Cairngorms lodge rental firm targets expansion

The firm's properties include Craigard Lodge - which boasts the likes of a cinema room, hot tub, and wine cellar. Picture: Rupert Shanks.
The firm's properties include Craigard Lodge - which boasts the likes of a cinema room, hot tub, and wine cellar. Picture: Rupert Shanks.
Share this article
0
Have your say

A Cairngorms-focused self-catering property-management firm is looking to create more jobs and grow the properties on its books after seeing high demand for its offering.

Handpicked Lodges, which manages luxury lodges across Strathspey, was launched in 2016 by Tanja Hughes and Judith Thurlow.

The firm was launched in 2016 by Tanja Hughes (left) and Judith Thurlow. Picture: Catriona Parmenter Photography.

The firm was launched in 2016 by Tanja Hughes (left) and Judith Thurlow. Picture: Catriona Parmenter Photography.

The business has grown “much faster and in a really exciting way more than we ever anticipated it would”, Thurlow told The Scotsman, explaining that the duo found they had a lot in common in terms of ideas and work ethic – and a complementary skillset.

Both had also been making in-roads into the sector. Hughes had experience of working as a chartered surveyor, while Thurlow was running her own training and coaching consultancy, working with local and national businesses to help develop customer service and management skills.

READ MORE: ‘Outlander effect’ drives tourist surge as home-grown interest also booms
READ MORE: More Scots taking ‘staycation’ summer holidays in UK
Handpicked Lodges, which has just celebrated its third anniversary, launches its 17th luxury lodge next week.

The aim is to grow the total to at least 20 within the next 12 months – and keep growing, albeit at a measured pace.

International customer base

Many of its guests are from the Central Belt and England, helped by the Caledonian Sleeper route, and overseas from say Europe, the US, and Australia. “We stretch pretty far afield,” says Thurlow, who spent childhood holidays in the Cairngorms.

Additionally, the smallest property on its books accommodates two guests and the largest 18, while overall occupancy ranges from 70 to 90 per cent.

“We’re getting calls almost every week from people wanting us to manage their properties,” Thurlow adds, noting an emphasis on high-quality sites. “We really do have to hand pick them.”

The firm has also hired two staff to look after operations – and is about to take on a third associate to cover this area.

The lodge business is looking to grow its permanent operations workforce and roster of lodge-checkers to maintain the same level of service as its number of properties grows.

Handpicked Lodges, which has signed up to certification program Green Tourism, also collaborates with local firms such as The Highland Kitchen that provides gourmet dining experiences in the lodges.