Monday, 13 February 2017

The Perfect Place to Propose…
It’s the moment that you have dreamed of, playing ideas out in your head since the day you decided it was forever. You’ve picked the ring and you know what you want to say – but have you found the perfect location to ask the biggest question of your life?
Make that magical moment even more memorable by popping the question in the breathtaking surroundings of Highland Safaris.
Based in Aberfeldy, Perthshire, and set amongst thousands of acres of sprawling Scottish Highlands, you and your loved one will feel like the only two people in the world at Highland Safaris. Experience a private tour, enchanting sunsets, the perfect backdrop to the biggest moment of your lives to date, or just take in the captivating natural scenery surrounding you both. And whether you choose the cosy and romantic Hilltop Bothy, hidden away off the beaten track and only reached by Land Rover, or out in the heart of the rugged landscape, it will be a moment neither of you ever forget.

However you choose to pop the question this Valentine’s Day, Highland Safaris has a location that will capture your partner’s heart. It is also home to unique marquee and bothy locations for the big day itself, so you can revisit the place you created some of your most precious memories for years to come.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

The red fox - top tips to spot wild foxes in Scotland


By Donald Riddell, Director, Highland Safaris

Now that we are into February the days are getting noticeably longer and lighter, which offers more opportunity to spend in the great Scottish outdoors. Wildlife watching is always hugely popular with visitors to Highland Safaris, whether they are out on bikes, on a Land Rover trip or simply walking one of our many trails. And one of the most popular creatures to look out for is the red fox, so here are our wildlife rangers’ expert tips on the wily red.

I want to see a red fox, but where do I start?
The red fox (whose scientific name is Vulpes vulpes) is the UK’s only wild member of the dog family. Hardy and resourceful, it has a reputation for intelligence and cunning. Slightly smaller than a medium-sized domestic dog, the adult measures around 75cm from head to tail and weighs around 5kg (it stands about knee-height to a 6ft-tall man). You may catch a glimpse of an orange-red creature, so check to see if it has a flattened skull, upright triangular ears with black tips, a pointed snout and a long, bushy tail, which is known as a brush. When on the trail of the fox look out for droppings, which are often grey-tinged with small mammal bones in them, on tracks. And if you spot tracks in the snow, check to see if they are in a straight line as foxes put each paw into the same track.


When is the best time to see red foxes?
Foxes are out and about all year, and can be active by day. Red foxes mate during winter, with vixens making noisy, yipping calls at night to attract a mate. A pair will stay together to act as parents to newborn ‘kits’ or ‘cubs’, which are born blind and resemble a puppy, with a short nose and ears, and brown fur. The young stay in the den for several weeks and after three months are left to fend for themselves.

Where are the best places to look for red foxes?
Foxes are able to survive in diverse habitats ranging from forests and grasslands to mountains, but also adapt well to human environments, such as farms and suburban settings. They can be spotted anywhere from the shores of lowland lochs, to woodlands and mountains.


How long do foxes live?
Wild foxes can live around 7-10 years, while in captivity that can extend to around 15 years, similar to pet dogs.

What do foxes eat?
Perhaps surprisingly, foxes are omnivorous, enjoying everything from small mammals, rodents, birds and carrion, to berries and fruit. Urban-dwelling foxes will scavenge food from bins. Excellent hunters, they are extremely quick off the mark, and can turn and jump with ease.


If you do happen to spot a red fox, remember to let us know with the hashtag #fantasticmrfox. And if you are lucky enough to get a picture, please share it on any of our social media channels via #HighlandSafaris

Friday, 27 January 2017

National Chocolate Cake Day by Julie Riddell


The café at Highland Safaris is loved by visitors who enjoy the warm, welcoming environment after their time out in the fresh Highland air. Whether they are after a hearty breakfast, a filling lunch or just an expertly made coffee our café is a hit, the world over.

One of the big draws of our café has to be the cakes and while I don’t have a lot of time to bake I do like to indulge now and again with a slice of the Cake of the Day and a coffee. When I do get the opportunity I have a go-to recipe which is nice and easy but delicious and perfect for family parties or get togethers. So, on National Chocolate Cake Day here is the Riddell Family Chocolate Cake Recipe.

Serves 8
Preparation 10 mins
Cooking 50 mins

Ingredients

The Cake:
175g (6oz) margarine or softened butter
175g (6oz) caster sugar
3 large eggs
150g (5oz) self-raising flour, sifted
50g (1¾oz) of cocoa, sifted
1tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

The Icing:
100g (3½oz) of dark chocolate
100g (3½oz) of chopped butter

Method
Heat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4). Lightly grease an 18cm (7in) round cake tin with a little extra butter or margarine and cut a piece of greaseproof paper or non-stick baking parchment to fit the base of the tin.

