Renowned Scottish visitor attraction joins Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels

Stephen Leckie, Julie and Donald Riddell and Richard Leckie

AN AWARD-winning Perthshire visitor attraction has been acquired by Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels.

Highland Safaris, located in Aberfeldy, will continue its successful operations as a standalone business within the Crieff Hydro Family portfolio, owned and led by the Leckie family.

Opened in 1992 by husband and wife Donald and Julie Riddell, Highland Safaris has grown to become one of the biggest attractions in the area, attracting over 50,000 guests each year and bolstering the economy in rural Perthshire by drawing visitors from around the world ‘off the beaten track’.

The attraction comprises Land Rover safaris, scenic boat trips on Loch Tay, its popular Red Deer Centre, a collection of walking and biking activities, and Perthshire’s only Gold, a Gem Panning Centre and an award-winning café and gift shop.

Julie Riddell, Director of Highland Safaris, said: “Donald and I started the business the same year we got married, with one Land Rover, and we have put 30 years of hard work into the business to grow it to what it is today. Our commitment to first class customer care remains as strong today as it was then.” 

Donald Riddell added: “The time is right for us to take a step back and create the opportunity for the business to continue to thrive with the investment and energy Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels will bring.”

“There is so much synergy between Highland Safaris and the Leckie family’s business, including a shared love of the local area and its wonderful wildlife. We are delighted to see Highland Safaris become part of their family.”

Donald and Julie initially ran the business from their family home before moving to its current location and building the Gold Panning Centre in 2004. They expanded in 2014 to include the Red Deer Centre. In 2017, Loch Tay safaris were added to the attraction’s offering.

Julie added: “The one moment I am most proud of was when we were awarded five star attraction status by VisitScotland in 2014. This was a huge moment and felt like recognition of everything we had achieved.”

“As we’ve grown, we’ve never lost sight of our core goal to offer a first-class customer experience and of our passion for Perthshire – it’s nature and heritage. I am confident that this ethos will remain at the heart of Highland Safaris under the Crieff Hydro Family team’s guidance.”

Stephen Leckie, Chairman and CEO of Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels, said: “This is a fantastic milestone for us and a great example of positive investment in Scotland’s tourism and hospitality sector.”

“Welcoming Highland Safaris to our family will help us to achieve our growth strategy and expand our offering to guests, particularly for visitors at our hotels in Crieff. Our team is excited to build on the amazing work of Donald and Julie to enhance the experience for the many thousands who visit Highland Safaris every year, and to continue their legacy of working closely with local landowners to enrich the economy and appreciation of local culture and history.”

“It’s important to us that the businesses in our portfolio exist in their own right and retain their local identity. Highland Safaris has an enthusiastic, long-standing team in place that will continue to manage the day-to-day running of the company, with our support, to allow them to do just that.”

Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels comprises eight hotels located in Perthshire, Dundee, the Scottish Borders and the Highlands.

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