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Case Study: Lazy Duck


In 2019, Phil Hodgkiss and Sarah Miller took over the lease of The Lazy Duck, a luxury off-grid accommodation business near Nethy Bridge in the Cairngorms National Park. The culmination of a five-year search for a slower way of life, taking on the business has allowed Phil and Sarah to pursue their individual passions.

A renowned offroad endurance bike racer, Phil is now a mountain bike guide, while Sarah offers guests massage and yoga in the onsite Wellbeing Studio. They describe their customers as ‘adventurous spirits who cherish quiet, relaxing spaces and fresh air.

A week spent learning how to Do It The Ride Way

In 2022, Phil joined a five-day workshop run by DMBinS called Doing It The Ride Way. Delivered via a mix of in-person and online sessions, the aim of the workshop was to help businesses in Badenoch and Strathspey collaborate and learn from carefully selected experts about how to give mountain biking, cycling and adventure-seeking tourists a world-class welcome.The workshop covered a raft of relevant and engaging topics, including a session on the Bike Plan for the local area, an overview of the services and standards required when creating memorable experiences for clients, and advice on creating digital content to help market adventure experiences.

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Applying the workshop topics to two businesses

As he operates two businesses – The Lazy Duck eco retreat and his guiding business, Find Flow Live Slow - Phil wore both hats during the workshop. Phil explains he was attracted to attend the workshop by the opportunity to learn about social media, inclusion and the development plans for the region. More generally, he also relished the chance to get to know the speakers and other attendees, particularly as a relative newcomer to the area.

“I always knew there was going to be a really strong agenda. I wanted to see what I could get from it and bring to it, and it was an opportunity to expand my network.”

One of the things that struck Phil at the time, and that has stayed with him, was a statistic about how only 10% of hospitality guests will be interested in mountain biking.

“The 10% figure stuck in my mind,” says Phil. We have a big audience through our Lazy Duck social channels, but for 90% of that audience, my mountain biking content isn’t relevant. So we're very carefully and cautiously planning when to post reels and the other biking content I create.”

That Phil can produce such content is also in part down to his attendance at the workshops.

“A huge chunk of the video-making and social media training really sunk in. It was really interesting.”

Another helpful topic was the session on inclusion, run by diversity expert and mountain biker Aneela McKenna of Mor Diversity. While Phil considers himself to be naturally very inclusive, he says Aneela’s session challenged him to become more conscious about considering it from all angles:

“Some elements required me to question my methods. I had to consider, ‘Am I really inclusive?’

Adapting the Lazy Duck and Find Flow Live Slow offer. Mindful of making their offer more welcoming to riders following the Doing It The Ride Way workshop, Phil and Sarah have converted a disused camping shelter into secure dry bike storage. It’s fully stocked with cleaning materials and workshop tools for guests to use as required. .Another takeaway for Phil was the responsibility that he and other riders, guides and coaches have to show that mountain bikers are respectful sharers of beautiful places.

“Some people are keen to simply get out for a ride with a guide and have some photos taken along the way. But others want a deep, meaningful conversation in a beautiful place,”

Phil elaborates. He plans to contact DMBinS to investigate how he might take such an offer forward. Biking offers something for everyone, all year round. When asked what mountain biking brings to Badenoch and Strathspey, Phil is emphatic, enthusiasm pouring out of him.

"Mountain biking is one of a few activities that are pretty much year-round. We’ve got incredible resources here: places like High Burnside, the Cairngorm plateau and Glenfeshie are world-renowned. There are so many massively iconic riding areas. And there’s something for everyone, whether you started taking the kids to school by bike and have really got into it, or you’re into proper downhill, hardcore rides. It’s like the Lake District and Wales: Cairngorms is on the world map for biking. And that’s not surprising, as the trails are just phenomenal.

Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS) is working to help plan and develop sustainable mountain biking in the Highlands – working closely with the mountain bike community and land managers to improve riding experiences, and with local businesses to help build the benefits that can be gained from cycle tourism.

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