HebCelt festival named Scotland's best cultural event at 'Tourism Oscars'

The Hebridean Celtic Festival and Fort William's Mountain Bike World Cup were named Scotland's best cultural and sporting events at the nation's 'Tourism Oscars'

The Hebridean Celtic Festival is worth more than 2 million to the economy of the Isle of Lewis.
The Hebridean Celtic Festival is worth more than 2 million to the economy of the Isle of Lewis.

The Dewar's whisky distillery in Aberfeldy was named Scotland best attraction at VisitScotland's annual Thistle Awards.

The iconic Eilean Donan Castle in the West Highlands was honoured for offering the best heritage experience in the country at the 25th annual ceremony.

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National tourism agency VisitScotland organises the nationwide contest, with the winners emerging from a record 750 entries and five regional rounds.

HebCelt, the annual music festival held in the grounds of Lews Castle in Stornoway, fought off competition from Glasgow Film Festival, the Hidden Door festival which reopened Leith Theatre after nearly 30 years, Aberdeen's True North music festival and the Mhor Festival at Balquhidder.

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Hebcelt director Caroline Maclennan said: “This is just amazing. It has been a phenomenal period for the festival where we have enjoyed unprecedented success and this latest, national award gives us enormous satisfaction and shows HebCelt is as popular as ever.

“Importantly, these awards also provide us with the opportunity to bring a sharper focus on tourism in the Outer Hebrides and we hope to attract more people to visit our beautiful islands.

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“All our volunteers and those who support this event should be proud of another remarkable achievement.”

The Highland biking spectacular, which has helped promote Fort William as the "UK's outdoor capital," was honoured ahead of events like the Open Golf tournament at Troon and the Edinburgh Marathon, after attracting more than 20,000 spectators to the slopes of Anoach Mor in the Nevis Range

Teuchters Landing, in Leith, was named Scotland's best bar, while Number 16 in Glasgow won the best restaurant title.

The Moor of Rannoch Hotel, which is located beside Rannoch station on the Weat Highland Railway Line, was named the nation's most hospitable hotel.

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Willie Macleod, head of the British Hospitality Association in Scotland, one of the main opponents of the campaign to have a tourist tax introduced in Scotland, received the Silver Thistle award for outstanding service to the industry. Macleod has also recently been chair of the trust which runs the UNESCO World Heritage Site at New Lanark.

Rebecca Brooks, chair of the judging panel for the Thistle Awards, which attracted a record 750 entries, said: “The Thistle Awards are Scotland’s premier awards for the tourism industry and for 25 wonderful years they have been shining a spotlight on success, innovation and excellence..

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“Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs and sustains communities. The Scottish Thistle Awards lets us recognise the unsung heroes of our industry who show real dedication and enthusiasm for Scotland’s tourism industry.”

Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The Thistle Awards are the most coveted accolades in the tourism industry, celebrating quality, innovation and excellence across the industry.

“For 25 years the awards have recognised the significant value the sector contributes to the visitor economy and VisitScotland’s continued delivery underlines the organisations commitment to quality and success across the industry.”


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Best Accommodation Provider

Portavadie Loch Fyne, Argyll

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Best Informal Eating Experience

Venachar Lochside, Callander

Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience

Foxlake Adventures, East Lothian

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Best Restaurant Experience

Number 16 Restaurant, Glasgow

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Best Sporting Event

Fort William UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, Lochaber

Most Hospitable B&B / Guest House

Kingsmuir House, Peebles

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Best Cultural Event or Festival

Hebridean Celtic Festival, Isle of Lewis

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Most Hospitable Hotel

Moor of Rannoch, Perthshire

Innovation in Tourism

Loch Earn Tourism Information BLiSS Trail 2017

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Best Heritage Tourism Experience

Eilean Donan Castle, West Highlands

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Best Bar

Teuchters Landing, Leith

Best Business Event

Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre

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Best Visitor Attraction

Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery, Perthshire

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Tourism and Hospitality Hero

Peter Wilson, Cruise Forth

Working Together for Tourism


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Silver Thistle

Willie Macleod