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 WHISKY, HISTORY AND MYSTERY ALL WINNERS AT TOURISM AWARDS

One of Scotland’s most historic battlefields has fought off opposition to pick up two major tourism honours at an annual awards ceremony.

The double success was celebrated by Culloden Battlefield, near Inverness, at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA), which enjoyed another record-breaking year.

Winners in 16 categories overcame unprecedented competition to be crowned the best in the region and picked up the famous piper trophies.

In all, 232 business and individuals – 14 per cent more than last year – were put forward for honours and 55 finalists were vying for the awards, which celebrate and recognise the best places to eat, drink and enjoy the area’s scenery, hospitality, wildlife, history and culture.

HITA chairman Craig Ewan said: “Congratulations to all our award winners and finalists in another outstanding year. HITA continues to grow with the number of entries and nominations rising each year, making it more difficult than ever to win one of our coveted trophies.”

The awards finale, held at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness, was addressed by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs. She said: “As these awards demonstrate, the iconic attractions, vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of the Highlands and Islands continue to be an important tourism draw.

“It is hugely encouraging to see a record-breaking number of entries this year and I congratulate all of the HITA 2017 winners and finalists.”

Inverness, Ross-shire and Moray enjoyed the most success with three trophy winners each, with two going to Skye and others to the Outer Hebrides, Argyll, Orkney, Lochaber and Sutherland.

Rebecca Brooks, chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel and VisitScotland Board member, said: “On behalf of the panel, I’d like to congratulate all of the winners of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards. They are a credit to themselves, their local area and the entire Scottish tourism sector.

“Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs and sustains communities. These awards let us recognise the unsung heroes of our industry who show real dedication and enthusiasm for Scotland’s tourism industry.

“As the Scottish Thistle Awards prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary I’d like to wish all HITA winners the very best for the national final.”

HITA, which is run in association with SSE, is recognised as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland. The awards highlight and reward excellence throughout the sector which is worth more than £4.5 billion to the Scottish economy.

Mike Seaton, SSE’s Director of Development, said: “It has been another outstanding and recording breaking year for the Highlands and Islands Tourism awards with nominations up again from last year.

“These awards recognise the excellence of the tourism industry in this region and celebrate, as well as promote, the high standards seen across the Highlands and Islands.

“This is SSE’s fifth year as lead sponsor of the event and we are thrilled to have been part of another amazing evening. The energy industry and the tourism industry in the Highlands and Islands help to sustain communities, create jobs and generate income and I hope we can continue to work together and support one another for many more years to come.”

Culloden Battlefield picked up the Best Visitor Attraction title, while Peter Cowe, who has been a volunteer at the site for ten years, was named HITA’s Tourism and Hospitality Hero.

Culloden is the site of the last pitched battle on British soil in 1746 when Jacobite supporters, seeking to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British thrones, fought the Duke of Cumberland’s government troops.

HITA judges said the battlefield attraction works hard to constantly improve its offering to visitors and has an ‘unwavering desire to re-awaken the past in the present’.

They said Peter Cowe has a passion for bringing history alive and has a pride for the whole of Culloden, not just the battlefield.

Captain Iain Dunderdale, who has worked for 27 years developing the cruise ship industry which now generates millions of pounds annually, was named Highland Ambassador of the Year.

The Ambassador title is a special award given by the HITA Board to an individual who ‘goes the extra mile’ in contributing to the success of tourism in the Highlands and Islands.

Judges said Capt Dunderdale has built up a business that is burgeoning and contributes greatly to the economic wealth of the area.

Eilean Donan Castle in Dornie, Wester Ross, was named Best Heritage Tourism Experience, an award introduced to mark the Year of Heritage History and Archaeology.

Portavadie in Argyll, a former oil platform construction site which was transformed into a visitor attraction, won the award for Best Accommodation Provider and Links House at Royal Dornoch won the Best Restaurant Experience title.