Put all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or a hand-held mixer for 1 minute, or until just combined. It's important not to beat the batter too much - just long enough to make it smooth.

Pour or spoon the mixture into the tin, smooth the top and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 45-50 minutes. The cake is cooked when it looks well risen and golden; the top should spring back when lightly touched with a fingertip. Another test is to insert a skewer into the centre of the cake - it should come out clean.

Let the cake sit in the tin for 5 minutes, then gently run a knife around the edge and turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool.

For the icing, place the dark chocolate and chopped butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of very hot water until melted. Cool for 15 minutes, then spread over the top of the cooled cake.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Squirrel Appreciation Day - top tips to spot red squirrels in Scotland




Squirrel Appreciation Day - top tips to spot red squirrels in Scotland
By Donald Riddell, Director, Highland Safaris

January 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day, and with Scotland being one of the best places to find these much-loved woodland creatures, it’s the perfect time to share our tips on how and where to spot red squirrels.

Where can I find red squirrels?
Shy and solitary, the red squirrel (Britain’s only native squirrel), has been on UK shores since the end of the last Ice Age, having made its way over from mainland Europe approximately 10,000 years ago. Today, 75 per cent of the UK’s remaining red squirrel population is found in Scotland. Red squirrels prefer to live in coniferous trees, particularly Scots pine, and can be found in the forests of the Highlands and Dumfries & Galloway. Its preferred food is nuts from both conifer and deciduous trees, both of which we have in abundance on the land around Highland Safaris, so we regularly see them here – as well as the cones they have been nibbling on.

How can I spot a red squirrel?
Stay nice and quiet, and listen carefully! Reds are shy animals and the sound of their claws on the bark as they climb trees can often be heard before they are seen. Squirrels will often freeze when disturbed, relying on their camouflage to hide against the bough of a tree.
Easy to identify once you do see one of these rare creatures, the red squirrel has a large bushy tail – which is used for balance when leaping from tree to tree – distinctive tufts on its ears, and sharp, curved claws to help it race up and down tree trunks.

How big are red squirrels?
Smaller than the eastern grey, the red squirrel has a typical head-and-body length of 19-23 cm and a tail length of 15-20 cm; males and females are the same size.

When is the best time of year to see red squirrels?
You can see them all year round; this might come as a surprise, but red squirrels don’t hibernate, although – like many of us – they do become less active throughout winter. Their coats, which vary in colour with the time of year and location, are at their thickest and most colourful in January.
During mating season, which in Scotland can start as early as December and continue until July, you can see males chase females through the trees at amazing speeds – only the fittest males will catch them.
Red squirrels can have one or two litters a year – with an average of three to four ‘kittens’, which are born without any fur. They give birth in a nest called a drey, which is so well constructed from leaves, twigs and moss as to be almost waterproof.

If you spot a red squirrel, let us know using the hashtag

#SquirrelAppreciationDay. You can also report a sighting here: scottishsquirrels.org.uk. For further information, check out VisitScotland’s Wildlife Series eBook at: ebooks.visitscotland.com/scottish-wildlife-series/16/

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

National Save The Eagles Day - top tips to spot eagles in Scotland


By Ross Dempster, General Manager and Kilted Ranger, Highland Safaris

With today being National Save the Eagles Day, we thought it would be the perfect time to share how to go about spotting one of Scotland’s most iconic birds.

Beautiful, powerful and graceful, the Eagle – in particular the Golden Eagle – tops many a wildlife watchers’ wishlist. And getting out into the wilds of Scotland offers the best chance of seeing one in all its glory.

Since 2003, there has been a 15% rise in the number of Golden Eagle pairs in Scotland, with that figure now sitting around 500. Spotting one takes time and patience though, so we’ve put together our top tips on how to go about it.

Keep your eyes peeled and with a bit of luck, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most majestic sights the great Scottish outdoors has to offer.



What to look for
The white tail Sea Eagle is the biggest bird of prey in the UK – they were once hunted out of existence, but were successfully reintroduced in the 1970s. Big and bold, they basically look like flying railway sleepers in the sky!

Golden Eagles are easy to confuse with the more common Buzzard. However, the Golden Eagle is bigger, will soar higher than a buzzard and holds its wings in a shallow V shape.

