Skye’s the limit as island lifts hospitality industry’s top awards

Shirley Spear outside The Three Chimneys Restaurant on Skye. Picture: Neil Hanna
Shirley Spear outside The Three Chimneys Restaurant on Skye. Picture: Neil Hanna
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The Isle of Skye has scooped two of the top honours at a prestigious awards ceremony for hospitality, tourism and catering.

The Three Chimneys on the edge of Loch Dunvegan took the title of Best Restaurant in the 15th year of the Catering Scotland Excellence Awards while Skeabost House, described by the judges as a “Cinderella fairy tale”, won the Group Hotel category.

Judges said Shirley Spear’s Three Chimneys, at Colbost in the north-west of the island, had a track record of excellent food. They said: “[It has] consistently delivered world-class standards over many years. Its chefs have wowed guests with a delicate and skilful touch that has showcased the highest standards to a global clientele.”

Last autumn, Three Chimneys, whose head chef is Scott Davies, was named the UK Good Food Guide’s Restaurant of 2018. Other finalists in the category included Glasgow’s seafood specialist, Gamba, and L’Escargot Blanc in Edinburgh.

The Chef of the Year Award went to Geoffrey Smeddle, of the Peat Inn, St Andrews, a finalist in 2010. Judges described him as “without doubt, one of Scotland’s finest chefs”.

Skeabost, the most recently acquired member of the Sonas group of three boutique hotels on Skye, was described as a “real Cinderella, rags-to-riches story”, after Anne Gracie Gunn and her late husband, Ken, “took a tired, unloved hotel and transformed and extended it into one of the island’s star attractions”.

Skeabost, bought in 2015, now has 18 bedrooms. It beat off challenges from the 300-room Doubletree by Hilton Glasgow Central, whose ballroom can seat up to 1,500 guests, and the 240-room Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, which features the Galvin Restaurant and Guerlain spa.

Arran’s Douglas Hotel – which is situated next to a new £30 million ferry pier – captured the competitive Independent Hotel category ahead of Dunstane Houses in Edinburgh’s West End and the Lovat Loch Ness at Fort Augustus.

The judges said: “The standard of customer service set the Douglas apart. It looks after each guest from the front door onwards. The fabric of the hotel is first class, it takes care to involve the local community and there’s a lovely diversity to the food from the bistro to the restaurant.”

The Pub Excellence Award was won by the nautical-themed Noble’s Cafe Bar and Restaurant in Leith.