The Ferry Inn, in Stromness, Orkney, was named Best Pub/Bar and Gordon Castle Walled Garden in Fochabers won Best Informal Eating Experience.

The Hebridean Celtic Festival in Lewis picked up the award for Best Cultural Event or Festival, and the title for Best Outdoor Adventure Experience was secured for a second year in succession by Go to St Kilda.

The Best Sporting Event title went to the Fort William UCI Mountain Bike World Cup; Most Hospitable Hotel was The Torridon in Wester Ross and the Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House award was collected by Inverglen Guest House in Inverness.

Ghillie Basan, a Moray-based food and travel writer, won the Innovation in Tourism Award, and the trophy for Working Together in Tourism went to the Malt Whisky Trail in Speyside.

Charlotte Poynton, sommelier and assistant restaurant manager at The Three Chimneys in Skye, was named Highland Rising Star.

Judges’ commendations went to Cuil Moss Cottage, Ardgour, by Fort William, in the Best Accommodation Provider category and the Isle of Harris Distillery in the Best Visitor Attraction category.

HITA winners, with the exception of the Highland Rising Star and Highland Ambassador categories, will go on to compete at the glittering Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

 

FINALISTS READY TO DO BATTLE FOR TOURISM AWARDS

More than 50 tourism businesses have taken a step nearer being crowned the best in the Highlands and Islands after being named as finalists in the industry’s annual ‘Oscars’ today (29 Sept).

Competition to win a coveted Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) trophy has reached an unprecedented level with entries and nominations this year surpassing previous record-breaking levels.

The 232 businesses and individuals vying for honours was more than 14 per cent up on last year’s figure.

Judges have had the arduous task of narrowing down contenders to a 55-strong shortlist in 16 categories.

Among those to be recognised will be the best places to stay, eat, drink and enjoy the area’s sporting and cultural events, as well as its wildlife and scenery. A new category, Best Heritage Tourism Experience, was introduced in 2017 to mark the Year of Heritage History and Archaeology.

The finalists represent the entire length and breadth of the region – from Shetland to Argyll and from Moray to the Outer Hebrides – and range from castles to pubs and from internationally-renowned visitor attractions to remote get-aways.

Ten of the finalists are from the Inverness area, with nine each from Argyll and Moray and six from Strathspey, while Lochaber, Ross-shire, Sutherland, Skye, Orkney and Shetland all feature.

Craig Ewan, the HITA chairman, said: “Congratulations to everyone who has made the shortlist which is a fantastic achievement given the unprecedented number of quality entries and nominations we received this year. The geographical spread of finalists demonstrates the strength of tourism facilities across the Highlands and Islands.

“The competition is really hotting up now and the judges have a really tough job to pick our winners.”

HITA is regarded as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland, where the tourism sector is worth more than £4.5 billion to the economy.

The awards scheme, which is held in association with SSE, is free and is open to people operating in the Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Argyll & Bute (excluding G postcode areas) local authority areas.

 

Winners will receive the famous piper trophies at a ceremony in the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness, on Friday,3 November and (with the exception of the Highland Rising Star and Highland Ambassador) go on to compete at the glittering Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

 

 FINALISTS

Best Accommodation Provider                         

Cuil Moss Cottage, Ardgour, by Fort William

Knoydart Hide, Inverie, Knoydart

Morag’s Lodge, Fort Augustus

Portavadie, Loch Fyne

Best Bar / Pub                                

Ferry Inn, Stromness, Orkney

Johnny Foxes and The Den, Inverness

The Lord of the Isles, Craobh Haven, Argyll

The Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore

Best Cultural Event or Festival                         

Findhorn Bay Arts, Forres

Gordon Castle Highland Games and Country Fair, Fochabers

Hebridean Celtic Festival, Stornoway

Oban Live

Best Heritage Tourism Experience                              

Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, Inverness

Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, by Kyle of Lochalsh

Glenlivet Hill Trek, Ballindalloch

The Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore

Best Informal Eating Experience                                  

Coll Hotel, Isle of Coll

Duart Castle Tearoom, Isle of Mull

Gordon Castle Walled Garden, Fochabers

Best Outdoor / Adventure Experience                                    

Ace Adventures, Forres

Active Outdoor Pursuits, Newtonmore

Go to St Kilda, Uig, Skye

Scapa Scuba, Stromness, Orkney

Best Restaurant Experience                              

Links House at Royal Dornoch

Ninth Wave Restaurant, Isle of Mull

Best Sporting Event                                 

Fort William UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Highland Golf Links

