The Celtic Connections music festival and the Scottish Open golf tournament have been named the nation’s best cultural and sporting events at the annual “Scottish tourism Oscars”.
The 25th edition of the winter music festival was chosen ahead of the Sleep in the Park fundraiser and Pitlochry’s Enchanted Forest light show.
The Scottish Open, which was staged in Gullane, East Lothian, was up against Musselburgh racecourse’s “Ladies Day” and the first ever full marathon event in Stirling.
The Wigtown Book Festival, the annual event staged by “Scotland’s book town,” won the special award for innovation category, which it had contested with a new campaign to promote a 90-mile scenic Snow Roads route through the Highlands and Aberdeenshire and a “helicopter glamping” site in Stirlingshire.
Other winners at the ceremony at the EICC in Edinburgh included Real Mary King’s Close, in Edinburgh, which was honoured as the best heritage experience in Scotland after 15 years as a year-round attraction.
MacGregor’s, a new Inverness bar created by the broadcaster and Blazin’ Fiddles musician Bruce MacGregor, was named Scotland’s best pub.
The Cruise Loch Ness company, which has been running trips across the loch since 1968, won the visitor attraction category.
Jade Hewat, festival manager at Celtic Connections, said: “The festival is honoured to be recognised once again as a cultural cornerstone of the Scottish events calendar.”
Juliana Delaney, CEO of Continuum Attractions, which operates The Real Mary King’s Close, said: “The whole team is thrilled to receive this incredible honour. To be recognised as Scotland’s Best Heritage Tourism Experience is a true testament to the commitment our whole team has for our attraction. Every aspect of our guest experience is developed with love, a sense of pride, and an enthusiasm for both our rich history, and delivering outstanding customer service. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our many guests, our peers within the industry, and VisitScotland for its continued support over the years.”
The awards, which were hosted by broadcaster Jennifer Reoch and Gary Tank Commander star Greg McHugh, featured a live performance by the award-winning Highland trad band Elephant Sessions.
Rebecca Brooks, chair of the awards industry panel, said: “The Scottish Thistle Awards are Scotland’s premier awards for the tourism industry and a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and recognise their achievements in what is a special year for tourism in Scotland as VisitScotland marks its 50th anniversary.”