Case Studies

The UK’s most northerly reindeer centre opens in Caithness 

A Caithness reindeer centre has successfully opened its doors after its director accessed expert support and guidance from Business Gateway.

About the business

Lichen Caithness is home to Sven, Levvi and Mr Antlers, who are the UK’s most northerly reindeer. The furry residents are the stars of the centre’s daily reindeer experiences, which give visitors the chance to learn about the reindeer habitat, food sources, and climate-specific adaptations.  

Visitors to the centre can also feed the hoofed inhabitants with reindeer moss, as well as being able to enjoy a deluxe hot chocolate with marshmallows toasted over a fire or in a Nordic-style Kota hut.  

Both the support from Business Gateway and the start-up grant have benefitted us massively. We’ll continue to work with local providers to promote our beautiful centre, and we look forward to continuing to work with Business Gateway as the business continues to grow.
Chris Irwin, Director of Lichen Caithness

How Business Gateway has helped

With no other competitors in the far North of Scotland, husband-and-wife, Chris and Elizabeth Irwin, spotted an opportunity to open a reindeer centre after considering the idea for almost 20 years. They approached Business Gateway in June 2023 with a vision to bring the animals to the local area.  

The duo accessed a suite of Business Gateway’s start-up support, including one-to-one guidance from a dedicated business adviser, as well as advice on their business plan, marketing, and funding.  

Business Gateway Highland assisted the couple with the Highland Council’s Business Growth Grant and the Caithness Business Fund, which gave them a solid foundation to get the business off the ground.   

Through Business Gateway, Chris and Elizabeth also received digital support, which helped them develop a strong social media strategy. Since officially launching on Facebook in June, the centre’s followers have grown to 1,700, with their social posts reaching around 35,000 people per month.  

Since opening in August, Lichen Caithness has welcomed a large number of visitors, including both locals and tourists. The team has forged links with a popular hotelier on the NC500 route, which has contributed to their visitor numbers increasing steadily as word continues to spread about the centre.  

The team are now preparing for what they expect to be a very busy festive season.  

Chris Irwin, Director, said: “Both the support from Business Gateway and the start-up grant have benefitted us massively. We’ll continue to work with local providers to promote our beautiful centre, and we look forward to continuing to work with Business Gateway as the business continues to grow.”

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