The Scottish reindeer at Cairngorms National Park
Last weekend I had the incredible pleasure of exploring the Cairngorms National Park and meeting the reindeer herd, roaming around the Cairngorm mountains.
Reindeer were reintroduced here in Scotland in 1952 by Mikel Utsi from Sweden, a Lapland native. A couple of thousand years ago reindeer used to live in the Scottish highlands but became extinct. Utsi who saw similarities between the climate of Cairngorms and Lapland decided to bring the reindeer back to Scotland.
The Scottish reindeer are very friendly animals – and if you have some food for them you will be able to give them some strokes. They quite quickly lose interest in interactions with humans when the food is gone though. What is more, they are also incredibly photogenic creatures and great models – I was lucky enough to get the best possible light on a Sunday afternoon and I was very pleased with how the photographs came out. The combination of moody weather, a bit of sunshine, rainbows, rain and clouds – plus a furry reindeer herd looked really amazing in front of the camera.
Reindeers don’t have wet noses like other animals – their noses are actually furry which keeps them warm.
They have a different summer coat and a different winter coat. The winter ones are almost white and much thicker whereas the summer ones are much darker and shorter.
Reindeer are the only deer species in which both the males and the females have antlers. The reindeer lose them at the end of every summer and grow them back again every year.
Reindeer love the cold and are able to survive extremely low temperatures, down to minus 72 degrees Celsius (!). What protects them from the cold are their thick fur coats.
Their favourite food is lichen (cladonia rangiferina) which is a type of algae and fungi. It grows in both hot and cold climates and was primarily found in the alpine tundra areas. It also tends to be called reindeer/deer moss or and caribou moss, but it is not really a moss.
Cairngorms Reindeer Centre – visit the reindeer
Each one of the Scottish reindeers have a name and the owners remember the name of each one of them! How awesome is that?
Winter visits take place every day at 11am – the reindeer herders will take you to the herd and will give you some very interesting information and facts about these furry creatures. You will get the chance to feed them and stoke them. The walks up the mountains take around 30-45 minutes, depending on the weather conditions. Last Sunday it was extremely windy and the weather was changing every five minutes so it took us around 40 minutes to find the herd. Walk back down to the car park was quite time-consuming as well (especially for clumsy me) as I was trying not to slip on the wet, muddy moors and rocks.
A tip – wear something warm, comfy and waterproof when you come to visit the reindeer, otherwise you will spend the rest of your trip freezing and with wet feet. (I eventually tried to buy some proper hiking boots at the weekend before the trip but I haven’t found anything I particularly liked!).
Reindeer are really wonderful furry creatures and the Reindeer Centre is definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re an animal-lover or a photographer. And the location is the dream too, the Cairngorms National Park offers incredible colours and infinite number of breathtaking landscapes.
Can’t get enough of the reindeer? You will find some more photographs and videos on my InstaStories.