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16 October 2014
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Ballymena hosts the reindeer - Page One

Cairngorm Reindeer pull Santa's sleigh through the streets of Ballymena.

Article written by Angela Willis.


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The Magical Mists of Brigadoon or Ballymena on a Wet November Evening

When you get to my age (Smart Pass!), the run up to Christmas can be a bit of a turn off. "Jingle Bells" assails you from every shop as soon as, or even before, Halloween is over, the present list gets longer and longer, but your pension doesn't seem so stretchy, and what's more, the dreary days of November bring on a touch of S.A.D.

But there's one sure way to lighten up my face with a beaming smile as Christmas approaches, and that's the news that some of the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd are making the long journey down from Scotland again to pull Santa's sleigh through the streets of Ballymena.

Real Reindeer

And judging by the throngs that filled the streets last week (13/11/03) on a night when severe storms were forecast - there are a lot more Grannies like me who wouldn't miss it. Not only Grannies; every age was represented, from babes in arms to some very old grumpy granddads! - And even quite a dose of cynical teenagers who sort of, unexpectedly, got caught up with the electric atmosphere of the occasion. And there's no doubt - reindeer - real reindeer- which you normally only see on films or TV, create a magical feeling all their own.

The only herd

I came upon reindeer, close and personal, on a memorable weekend, funded by my son to celebrate my 60th Birthday - a while back, and have been besotted ever since. I'd always been interested and fascinated by them - maybe as an adjunct to my husband's playing Santa for many years. He had to put up with elves and gnomes to help him - there was never a reindeer in sight! But then we heard about the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre near Aviemore, the skiing Mecca in the heart of the Highlands of Scotland. This is the only herd in Britain and nothing would satisfy me till I had seen and touched these beautiful creatures for myself.


The arthritis was pretty bad that autumn, but I was determined to walk up the mountain to reach my goal. The "Reindeer People" were great and gave us a bumpy Landrover ride part of the way - they are used to coping with all ages and abilities and even have wellies and children's carriers available to borrow if you arrive unprepared. Had I climbed Everest, the thrill of achievement couldn't have been greater.

Hand feeding a reindeer in the Cairngorms
Hand feeding a reindeer in the Cairngorms
Velvet Nose

To stand on a mountainside on a misty September day amid magnificent scenery and surrounded by dozens of placid reindeer all eager to thrust their velvet noses into your hand for food, was the most wonderful experience.

Next Year?

We've returned twice since and I've got slower and puffed a bit more each time, but the magic hasn't dimmed and I've already pencilled in the highlight of next year (2004) in my new diary.

On to second page of Ballymena Reindeer

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