at weekends we can be extremely busy and often have to limit numbers (see below) so please arrive early to avoid disappointment. At peak times we recommend you are in the queue before we open. The shop is open from 10am.
Can I pre-book for the Trip?
Whilst we usually have plenty of space to take everyone who would like to join the Trip, in the last few years there’s been a real surge of visitors to the Cairngorms, meaning that on occasion we get an overwhelming number of visitors turn up for a particular Trip. For safety, practicality and enjoyment reasons this means we have a limit on numbers – tickets are first come, first served for each Trip. We’re open from 10am, so please do arrive early to give yourself the best chance of getting tickets – at busy times this means being here before we open to get in the queue. We don’t take pre-bookings before the day – we have thought long and hard about this, but unfortunately the unpredictability of the mountain environment and the reindeer themselves means it’s just not a viable option for our business.
Why can’t you just run more frequent Trips?
We do our best to run more than one Trip at busy times of the year, to allow everyone to come and see the reindeer. Unfortunately though, there are seasons when we can’t do this. In the winter months, the daylight hours are too short, and when the reindeer are free-ranging we can only reliably place them in a suitable location for a short period of time. When we’re busy with the reindeer (i.e. during calving) this can limit the number of available herders – care of our animals comes first. Reindeer are living breathing creatures who have a limit to their patience, and we try to be fair to them and not inundate them with visitors – they need their quiet time too!
I have a large group who would like to meet the reindeer?
We can sometimes run private Hill Trips for organised tour groups of 15 people or more. These need to be pre-booked – please drop us a line as far in advance as possible as it requires us rota-ing on extra staff. We can only do extra Trips at certain times of day and not during the months of November – April.
If we can’t organise a private Hill Trip, we can usually arrange to do a talk in the Paddocks here at the Centre – again, this does need to be pre-booked and the minimum group size is 15 people.
What’s your postcode?
Please don’t use a sat-nav to find us – postcodes in Scotland cover vast areas and many sat-navs will take you to the centre of the area (which is not where we are!). Directions can be found here.
Where do I park?
When you arrive in Glenmore Village, please use the signed parking bays along the main road (don’t turn left up the hill to the Centre!). We only have extremely limited disabled parking outside the shop itself.
Will I definitely see reindeer on the Hill Trip?
Yes! For most of the year, the Trips go to our hill enclosure, so we know that the reindeer will be there, and in winter, when we visit the free-ranging herd, we have good systems in place to ensure they will be where we expect. There are only a handful of occasions in our history when the reindeer haven’t been there for the Trip, in which case, of course, we’ll give you a full refund.
Can I bring carrots for the reindeer?
Unfortunately, our reindeer don’t eat carrots, preferring their natural diet of heather, sedges, lichens, blaeberry and birch. We also feed them a carefully balanced cereal-based supplementary feed, so they’re very well fed. As arctic animals, they simply don’t recognise carrots as food, as they don’t grow in their natural habitat. You are, however, extremely welcome to bring cake, chocolate or crisps for us herders, we definitely have a sweet tooth!
How long does the Hill Trip last?
Anywhere from 1.5 – 2 hours. We guide you up to the reindeer, teach you all about them and feed the herd, then you have the flexibility to leave in your own time (within reason!).
It’s raining – will the Hill Trip still be on?
Yes – if we cancelled the Hill Trip every time it rained, we’d hardly ever go! Please make sure you are appropriately dressed for the weather conditions. In extreme wind or snow, it is possible that the Trip may be cancelled for safety reasons – this usually only happens in the winter months, but feel free to phone us to check.
What should I wear for the Hill Trip?
The Hill Trip leads you into the reindeer’s habitat on the open mountainside. If it’s cold or wet, you’ll be very exposed, so please bring more layers than you expect to need. It is often muddy (with added reindeer poo!) so walking boots or wellies are ideal, or in summer you can wear trainers that you don’t mind getting dirty. High heels and fashion boots are NOT suitable, and we do not allow open sandals for health and safety reasons. We hire out wellies for £1/pair. In winter, gloves and a hat are essential – remember you’re going into a sub-arctic environment. A waterproof jacket is advisable at any time of the year (it is Scotland, after all!). Between June and October, on still days, it is highly recommended to wear insect repellent as the famous Scottish midges can be unpleasant.
How difficult is the walk on the Hill Trip?
The difficulty of the walk varies throughout the year. From May to December the walk involves a 20+ minute walk in each direction along a narrow mountain path, including some rocky steps, down into a valley then back up the other side. Most people manage the walk fine but if you are unsteady on your feet or have difficulty with slopes you might not be comfortable with the walk.
