Seven of the best from the Borders picked up almost half the accolades on offer at a regional tourism award ceremony.
Businesses in the region took home seven of the 15 prizes up for grabs at the Scottish Thistle Awards’ regional final for the Lothians and Borders, held last night at Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh.
Our winners at the awards, launched 25 years ago to celebrate best practice in the tourism and hospitality industry, included the Airhouses self-catering lodges near Oxton, Windlestraw at Walkerburn and Kingsmuir House in Peebles, named as best accommodation provider, most hospitable hotel and most hospitable bed-and-breakfast or guesthouse respectively.
Among the Borders’ other success stories were Gattonside restaurant Seasons and Lauder’s Firebrick Brasserie, winners of the prizes for best informal eating experience and best restaurant experience respectively.
Our other winners were Robert Smail’s Printing Works in Innerleithen, given the trophy for best heritage tourism experience category, and Peter Gilchrist, of Galashiels tourism consultancy Peter Co and Associates, named as a rising star of the region’s tourist industry.
VisitScotland regional director Paula Ward said: “I would like to say huge congratulations to all of the winners from the Scottish Borders at the regional final of the Scottish Thistle Awards.
“These awards recognise the drive and passion the industry has for creating an unforgettable experience for visitors, and I’m delighted that so many of our local heroes have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to the region.
“The fact that seven out of the 15 categories for the Lothian and Borders regional final have been awarded to businesses in the Scottish Borders is testament to the great variety and range of quality accommodation, visitor attractions and experiences.
“With so many brilliant things to see and do, it is little wonder that we continue to see the number of visitors to the Scottish Borders rise as the region’s reputation as one of the must-visit destinations in the UK grows.”
Martin Houghton, of Airhouses, said: “We are delighted to receive this prestigious award, which is a great addition to our year of celebrating 10 years in business.
“We have an amazing team working with us who provide the attention to detail, which is so important.”
Rachel Mays, of the National Trust Scotland-run Robert Smail’s Printing Works, said: “Our staff and volunteers are absolutely delighted to receive this award.
“We are totally committed to ensuring our visitors continue to enjoy a unique and hands-on experience, and we are thrilled to be recognised for this.”
Roger McKie, of Seasons, said: “Bea and I are delighted to win this award not just for us and the team at Seasons but also for the wonderful local producers and suppliers who allow us to use the very best of the wonderful larder that is the Scottish Borders.”
David Haetzman, of the Firebrick Brasserie, said: “We were delighted just to be nominated as regional finalists, so to have won is beyond our expectations, and we are absolutely thrilled.
“When we opened Firebrick in August of 2015, we wanted to offer guests a great all-round dining experience and fantastic food made, as far as possible, with local Borders-sourced produce, combined with warm, welcoming and knowledgeable customer service.
“It’s empowering to have our efforts acknowledged by this award.”
Kingsmuir House’s Malcolm Mullarkey said: “It is such a pleasure and privilege to be acknowledged by the Scottish Thistle Awards.
“This is an exceptional achievement, making me so proud of the quality, attention to detail and the customer service we provide to all of our guests.”
John and Sylvia Matthews, of Windlestraw, said: “We were delighted to be shortlisted for the second year in a row for this prestigious and respected award, especially as it is only our second year of operations.
“To go one step further this year is a real boost to us and the small team at Windlestraw and encourages us to continue our investment.
“The Borders is probably the most overlooked region in Scotland as a destination, and we welcome the opportunity to represent it in the finals’’
Mr Gilchrist added: “It’s incredibly fulfilling to be asked to bring your ideas to the table and validating to be given opportunities to lead.
“Getting this recognition as I am just getting my start is an amazing vote of confidence.
“I hope this leads the way for more young people to be invited to the table.”
The awards are staged by organisations including VisitScotland, Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards, Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards, the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland, Scotland Food and Drink, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Licensed Trade Association, Sportscotland and Wild Scotland.