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?
The shop is open from 10am for you to collect your pre-booked tickets, and remember that you must arrive at least 20 minutes before your Trip starts, to give you time to then head up to the meeting location. We recommend leaving yourself plenty of time to get here in case of slow traffic or a queue to collect tickets.
Can I pre-book for the Trip?
Yes, we highly recommend pre-booking for the Hill Trip, to minimise contact and avoid disappointment. It is often essential to pre-book in holiday seasons. You can do this by visiting our Hill Trip page here.
Why is there no availability on the website?!
Tickets are only released 30 days in advance, so if the date you are looking to book is in more than 30 days, you’ll have to wait to book it. Tickets are released to the exact hour 30 days ahead, e.g. at 11am for the 11am Hill Trip. If the date you want to book is in less than 30 days’ time and is not showing up on the website, unfortunately that means that it has already sold out. We don’t operate a wait list but sometimes have cancellations or are able to increase availability nearer the day depending on weather/staff etc, so keep checking back for potential tickets.
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 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.
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.
I don’t have a car – can I still come on the Hill Trip?
Unfortunately from February to April the car park may be over 3 miles away (and changes from day-to-day) so walking is NOT an option. From May to December, the car park we use is closer – a 1.6 mile walk uphill – so if you’re happy to walk to the meeting place along the road then this is possible. In this instance it is essential that you collect your tickets from the shop with an hour to spare to give yourselves time for the walk. Let us know that you’re walking and we’ll show you how to get there on the map.
Do you have toilets?
There are no toilets at the Reindeer Centre, but there are public toilets in the village at Loch Morlich beach, about 400m away (you will drive past this en route to us). These toilets are closed during winter so please use the public toilets at Cairngorm Mountain (3 miles beyond us) unless you are fancying a hot chocolate or food at one of the excellent cafes in Glenmore, who have toilets for customers only. Once up on the Hill Trip, there are no toilet facilities, so please “go before you go”.
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.
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 (Nov-Apr), but feel free to phone us to check. In cold conditions it’s essential that everyone is well equipped with warm clothing, waterproofs, a hat and gloves. If you’re not warmly enough dressed, we may have to turn you away for your own safety – hypothermia can be a very real risk here.
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 waterproof hiking shoes – as long as the grip is as good as a hiking boot’s). Please see our detailed footwear page here. Converse trainers, high heels and ‘fashion boots’ are NOT suitable, and we do not allow open sandals for health and safety reasons. We are unable to hire out wellies, so it is essential that you come prepared. 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!), and FULL waterproofs (both jacket and over-trousers) may be essential in winter. 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?
Please see our page showing examples of different terrain/conditions you may encounter throughout the year.
The difficulty of the walk varies throughout the year. From May to January 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. The distance, terrain and weather can make the Trip unsuitable for children at this time of year – we’d recommend visiting from May onwards instead.
Why do you not allow children under the age of 4 on Hill Trips from February – April?
From February to April, the Hill Trip generally involves a much steeper and trickier walk than the rest of the year, over difficult terrain (with no path) and in adverse weather conditions. Due to this we do not to take children under the age of 4 (including any in carriers), and recommend that families with children under the age of 12 would be better to visit from May – December, when conditions are more suitable. Please have a read of our blog – click here – for more explanation of our reasoning. In 2022 we introduced our ‘Herder Talks in the Paddocks’ during February and Easter holiday afternoons, allowing those who can’t take part in our Hill Trips due to the weather or difficult terrain, offering a personal introduction to the reindeer in the more sheltered conditions in the glen. Please click here to find out more.
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. With the current restrictions in place, our group sizes are smaller to allow space for social distancing, so one day we can have an intimate visit with just one family joining us, and on a day where the Hill Trip is full-booked we cater for around 50 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 and social distancing. 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 cuddle the reindeer?
While the reindeer look incredibly huggable, unfortunately for us they really appreciate their personal space and don’t like being petted and stroked. We really noticed during the 2020 restrictions, when we were completely hands-off, how much more relaxed the reindeer were around us, and as the happiness of our herd is our highest priority we intend to continue with a “no patting” policy. Apologies for any disappointment, but hopefully the knowledge that this is how the reindeer prefer it will be a consolation. It also means that the reindeer choose to spend more time in very close proximity to us (a few feet away), whereas in the past they would often get fed up of being petted and walk away.
Can I bring my dog?
Sadly 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, even assistance dogs. 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?
The Hill Trip involves a 20-30 minute walk along a rough track, including some rocky steps – there is no easier access than this unfortunately and it does mean that some people with mobility issues will be unable to join the Hill Trips. However, the Paddocks here at the Centre are wheelchair accessible, and are open from Easter to early January.
I’m a carer, how much do I pay?
If you’re accompanying a disabled person and your presence is required to enable that person to access our activities, then we’re happy to offer a complimentary ticket to you, and a concessionary rate for the person who is disabled. Please call us and we will book you in over the phone. It can be a grey area as everyone has a different level of ability and different needs, so please bear in mind we’re a small business, and only ask for a complimentary ticket where the need is genuine.
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 accept Blue Peter badges?
Unfortunately we’re no longer part of the Blue Peter Badge scheme.
Do you have special activities in holiday seasons?
We sometimes run additional seasonal activities in our Paddocks here at the Centre, with Herder talks in the February & Easter holidays and Christmas Fun on December weekends prior to Christmas. Please click through on those links for more information.
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.