From February to April, the walk can be more extreme, with steeper longer hills, often on snow or ice, and may involve up to 45 minutes of walking in each direction. This can vary from day to day so if you have concerns it is a good plan to call/email us the day before you plan to visit and we can update you on the likely walk.
How big will the group on the Hill Trip be?
The size of the group on the Hill Trip varies day to day depending on many factors including the weather and school holidays. One day we can have an intimate visit with just one family joining us, and in peak holiday season we occasionally cater for around 100 people. We do limit our group size to make sure there are enough staff to be able to manage the group safely, that there are enough reindeer for everyone to have an interactive experience, and also on a practical level so that there is enough space for parking. The mountainside is huge once out with the reindeer so there is ample space for everyone to move around, find “their” reindeer and get some unique photos.
Can we just go up and see the herd ourselves?
Sadly not, whilst reindeer are generally friendly, they are still animals and hence it is necessary to have an experienced guide with you to make sure everyone (both humans and animals) stays safe. We also want them to have their “downtime” when they can relax without human company. There is always the chance that you may see the free-ranging herd whilst walking in the mountains, but they roam a vast area so don’t be too hopeful.
Can I bring my dog?
Unfortunately dogs make reindeer very nervous, as they closely resemble wolves, their natural predator. For this reason, we can’t allow any dogs to join us on the Hill Trip or in the Paddocks. If several of you are visiting the Paddocks, you’re welcome to take turns going in whilst someone holds the dog outside. Dogs are welcome in the shop (especially puppies or particularly cute hounds!).
Do you have disabled access?
Our paddocks are wheelchair accessible, and there is disabled parking available outside the shop. Please ask if you would like us to put the ramp in place for you to access the shop. The Hill Trip involves a 20+ minute walk along a rough track, including some rocky steps – there is no easier access than this unfortunately. If you’re unable to make it up the hill, it is still possible to see reindeer in the paddocks from Easter onwards, and if you make us aware that one of your party is disabled we will endeavour to come round to introduce you to them personally.
I adopt a member of the herd and am coming to visit. Will I see ‘my’ reindeer?
It depends. With the herd spending time in different places throughout the year, it isn’t always possible to get you and ‘your’ reindeer in the same place, but if you drop us an email a week or so before your visit we’ll let you know your chances, and will arrange it if possible. In general, it isn’t possible to see the male reindeer between January and May, as they are free-ranging on the Cromdale mountains which aren’t accessible to the public, and the females can’t be seen between late May and September, as they are high up on the Cairngorm free-range. However, this varies with lots of other factors too! So the best thing is to get in touch with us prior to your visit, and hopefully even if you can’t see ‘your’ reindeer, you’ll enjoy meeting all of their friends and relatives.
Do you have special activities in holiday seasons?
In July and August we run ‘Summer Fun’ with extra crafting activities and Herder talks throughout the day, giving you an insight into the characters and adaptations of the wonderful reindeer in our herd.
We also have ‘Christmas Fun’ here at the Paddocks and Exhibition, which runs every weekend in December up until Christmas, and also the last few week days before the big day itself. There are extra crafting activities, a fun quiz and a great festive vibe! Santa himself is also here to see who’s been naughty or nice. No need to book, just come and join the fun – open 10am till 5pm.
Can we book a sleigh ride?
Whilst our big adult males are trained to pull a sleigh (on wheels), we only do public appearances, so unfortunately we can’t offer personal sleigh rides. To be honest, our boys are far too lazy and spoilt, and would be very unimpressed if we asked them to walk back and forth for a long period pulling a sleigh. Our priority is to keep them happy!
Can I buy a reindeer?
We don’t sell any of our reindeer – every member of our herd will live out their life with us here in the Cairngorms. This is because reindeer are very poorly suited to a fully captive environment, and without space to roam in their natural environment and climate, they struggle to stay healthy. The Cairngorms are now the only place in the UK which offers a sub-arctic ecosystem, and we are unwilling to sell our animals into an unsuitable life in a field in warmer climes elsewhere in the UK. Grass is far too rich for their stomachs, their hooves become overgrown as they can’t wear them down, and the warm climate creates problems with antler growth. They are also a herd animal who tend to become stressed if kept alone or in pairs. We receive phone calls on a regular basis from smallholders who have bought a couple of reindeer from a dealer and already had one die – please, please do your research first if you are considering buying reindeer, and don’t put your money into supporting an industry which is causing many reindeer to be imported from a natural lifestyle in Scandinavia to suffer and die in the UK.
Rudolph lives at the North Pole with Santa, helping him to organise Christmas every year. He sometimes pops by to check that all of his relations here are doing well.