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Scottish Tourism’s Best of the Best

Press release   •   Mar 16, 2018 15:12 GMT

Silver Thistle winners Willie Macleod

One of Scotland’s most iconic castles, a rural arts trail through Rob Roy country and a record-breaking mountain bike championships were among those named best in the business at Scotland’s biggest awards night in tourism.

Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Earn Tourism Information BLiSS Trail 2017 and the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William received the accolades at the Scottish Thistle Awards National Final held last night (15 March).

Scottish tourism’s premier awards ceremony took place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, where 16 individuals, businesses and events were honoured for their innovation, excellence and success in the hospitality and tourism sector. In celebration of the Scottish Thistle Awards’ 25th anniversary, ten past Silver Thistle winners were also in attendance.

Willie Macleod, executive director of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) in Scotland and former chair of the New Lanark Trust, took the prestigious Caledonian MacBrayne Silver Thistle Award this year, which was presented by Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

Mr Macleod was described as a “leading advocate and campaigner for the industry, ensuring that tourism and hospitality businesses in Scotland thrive and prosper” in a career that included time as director at VisitScotland and a committee member of The Historic Environment Forum.

Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre picked up the inaugural M&IT / CAT Media - Best Business Event, for hosting the Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference, the largest dementia research conference in the UK.

The 2016 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup took home Best Sporting Event, presented by world-record breaking cyclist Mark Beaumont. The championship broke all previous attendance records in its 15-year history to deliver a world-class weekend of action and entertainment for more than 20,000 spectators in the iconic Scottish Highlands.

Other national award winners included Hebridean Celtic Festival (Caledonian MacBrayne - Best Cultural Event or Festival), Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery (ScotRail - Best Visitor Attraction), Peter Wilson of Cruise Forth (Tourism and Hospitality Hero) and Foxlake Adventures (Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience).

The 2017/18 Scottish Thistle Awards, in association with Fishers, rewards hotels, restaurants, B&Bs, visitor attractions, business and consumer events, and individuals who go that extra mile to provide customers with exceptional service.

Still Game and River City star Sanjeev Kohli co-hosted the evening with STV presenter and former Miss Scotland, Jennifer Reoch. Entertainment was provided by ventriloquist and comedian Paul Zerdin, winner of America’s Got Talent 2015, and Hannah Rarity, BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2018.

Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The Scottish Thistle Awards are the most coveted accolades in the tourism industry, celebrating quality, innovation and excellence across the industry.

“For 25 years the awards have recognised the significant value the sector contributes to the visitor economy and VisitScotland’s continued delivery underlines the organisations commitment to quality and success across the industry.”

Rebecca Brooks, chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel and VisitScotland Board member, said: The Scottish Thistle Awards are Scotland’s premier awards for the tourism industry and for 25 wonderful years they have been shining a spotlight on success, innovation and excellence.

“Congratulations to all of our national winners of the 2017/18 Scottish Thistle Awards. We are delighted to celebrate with them during this milestone year. They represent the best of Scottish tourism and epitomise the strength and depth of the sector which continues to innovate and excel in giving visitors a high quality experience.

“Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs and sustains communities. The Scottish Thistle Awards lets us recognise the unsung heroes of our industry who show real dedication and enthusiasm for Scotland’s tourism industry.”

Scott Inglis, Commercial Director at Fishers, said: “This was our second year as proud headline sponsor of the Scottish Thistle Awards and we think it is important to recognise those who go the extra mile to provide Scotland’s visitors with world class hospitality.

“At Fishers we don’t just think of ourselves as a laundry company, we know that we are an important part of Scotland’s tourism industry and we’re thrilled to show our support to other businesses in the sector.

“Last night we celebrated all the hard work that goes into making tourism a success in Scotland and there is a great deal to be proud of. All of the finalists deserve praise for ensuring Scotland’s visitors get the best experience possible and we would like to extend our congratulations to all of the winners.”

This year marked the Scottish Thistle Awards’ silver anniversary and saw a record-breaking 750 entries to the competition.

The Scottish Thistle Awards is led by a panel of industry experts from several organisations including VisitScotland, Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards, Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards, the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland, Scotland Food and Drink, Scottish Tourism Alliance, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, sportscotland and Wild Scotland.

The regional finals were: Central, Fife & Tayside; Lothians & Borders; West; Highlands and Islands, organised by the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards; and Aberdeen City and Shire, organised by Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards.


Scottish Thistle Awards National Final 2017/18 winners

Category Winner Location
Best Accommodation Provider Portavadie Loch Fyne Loch Fyne, Argyll
Best Informal Eating Experience Venachar Lochside Callander
Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience Foxlake Adventures East Lothian
Best Restaurant Experience Number 16 Restaurant Glasgow
Best Sporting Event Fort William UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Highlands
Bruce Stevenson Insurance Brokers - Most Hospitable B&B / Guest House Kingsmuir House - Peebles Scottish Borders
Caledonian MacBrayne - Best Cultural Event or Festival Hebridean Celtic Festival Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides
Fishers - Most Hospitable Hotel Moor of Rannoch Perthshire
Geotourist - Innovatiion in Tourism Loch Earn Tourism Information BLiSS Trail 2017 Stirling
Historic Environment Scotland - Best Heritage Tourism Experience Eilean Donan Castle Highlands
J Thomson Colour Printers - Best Bar / Pub Teuchters Landing Edinburgh
M&IT / CAT Media - Best Business Event Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre Aberdeen
ScotRail - Best Visitor Attraction Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery Perthshire
Tourism and Hospitality Hero Peter Wilson, Cruise Forth Fife
Working Together for Tourism VisitArran Arran
Caledonian MacBrayne Silver Thistle Willie Macleod

Notes to Editors

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2018 Year of Young People

  • The Year of Young People 2018 will be the next of the Scottish Government’s series of themed years, following the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.
  • The Year of Young People (YoYP 2018) will inspire Scotland through its young people aged 8 to 26, celebrating their achievements, valuing their contributions to communities and creating new opportunities for them to shine locally, nationally and globally
  • Central to YoYP 2018 will be a celebratory events programme that puts young people at the heart of its development and delivery, creating new and valuable experiences for young Scots and the wider public, with links to the inaugural 2018 European Championships.
  • Over 200 young people throughout Scotland are currently being recruited to become YoYP 2018 Ambassadors. Ambassadors will ensure that people and organisations in their communities know about what’s happening and will lead on projects and activities to create events and opportunities to celebrate young people.
  • The Year of Young People will have six themes which were developed in co-production with young people themselves:
  • oParticipation – looking at how young people can influence public services and decisions which affect their lives
  • oEducation – creating a stronger role for young people in shaping their learning
  • oHealth and Wellbeing – supporting young people to lead healthier, active lives and have opportunities to learn about and improve their mental health and resilience
  • oEquality and Discrimination – broadcasting the value of young Scots, challenging negative perceptions of young people, and supporting young people to take leading roles in challenging discrimination in all its forms.
  • oEnterprise and regeneration – celebrating young people’s role in innovation, entrepreneurship and the Scottish economy as well as making Scotland a greener and more pleasant place to live
  • oCulture – celebrating young people’s talent and contribution to Scottish culture and arts.
  • Further information on what’s happening and how people can get involved can be found on the new website or @YOYP2018 on Twitter.