Blair Drummond Safari Park offers visitors a hands-on and exciting experience from the moment they step foot through the gates! From the petting zoo to the reserve areas and everything in between, this safari park is far from any other zoo or farm you have likely visited before. Blair Drummond really does go the extra mile leaving both children and adults alike, enthralled and informed.
Given that Blair Drummond is primarily a safari park, I had my reservations about visiting as a non-driver. However, you don't own a car, do not be put off as the safari park caters for all visitors. There is plenty of parking on-site, but our journey by train was also fairly straightforward. From Glasgow Queen Street, take the 26 minute 'fast train' to Stirling and from there it's the 59 bus towards Callander.
The train costs £7 return and the bus is a similar story. The bus stops pretty much across the road from the safari park entrance which is fab, meaning there is no confusion as to where you need to go. However, be warned that there is no pedestrian walk way up to the park itself and cars do come along the road quite fast. We arrived early on a relatively quiet day and still found the walk pretty tricky with the pram, but it wasn’t a big issue as the walk is short.
From here your adventure begins! If you have a car, you are free to make your own way through the 4 reserves: the African reserve, the Asian reserve, the Lion reserve and the Barbary Macaque reserve.
If you don't have a car, you will be slowly driven around in the safari bus which was a great experience. The tour guide was witty and informative, adding a real personal touch by telling us the animals names, such as Graham the Rhino, which gave everyone onboard a bit of a giggle. After seeing lions lounging in the sun and monkeys making mischief on the car in front, you're itching to see what else lies in store!
By the time we'd finished the reserves, it was nearly 1pm so we headed straight to the Birds Of Prey display that is shown at various times throughout the day. This was a wonderful spectacle and we got to see some majestic birds in flight while learning a lot too. Even Joseph, an ordinarily unstoppable force, sat enthralled during the 30 minutes display, clapping and squealing with joy as the trainers lead the birds to swoop down amongst the crowd, just missing our heads. You can also watch the sea lion presentation which is of a similar nature, plus "Meet The Keepers" of various animals throughout the day.
We brought our own picnic and snacks as it's always best to be prepared with a toddler in tow and were pleased to find many designated areas with benches and tables to enjoy an al fresco lunch. We were also surprised to see BBQs available to use free of charge! So, if it's a hot day, bring your own meat and enjoy some hot food straight off the coals.
We continued around the park taking in various different animals including elephants, lions and giraffes, all of which were kept in well-sized and clean enclosures, with lots of information available and someone on hand to answer any questions. The petting zoo was a nice touch for younger children; Joseph loved petting the goats and seeing the horses being groomed. There are also plenty of hand washing facilities right outside so you don't have to worry too much about little ones exploring and getting grubby with the animals – you can be safe in the knowledge that little hands will soon be clean again!
One of our highlights as a family was the boat trip to Chimp Island. This totally free boat ride takes you up the river to the home of their beautiful chimps who roam freely in perfect view of visitors. We were told all about their diet and habits and were allowed to take photos and ask any questions we might have. The queue for the boat ride was relatively short and moved quickly, however, I imagine this area could get busy, so be prepared with drinks and snacks for little ones while waiting!
As if the animals and safari weren't enough, there is also a giant adventure play ground with the biggest fort I've ever seen. It is the park of dreams for children of all ages and that in itself almost requires a full day dedicated to it. There are also pedal boats, a zip wire and an astroglide slide, all included in the price of your ticket.
You can pay for the extras such as face painting and glitter tattoos, plus there are a few wee diggers that require a pound coin, but with so much on offer, you really don't need to spend the extra – Joseph barely noticed the sand pit (usually his favourite thing) as he was too busy bee-lining for the bug house. In fact, we didn't even get around to half of the extra activities and we were there for a full day, so make sure you leave as early as possible and wear your comfortable shoes!
The ticket prices vary; starting from £13.25 for concessions and £16.25 for a full paying adult online. I think this price is more than reasonable given the sheer amount on offer and if I could drive, I would certainly invest in a membership card. It costs £55 for the year and if you choose to buy one on the day, your entry fee will be refunded, so your first trip is already included within your membership. By being a member, you also receive 10% discount off the restaurant and gift shop.
Given that this is one of The UK's first safari parks, opening its doors in 1970, I feel it's really important to support such a long-standing attraction that does so much good for animal welfare and natural wildlife.
The day out was one which we won't forget in a hurry! It really is such a wonderful gem right on the doorstep of Glasgow city, that takes you to a totally different world. It is sure to please even the harshest of critics and there truly is something to entertain the whole family. Just make sure you keep your doors locked so you don't confuse your little monkeys with theirs!
Where: Stirling FK9 4UR
For more information about Blair Drummond Safari Park & Adventure Park, visit the website here.