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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Highlands’ winners at the Scottish Thistle Awards

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Tourism and events industry celebrated at Scottish Thistle Awards  

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

Three local businesses were honoured at the Scottish Thistle Awards National Final, the highest accolade in the Scottish hospitality, tourism and events sector. 

After a break of three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Final returned to Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Thursday 9 February.  

The Scottish Thistle Awards are delivered by VisitScotland, sponsored by Johnstons of Elgin and include a media partnership with News Scotland for the first time this year.

They celebrate the very best of tourism in Scotland and the excellence that is helping to rebuild this vital part of the Scottish economy.  

Graham Rooney from Platform 1864 in Tain took home the Tourism & Hospitality Hero award, sponsored by HIT Scotland.

This award celebrates those individuals – Scotland’s unsung heroes – who are on the front line of the customer service experience and have gone the extra mile for the benefit of others during an unprecented time. 

Graham, who opened Platform 1864 in 2015 in Tain’s former train station worked 16- hour days, seven days a week during the pandemic to deliver meals to the elderly and vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was praised by judges for his “selflessness, creativity and resourcefulness.” 

On receiving the award, he said:

“This has come as a complete shock. There were so many amazing finalists that I really didn’t expect anything.  

“I would like to thank VisitScotland and the Thistle Awards for this incredible honour.

“A very special thanks to my brother Martin – I couldn’t have done any of this without you.” 

Best Bar or Pub – Presenter Jennifer Reoch, Honorary President of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, Marshall Bain with Sasha Brandon, Jo de Sylva and Jamie Rodgers from MacGregor’s Bars in Inverness © Chris Watt

MacGregor’s Bar in Inverness was named Best Bar or Pub, sponsored by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association.

Owners Bruce MacGregor and Jo De Sylva created a virual online show “Live at 5” during the pandemic which attracted audiences around the world.

They continue to broadcast the programme from the bar every Friday night.

They were praised by judges for their collaboration with catering and events companies during the challenging period.  

Bruce MacGregor said:

“This has been, without doubt, the most challenging period for hospitality.

“However, that adversity highlighted the strength and the importance of community.

“The worldwide support we’ve had for our bar and the concepts behind it, the shared passion for Scotland’s music culture, food and drink, have given us great hope for the future. 

Best Luxury Experience – Presenter Jennifer Reoch, Sales and Marketing Executive, Esther Green from The Macallan, David Guthrie, Stuart Smith from Glenmorangie House and JJ Chalmers © Chris Watt

Glenmorangie House in Tain received the Best Luxury Experience award, sponsored by The Macallan.

This award celebrates businesses bringing luxury to the Scottish visitor experience.

The hotel which offers bespoke luxury experiences, from communal dining and foraging to mixology masterclasses and whisky weekends, was commended by judges for the “personalised and proactive” service it offers guests.   

Stuart Smith, Brand Home Manager at Glenmorangie House said:

“We are incredibly proud to have been recognised for the exceptional experience our guests enjoy every time they stay with us at Glenmorangie House. 

“Special thanks to our whole team, whose warm welcome and outstanding hospitality make Glenmorangie House such a special place to visit.”  

The evening, which brought together 430 representatives from the tourism and hospitality industry, was hosted by TV and radio presenter Jennifer Reoch and TV presenter JJ Chalmers.  

VisitScotland Destination Development Director Chris Taylor said: 

“I would like to congratulate these businesses on their success at the Scottish Thistle Awards.

“It is a fantastic achievement for the region, earning recognition for those businesses and individuals as one of the best in the country and helping to support the ongoing recovery of our valuable tourism industry.  

“The Scottish Thistle Awards celebrate innovation, collaboration and sustainable practices as we work towards delivering the ambition of the national tourism strategy Outlook 2030, for Scotland to be a world leader in 21st century tourism.”   

The Scottish Thistle Awards are delivered in partnership with Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) and the Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards (ACSTA) and 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.    

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

As well as a new category celebrating those businesses and events which have embraced responsible tourism, every entry was required to provide clear evidence – covering the last two years – on how their business addresses four key areas of  a low carbon economy, inclusivity, thriving communities and Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage.  

For more information on the Scottish Thistle Awards, visit www.scottishthistleawards.co.uk  

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