What to do at the weekend is one of parenthood’s perennial problems. As a one-off treat that will give your kids lifelong memories, I can heartily recommend Farm Stop in Portlethen.
I took my family there and they haven’t stopped talking about it since.
Where Farm Stop goes above and beyond as a visitor experience is how hands-on it is.
What sorts of animals are there at Farm Stop in Portlethen?
In an hour and a half we met goats — both long-eared and short, babies and fully-grown, pigs, sheep, lambs, Highland cows and calves, alpacas, donkeys, chickens, guinea pigs and ducks.
And by ‘met’, I mean we actually got up close and personal. Cuddling baby goats and lambs on our lap, picking up chickens, feeding the pigs.
Farm Stop is situated on the Polson family farm with views over the North Sea. Now in its sixth generation of farmers, it provides an authentic farm experience with all the sights, sounds and smells you’d expect.
For the full farm experience, including guided tour, it’s £15 for adults and £10 for children. You can also book a self-guided tour for the same price. When ‘taxes and fees’ were added it came to £79.80 for our family of five.
Farm Stop is worth the price, even if I wasn’t sure beforehand
Normally I would baulk at paying £80 for an hour and a half’s entertainment. But having done the guided tour, I can now say it was absolutely worth it.
It’s not the sort of thing you’d do every weekend, but as a one-off, it’s the sort of thing your kids will remember for the rest of their lives.
That goes for the grown-ups too. Despite being just on the right side of 40, I have never held a baby goat or a lamb. I’ve never had a goat climb on my back, nor a chicken sit on my head — until this weekend that is.
It’s worth remembering that taking the kids to the cinema or Codona’s isn’t exactly cheap either – but does it give them the same memories?
Certainly, those more ‘everyday’ weekend experiences have never produced so many looks of sheer joy on my kids’ faces.
Joy for the kids, stress-reducing endorphins for the grown-ups
And as an adult, I could feel the endorphins coursing through me as I cuddled a baby goat while it nuzzled in my face and chewed on my hair.
Many weekend family activities involve stress for the parents. But this was downright therapy.
My wife and I booked for ourselves and our three kids. And speaking of kids, the long-eared baby goats proved something of a favourite for all of us. I’m still dealing with demands to get our own one at home.
Our youngest, aged two and a half, spent the time pointing excitedly at everything that moved, saying “Cute! Cute!”
And she had a point – there wasn’t a single animal there that wasn’t.
Particularly the Valais Blacknose sheep, which I’m told have been named the ‘cutest in the world’. If you meet one you’ll understand why.
Is Farm Stop fun for all ages?
One slight concern we had was that our youngest might be intimidated or scared by some of the animals.
But albeit with limited experience, I have never met so many placid, yet fun and friendly animals. She felt totally secure as she picked up a chicken, or scratched a lamb’s ears.
Our middle child, aged nine, said afterwards: “One of the things I liked is that you can get very hands-on. You don’t just look at them.”
And our 12-year old said: “I like how they let you pet everything and feed the animals. You get to hold and hug them.”
Staff make time for everyone to have an interactive experience
My wife and I both commented on how well-organized it all was, with two hugely knowledgeable staff members telling us all about each animal, including their names and personalities.
They made sure everyone (there were about 12-14 people on our tour) got a chance to interact with each animal and got plenty of time to feed, cuddle or simply hold them.
With kids aged from two to 12, one of our problems as a family is finding things to do that keep all three engaged.
Softplay is heaven for the youngest, but boring for the older two. Similarly, the majority of what they like to do doesn’t work with a toddler in tow.
But Farm Stop ticked all the boxes for everyone – even mum and dad, who I’m pretty sure got as much out of the experience as the kids.
Why it’s five stars from this parent
I tend not to recommend things for the sake of it. But Farm Stop is one family outing I have no hesitation in recommending to other families.
A rather upmarket food and drink van waiting at the end of the tour, plus free parking right next to the entrance, were additional plus points for this parent.
Given my initial uncertainty over the cost, I find myself giving it five stars even for value for money. Sometimes you just have to experience something to realise how worthwhile it is.
THE VERDICT: Farm Stop, Portlethen
Address: Thistle Drive, Portlethen, AB12 4RL
Telephone: 07500 115002
Price: Adults £15, children £10 (free for children under one)
Value for money: 5/5
Parent score: 5/5
Children score: 5/5