While visitors are never short of things to do in Edinburgh, we are often asked in our Edinburgh Grassmarket workshop if there’s a place where visitors can meet a Highland Cow! These fluffy and shaggy looking beasts are an icon of Scotland and your trip to Edinburgh might not be complete without seeing one. So we’ve come up with a list of suggestions of where to meet a Highland coo! We’ve arranged our list with those in the centre of the city first and progressing to those which are the furthest away. We hope this list is useful to you and please be sure to check details with the venues before making a special trip to any of these sites.
1. The stunning Prestonfield House, a 5 star hotel, boasts 20 acres of gardens in the heart of the city with Highland Coo’s and Peacocks among the attractions. The hotel is a stone’s throw from Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat and is the most central of all our cow spotting options. Combine with afternoon tea at the glorious hotel for a really memorable experience!
2. If you’re a fan of camping or caravanning why not stay at a pitch within Edinburgh with Highland Cows right there! Mortonhall Caravan and Camping Park is also home to Hector & Hamish, the Highland Cow’s, so they could be your neighbours during your stay. If you need more convincing there’s a bar and restaurant on site too along with a kids play area.
3. In the Pentland Hills, only five miles from Edinburgh, sits Swanston Farm where a herd of Highland Cattle grazes free in 300 acres of beautiful countryside. Visitors are very welcome to take a trek around the paths to see if they can find the herd. However, in the summer, the wonderfully named Thelma & Louisa are kept in a field near Swanston village for better photo opportunities! As ex show cattle they are used to being admired! Download Swanston Farm’s handy Highland Cow Finder to keep you right. The Farm also has a brasserie, golf course, disc golf and hiking and mountain biking routes so plenty to keep you occupied!
4. West of Edinburgh in West Lothian in the Bathgate Hills sits Beecraigs Country Park with plenty of beautiful walks and cycle trails, a cafe & an adventure playground for younger visitors. As well as the Highland Cattle fold you might also see the Red deer herd, Belted Galloway Cattle (known as Belties) and both Hebridean and North Ronaldsay sheep. As you know we are big fans of Scottish sheep and the wonderful wool they produce so this is a great day out for us! Parts of season 4 of Outlander were also filmed here, with Beecraigs forested areas doubling for North Carolina. You could spend the whole day here, in a brief rural escape from the bustle of Edinburgh.
5. East of Edinburgh in the beautiful county of East Lothian is the lovely Smeaton Nursery Gardens & Tearoom. The beautiful plants for sale and enchanting tearooms are nestled in the middle of the Smeaton Estate which is also home to a herd of Highland Cows. Take a walk around the lake and look for them or brush up on the Cow family tree in the bathrooms! Smeaton is located in the picturesque village of East Linton which is also home to two Outlander filming sites; Preston Mill (where Jamie hides underwater in season 1 and also the site of Clare and Geilis’ trial) and The Mart farm shop (filming for season 5 took place here a few months ago). Why not make a day of it and explore a few of these places, stopping for some delicious cake in the Smeaton tearoom or trying some craft beer in the nearby Crown and Kitchen pub.
6. Finally if you like the idea of venturing further afield, and taking in some more of the gorgeous Scottish countryside why not try a FREE 1 day tour with The Hairy Coo tour company. The bus departs from Edinburgh in the morning and takes in Stirling, the Lake of Monteith, Aberfoyle, Loch Katrine and Doune Castle (famous as a film site for Outlander, Monty Python & the Holy Grail and Game of Thrones. But the real draw is meeting a herd of Highland coos in the Trossachs. The company says their herd loves a selfie! To see Lochs, Castles and Coos all in one trip seems like it would be the perfect addition to any visit to Edinburgh.
We hope you have a great trip to Edinburgh and get to meet a whole herd of Highland Cows! Do let us know if we’ve missed any great spots so we can be sure to add them to our list or if you visit any of the places we’ve recommended.