The famous Cairngorms reindeer have won an unusual accolade – by helping the area to be named as among the top seven places in the world to see Rudolph and his friends.
The north herd was placed second on the list by top travel guide Wanderlust.
The area is home to Britain’s only free ranging herd of reindeer.
“One of Wanderlust’s best snow and ice experiences, the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre, located in the eponymous national park, is a must for those hoping to see reindeer. Especially if you don’t want to embrace Arctic temperatures,” said the guide.
“The centre offers a guided walk through the Cairngorms hills every day (except during the biting winter month of January, and the beginning of February), to help wildlife lovers see the area’s 150-strong reindeer herd roam free.
“Once back at the centre, you may have the opportunity to feed the reindeer and stroke them. If you do, make sure your follow your guide’s instructions.”
The reindeer herd at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre were started as a serious conservation exercise in 1952 by the late Mikel Utsi, a Sami, and his American wife Dr Ethel Lingren.
They visited wild, upland Scotland and saw it as similar to the reindeer habitat of Sweden.
Wild reindeer in Scotland were hunted to extinction around AD1200 and so a reintroduction programme was started.
Even with Utsi’s knowledge of reindeer, there were veterinary problems, but he persisted.
Now, more 65 years later, the herd is flourishing in the Cairngorms and Cromdale Hills.
The herd has grown in numbers over the years and is currently held at between 130 and 150 by controlling breeding. Stud bulls, imported from Sweden, help make sure the bloodline remains pure.
The reindeers are also used at Christmas for festive events around the country. They have been seen this season from Windsor and Truro in England to Gleneagles and Orkney.
Alan and Tilly Smith and their daughter Fiona and son Alex manage the Scottish reindeer on 6000 acres around the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre at Glenmore.
“We are delighted with the accolade and its good to be recognised globally,” said Fiona.
The reindeer will breed at around three years old and live to between 12-14 years.
The Wanderlust chart was topped by another reindeer encounter in Swedish Lapland with Svalbard in Norway third.