Skyline Scotland

Strathpuffer24

Best Visitor Attraction                             

Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, Inverness

Isle of Harris Distillers Ltd

Orkney Brewery and Visitor Centre

The Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie

Highland Rising Star                                

Euan Walker, Achnagairn Estate, near Inverness

Charlotte Poynton, The Three Chimneys, Skye

Neil Slessor, The Station Hotel, Rothes

Rosie Wilkins, The Torridon Hotel

Innovation in Tourism                             

Ghillie Basan, food and travel writer and cook, Moray

Gordon Castle Walled Garden, Fochabers

MotoScotland, Inveraray, Argyll

Scottish Wildlife Trust, Ullapool

Most Hospitable B&B / Guest House                          

Daviot Lodge, Inverness

Inverglen Guest House, Inverness

Loch Ness Guest House, Fort Augustus

RossMor Guest House, Grantown on Spey

Tourism and Hospitality Hero                           

Emma Clark, Glenegedale House, Islay

Ewen Macpherson, Clan Macpherson Museum, Newtonmore

Jodie Bramall, Portavadie, Argyll

Peter Cowe, Culloden Battlefield, Inverness

Working Together for Tourism                         

Sharing Shetland

The Malt Whisky Trail, Speyside

The Shetland Times

Visit Inverness Loch Ness

Most Hospitable Hotel

Skeabost, Skye

The Torridon, Ross-shire.

Highland Ambassador                            

Winner announced on the evening

 

 

 

TOURISM AWARDS CELEBRATE RECORD ENTRIES HAT-TRICK

The biggest ever battle to find the best tourism businesses in the Highlands and Islands has started, with the number vying for honours reaching an unprecedented level.

For the third year in succession, the competition has scaled new heights with entries and nominations surpassing previous record-breaking levels.

A total of 232 businesses or individuals will compete in the 2017 Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA)- more than 14 per cent up on last year’s figure.

The number of entries and nominations for the prestigious competition has now risen by a remarkable 70 per cent since 2014 as a growing number of tourism operators bid to get their hands on the coveted piper trophies.

Judging got under way this week to determine the winners in 16 categories with the best places to stay, eat and drink and enjoy the area’s sporting and musical culture among those to be honoured.

Craig Ewan, the HITA chairman, said: “The growth of HITA over the last three years has been amazing, with unparalleled numbers of people entering or being nominated.

“It demonstrates the strength of the industry in this region where tourism is so vital. It also reflects a confidence among operators who are providing an ever-improving quality of service for our visitors.

“I am delighted that so many businesses and individuals are in the running for recognition and I wish everyone good luck in what will be the toughest competition in HITA’s history.”

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey MP Drew Hendry, the SNP’s shadow spokesperson on business, energy and industrial strategy, praised the ongoing success of the awards.

He said: “Tourism is such a key sector for the Highlands and Islands and awards schemes like HITA are important to help raise standards and reward excellence. “HITA has enjoyed remarkable growth in the last three years and it is extremely encouraging that the spotlight is being shone on more of our hard working and dedicated tourism operators. I wish everyone al the best for the competition.”

HITA is regarded as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland, where the tourism sector is worth more than £4.5 billion to the economy.

The awards scheme, which is held in association with SSE, is free and is open to people operating in the Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Argyll & Bute (excluding G postcode areas) local authority areas.

Winners will receive the famous piper trophies at a ceremony in the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness, on Friday,3 November and (with the exception of the Highland Rising Star and Highland Ambassador) go on to compete at the glittering Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

 

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