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Article published 22/09/2023

And the winners are...

The Central and East Thistle Awards took place at the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh last night (21 September). The red carpet was rolled out and those shortlisted for the awards were able to celebrate their achievements in the tourism industry.

The Scottish Thistle Awards, with headline sponsors Johnstons of Elgin, celebrate the very best of the tourism and events industry, which is worth £11.5 billion to the Scottish economy.  

2023 saw more than 600 entries submitted, including almost 1200 nominations from members of the public. Entering the awards give hotels, restaurants, B&Bs, visitor attractions and individuals the opportunity to earn the recognition they deserve in the part they play in making Scotland such a fantastic place to visit.

Thistle award presenters

From left: Rob Dickson, VisitScotland Director of Industry & Destination Development and host Zara Janjua

Best Bar or Pub

The Original Rosslyn Inn, Midlothian

The historic inn, which has welcomed guests including Robert Burns, William Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott, was named Best Bar or Pub at the Central and East Scotland Thistle Awards.

The Original Rosslyn Inn, has been a family-run business since 1827 and is now owned by the Harris family, who are celebrating 50 years behind the bar.  

Judges praised the team’s dedication to the local community and to the environment in ensuring that their sustainability practices and core values are always prioritised.

The Original Hotel

Find out more about The Rosslyn Inn

Best Eating Experience

Drift, North Berwick

Drift in North Berwick was awarded the winner of the Best Eating Experience award. The award recognises restaurants and eateries that provide an exceptional customer experience and a warm Scottish welcome.

The eatery, that offers panoramic views of the East Lothian coast, prides itself on providing fresh seasonal Scottish produce, including from its own farm.

The business was praised by judges for developing experiences and the opportunity to learn about arable farming “well beyond a simple eatery.” 

Drift

To book at Drift, North Berwick

Best Hotel Experience sponsored by Fishers

Cromlix, Dunblane

Cromlix was named the Best Hotel Experience award, sponsored by Fishers. The 5-Star country house hotel set in 34 acres of private grounds and woodland has been owned by Scottish tennis legend Andy Murray and his wife Kim Sears since 2013.

Newly refurbished, the hotel has 15 bedrooms and suites, as well as a one-bedroom Gate Lodge, a new restaurant, The Glasshouse, and recreational activities for guests.  

Judges praised the hotel for putting the visitor experience at the heart of everything it does and “going above and beyond” to provide a memorable stay for all guests.  

Cromlix

Find out more about the Cromlix

Best Self Catering Accommodation Experience

Lindores Stay, Ride, Relax – Newburgh, Fife  

Lindores, Stay, Ride, Relax in Cupar was named Best Self Catering Accommodation Experience.

They offer a private hot tub in each luxury home, their dog-friendly rural retreats offer the perfect romantic getaway or action packed family break.

The luxury rural retreat was described by judges as a “truly circular model” of an outstanding agritourism business with responsible tourism at its heart.

Lindores

Find out about all Lindores offer

Inclusive Tourism Award sponsored by Historic Environment Scotland

RSPB Scotland Loch Leven, Perth and Kinross  

RSPB Loch Leven received the Inclusive Tourism Award, sponsored by Historic Environment Scotland.  

Located on the south shore of Loch Leven, the nature reserve is home to a café, visitor centre and facilities that include a changing places toilet and EV charging points.  

Judges were impressed to see that inclusion and accessibility were at the forefront of recent developments at the nature reserve. The team was praised by judges for “appreciating the importance of staff engagement and training in creating an experience for everyone.”

RSPB Loch Leven

Visit the RSPB Loch Leven website

Best B&B or Guest House Experience sponsored by Abbey UK

Newton Farm Holidays & Tours, Forfar  

Newton Farm Holidays in Forfar has received recognition at this years Regional Awards. They were also winners at the Regional Thistle Awards 2018 -19.

They offer affordable, educational, interactive experiences to inspire young and old, sharing their "family's farming life with your family".

Judges commended Newton Farm Holidays & Tours for providing an authentic experience for visitors that are delivered with passion and care. They were impressed with the varied and interesting experiences on offer to guests, from sheep shearing to feeding the Highland cows.

