The majestic red deer thrives in the Scottish highlands. In fact, the red deer population north of the English border has doubled since the 1960s, from 150,000 to 300,000. Males with their mantle of antlers are the most impressive. During the mating season, they compete in roaring contests that sometimes lead to deadly duels. The red deer (pictured) is one of two native species of deer living in Scotland; the other being the smaller roe deer. Sika and fallow deer are also found in Scotland, though both were introduced. Deer are herbivores and all of their natural predators – bears, lynxes and wolves – have long been extinct.
- Disney’s Bambi was a white-tailed deer – a North American species.
- Most deer are born with white spots, but lose them within a year.
- Red deer stags are graded by counting the points or ‘tines’ on their antlers. A royal stag has 12 points, an imperial stag has 14 points and a monarch has 16 points; the stag in Sir Edwin Landseer’s painting ‘Monarch of the Glen’ is actually a ‘royal’ as it has 12 points.
Time of year: The British weather is notoriously changeable, but the best time to visit would be between April and early June or in September or October.
Where to stay: Atholl Estates in Perthshire is a Scottish Highland estate with a history dating back to the 13th century. The 145,000 acre estate offers stunning views of rolling Scottish hills and farmland, as well as centring around the famous landmark of Blair Castle. The estate offers two and three bedroom Woodland Lodges with sitting rooms that open onto verandas where roe deer and red squirrels live on the doorstep, as well as six Historic Lodges which sleep from 4 to 20 people, making them ideal for families and groups travelling together. The estate provides a range of activities from Land Rover safaris and tractor tours, to walking, cycling and fishing trips – all of which feature a range of Scottish wildlife – and guests can also explore the Castle and its gardens and restaurant.
Price Guide: The Woodland Lodges vary depending on number of guests, length of stay and time of year: from £260 (low season) to £825 (high season). The Historic Lodges fall under the same remit, with rates ranging from £346 (low season) to £4,305 (high season).