2022 – The year I relocated Nessie, hosted alongside The Open and showed the Dutch Scotland’s real McCoy
You might have noticed I’ve been really quiet these past 12 months, quite frankly it’s because I have been really busy. 2022 was the year events and incentives in Scotland came back with a bang. It was great to be part of, and contribute to, the recovery.
Here are a few of the highlights of an incredibly special year.
A NEW CHALLENGE ‘UN-LOCHED…’
Client: A private Swiss construction company
In 2018, I had my first meeting with the owner of the company Ulrich to discuss ideas around his (40-person) program. He thanks his whole team every year by taking them away to somewhere amazing in the world. 2022 was Scotland (having been postponed 3 times because of Covid) and everything about this trip was to be exclusive and private; the group were to have all venues, activities, and experiences tailored to themselves.
Ulrich was great fun to work with; a talented building designer, his mind was highly creative. Nothing was too off the wall. He loved learning about how my bespoke destination management service could open up an incredible list of experiences for his colleagues. There were so many things they didn’t know Scotland could provide: including chartering the iconic Royal Scotsman, exclusive use of both the Edinburgh Johnnie Walker Experience (for a whisky tour and tasting with panache) and Murrayshall in Perthshire.
We included a racing car track day experience at Knockhill, a bespoke Highland Games on the grounds of beautiful Scone Palace, a Scottish Gala dinner in the Great Hall at Stirling Castle, and we finished with a farewell lunch at Barnbougle Castle.
And that’s where this story takes a fun turn. Ulrich knew that (with such a busy itinerary) they didn’t have time to go to Loch Ness, but he was desperate to see the Loch Ness Monster. So, we had a life-sized model built and we shipped Nessie 200 miles south to their lunch venue. Imagine everyone’s surprise as, during their lunch, Nessie slowly rises from the waters of the Forth River and peers into the windows of the castle. It was a unique twist to the event and a lasting memory for the guests – and they got to see the monster!
TRADING AIR MILES FOR THE ULTIMATE BIRDIE
Client: A US agency / Chase Avios top cardholders
Chase Avios wanted to deliver a high-level event in July for their top 60 US cardholders. The program invited customers to use their points to buy into an exclusive trip to Scotland. The jewel in the tour’s crown? Attending the final day at the 150th Open in St. Andrews, the home of golf. This was an enormous event in golfing history.
Chase had a very clear idea of what they wanted their experience to look like, and I was brought in to bring the event to life and add a Scottish twist. The guests stayed at the beautiful Balmoral Hotel and each day they set out on a different adventure. These inimitable moments included a drive south to the extravagant Thirlestane Castle. Normally, programs of this nature stay in Edinburgh, but I wanted to deliver something special;
“Let us whisk them away to a beautiful castle in the Borders, something they’d never usually see. You’ll have plenty of privacy, you’ll meet and have lunch with the family owners, and we’ll do incredible activities and sample classic Scottish Country Pursuits. We will round the day off with a jousting tournament on the grounds in front of the castle.”
I mentioned in my 2022 Anniversary Blog that one of my goals for the year was to take visitors outside the obvious ‘honeypots’ of Scotland and show them the authentic, lesser-explored parts of the country. The Scottish Borders was one of my highlights, and it was fantastic to be able to bring that into the planning.
Golf was always at the forefront of the trip’s theme, and so I arranged for them to visit The Royal Burges, the oldest golf club in the world. Here, we delivered a VIP dinner, hosted by the club’s Captain and Scottish Golf legend Bernard Gallacher. It was top-end luxury, and nothing was too much for their guests. Most of the group played the course the following day.
For the final day in St. Andrews, all the stars came together for their golf-loving guests, who were blown away by the magnitude of being at such a momentous event. The program was beautifully initiated by Chase Avios and Intersport, and I’m happy I was heavily involved with the organisation and delivery of such a unique event.
FROM BIG EVENTS, EVEN MIGHTIER WOODLANDS GROW
Client: A Dutch IT Company
My client Martijn first approached me to help pull together a large 10th-anniversary event for his 350 employees in January 2021. They made it clear they wanted to avoid the well-trodden paths of city centres and obvious Scottish tourism hot spots. They wanted a truly remote Highland experience, immersing themselves in the spectacular Scottish countryside where, as a team, they could bond, communicate, have fun, and reconnect after Covid. The overarching theme was ‘Finding the Real McCoy’, McCoy being the company name.
Their goal was to experience Highland hospitality and the well-known friendliness of the Highland people, so we settled on Aviemore as their primary location. We worked with 42 local suppliers, most of whom I had to build new relationships with as I’d never worked with them before, and this piece of business was really quite unusual for this part of the world. After the challenges the region had faced over the previous couple of years, bringing such a large-scale operation to this region was particularly rewarding.
It was a military operation; multi-element events across a run of days, with the 350 guests split into 30 to 40 smaller ‘clan’ groups. The programme included multiple locations including Dalwhinne Distillery, Culloden Battle Ground, and the summit of Cairngorm Mountain, with the majority participating in a range of bespoke activities on the beautiful Rothiemurchus Estate. These clans would compete with each other over the course of the tour to find The Real McCoy! The fantastic finale was all the clans ‘storming’ the stunning Ruthven Barracks to claim their title (and the shield I had designed and made for them)!
McCoy were keen to make sure their existing green commitments were carried into this programme. They’re already doing a lot of re-wilding at home and wanted to recognise that they were bringing 350 people to another country; giving something back to Scotland to counteract their activities was an important part of the brief.
So I worked with SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, who helped them ignite a Scottish woodland regrowth project (with a 30–50-year plan wrapped around it). They’ll have 6-monthly updates and (as the project rolls on) they’ve happily acknowledged that there will be further future involvement and investment from them. It was so much more than digging a few holes and planting a couple of trees.
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
In summary, what a year! These were some of the more complex events that I have created for a long time.
I had so much fun working on these programmes and getting to know the very unique teams from each client and of course all the brilliant Scottish partners who provided unwavering support throughout.
I finished with 350 very smiley Dutch people, 40 grinning Swiss guests, and I celebrated The 150th Open with 60 wonderfully happy Americans. This is what I do and it’s all about happiness. And who knows, perhaps in 2022, I put a bit of fun back into people’s lives.