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Family-run Highland retreat is Britain’s BEST small business

Revealed – Britain’s BEST small business: Family-run Highland retreat wins award

A family-owned retreat and activity centre in the Highlands has been named the best small business in Britain. 

Woodlands Glencoe won the overall ‘Small Business of the Year’ title at an awards ceremony backed by The Mail on Sunday, which has championed local firms throughout the pandemic. 

At the virtual Federation of Small Businesses awards event, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the likes of Woodlands Glencoe were crucial to Britain’s economy bouncing back from Covid-19, adding: ‘I have every confidence that it will be small businesses helping to fuel our national recovery and turning jabs, jabs, jabs into jobs, jobs, jobs.’ 

Winner: James Young holds the trophy with other members of the Woodlands Glencoe team

Laurence Young, 63, chairman of Woodlands Glencoe, said: ‘It’s a great endorsement of the team, who have had to cope with lockdowns, then going from nought to 60 when reopening.’ 

The judges said the retreat stood out as a ‘passionate family business dedicated to creating luxury experiences while nurturing the land in a sustainable and considerate way’. 

In 2009 Young’s family bought farmland that had been converted into a nine-hole golf course and set about turning it into an activity centre with Segway tours, archery, e-bikes and a café. 

Guests stay in 17 locally-built lodges with lake views. Each has a bathroom, kitchen and hot tub on its veranda. 

Young said: ‘We’ve found a real niche among people looking for romantic getaways or celebrating a birthday or an anniversary. 

‘We now employ 20 people and make sure we are a responsible employer by paying the real living wage and providing year-round employment.’ 

The lodges, which are built from wood in an environmentally-responsible way, have air source heaters, which also heat the hot tub. With occupancy rates at 94 per cent the business had found a major audience – but then Covid hit. 

‘We had awful months but now we’re coming out of lockdown we’re finding that people really want to stay somewhere private, without the crowds,’ said Young. 

His son James, 30, is development director, daughter Katie, 25, runs sales and marketing, son Callum, 23, is operations manager. Katie’s partner Brian is activity manager. 

‘It’s interesting working with family, but we manage,’ says Young. The firm is planning to expand. 

Woodlands Glencoe beat 3,000 other businesses to the top award at last week’s ceremony.

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: ‘After a torrid 12 months, it’s been fantastic to come together and celebrate the great small businesses that are at the heart of communities across the UK. 

‘It was a closely fought contest this year. The winners show what’s possible when you tirelessly adapt, invest and provide an unforgettable experience for customers.’ 

Mail Metro Media, the commercial arm of The Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Metro and i newspapers sponsored the awards but was not involved in the judging process. 

Last year, Mail on Sunday owner DMGT donated £5million in free advertising and pledged to help 1,500 small firms during the pandemic. The free adverts were described as a ‘lifeline’ by businesses and won praise from Chancellor Rishi Sunak. 



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