Wilder Ways: An Innovation Story

Combining rustic horse trekking through the Highlands with a balance of luxury, Wilder Ways offers a holiday experience like no other.

Leaving office jobs behind, Cara Gelati and Nikki Dayton started Wilder Ways due to their passion for horses and enjoyment from holidaying with them. Now, thanks to innovation and determination, they get to share their passion with hundreds of people each year

The idea for Wilder Ways was sparked when Cara and Nikki were on holiday in Islay in 2015. Having trekked on the Isle with their own horses, they realised they could use their own talents and expertise to help others have a similar holiday experience. Originally planned as camps, the couple would take people who have brought their own horses on different routes across the Scottish wilderness. But this limited those who could come on the trips.

Taking a leap of faith, in 2016 the pair bought seven horses in five weeks, opening the business up to a whole new market: people who were interested in horse trekking but who didn’t own horses.

Offering more than just horse riding, the couple combined hotel stays and fine dining to offer a complete holiday experience. Cara explains: “On our trips we take people right into the wilderness of Scotland, way off the beaten track. We spend hours of the day riding through this beautiful landscape, often getting muddy when it rains.

“After a long day’s riding, people want to relax with luxury accommodation, great food and experience the local charm. So, we decided to take care of everything for our guests – from accommodation to dinner reservations. This means that not only do our guests benefit from the trips, the local community does too. Over the course of four weeks last year in a community of 94 people, we helped provide a cash injection of over £12,000.”

However, organising all aspects of each guests’ trip proved a challenge as it meant Wilder Ways would fall under package holiday regulations. Thanks to their relationship with the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) Innovation Team they were able to access their wealth of knowledge and get advice on how to work within the regulations.

Cara said: “By putting everything together for our guests meant we are essentially acting as tour operators and have to abide by package holiday regulations, despite the massive differences in what we offer. This was a complete minefield for us, so being able to tap into the expert knowledge of HIE was extremally beneficial. It felt like you had a big player in your team helping you succeed.”

Finding a way to keep their original vision possible while staying within regulations, the couple have kept innovation at the centre of everything they do.

Cara said: “Innovation is the exciting prospect of creating something new and better than what you had before. We really believe we have done that with Wilder Ways and we aren’t going to let the red tape of regulations get in that way. Instead it encourages use to be even more innovative. It was at the core of creating the company and we still use it when we are planning what to do next.

“I’d love to think that one day we will get to the point where we sit down and think that we have done all the innovation we can with the company, but we will probably always keep innovating. We’re always chasing something fun and new. It makes life more interesting and the job much more enjoyable so I believe everyone should be innovating in any way they can.”

Businesses looking to sign up to access HIE’s Innovation services can visit hie.co.uk/hietime or call 0300 013 5041 for expert info on what funding and innovation resources are available from HIE.

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