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September 7th 2008
Published: December 14th 2009
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At Highland Wildlife Park, Kincraig

Kilravock in the light of day…


All rightly then - Kilravock Castle was a bit of a strange stay. Mom and I never felt comfortable there. The people running it just didn’t seem all that interested in having guests there or very welcoming. The hotel had a permanent ‘No Vacancy’ sign on the door and at the end of the driveway. We even heard the receptionist tell someone on the phone that the hotel was full up. We only saw 2 other couples there and counted at least 6 or 7 rooms on the first floor alone - weird. (When I was back home and doing some research to round out this journal I went to the hotel website and it says in bold that they are welcoming guests in 2009 so maybe they were just having some issues at the time we were there)

The room layout was awkward to say the least. Not enough light to ready by and the room was freezing even with the space heater they provided. I ended up have to lie backwards on mom’s bed to read by the only tall lamp that was next to the only chair in the room. The
Snow OwlSnow OwlSnow Owl

At Highland Wildlife Park, Kincraig
room was absolutely huge so there could easily have been at least 2 chairs. Anyway I didn’t sleep well at all as mom insisted on leaving one of the nightstand lights on. And I just felt uneasy - not that I saw or heard anything spooky, I just was not comfortable. Whatever - I guess there’s lots of history in a tower that’s 600 years old!

We had a nice breakfast at the hotel that was included in our rate and the hotel seems like it would be wonderful when it was livelier with guests.

We visited Cawdor yesterday instead of today so we could take a detour from our original plans to go to the Highland Wildlife Park. It’s straight down the A9 from Inverness, so getting there is easy. The tricky part will be getting to Banchory from Kincraig as there doesn’t seem to be a direct route.

Highland Wildlife Park


The HWP is run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. We ended up spending a couple of hours there. The main reserve you drive through and most of the animals are free roaming, separated only by cattle gates. We saw elk, bison, deer,
Scottish WildcatScottish WildcatScottish Wildcat

At Highland Wildlife Park, Kincraig
wolves and yaks to name a few. There is also a section where you park and walk around. There were owls, wild cats, otters, snow monkeys and lots more. They also had a feeding station for red squirrels and I finally got a half decent shot of one. I was so excited!! The Scottish wildcats were really cool; they had a couple of litters of kittens it looked like.

They have a nice café and shop so we had a light snack here of baked potatoes with cheddar cheese. These jacket potatoes are offered widely on menus in Scotland at least in the places we’ve been.

All in all a really cool place to visit, I had been to a place like this in the US that was more African animals like elephants and lions and tigers and such, but this place is geared toward animals that currently reside in Scotland or ones that used to in times past.

Highland Wildlife Park

Onward to Banchory


So to get to Banchory from Kincraig, where the HWP is we had to go back north in order to cross the Cairngorm Mountains. I was warned that the roads through the Cairngorms were steep and twisty and boy they sure were! The mountains aren’t really all that high, but high enough that the roads sometimes are closed in winter. We passed through the gate that closes the road off and then we passed the Lecht Ski area on the A939. As we crested one huge hill we had a wonderful view of Corgarff Castle in the distance, it was very white, austere and impressive!

Corgarff Castle stands in a wild and lonely spot at the head of Strathdon. Head due west from here and the next road you reach is 20 miles away at Glenmore, near Aviemore. And en route you will have crossed the high northern slopes of the Cairngorm plateau.
Through much of its history Corgarff has been of strategic importance, guarding the quickest route from Deeside to Speyside, a route later followed by the military road from Blairgowrie to Fort George. Its location ensured that Corgarff Castle has had an eventful and sometimes tragic history. The castle is thought to have been built in about 1550 by John Forbes of Towie. It would initially have comprised a tower house set within a walled enclosure. The tower house would
Corgarrf Castle in the distanceCorgarrf Castle in the distanceCorgarrf Castle in the distance

Driving from Kincraig to Banchory
have been similar to the structure you see today: the surrounding wall would have been very much simpler and probably rectangular in plan. From: Undiscovered Scotland's Corgarff Castle page

We got to Banchory around 4:30 and found the Tor Na Coille Hotel right on the main road. This was Sunday and the hotel wasn’t very busy at all so they upgraded us to a suite with 2 bedrooms. Of course right away mom said she was taking the main bedroom with the double bed and I could have the teeny room with the twin bed - whatever. Except her room had the TV and the chairs and she hadn’t watched any TV at all since we got to Scotland. I went to ask reception about a wash and fold laundry for mom and the owner offered to do a load for her at the hotel for £20 - deal! I only threw in a pair of jeans, a couple long sleeved t shirts and some socks. We’re here for 2 days -yay!!

I think we are the only ones staying here tonight. Really! Our car is the only one in the parking lot and there was no one else in the dining room or lounge either. We found out later that the tourist season was pretty much over and that now they had mostly business travelers during the week and weekends were pretty quiet. I decided to put the brace on early again tonight and try to get some more time in it. But I ended up reading until 1:15am. Oh - today was supposed to be sunny, but *shockingly* it was overcast, drizzly and windy - plus it was only between 10 and 12 Celsius. Brrrrrrrr.

The Tor-na-Coille Hotel is a privately owned and professionally managed Country House Hotel, set in 8 acres of magnificent woodland, opposite the picturesque Banchory golf course, just 18 miles drive from Aberdeen Airport and Aberdeen City Centre, the Oil Capital of Europe. The hotel has 23 spacious en-suite bedrooms, individually furnished with direct dial telephone, tea and coffee making facilities, clock radio and colour television. Some of our larger rooms have authentic open fireplaces. The imposing Mansion of the Tor-na-Coille on the outskirts of Banchory was built in 1873 by Mr George Thompson at a cost of £1000.00. It was to become one of Royal Deeside's best appointed hotels still retaining much of the
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At Highland Wildlife Park, Kincraig
Victorian elegance, which, over the years has attracted members of European Royal families, and Hollywood legend Charlie Chaplin. From: Tor-na-Coille Hotel



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Red Squirrel 2Red Squirrel 2
Red Squirrel 2

At Highland Wildlife Park, Kincraig


25th June 2010

Beautiful photos - especially of the red squirrels!

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