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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 30/10/2023

The shortlist has been announced

The shortlist for the three national categories at the Scottish Thistle Awards has been announced. As part of our News Scotland media partnership, the shortlist was unveiled as an exclusive in Times Alba and the Sunday Times over the weekend. 

Tourism businesses and events shortlisted for Best Luxury Experience, sponsored by The Macallan Estate, Best Business Event, sponsored by STV, and Outstanding Sporting Event will now go forward to the Scottish Thistle Awards National Final on 1 December when the national winner will be crowned.  

Best Luxury Experience

This award celebrates those businesses bringing luxury to the Scottish visitor experience. Luxury experiences are those bespoke offerings which showcase the best of Scotland and bring the wow-factor to every step of the customer journey. 

This award recognises unique tour offerings or experience packages, with a focus on exclusivity and attention to detail.  

Read on for the shortlist in this category.

Old Mill House, Dalkeith

The Old Millhouse, Dalkeith, Midlothian 

Airhouses, Lauder, Scottish Borders 

Airhouses offers  quality, luxury, self catering experiences in the heart of the Scottish Borders  countryside.  

The accommodation sleeps 32 guests in total over one large house for 10, two glamping pods (sleeps 2) and four lodges of varying sizes sleeping 2,4 and 6 people.   

It's situated on farmland that has been in the family for 37 years, with 17 years of running the self-catering properties.     

Airhouses states that they “are constantly evolving to make sure we stay at the forefront of the self-catering industry, by giving our guests the best experience we can and adhering to our values of great customer service, outstanding cleanliness, a peaceful, respectful environment and responsible tourism.” 

The Old Millhouse, Dalkeith, Midlothian 

The Old Millhouse is a 5-star Quality Assurance (VisitScotland award) self-catering establishment, lovingly, sympathetically and respectfully converted from a 19th century commercial millers workshop and home.  

The business has been trading for 7 years.  

Green Tourism accredited, it is set on the banks of the River Esk, among 3.5 acres of private gardens. The accommodation sleeps 10 people in 5 bedrooms, each with a luxurious ensuite bathroom. The property also  has a swim spa, large lounge and kitchen, outdoor terrace with plenty of seating, BBQ area and easy access to the gardens.

Nithbank Country Estate, Thornhill, Dumfries & Galloway 

Located within the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere, Nithbank Country Estate operates as a Biosphere Certified Business. The business was founded in 2019 with sustainable & responsible ethics shaped into its core, alongside providing a super-luxurious experience.

Today, the business attracts high-net-worth individuals from across the world, with 40% of the occupancy being from international markets.  

In 2022, Nithbank became the first accommodation provider in Dumfries & Galloway to receive the prestigious 5-Star Gold Award from VisitScotland, showcasing its reputation as an exemplar tourism business in creating quality, memorable and authentic visitor experiences.  

The historic country house provides exclusive accommodation with two guest suites, set in an 11-acre estate which guests can enjoy in its entirety: formal gardens, ancient woodland glen, cascading ponds, walled kitchen garden and river frontage with breath-taking views.   

Outstanding Sporting Event  

Scotland is the Perfect Stage for events. From large-scale international events to national and local events, Scotland has a rich annual programme of sporting events which make an important contribution to our thriving communities and cities and the health and wellbeing of our people.

Find out who made the shortlist in this category.

Winner at the genesis open

Rory McIlroy, winner of the 2023 Genesis Scottish Open

Battle of the Brits, December 2022, P&J Live, Aberdeen  

Originally due to go live in December 2021 but postponed due to COVID-19, the Battle of the Brits tennis event came to life in the P& J Arena in December 2022. Spectators travelled from all over the UK with large numbers from the local region.   

The event sold more than 15,000 tickets, in addition to 3000 complimentary tickets for local charities and underserved communities.     

The event was broadcast by the BBC and the Tennis Channel and achieved strong viewing figures.   

The athletes taking part in the event were the top 8 British male players, led by Sir Andy Murray. The only professional Scotland v England tennis event of its kind – the brainchild of Jamie Murray who wanted to bring the event home to Scotland.

