First ever South of Scotland Thistle Awards celebrates the region’s leading lights in tourism and hospitality

Some of the SSDA Thistle Award winners. (Photo: SSDA / Phil Wilkinson)

TOURISM and hospitality businesses from right across the South of Scotland are celebrating today after emerging victorious at the region’s first ever dedicated regional Thistle Awards, held in Dumfries last night.

Finalists, key suppliers and local leaders turned out in their finery for the glittering ceremony at the Cairndale Hotel and Leisure Club, sponsored by Caledonia Park Designer Outlet.

The Scottish Thistle Awards celebrate the very best of the tourism and events industry, helping to shine the spotlight on this vital part of the local economy.

This year saw the South of Scotland host its first ever dedicated regional awards event, encouraging even more businesses than in previous years to achieve richly deserved recognition and acclaim from their peers and from the region as a whole. 

At last night’s sell-out celebration event, South of Scotland Thistle Award-winners were unveiled in thirteen separate categories.

The winners, who will now go on to represent the South of Scotland at the national Scottish Thistle Awards finals in December, were:

Innovation in Tourism – Dalscone Farm

Best B&B or Guesthouse Experience – Nithbank Country Estate

Best Self-Catering Accommodation Experience – Arden Holiday Cottage

Best Bar or Pub – The Cross Keys Inn Ettrickbridge

Best Hotel Experience – Cringletie

Best Eating Experience – Allanton Inn

Outstanding Cultural Event or Festival – Borders Book Festival

Climate Action Award – Nithbank Country Estate

Celebrating Thriving Communities Award – The Devil’s Porridge Museum

Best Visitor Attraction – Trimontium Museum

Best Outdoor or Adventure Experience – Kitchen Coos and Ewes

Tourism and Hospitality Employer of the Year – The Beagle Country Pub and Barend Holiday Lodges

Tourism Individual of the Year – Melanie Allen (Nithbank Country Estate)

*please see Notes to Editors for quotes from all the winners

David Hope-Jones, Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) said: “Hosting our first ever South of Scotland Thistle Awards has been a wonderful way of bringing together and honouring the leading lights in tourism and hospitality from our region – it’s been a celebration of the South of Scotland, by the South of Scotland. The independent judging panel were blown away by the calibre of all those who applied for the Awards, and while of course last night was all about recognising our brilliant local winners, we want to celebrate and pay tribute to everyone who took part in the process. 

“I’d like to thank all our generous sponsors and fantastic suppliers for helping make our inaugural awards event such a roaring success. Now we wish our splendid winners every success as they get ready to fly the South of Scotland flag at the national Scottish Thistle Awards finals on 1 December.”

Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of South of Scotland Enterprise, said: “A huge congratulations to all the finalists and winners in the first South of Scotland Thistle Awards, who have been recognised for their hard work attracting and accommodating visitors to our wonderful region. 

“To have a dedicated awards evening for the tourism and hospitality sector in the South highlights the commitment of SOSE, SSDA, VisitScotland and both Councils to the local industry.

“All the partners are also committed to the new South of Scotland Responsible Tourism Strategy which aims to deliver the best for our visitors, our businesses, our people, our communities and our environment.”

VisitScotland Board member and Chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards industry panel, Steven Walker said: “Congratulations to all of the winners at the very first South of Scotland Thistle Awards. The Scottish Thistle Awards shine a spotlight on the very best of Scotland’s tourism and events industry, celebrating the businesses and individuals who work hard to create the fantastic destination and visitor experiences that Scotland is famous for.   


“The Scottish Thistle Awards mark an important celebration of the very best of our tourism and events industry and support the ambition for Scotland to be recognised globally as a leader in this field.  


“I wish the regional winners the best of luck as they continue through to the Scottish Thistle Awards National Final later this year.” 

The awards ceremony was also sponsored by The Borders DistilleryFishers, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and Johnstons of Elgin.

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