Help me see a reindeer before Christmas (and save my career)!
December 13, 2006 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Help me see a reindeer before Christmas (and save my career)!

I have yet to get into the Christmas spirit. More to the point, I have yet to send out any greetings cards. Even more to the point, I need to kick-start the marketing for my nascent photography business. Here, in the wee small hours, it's all come together into a cunning plan...

So here's the deal: I need to get within 30 feet of a reindeer, take its portrait, get back home, make up a few hundred cards and get them posted out by 19th December (the last recommended posting day for 1st class letters).

Questions: where can I find such an animal within a day's journey on London, UK? Google's pointing me towards Kiruna in northern Sweden but I can't seem to find any chartered flights there and the drive from Stockholm appears to be well over 20 hours. Do charter flights exist, if so, where? Then, of course, I have little idea where one goes to find such a beast...

On the other hand, I can find dozens of "Visit Santa and his reindeer in the grotto" package deals, which I'd ideally like to avoid for obvious reasons. Maybe I'm looking too far afield, are there reindeer in Scotland anywhere?

My plan is to be flying out and back on Friday (15th) so I can get artwork to the printers on Saturday (16th) then have a mass posting through to Tuesday (19th) but this could have a day's slippage if necessary.

Should my mission be successful I will, of course, provide a copy of the reindeer portrait to any and all that provided assistance.
posted by dogsbody to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does it have to be a wild reindeer? 'Cause evidently the London Zoo has some.
posted by chickletworks at 7:14 PM on December 13, 2006

I would suggest a visit to Scotland's only herd of reindeer, in the Cairngorms. There are daily visits, weather-permitting, and "they are not camera shy, so you'll be able to take some memorable snaps."

Perhaps call them first (01479 861228) to see if there will be a visit on the day you plan to go.

A trip to the Cairngorms will, I'd guess, be a bit more manageable and less expensive than Sweden. Flying to Edinburgh from London takes an hour, then hop on the train to Aviemore. Sounds like a plan.
posted by matthewr at 7:16 PM on December 13, 2006

What about
The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre: The UK's ONLY WILD HERD!!!!1!

Ray's Farm Country Matters of Shropshire

The Reindeer Centre near Ashford (their web page is, though, Christmas themed right now)
posted by whatzit at 7:17 PM on December 13, 2006

chickletworks has made me, and perhaps dogsbody, look mildly foolish... :)
posted by matthewr at 7:19 PM on December 13, 2006

The reindeer in the Cairngorms will be surrounded with proper snow, though, if that makes a difference.
posted by matthewr at 7:20 PM on December 13, 2006

Ok, not exactly in the wild, but there are reindeer at Crews Hill, near Enfield, which is actually in London. They are at the Springtime Nurseries, which, so I'm told, has the biggest Christmas display in the UK, including, this year, live reindeer.

Not exactly in the wild, but certain displayed with lots of seasonal accessories. There are four of them. They were napping the day I was there, but it was officially before the grotto had opened, so they weren't quite 'on duty'.
posted by essexjan at 7:32 PM on December 13, 2006

Thanks for the great feedback so far.

Perhaps I should clarify, though: I'm ideally looking for the wild beasties in their natural habitat (and a ton of snow for good measure).

The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre looks fab (thanks matthewr & whatzit) but unfortunately, the BBC says it's not going to snow there until Sunday.

Any more ideas?
posted by dogsbody at 7:39 PM on December 13, 2006

Also, I'm checking the timetables and the only viable train to get from Edinburgh to Aviemore in time for the Cairngorm 'herding' at 11:00 leaves at 06:50, way before any flight can get me there. Perhaps I'll need to do an overnight jobby...
posted by dogsbody at 8:06 PM on December 13, 2006

I'd call the Cairngorms centre and ask whether the reindeer are in an area with snow.

A couple of days ago I was in Glenshee, which is about 20 miles south of Aviemore, and snow was variable — nothing in the valleys, but about a foot deep on the hills. Aviemore is further North and higher up than Glenshee, so snow is very probable.

It's cold all the time, so the fact that no new snow will fall until Sunday isn't necessarily disastrous.
posted by matthewr at 8:36 PM on December 13, 2006

Reindeer = Caribou. We've got lots here in Canada.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:58 PM on December 13, 2006

SAS have regular flights to Kiruna, but I don't know where to find reindeers there (but I'm sure it's easy to find one there).

Close to your Stockholm to Kiruna idea: You can get a regular flight from Stockholm to LuleƄ (were I live), and then go to the Nordkalotten hotel which is near the airport (less than 1 km) which usually have some reindeers (should check with them). We don't really have any snow now (record warm winter recently, had snow in november...), but it might snow any day now...

You could also check with some destinations in northern Finland such as Rovaniemi (lots of people go there to see Santa, there's probably snow there now, and they can even provide transport with reindeers to Santa from the airport.
posted by rpn at 12:14 AM on December 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

You can't walk ten minutes in Richmond Park in West London without bumping into wild deer. Packs of them together as well. You're not supposed to get too close but I've certainly gotten close enough to take good camera shots.

No snow though..
posted by gfrobe at 1:03 AM on December 14, 2006

You could always photoshop the snow!
posted by nielm at 3:23 AM on December 14, 2006

Lapland (in Finland)? It looks like people are running day-trips from London during the Christmas season-- a quick Google turned up this option, and I'm sure you can find more.
posted by posadnitsa at 5:47 AM on December 14, 2006

I used to live next door to the Cairgorm reindeer, they're very people-friendly and lovely animals. Only the females have horns this time of year.

Before hopping a train to Aviemore, however, I'd ring first and make sure they aren't at Harrod's, which is where they usually end up at Christmas.
posted by methylsalicylate at 7:00 AM on December 14, 2006

Couldn't Photoshop help with the snow issue? If you don't tell them it's fake, I won't either....
posted by bluefrog at 11:14 AM on December 14, 2006

Do remember to tell us how it all turned out.
posted by matthewr at 11:08 AM on December 15, 2006

matthewr, thanks for your interest. In answer to your question, pretty poo to be honest.

I'd decided to try to stick to the UK - flights up to Scandinavia this time of year run into the 700/800 GBP mark.

In response to eseexjan's suggestion, I hired a car on Friday and drove up to Enfield (having phoned ahead) and searched in vain for the fabled nursery/garden centre. After battling the north circular, numerous traffic jams and getting lost in a couple of housing estates, I was no closer. Neither a local a friendly policelady nor a fisherman had ever heard of the place so finally and had to give up. By the time I'd got back home, I'd missed the last flights up to Scotland for that night.

I guess I should mention that I've been pretty depressed recently and this ended up being the nail in the coffin of my Christmas (and positive) spirit for this year. Have determed that whole project was doomed to never fly - note to self, plan further in advance next time...

Sorry not to have a nice cheery end to the tale. Thank you everyone for your excellent suggestions. Will try to make it up to the Cairngorms in February when the snow should be deep, chrisp and even, for some decent library shots, at least. Should any of you want a nice reindeer picture for the mantlepiece please be sure to email me your land address (I'm really very good about that kind of thing).
posted by dogsbody at 7:15 PM on December 17, 2006

Bad luck dogsbody, hope next year turns out better for you.
posted by matthewr at 4:13 AM on December 23, 2006

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