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Heatherlea - an Employee Owned Company

One of the UK’s best-known names in wildlife tourism, Heatherlea has entrusted its staff to take the reins after adopting an employee ownership structure.

Ever since Kevin and Caryl Shaw first invited birdwatchers into their guest house – Heatherlea – in 1991, we have strived to provide the perfect balance of friendly, professional service, excellent wildlife watching in stunning landscapes, and a warm, homely hotel serving delicious, locally-sourced food.

From the early days of exploring the mountains and forests of Strathspey, we have slowly broadened our horizons to run holidays across the Scottish islands, and every continent on Earth. Our expert guides maintain the original family-run ethos, planning each trip in a sensible and sustainable way, ensuring each guest is treated to a real experience – wherever you are in the world.

Our recent change to an ‘employee-owned’ company means that the staff at The Mountview Hotel in Nethy Bridge – the Heatherlea HQ – are even more integral in the delivery of our holidays. The office, chefs and kitchen staff, housekeeping and front-of-house teams are all fully aware that the comfort and safety of the accommodation and travel elements of the holidays are equally as important as the bird list – who doesn’t enjoy returning to a roaring log fire and hearty, home-cooked meal after a day in the field?!

Kevin & Caryl retired as active members of the Company in 2023, and Kevin says ‘I’m proud of Heatherlea, and everyone who has worked there, past and present. I’ve been lucky to work alongside my partner, and from the Owls of Finland to One-horned Rhino in Nepal and Quetzals in Costa Rica, I've visited many wonderful places, having great fun showing wildlife to our highly valued friends and clients. In Scotland, Caryl and I spent the early years exploring the Highlands and Islands, from Dotterel on the high tops to Corncrake on the Outer Hebrides, and made the whole of northern Scotland into our birding backyard. We have been unbelievably fortunate to have enjoyed such a varied and rewarding working life, it really wasn't a rehearsal!'

Kevin is still a keen birder, and a highly experienced Guide who intends to lead the occasional tour in the future. He is also Company-appointed Director to the Heatherlea Trust Board, thereby retaining a keen interest in the future of the Company.

Kevin and Caryl Shaw

AT A GLANCE – A few key questions

What is an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT)?
An EOT enables a company to become owned and managed by its employees, and is usually set up by a company’s existing owners as part of their succession planning strategy. Created by the Finance Act 2014, the formation of an EOT was seen as a way to encourage more companies to become employee owned.

How does it work?
An EOT is run by its Trustees. Their role is to ensure that the company is being well led, and in a way which maximises employee engagement and commitment.

Does that mean employees own shares in the company?
No, the shares are owned by the Trust, though there are schemes which will enable employees to become shareholders at a future date.

How many people are on the Heatherlea Trust Board?
There are three Board members. These are the Managing Director, an Employee Representative, and an Independent Trustee.

What about day-to-day running of Heatherlea?
This remains with the existing management team, who will manage all strategic and operational affairs.

Who are all these people?
Officers of the company are;

Trust Board Directors
Ralph Leishman (Independent)
Holly Page (Employee)
Kevin Shaw  

Heatherlea (Scotland) Ltd Directors
Emma McBride (Managing)
Fleur Warren

What are the advantages?
The main advantage is that Heatherlea is no longer owned by a single private individual. This is a commitment to the longer term which helps to secure the business, its jobs and its culture. All existing assets of the company (including Mountview Hotel, Nethy Bridge) are secured within the Trust, which means we have a more resilient and adaptable business, making us stronger going forward.

A second advantage is that employees become even more engaged and committed, because they benefit from a clear, shared purpose. An Employee Owned Trust also has the option to award bonus payments depending on successful performance of the company, and these currently benefit from an income tax exemption up to a maximum of £3600pa.

What happens next?
For our clients and suppliers, very little! The change in ownership took place on Monday 5th July 2021. The existing office team continue to run the company, and all holiday bookings will proceed as planned. We will expand our product by using our new strengths, and by further expansion of our team.

These are exciting days for everyone connected with Heatherlea, including our valued clients.

We look forward to taking you birding around the globe!




About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248