Highland cow safari: 'We really can’t believe the reaction we’ve had'

Tourists do not need so much as a pair of wellies to experience a taste of real Scottish farming life thanks to a Dumfries and Galloway couple who have tapped into a brilliant new market offering "Highland cow safari".

Neal McQuistin is the fifth generation of his family to live and work on High Airyolland farm near New Luce and got creative in his attempts to “diversify the farm business” following the news of the Brexit vote in 2016.

Mr McQuistin spoke of his interest in tourism and his wife, Janet’s, love of baking and said their plan for ‘cow safaris’ felt like one which played to all their strengths.

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He said: “People are always excited to see so many Highlands cows. Usually when people see them they are shut in a field, but we have 30 cows that are actually a working part of our farm and people love getting up close to them.”

Kitchen Coos & Ewes, run by Neale and Janet McQuistin, of Airyolland Farm. Picture: John Devlin/JPIMedia

The McQuistins originally launched Kitchen Coos and Ewes in Autumn 2019 to gauge if there would be any interest.

The tours proved to be a hit and the decision was made to close down and reopen with a formal launch in May 2020, but of course, they remained closed for much longer than anticipated.

Mr McQuistin said: “We’ve been open now since May 2021 and things have been going really well. We’re just short of reaching 1,000 visitors to our farm attraction and we’ve also signed a deal with an American company securing 25 dates over 2022 and 2023 for coach loads of tourists to come and visit.

"We really just can’t believe the reaction we’ve had, everyone seems to love the experiences we offer. We’ve got 56 five-star reviews on TripAdvisor I think, it’s going to be a bad day here when we get a four-star review I can tell you that.”

Over the first lockdown, Mr McQuistin made use of Facebook and found their following skyrocketed thanks to live videos from the calving fields.

“While they were locked in their houses, people enjoyed being able to more or less walk with me through the cows and see the new calves,” he said.

"We’ve had people become emotional over how much we meant to them during that time, and how being able to follow the farm helped to get them out of bed in the morning.

"It’s quite humbling to know that we helped some people through that very difficult time.”

Customers have a choice of tours to choose from which range from a basic walking tour – which do require wellies – to a private more “high-end and exclusive” tour, aptly named ‘Haute Coo Tour’.

Mr McQuinstin said: “On the Haute Coo Tour option people more or less get to spend the day with Janet and I. It’s a really great chance for anyone with a particular interest to really enjoy themselves.

“Whether that interest be farming itself, Highland Coos, photography, nature, whatever it is that the people want, we’ll make sure that they get that experience while they’re here.”

The tours all include homemade sweet treats and start at £7.50 for children, and £15 per adult.

For full details, visit www.kitchencoosandewes.com.

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