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Highland winners at Scottish Thistle Awards National Final



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Aviemore-based Wilderness Scotland won awards for best outdoor or adventure experience as well as the climate action prize. Picture: Connor Mollison
Aviemore-based Wilderness Scotland won awards for best outdoor or adventure experience as well as the climate action prize. Picture: Connor Mollison

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

There were three awards for businesses in the region at the Scottish Thistle Awards national final that took place at the Glasgow Hilton on Friday, December 1.

The Scottish Thistle Awards are delivered by VisitScotland with support from headline sponsor Johnstons of Elgin. The awards, which also include a media partnership with News Scotland, celebrate the very best of tourism in Scotland and the excellence, collaboration and innovation that is helping to support the responsible growth of the industry.

Wilderness Scotland based in Aviemore won the inaugural climate action award, sponsored by The Times. This award celebrates businesses, events and destinations that have made demonstrable progress on their climate action journey to net zero. Wilderness Scotland was praised by judges for their efforts in setting an industry standard for carbon measuring.

Wilderness Scotland offers the widest and highest-rated range of private and group experiences and eco-tourism adventures in Scotland. Established in 2001, the company has grown to employ more than 50 people based in the purpose-built, carbon neutral Aviemore office, as well as more than 100 specialist tour guides across the season. The company’s vision is to “break new ground and set the worldwide standard for what adventure travel should be.”

Judges praised Wilderness Scotland for their work in influencing the wider industry in setting best practices, developing partnerships throughout their supply chain to adopt similar practice.

Wilderness Scotland also picked up the best outdoor or adventure experience award. This category celebrates businesses that provide unforgettable, quality and authentic experiences to their visitors who engage with the landscape and local communities in a positive and environmentally sensitive way. Judges commended the tailor-made experiences on offer at Wilderness Scotland and described the business as demonstrating “exceptional visitor experience through developing unique and innovative experiences.”

Edinbane Lodge won the best eating experience award. Picture: Connor MollisonEdinbane Lodge won the best eating experience award. Picture: Connor Mollison
Edinbane Lodge won the best eating experience award. Picture: Connor Mollison

On receiving these awards, Ben Thorburn, head of marketing at Wilderness Scotland said: “Receiving these awards is an undoubtedly proud moment. It’s recognition of the vision, detail and lengths required to make a positive impact on the places we visit, while at the same time offering exceptional travel experiences. It’s all the motivation we need to keep innovating and help drive change for the future of sustainable travel.”

Edinbane Lodge on the Isle of Skye was named the winner of the best eating experience award. This category recognises restaurants and eateries that provide an exceptional customer experience and a warm Scottish welcome with a quality food and drink offering, promoting local Scottish produce. Edinbane Lodge is a four AA Rosette-awarded restaurant with rooms that was once a derelict 16th-century hunting lodge. Purchased by Calum Montgomery in 2017, the 30-seater restaurant opened in August 2018.

Judges praised Edinbane Lodge for their exceptional customer experience through the use of “quality local products, focus on a relaxed dining environment, multi-lingual staff and four-day working week for staff.” They also praised Edinbane for their investment in sustainability and strong focus on local produce.

On receiving the award, chef patron Calum Montgomery said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted and overwhelmed to have won ‘Best Eating Experience’ in the finals of the Scottish Thistle Awards. It’s an honour to showcase the stunning produce across our natural larder on the Isle of Skye and I’m just so proud that Edinbane Lodge has been acknowledged in this way and I’d like to thank our wonderful team and suppliers of the best ingredients in the world’

HITA Chairman, Calum Ross, added: “Huge congratulations to Wilderness Scotland and Edinbane Lodge. We’re delighted for them and immensely proud that the Highlands won three awards on the night.”

VisitScotland destination development director Chris Taylor said: “Congratulations to Wilderness Scotland and Edinbane Lodge on receiving these national awards at this year’s Scottish Thistle Awards.

“It is a fantastic achievement to earn recognition as one of the best in the country, shining a spotlight on the region and the positive impacts our tourism and events industry brings to Scotland as a whole.

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

Around 400 guests attended the awards ceremony that marks the culmination of the Scottish Thistle Awards programme for 2023. The evening was hosted by TV presenter Jennifer Reoch and broadcaster Gary Innes with entertainment by Cammy Barnes.

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

This year, the awards also include a media partnership with News Scotland.

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

Every entry was required to provide clear evidence on how their business addresses responsible tourism.

For more information on the Scottish Thistle Awards, visit

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