Sleigh's UK & Ireland Logo

50 Years of WL Sleigh Ltd

Celebrating the Family Legacy and Future

This April, the Sleigh’s name has celebrated a huge milestone – 50 years of W L Sleigh Ltd. To mark this occasion, we sat down with William and Christopher Sleigh to discuss the family and company heritage that has made the last 50 years so successful. For over a century, the Sleigh’s family name has been synonymous with luxury, transportation, and service across Scotland. In 1889 two postmen, Mr W L Sleigh and Mr T F Ross founded the Ross and Sleigh Cycle Company. By 1907 the company had changed its name to Rossleigh and had expanded to sell bicycles, motorbikes and automobiles. The company’s first Royal Warrant was granted in 1921 and King George V knighted Sir W L Sleigh in 1924. Rossleigh was a renowned institution across Scotland, with branches in all the major cities representing top line cars from Daimler to Bentley to Rolls-Royce.

In the early 1970’s when the family lost control of Rossleigh, W. Lowrie Sleigh LVO saw the opportunity to capitalise on the reputation and credibility of the Sleigh’s name, and to continue the family’s connection and dedication to motor services by founding W L Sleigh Ltd. The chauffer company, today run by Lowrie’s son, William, started as quite a small business compared to what Rossleigh had been, but through dedication and perseverance it has grown substantially in size and international reputation. While reflecting on the 50-year milestone for the company, William stated, ‘I have a lot of pride in the fact that we are still here. Pride in my great-grandfather to start selling bicycles. It is nice in finding pictures and knowing where his first shop was in the city and following the progress of his vision.’

William joined the company in the early 1990s at his family’s encouragement, bringing youthful energy into a new era for the company. As a family business, drive and passion were, and still are key traits in every generation of Sleigh’s. William did not come from a motor-vehicle background, but he understood that joining the family company meant striving to offer the highest level of service and experiences to the clients as, at the time, the company held three Royal Warrants for motor services. One of William’s early memories in the company was ‘the European Heads of Government event at Holyrood Palace. We supplied all the official cars for that, over two hundred of them, and that was my first big project with the company back in 1992.’ William’s background in film and television brought his own perspective on ways to optimise the company. The dialogue of ideas and strategy between W. Lowrie and William created a formidable partnership resulting in an exciting era for chauffer services across Scotland.

Innovation and change have been constants in William’s time at the company. He noted that one of the first things he introduced to the company were computers, as during his father’s time, everything was done on typewriters and mobile phones were yet to become affordable or reliable. A standout amongst William’s key business moves was placing Sleigh’s at the centre of the international travel industry. The company was invited to become a Virtuoso On-site in Scotland, one of only two in 2002. William takes pride not only in his family name, but also in his country and Scottish heritage. Always happy to talk about his favourite Whiskies, tartans, isles and Munros, he found that simply chatting about Scotland was an excellent way to sell the country to an international market. His sterling reputation was then cemented by the unparallelled attentive service that clients received upon touching down.

As his relationships with luxury travel agents grew, so did their requests for services beyond private drivers. William took on a business partner, Russell Dunsmore, who had his own successful chauffeur business concentrating on the music, film, and TV industries. This allowed Russell to focus on the chauffeur services, while William was able to concentrate on the tourism business. From arranging the tickets on a day tour to booking stays at hotels, it was evident to the Sleigh’s family that there was demand for a new branch of the company, so Sleigh Tours Scotland was founded in 2015. Christopher W L Sleigh, who had only recently started working alongside his father, capitalised on this gap in the market across the UK and Ireland by expanding into Sleigh’s UK & Ireland, a Destination Management Company (DMC) in early 2017.

With Christopher and Russell on board, William described the transition into the two companies as being ‘once again in exciting times similar to when I first joined. Chris joined at a pivotal moment and has taken the luxury touring side of the business to a level which I only dreamed about but could have never achieved on my own. When he first told me he wanted to join the family business, I was thrilled, because his enthusiasm for the tourism industry was, and still is, so evident.’ Christopher added that ‘It’s a huge honour and I really hope to do my family proud. There’s always going to be change and challenges in a transition from generation to generation for a family business, but I’m determined to continue Sleigh’s growth in a similar manner as before and maintain the infallible reputation, even down the new paths that we are exploring.’

Christopher has made his own mark on the travel industry and has grown Sleigh’s UK and Ireland rapidly in the last seven years despite Covid-19 setbacks. The company now operates across the UK and Ireland, specializing in 5* luxury. To Christopher, ‘The Sleigh’s product speaks volumes of what the brand means to us and to our clients; our truly seamless service shows our quality and standards, our unique offering demonstrates the team’s creativity and passion, and our client care shows our integrity and commitment.’ The Sleigh’s brand expanded further when Christoper started House of Sleigh with Ben Lavender in late 2022, taking on bespoke, exclusive-use experiences and adventures. Throughout this growth, the tie between the three companies has remained steadfast. In an ever-changing world of tourism, Sleigh’s continuously meets and exceeds expectations, remaining pioneers in the industry.

With 50 years of W L Sleigh, almost a decade of Sleigh’s UK and Ireland, and the recent introduction of House of Sleigh, the companies remain unwavering in their core values of humility, honesty, genuine interest, and pride in the product, while also looking to the future. The company’s involvement in the European Council in 1992 and the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in 2005 were early indicators of looking towards the future and striving for sustainability and longevity. As the travel industry adapts to constant change in the world, so do the products that are offered. William has highlighted the ever-growing need to focus on sustainability, especially with a fleet of vehicles. In a manner reminiscent of the old Rossleigh newspaper adverts, which proudly announced the introduction of the latest luxury cars to their showrooms, W L Sleigh has recently announced the addition of both hybrid and fully electric vehicles to their fleet, with more changes to go greener in the future.

The teams at each of the companies continue to expand, highlighting William and Christopher’s acute talent for recognising patterns in the travel industry. Service and tradition were and continue to be strong influencers that have allowed the company to be transformed over time. Starting as a venture by two innovators, which rapidly expanded into the largest cycle dealership in Scotland, then to a family owned and run business to where they are now, a brand that is an internationally recognised travel stronghold.

Christopher and William are proud to continue the work of the generations before them, while constantly looking to the future of the companies and the travel industry. Christopher concluded that, ‘While we have been lucky to see some real growth over the last few years, I believe this is only the beginning for where we can go as a business. With our fabulous team and concrete foundations, I’m confident Sleigh’s has a very strong future to further push the boundaries of creative luxury travel. As our reputation and our brand goes from strength to strength, more opportunities will open to further enhance our offering and grow our product.’

let's work together

Could this inspire your experience?

Whether it’s finding a castle to host a big family vacation, organising helicopter transport for a remote picnic or arranging unique private cultural experiences, we are eager to meet every client’s wishes.

More ideas

let's work together

The Sleigh Family have specialised in luxury travel since 1974 and are now leading experts in the industry

Over these 49 years we have acquired extensive experience and forged strong connections across every inch of the UK to become recognised leaders in our respective fields.

local, cultural expert insight across the UK & Ireland

With luxury ingrained every step of the way.