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Thistle while you…win!

Press Release   •   Mar 21, 2016 09:52 GMT

Scotland’s first wakeboarding park, The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, a 15th century chapel and the man behind Rabbie’s Small Group Tours were among those crowned the champions of tourism last night (18 March).

Held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, the national finals of the Scottish Thistle Awards revealed a total of 14 winners across a range of categories during a glittering evening ceremony hosted by comedian Fred MacAulay.

Among the winners were Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland, Stirlingshire eatery Venachar Lochside and Highland pub, Applecross Inn.

This year’s awards, which saw a record-breaking number of entries, including hundreds of nominations from members of the public this year, celebrate tourism businesses or suppliers across the country who have gone the extra mile to offer an outstanding visitor experience.

Robin Worsnop, Chief Executive and founder of Edinburgh based Rabbie’s Small Group Tours, was named the winner of the prestigious Silver Thistle Award, given to an individual who has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the country’s tourism industry.

Having founded Rabbie’s Small Group Tours in 1993, Worsnop has grown the business into the UK’s most successful independent small group tour company.

The entrepreneur has also held the position of Chair of Edinburgh Tourism Action Group since 2010 and spearheaded the development of the 2020 Tourism Strategy for the city. Worsnop was also instrumental in establishing the not for profit organisation Climate Change Scotland and was the groups inaugural Chair.

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said:

“The Silver Thistle Award is the top honour in tourism and goes to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the industry. In building a multi-award winning tour business now rated as one of the top ten things to do in Edinburgh, Robin has inspired his peers and competitors along the way. Robin has been an active leader in helping the tourism industry raise its profile and is a worthy winner of the Silver Thistle.”

Stephen Carter OBE, Chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel, said:

“I would like to congratulate all our tourism champions for their dedication to Scotland’s tourism industry. Tourism is at the heartbeat of the Scottish economy, and all those nominated areindustry leading ambassadors, positioning Scotland as the perfect place to visit and do business.

“The Scottish Thistle Awards are all about celebrating innovation, highlighting excellence and sharing best practice. It is important we continue to recognise those who go the extra mile to enhance the visitor experience, embodying the very spirit of Scotland.

“On behalf of the panel, I’d like to urge everyone, if you have been captivated by somewhere you have visited, inspired by the people you have met and simply want to highlight the amazing work that is happening in your area, get online and make a nomination for the next Scottish Thistle Awards. We know there are many more tourism superheroes out there!”

The Scottish Thistle Awards, now in their 28th year, are 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, Scottish Tourism Alliance, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and sportscotland.

Nominations and entries are now open for the Scottish Thistle Awards 2016/2017. Nominations can be submitted by individuals, by others in industry or by the public.

To nominate, enter or for further information on the Scottish Thistle Awards visit:

The Scottish Thistle Awards National Final 2015/2016 follows the launch of VisitScotland’s first ever global campaign and social movement which aims to raise the spirit and profile of Scotland to the highest it has ever been in history by igniting the power of a nation behind tourism.

The national tourism organisation launched its first ever global campaign and social movement – the ‘Spirit of Scotland’ last month. The campaign is built on extensive research which shows that people think Scotland has a unique spirit – whether it’s the magic of the landscapes or the warmth of the people.

Everyone who has shared their #ScotSpirit will become part of a special social movement. To find our more, visit


Full list of national Scottish Thistle Award winners 2016:

Category / Award Title Winner
Best Holiday Accommodation Forest Holidays, Ardgartan (Argyll)
Best Informal Eating Experience Venachar Lochside (Callander)
Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience Foxlake Adventures (Dunbar)
Best Restaurant Experience Ninth Wave Restaurant (Isle of Mull)
Braehead Foods – Hospitality Hero James Rusk, The Butchershop Bar & Grill/Hutchesons Bar & Brasserie (Glasgow)
Caledonian MacBrayne – Best Cultural Event of Festival Festival 2014 (Glasgow)
Edinburgh Airport – Tourism Everyone’s Business Arnold Clark Car and Van Rental (Glasgow)
Fishers – Most Hospitable Hotel Kylesku Hotel (Sutherland)
J Thomson Colour Printers – Best Sporting Event Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Partners (Glasgow) / The 2014 Ryder Cup, (Gleneagles)
Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House Ardtorna B&B (Barcaldine)
Scotland CAN DO Award for Innovation in Tourism FishPal Ltd (Kelso)
ScotRail – Best Visitor Attraction Rosslyn Chapel (Roslin)
Tennents – Friendliest Pub/Bar Applecross Inn (Applecross)
Caledonian MacBrayne Silver Thistle Award Robin Worsnop (Edinburgh)

  • Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian received a special commendation in the Fishers Most Hospitable Hotel Award category
  • Tiree Music Festival received a special commendation in the Caledonian MacBrayne – Best Cultural Event or Festival 

Notes to Editors

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  • VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism organisation. Its core purpose is to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland.
  • The organisation’s core objective is to contribute to the Tourism 2020 Strategy ambition of growing tourism revenues by £1 billion by 2020.
  • This will be supported by seven overarching strategies:
    1. Marketing: we will market Scotland and its outstanding assets to visitors from all parts of the world, including the promotion of Scotland to people living in Scotland       to visit different parts of the country
    2. Events: we will support the national events strategy and its delivery, and sustain, develop and promote Scotland’s international profile as one of the world’s foremost events destinations
    3. Internationalisation and International Engagement: we will utilise all our platforms to enable Scottish-based tourism businesses to better understand international       opportunities and market to a global audience and we will work within One       Scotland Partnerships to optimise the potential of Scotland’s Diaspora and our strategic partners at regional, European and global levels
    4. Customer Experience: we will provide information and inspiration to visitors both locally and globally via their preferred medium of choice
    5. Quality and Sustainability: we will provide support and advice to businesses, with the goal of improving the quality and sustainability of the tourism sector in Scotland. We will provide quality assurance to visitors through our Quality Schemes
    6. Inclusive Tourism: we will strive to make tourism in Scotland inclusive and available to all
    7. Working in Partnership: we will listen to and work with the industry, partners and communities to shape our offering and support
  • VisitScotland works together with tourism businesses to make tourism a success for everyone and ensure the industry continues to grow.
  • The organisation employs 700 people and has offices and VisitScotland Information Centres across Scotland.
  • Spending by tourists in Scotland generates around £12 billion of economic activity in the wider Scottish supply chain and contributes around £6 billion to Scottish GDP (in basic prices). This represents about 5% of total Scottish GDP.
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    Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016

  • 2016 will shine a spotlight on Scotland’s achievements in innovation, architecture and design through a wide-ranging, variety of new and existing activity.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design begins on 1 January 2016 and ends on 31 December 2016 and will build on the momentum generated by the current 2015 Year of Food and Drink as well as previous years including Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
  • Through a series of exciting events and activity, the year will showcase Scotland’s position as an “innovation nation”, its outstanding built heritage, and its thriving, internationally acclaimed creative industries sector.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Scottish Government, Creative Scotland, Architecture + Design Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design events fund is managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.
  • Join the conversation at #IAD2016
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