Scotland’s new reindeer centre opens in time for Christmas

SCOTTISH county Caithness sees the successful opening the doors of its new reindeer centre in time for the holiday season.

Lichen Caithness is home to Sven, Levvi and Mr Antlers, who are the UK’s most northerly reindeer.

The animals 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 them 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.

Two reindeer
Male reindeer can weigh up to 250 kilograms – over three times the weight of an average human

With no other competitors in the far north of Scotland, husband-and-wife, Chris and Elizabeth Irwin, opened the reindeer centre after considering the idea for almost 20 years.

They approached Business Gateway, Scotland’s national business advisory service, in June 2023 with a vision to bring the animals to the local area.

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

Business Gateway Highland assisted them with the Highland Council’s Business Growth Grant and the Caithness Business Fund, which helped to get the business off the ground. 

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 a steady increase in visitors 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.”

Jennifer Irvine, Business Gateway adviser, said: “It’s been fantastic to support Chris and Elizabeth this year, and to see just how well received the reindeer centre has been with locals and tourists alike.

“Like many others, I’m very much looking forward to visiting the beautiful reindeer this Christmas and in years to come.”