We love nothing more than exploring new places to visit as a family, however during the Winter these trips tend to tail off due to the colder weather and we find ourselves opting for indoor activities instead. Fast forward to Spring though and we’re more than ready to bundle ourselves up against the wind and drizzle and set out to find some adventure and make new memories.
This year the Easter school holidays seem to have been spread over quite a few weeks, depending on where in the UK you live, and during our two week break we took a trip up to Scotland from our home in Cumbria to visit Blair Drummond Safari Park. Situated just 5 miles from Stirling, Blair Drummond has been welcoming visitors to its 120-acre estate since 1970 and boasts over 350 rare and exotic species. For years we have been hearing such good things about the park and were thrilled to be invited to check it out for ourselves.
The park is split into two main areas, a drive through wildlife reserve and an ‘on foot’ section, with choice being yours as to which order you’d like to explore. Arriving just as the park opened, we found there were only a handful of parked cars so we decided to see what was on offer on foot and finish the day by driving through the reserves before heading straight home.
Looming over the car park there is a huge play area which of course was where the kids were immediately drawn! There are three huge play areas including a wooden fort, pirate ship and a large undercover playground which is ideal for wet days. It was pretty cold and drizzly on the day we visited, but being hardened Cumbrian’s that didn’t stop us ALL having fun and getting damp bottoms on the playground! We also spent a lot of time digging for treasure in the sand around the pirate ship with the promise of a free face paint for anyone who finds a token.
Eventually prising the kids away with the promise of a return visit before leaving, we headed to check out some animals. The first stop were the sea lions and luckily, we were just in time for the display. I’m a huge fan of sea lions, they are such clever, graceful animals and we all really enjoyed hearing more about them and seeing the tricks they can perform. The enthusiasm of the keeper who took the talk was just wonderful and it was obvious she knew her stuff – we loved every minute of this experience.
We then took a walk around the other enclosures in the immediate area which included meerkats, lemurs and a large farm area housing horses, chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs to name but a few. Being so cold understandably a few of the animals kept themselves bundled up inside their homes and who can blame them! Amazingly we had already spent nearly two hours of our time at the park and had barely scratched the surface of what was on offer, so decided to grab some lunch and make a plan for the rest of our day.
There is one main restaurant on the site with a few kiosk’s dotted around, although they weren’t open during our visit presumably because of the poor weather. There’s also a large BBQ picnic area which would be a lovely option on a warmer day, simply bring along your fuel and food and use one of the barbecues available.
Being so chilly we opted for the restaurant and I was really impressed with the wide choice of hot and cold meals as well as the provisions for those requiring vegetarian or vegan options. The kid’s menu was also very impressive with almost too many choices available for those with indecisive little ones, including the Scottish favourite Mac n’ Cheese! Despite being extremely busy the restaurant was clean and our food was served efficiently with a friendly smile. The quality of the food was top notch, I had the cheeseburger which was delicious and clearly made using high quality ingredients. With everyone’s plates empty we made a plan and headed back out to explore some more.
Thankfully by this time the weather had improved a little and although still chilly the sun had deigned to put his hat on for us! Just outside the restaurant there is a small fun fair designed for smaller children which does attract a small additional cost. We were gifted a few ride tokens so the kids had a go on the tea cups, dodgems, roller coaster and trampolines which of course went down a storm. Prices start at £2.50 per person, however there is a large Astro Slide in the same area which is free, so if you wanted to avoid spending anything extra be sure to direct the kids in that direction!
We continued our adventure by visiting the elephant and giraffe enclosures, although sadly they were inside their houses presumably because of the cold weather which was a shame but completely understandable. We did however get some amazing views of the lions in the reserve area from the viewing platform. I was gobsmacked how close they were to the us and couldn’t wait to go on the safari drive to get an even closer look.
Next up we took a trip to Chimp Island on one of the regular boat trips. The experience of a boat trip was exciting enough for the youngest and despite being huddled up against the cold we were treated to a glimpse of one of the islands inhabitants who thankfully didn’t throw any poo at us despite the warnings from the boat’s driver! Also, at the lake area you could hire a pedalo or take a trip on the flying fox zip wire over the water. None of us were brave enough to try the zip wire but spent a while watching other dare devils scream their way across! Over the bridge there is a lemur enclosure which you can walk through, but again on the day we visited they were either hiding really well or staying put in their house as we didn’t see any.
Before heading back to the car to do the reserve drive, we headed over to the Bird Of Prey centre which was fantastic. Although small there was a wide variety of birds which we got to see up close, Leo originally thought they were pretend until we told him otherwise. Again, due to poor planning on my part we missed the display which we would have loved to see, especially when we took a walk down and saw the display area which was set against a stunning water side backdrop. There were in fact a whole range of animal talks and displays on at regular intervals during the day, however we found there was so much else to see and do we somewhat neglected that aspect of our visit.
Like most attractions Blair Drummond put on special activities during the school holidays and when we visited, they were hosting the Spring Fling. In two large marquees there were a whole host of activities available including crafts, a 3D cinema, puppet shows and a magician all included in the price of the entry fee. Unfortunately, we kept missing the show times and actually found the park had so much else to do that we simply didn’t get the time to utilise any of these wonderful things. I’m sure if the weather had of stayed wet though we would have been making full use of this facility.
Of course, no day out is complete without a trip to the gift shop which was packed with gifts and toys of every kind. Unlike many attraction gift shops, the prices were really competitive with something suitable for every budget, including small pocket money toys. Leo picked an explorer hat so that he could fit in on the safari drive and we also bought a really cute glass penguin for only £3.50 which was a bargain!
So, last but by no means least we hopped in the car and headed for the four reserve enclosures where we came within metres of antelope, deer and a very large Rhino. We also took a trip through monkey land where the macaques treated us to plenty of cheeky antics, running and playing plus jumping onto cars including ours! This of course delighted and scared the kids in equal measure and there was plenty of discussion about accidently taking one home! The stars of the reserve area though were by far the Lions. If we thought we were close to them behind the fences, nothing could prepare us for how near we could get inside the enclosure. We were treated to plenty of movement from the whole group with the large male lion dragging around his dinner as he went. We also had a female lion walk across the road in front of us which was breath taking to watch, despite my heart being in my mouth the whole time!
The reserve drive was the perfect way to end what had been a fabulous day. We all loved every second of our time at Blair Drummond and have already been talking about making a return visit in the Summer. We arrived as the park opened and didn’t leave until nearly closing time and yet still felt there was plenty more we could have seen and done. We can’t wait to plan another visit and do to some of the talks and see the animals we missed this time. I also have to add that the whole park is been extremely well thought out to include multiple family-friendly ideas like buggy parks and dedicated baby change areas which are so often lacking at other attractions we have visited. Blair Drummond is a fantastic family day out with something to offer for everyone and comes highly recommended by the Fraser family – two massive thumbs up from us!
From 24th-27th May 2019 there is a Superhero Takeover at the park including acrobatics, real life Superheroes and a Superhero Training Academy! To find out more or to book tickets visit the Blair Drummond Website