Scotland's tourism industry is reporting a rise in interest from visitors in coming to see highland cows this year.

Neale McQuistin of Kitchen Coos and Ewes in Wigtownshire, Dumfries & Galloway, which offers several experiences with the animals, says their visitor numbers are on track to double in 2023. 

VisitScotland has capitalised on using the 'coos' as a way to entice international visitors, with them as a regular face on its social media channels. 

This includes a day every week being dedicated to sharing a photo of a highland cow, with photos from various corners of the country falling under the hashtag #Coosday, which have so far this year reached people 16 million times today. 

McQuistin describes the increase he has seen in numbers visiting his Wigtownshire cows so far this year: “We’ve noticed a huge increase in the popularity of our Highland Coo experiences this year. In 2022, we welcomed just over 2000 visitors to our farm. In 2023 we passed the 2000 visitor mark in July and look set to reach almost 4000 visitors this year.  

“Our safari trailer tours are most popular and we regularly get three, and sometimes four generations of the same family, all enjoying them.”

Amongst these 4000 visitors have been people from across the globe who find themselves in Scotland for very different reasons - but who all share excitement in seeing the highland cows. McQuiston explains: “We get a lot of visitors from America coming to see our coos.  Many of them book months in advance when they are planning their trips to Scotland. However, one couple from Los Angeles, on the spur of the moment, took three flights to join their friends on a Haute Coo Tour before returning to Los Angeles the next day! 

“Otherwise, people from all over the UK like to come here.  We only recently had a hen party from Windsor that took a flight from London to Glasgow and hired a minibus to get here. The bride-to-be was a big Highland coo fan and her girlfriends organised the trip for her. She got a wonderful surprise when she spotted the signpost for Kitchen Coos & Ewes at our road end!”

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It is not just that those who who have been running cow experiences for years are noticing an increase in popularity - other tourism businesses have also been inspired to start drawing visitors in with the coos, too.

Louise Nicol runs the award-winning Newton Farm Holidays in Angus, and took the move to introduce a Highland Cow experience in 2021, which allows her visitors to observe and pet the animals. 

Like McQuiston, Nicol cites the interest the cows spark in visitors to Scotland from the States: “It’s been a lovely surprise to see the interest in our animals from both local and international visitors. Our American visitors have loved them and the Highland Coos have become something they seem to really associate with Scotland. 

The refound ability to travel and have experiences like this following the pandemic may also be driving the increase in tourists flocking to see highland cows, the Angus farm owner suggests.

Nicol explains: “We offer quite an unmissable experience and the chance to get closer to them than you would normally. We’ve found the tours are selling really quickly and we’re getting more enquiries from international visitors keen who want to visit a farm as part of their trip. There seems to be a real desire since the pandemic for people to get back to nature and agritourism is a fantastic way to do that.”

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Vicki Miller, VisitScotland’s Director of Digital and Marketing, said: “It’s fantastic to hear stories of the different ways, and things, people fall in love with when visiting Scotland.

“We know from the success of #Coosday that there is a real love for these animals and we regularly feature coos from all over the country as part of our wider support for agritourism in Scotland.

“There is nothing like a stay on a working farm, surrounding yourself in stunning scenery, sampling the finest fresh food and drink and falling in love with rural Scotland and we work closely with businesses to help showcase this unmissable offering to visitors from all across the world."