What are the differences between sea eagles and golden eagles?
The main difference is the size and wing shape; the sea eagle is bigger and the tips of its wings are “fingered” and can look quite square from a distance.

Where is the best place to eagle spot?
There is a greater chance of seeing sea eagles in the Inner Hebrides, but you can also spot them in Angus and Fife. Golden Eagles can be seen around Highland Safaris’ land, but we are a bit too far inland for the sea eagle (although they have been spotted in Perth). Top spots also include the west coast and islands, from Mull and Lochaber, and Skye to Lewis.

Where do eagles like to hang out?
Golden Eagles actually prefer open moorlands and hilltops, but the more remote the area, the more likely there are to be eagles - islands and remote glens are a good place to start. Golden Eagles are monogamous and may remain with their mate for life. They also tend to nest in the same place for generations (they like rocky outcrops and crags).

When is the best time of year to see eagles?
All year round. Look out for the looping, soaring and gliding flight arcs on the air currents. Eagles have traditional territories, which may also be used by offspring in years to come.

Have you been lucky enough to spot a golden eagle? Let us know if so using the hashtag #EagleEyed


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Hygge.


Scrolling through social media you can’t help but happen upon the latest poll or survey into what country is the best to live in. Up at the top of these lists, or thereabouts, is the nation of Denmark. Danes are happy people. They have some of the longest, darkest winters, some horrendous weather and ridiculously high taxes – so why are they so chipper all the time?

The answer lies in Hygge. Hygge (pronounced hue- gah) isn’t so much an adjective as it is a way of life. It is a philosophy that grounds itself in being ‘in the moment’ and removing yourself from the rushes of everyday life, enjoying the here and now. It can be snuggling under a warm blanket with a good book, putting an extra marshmallow in your hot chocolate or having dinner by candlelight. Everybody will have their own recipe for Hygge, they will have their own special ingredients to add into life.

So is there a Scottish equivalent? We have racked our brains and the closest word we use is “cosy”. Being outside during a winter in the Highlands of Scotland can be a truly remarkable time. There is nothing quite like a crisp, cold day for exploring the beautiful wilderness that we have in abundance. After a day outside you can truly appreciate a warm welcome and cosy atmosphere. Sometimes you have to go outdoors to appreciate the warm return.

At Highland Safaris we pride ourselves in this and Hygge/ cosiness very much plays a part in everything we do. The fire is always burning, the candles are lit and there are warm blankets a plenty. Nothing beats a warm mug of coffee and slice of home-made chocolate cake whilst you reminisce over your adventure with friends and family on a comfy sofa.

Relax and indulge, laugh and be merry. We would very much like to share our cosy/ Hygge atmosphere with you and hopefully we can give the Danes a run for their money in the happiness stakes!

Happy wintertime,
Team Safaris

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Autumn Roar


As we travel through the glorious hills, glens and Straths of Highland Perthshire it is blatantly obvious that seasons are changing rapidly!

Autumn brings with it plenty of treats to lovers of nature and the great outdoors. The trees turn from vivid green to an array of golds and reds which turns every woodland into an artist’s dream. Perthshire (also known as the Big Tree County) is the perfect place to witness this spectacular sight, every corner that you turn or wind in the road unveils another canvas that Mother Nature has painted for you. As if this is not enough, places such as Enchanted Forest enhance the beauty by lighting up the forest at night, playing on the colours that autumn gifts us. If you have never been before we highly recommend it (visit www.enchantedforest.org.uk for more details), bring your tickets to Highland Safaris after for a 2 for 1 deal in the Red Deer Centre.

The changing colours of the leaves signals a changing in the temperature. At Highland Safaris the fire is roaring every day to make sure that everybody is nice and cosy. The Highland Safaris café has a constant supply of homemade, autumnal soup that will warm your cockles, accompanied with a steaming mug of hot chocolate you will be ready for all that autumn throws at you!

The colder weather outside also makes our local mountains come alive with wildlife – an absolutely fantastic time for coming out on a Safari. Plenty of smaller animals such as dormice, hedgehogs and bats are beginning the race for food, building as much fat deposits as they can to survive the harsh winter months in hibernation.

The most special of events in the Red Deer calendar starts in the autumn – The Rut. The majestic stags start to compete for dominance, they roar across the hillsides and through the glens. Antlers lock in a fearsome battle, a display of sheer power unrivalled in our nation. If you have never been in the Highlands during the Rut come and witness it first-hand, it is a spectacle you will not forget!

We look forward to seeing you soon,
Team Safari