Religious travel market leader McCabe Pilgrimages has been acquired by its management in a buy-out following the retirement of founder Alistair McCabe.

Managing director Paul Ellerby and operations director Rosemary Nutt led the MBO with the support of of travel consultancy firm, the Firebird Partnership.

The Aito member operator was founded 35 years ago, and takes pilgrims all over the world.

The company has particular expertise in tours to the Holy Land and the Oberammergau Passion Plays.

Ellerby, an licensed Church of England lay minister, joined McCabe in April 2018 as head of marketing and has more than 30 years of travel industry experience. Nutt has worked with McCabe since 1987.

They will be supported by Firebird co-founder Ian Finlay, who joins McCabe as a non-executive director.

Former Tui director Finlay has many years of experience leading travel businesses, particularly in the educational and specialist sectors.

Alistair McCabe will continue to provide experience as a consultant to the business.

Ellerby and Nutt are keen to build on McCabe’s reputation as a trusted operator for travellers looking to explore spiritual and religious sites.

Ellerby said: “Under Alistair’s leadership, McCabe Pilgrimages has established an enviable reputation and leading position in the pilgrimage tours market.

“We want to continue this legacy and build on the company’s success supported by the Firebird Partnership.”

Finlay added: “The McCabe brand is trusted, respected and regarded with real affection by travellers.

“I’m delighted to be joining the business, and keen to help Paul and Rosemary bring their exciting plans for McCabe to fruition.”

McCabe is the third deal Firebird has completed since the business was formed in June by industry experts Finlay and Stewart Lambert.