Tourism winners announced as industry celebrated at National Final 


BUSINESSES and individuals working within the tourism and events industry have received recognition at Scotland’s premier tourism and events awards. 

A total of 18 businesses and individuals were honoured with awards at the Scottish Thistle Awards national final, which took place at the Glasgow Hilton on Friday 1 December.  

The Scottish Thistle Awards are delivered by VisitScotland with support from headline sponsor Johnstons of Elgin. The awards, which also include a media partnership with News Scotland, celebrate the very best of tourism in Scotland and the excellence, collaboration and innovation that is helping to support the responsible growth of the industry.  

Wilma and David Finlay received the prestigious Silver Thistle Award which recognises an individual or individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to tourism over many years. The couple are partners in family farm Rainton Farm in Dumfries & Galloway – home of The Ethical Dairy. They also built up a successful food product range and visitor attraction at Cream o’ Galloway that they recently retired from and sold.  

Described as ‘pioneers in ethical agricultural techniques,’ they were also groundbreaking in adopting the early principles of responsible tourism within their business, bringing benefits to the wider community and visitor economy.  

Wilderness Scotland based in Aviemore won the inaugural Climate Action Award, sponsored by The TimesThis award celebrates businesses, events and destinations that have made demonstrable progress on their climate action journey to NetZero. Wilderness Scotland, which also received the Best Outdoor or Adventure Experience award, was praised by judges for their efforts in setting an industry standard for carbon measuring.  

Airhouses received the Best Luxury Experience award, sponsored by The Macallan Estate. This award celebrates businesses bringing luxury to the Scottish visitor experience. The self-catering accommodation is located in the heart of the Scottish Borders sleeping 32 guests in total within one large house, two glamping pods and four lodges. Judges commended the family business for their strong community engagement and fair employment, that they said will help ‘inspire other businesses in the Scottish tourism industry.” 

The Genesis Scottish Open which took place at The Renaissance Club in North Berwick in 2022 received the award for Outstanding Sporting Event and nearby festival Fringe by the Sea was crowned Outstanding Cultural Event or Festival.  The festival, which was founded in 2008, is a not-for-profit ten-day multi-arts festival in North Berwick. The award-winning 2022 event was aimed at helping East Lothian recover from the pandemic, delivering more than 219 events to nearly 60,000 visitors and bringing more than £6.5million economic benefit to the area.  

Melanie Allen took home the Tourism Individual of the Year award, sponsored by HIT Scotland, in recognition of the positive impact she has made on the visitor experience at a regional and national level in Scotland. Melanie, proprietor of Nithbank Country Estate in Dumfries & Galloway alongside her husband John,  was also named winner of the Best B&B or Guest House Experience,sponsored by Abbey UK, was described by judges as an influential leader and ambassador.  

Other national award winners included The Cross Keys Inn in Ettrickbridge in the Scottish Borders in the Best Pub or Bar category, sponsored by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association; Edinbane Lodge on the Isle of Skye, winner of the Best Eating Experience award; Cromlix in Dunblane, winner of the Best Hotel Experience award, sponsored by Fishers. 

Best Self Catering Accommodation Experience went to Arden Holiday Cottage in Dumfries & Galloway while The Burrell Collection was named Best Visitor Attraction, sponsored by the Scottish Sun.  

Other national winners were: Glasgow Science Centre in the Inclusive Tourism category, sponsored by Historic Environment Scotland; Rediscovering the Antonine Wall Project in the Celebrating Thriving Communities category; Camera Obscura & the World of Illusions in Edinburgh won the Innovation in Tourism award; The World Congress of Soil Science received the Best Business Event award for the delivery of the congress at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in 2022.  

And SEA LIFE Loch Lomond won the inaugural Tourism & Hospitality Employer of the Year award.  

Steven Walker, chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards industry panel said: “The Scottish Thistle Awards mark an important celebration of the very best of our tourism and events industry and the positive impacts the industry brings to Scotland. Whether it’s quality food and drink, thrilling adventure activities, or friendly and welcoming faces, the Scottish Thistle Awards celebrate all aspects of what makes Scotland a fantastic place to visit.  

“Congratulations to this year’s winners, each demonstrating innovation, collaboration and sustainable practices and supporting the ambition of the national tourism strategy, Outlook 2030, for Scotland to be a world leader in 21stcentury tourism.” 

Around 400 guests attended the special event that marks the culmination of the Scottish Thistle Awards programme for 2023. The evening was hosted by TV presenter Jennifer Reoch and broadcaster Gary Innes with entertainment by Cammy Barnes. 

The Scottish Thistle Awards are delivered in partnership with Highlands & Islands Thistle Awards (HITA), the Aberdeen City and Shire Thistle Awards (ACSTA) and the South of Scotland Thistle Awards, supported by a panel of industry representatives.  

The awards champion innovation collaboration and sustainable practices, in line with the ambitions of the national tourism strategy, Outlook 2030.  

This year, the awards also include a media partnership with News Scotland.  

Responsible tourism is at the heart of the Scottish Thistle Awards, supporting the aim for Scotland to be recognised globally as a leader in this field.   

Every entry was required to provide clear evidence on how their business addresses responsible tourism. 

For more information on the Scottish Thistle Awards, visit  

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