Owl centre set to turn a few heads

Keeper Tristan Williams with eagle owl Sarabi

Keeper Tristan Williams with eagle owl Sarabi

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AS tourist attractions go, it’s certain to fly.

One of the largest owl centres in the world is set to open its doors in West Lothian in time for Easter.

The Evening News revealed last year that Rod and Niccy Angus decided to move from Argyll for a new life in the Lothians along with their collection of almost 100 owls, comprising 40 species.

The council has since approved a 15-year lease to enable the Scottish Owl Centre to make the move from Campbeltown to Polkemmet Country Park near Whitburn.

The centre, which is now based in the walled garden of the park, will host daily flying displays and run classes to educate school pupils about the birds of prey.

It features around 60 outdoor aviaries, an indoor flying display area with seats for more than 200 people, an owl-themed playground, a small shop and a picnic area.

All going well, it could open as early as next week.

Mr Angus, 52, said the Scottish Owl Centre worked well in Campbeltown but he felt it always needed a more central platform. “We feel a great sense of anticipation and relief that the owl centre is about to open,” he said. “It’s taken about two years of planning to get this far.

“The collection will build to over 100 birds during the course of the season. I think many people will be surprised at the scale of the project. Their eyes will be opened to the wonderful world of the owl.”

It was initially hoped that the tourist attraction, which is thought to be home to the largest collection of trained owls in the world, would open in July or August last year, but the timescales didn’t go to plan.

Mr Angus, a father of six, said: “The main hang-up was a debate over the planning fee, and the actual building control took an awful long time. We hope to open between next Monday and Friday, and we will invite pupils from Polkemmet Primary School in before then. We will have a more official launch in June.”

The main building work has been completed, with the final finishing touches being made.

The couple moved to a cottage in the park last November, the back door of which opens out onto the centre. They have taken on a senior keeper, Trystan Williams, and are looking to employ a trainee keeper and a full-time receptionist. The centre will open seven days a week, from around 10.30am to 5pm. It may close in December and January, although a final decision is still to be made.

Ornithologist Mr Angus added: “The only non-owl that we have at the centre is the weird and wonderful Tawny Frogmouth from Australia. Some of the owls are incubating eggs at the moment, including the Milky Eagle Owl from Africa, and the Great Horned Owls from North America. The Great Horned Owls are due to hatch in the next week.”

The centre in Campbeltown was rated a four-star attraction by VisitScotland.