During winter break, my group of friends and I decided that we needed to go exploring on the weekends, and unlike the past three years – we actually went exploring! We set our eyes on the Scottish Deer Centre, located in Cupar. It is only thirteen miles from St Andrews, and yet it feels a world away. I felt like a child, and it was quite easy to pretend: there were lots of children there on a Saturday.
The Scottish Deer Centre’s mission is to ‘promote through its living animals, using managed breeding, environmental education and research; the conservation of Deer species, their habitats and other fauna within, both Scotland and worldwide,’ and they do so. Situated on fifty-five acres of gorgeous countryside, The Scottish Deer Centre is home to fourteen different species of deer, Fife’s only wolf pack, birds of prey, lynxes, foxes, Scottish wildcats, otters, and moose. They even have reindeers! There is so much to do and so much to see.
When we arrived on that cold, February morning, we were excited. At the entrance we purchased deer food for £1 each. One of my friends is obsessed with deer (she likes to call herself Bambi), so she was buzzing to see her ‘friends’. We entered through a mystical tunnel decorated with cave paintings. We wandered around the Centre looking at all of the animals. Our first stop was the Otters, and we arrived just in time to see their feeding and ask a lot of questions to the ranger.
We walked around looking at the animals before heading to the deer. They were such strange and beautiful creatures – I couldn’t help comparing them to Bambi. We fed them through the fence. They licked and sucked at our fingers as they swallowed the green pellets of food. We kept trying to feed the adorable fawns, but the alpha deer would come over and frighten the smaller ones off, hogging all of the food for themselves.
After a quick tour around the Centre, we ate our lunch. We brought a picnic to enjoy, which was very nice, since they have plenty of tables at which to eat. There is also a lovely cafe with reasonably priced home-baked goods, soups, teas, coffee, and light meals. We warmed ourselves in the cafe with mugs of hot chocolate – the fancy ones with cream and marshmallows!
Then we went to watch the Bird of Prey show. The bird trainer showed us two birds: a gorgeous owl and a sharp hawk. She warned us that they had minds of their own and liked to perch on the tables right next to us. We waited in anticipation for the bird to sit next to us, but it never did. We even left a spot for it. It was still so amazing to see the birds swooping back and forth before our eyes and to see the owl’s head rotating all the way around.
Then we went on the Carnivore Feed Talk and Walk. It was gruesome – we watched the wolves tearing into hunks of meat. We also got to see the Scottish Wildcats, which look just like house cats (and sometimes wildcats and house cats mate!), but they are stronger and more aggressive. Then we visited the Northern Lynx, a beautiful feline that is sadly going extinct, as well as the adorable red fox. The fox had a rough life, and thus doesn’t get along with other foxes, so the rangers have to go and play with her every day. She was just as cute as the animated fox from Fox and the Hound.
While it was a bit too chilly for us to enjoy them, they have two parks and a kart track to play on! We did play on the indoor playground that had this huge, terrifying slide. We climbed up to the top, and went speeding down – I really hurt my bottom on it.
Overall we had so much fun, and we’d definitely come back. Being around nature, animals, and young children made us feel giddy and relaxed, restored and ready to go back to the stressful bubble that is St Andrews.
How to get there- Take the x99 to Dundee, and then the x42 to Kirkcaldy- it is cheaper to buy a Fife Day Pass than a proper ticket to Cupar.
Concessions/Student Price- £6.70
Samantha Emily Evans
Photo credit: Freya Coursey