Newton Farm

To book and find out more

Outstanding Cultural Event or Festival

Fringe by the Sea, North Berwick   

Fringe by the Sea 2022 was named Outstanding Cultural Event or Festival.

The not-for-profit multi-arts festival takes place in the heart of North Berwick and attracts around 55,000 people to 250 events over 10 days in August.

The event was praised by judges for its impressive year-on-year growth and for demonstrating excellent engagement with the local area and its people.

Fringe by the Sea

Find out more about the festival

Celebrating Thriving Communities

Alloa Hub Limited  

Alloa Hub Ltd received the inaugural Celebrating Thriving Communities Award. The award celebrates partnerships, collaborations and team working that come together to protect and enhance our environment whilst growing social, cultural and economic wealth. 

The Alloa Hub is a community-led venture that transformed a derelict toilet in Alloa town centre into a visitor centre and visitor attraction helping to promote everything going on in the wee County.

Established as a partnership between Clackmannanshire Council, the business community led by Alloa First, the third sector, lead by CTSI and Discover Clacks, the venue is operated by a community benefit society, the first of its kind in Clackmannanshire and provides a shop, visitor centre, workshop, electric bike pod, public toilet and shower. 

Alloa Hub

Find out more about what Alloa hub offer

Best Visitor Attraction sponsored by The Scottish Sun

Camera Obscura & World of Illusions, Edinburgh  

Camera Obscura & World of Illusions was a winner of two awards on the night. It was named Best Visitor Attraction, sponsored by The Scottish Sun. The attraction also scooped the Innovation in Tourism Award, which recognises businesses driving forward positive change in innovative ways.  

Edinburgh’s oldest visitor attraction was established in 1853 and offers visitor the opportunity to enjoy more than 100 illusions and exhibits across five floors, as well as the rooftop Victorian Camera Obscura.

The visitor attraction was praised by judges for always listening to feedback to enhance their visitor experience and for their “impressive commitment” to innovation and the use of technology.   

Camera Obscura

Learn more about the visitor attraction

Innovation in Tourism

Camera Obscura & World of Illusions, Edinburgh  

Camera Obscura & World of Illusions also won this year in the Innovation in Tourism category.

This category celebrates businesses taking significant steps to improve and invest in the future of 21st-century Scottish tourism. This award sets out to honour those driving forward positive change in innovative ways, and those creatively adapting in line with the changing landscape and consumer behaviour.

Best Outdoor or Adventure Experience

Foxlake Adventures, Dunbar, East Lothian  

Foxlake Adventures in Dubar received the Best Outdoor or Adventure Experience Award. The 5-Star adventure hub that offers a wide range of activities, including wakeboarding, segways, open water swimming and a new aqua park, was commended by judges for demonstrating a clear commitment to responsible tourism. 

The Foxlake team were thrilled and humbled to have won regional best outdoor attraction. They thanked their "incredible staff who have helped achieve this award, and more importantly, our exceptional customers who come and enjoy what we do."

Foxlake adventures

Visit Foxlake adventures website

Tourism & Hospitality Employer of the Year

Old Course Hotel, Resort & Spa, St Andrews, Fife 

Old Course Hotel, Resort & Spa in St Andrews was named Tourism & Hospitality Employer of the Year. This award celebrates employers who are showcasing tourism, hospitality and events as an exciting career path and inspiring the next generation. 

The luxury 5-Star property is situated on the 17th hole of the Old Course in St Andrews and includes a spa, fitness centre, eight restaurants and bars, The Duke’s Championship Golf Course, as well as a large selection of wedding and events spaces.  

Judges commended the Old Course Hotel, Resort & Spa for its wide range of initiatives to recruit, retain and develop its workforce that include graduate apprenticeship and talent development programmes.

Old Course

To book the Old Course Hotel Resort & Spa

Tourism Individual of the Year

Katie Scott, Real Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh 

Katie Scott, Operations Manager at The Real Mary King’s Close was named the Tourism Individual of the Year.

The category is for individuals who go above and beyond to deliver exceptional customer service, and who prioritise inclusivity, sustainability, community and responsible practices. Katie was praised by judges for her passion for her team’s wellbeing and personal development.

They were also impressed by her dedication to implementing change, innovation and improvement across all aspects of her role.

Katie Scott

Find out more about Real Mary King’s Close

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