Mull Rally, October 2022, Isle of Mull   

Beatson's Building Supplies 50th Mull Rally was held in October 2022 on the Isle of Mull.  This is a closed-road car rally regulated by Motorsport UK and featured 150 competing cars, run over three days with much of the action taking place in the dark.    

Mull Rally is unique in its length (longest rally in Scotland), conditions (only Scottish rally run mainly in the dark) and environment (only significant motorsport event run on a Scottish island).  

The Genesis Scottish Open, Renaissance Club, North Berwick , July 2022

 The Genesis Scottish Open is an international golf tournament, forming part of the DP World Tour and, for the first time in 2022, the PGA Tour, with 156 competitors representing 31 different countries. The event sits on the Rolex Series, a set of the most premium events on the DP World Tour where the total prize fund is $8,000,000. It's an annual event and 2022 was the 40th edition.   

The 2022 tournament was the first ever co-sanctioned tournament between the DP World Tour and PGA TOUR and was organised collaboratively by both organisations.  

In its first year back at full scale after the Covid-19 pandemic, the event welcomed over 68,000 spectators and reached a record global TV audience.  

Best Business Event   

This category celebrates business events as catalysts for economic and social transformation.

Aligned to our Journey to Change, the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework, the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET), and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), business events can range from corporate conferences or incentive programmes to annual global congresses with thousands of international delegates.  

Learn more about the shortlisted business events.

The Scottish Event campus

The Scottish Event Campus (SEC), Glasgow

The 22nd World Congress of Soil Science, Scottish Event Campus, Glasgow ,31 July – 5 August 2022

The 22nd World Congress of Soil Science took place at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, signalling a historic move and marking the first time it had returned to the UK since 1935.   

The international congress takes place every four years with previous events delivered by the Korean and Brazilian Soil Science Societies respectively.   

It was the role of the British Society of Soil Science, as the local association, to organise the congress, themed ‘Soil Science – Crossing Boundaries, Changing Society’, which would bring together soil enthusiasts from around the world and set the scene for vital knowledge sharing between industry-leading academics and practitioners.   

Despite the challenges with Covid-19, the event achieved 1,400 in person and 300 online delegates. But its success can be measured in more than just numbers. The project had core ambitions to leave a major legacy for the future understanding of soil and its huge effects on global ecology.  

Dr Lorraine Work, 30th BRAIN & BRAIN PET Conference, Scottish Event Campus, Glasgow, June 2022  

Taking place internationally every 2 years, BRAIN & BRAIN PET is an association conference and one of the top conferences in neuroscience research; particularly aspects related to brain function and metabolism, cerebral blood flow, the function of the neurovascular unit and the blood-brain barrier, brain imaging, and cerebrovascular pathology.   

It regularly attracts in the region of 1000 delegates, with previous destinations including Yokohama, Berlin, Vancouver and Barcelona.  

A key focus from the local organising committee was that the conference left a lasting impact in the city.   

The LOC created a Brain Awareness Campaign which focused on two distinct areas critical to delivering meaningful impact within the local community:  

• Inspiring the Next Generation of Neurologists and Neuroscientists   

• Impart vital public health messaging on Brain Awareness Day, promoting the importance of brain health to the population of Glasgow to combat Glasgow’s lower than average life expectancy.


The World Energy Council Executive Assembly and Energy Trilemma Summit (WEC) , P&J Live, Aberdeen , October 2022  

The World Energy Council Executive Assembly and Energy Trilemma Summit (WEC) was held in Aberdeen in October 2022, co-hosted by the Scottish Government and supported by Aberdeen City Council.  

This gathering brought together the Council’s diverse, worldwide membership community in person for the first time in three years (due to Covid-19) under the theme of “Transformational solutions in Turbulent Times.”  

Over 228 participants from 49 countries were represented, making this a truly global event. Across the 2 days, the impactful conversations and peer-to-peer dialogue explored how to balance the connected challenges and opportunities in mobilising global energy transitions at pace and scale in a fast and fundamentally shifting world.    

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