Mark Beaumont lands Top Scot award

Four years ago, he left university with what seemed an impossible dream. Yesterday, Mark Beaumont, a Scottish adventurer who followed a record-breaking cycle ride round the world with a second gruelling trip from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, was named the nation's Top Scot.

"It's incredible. I don't see myself in that league," Beaumont said, after learning that he'd won the top honour at the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards. Past winners have ranged from Olympian Chris Hoy to the author JK Rowling.

The winners in eight categories were unveiled last night at a ceremony in the Mansfield Traquair venue in Edinburgh. The awards, jointly presented by Glenfiddich and The Scotsman, were moved at short notice after a marquee-style roof collapsed at the Prestonfield House Hotel under heavy snow.

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Singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini, whose latest album Sunny Side Up has sold two million copies worldwide, took the music award, ahead of nominees that ranged from harpist Catriona McKay to rock band Biffy Clyro.

Rugby hero Chris Paterson, who won his 101st cap for Scotland in the side's victory over South Africa last month, won the sports award. The veteran artist and arts promoter Richard Demarco was the surprise winner of the arts prize, in a field that included artist Susan Philipsz, a Turner Prize nominee this year for sound installations using her own voice.

Beaumont, 27, won the sports award in 2008 but was stunned to win the Top Scot accolade, with names such as golfer Colin Montgomerie also mentioned. "It's amazing, completely out of the blue. It's an incredible line-up," he said.

• Eight more greats - the category winners

A consulting panel picked nominees for the food, sport, writing, art, music, business, environment and screen awards, with a public vote for the winners and an open vote for the Top Scot category.

Beaumont broke the world record for cycling round the world in 2008, covering 18,296 miles in 194 days and 17 hours - 81 days less than the previous best. "When I graduated, I had grand hopes of making a name and a career, but you have to go out there and do it," he said.

He told his record-breaking story in a best-selling book and is writing a second one on his marathon through the Americas. Both rides have become BBC documentaries.

The Scotsman's editor John McLellan said: "For guts, determination and imagination, few people in the world can match Mark Beaumont.Not only is he thoroughly deserving of every accolade he receives but he is a superb ambassador for Scotland and a role model for young people everywhere."

A politics graduate of Glasgow University, Beaumont is now a patron of the Saltire Foundation, fundraising and networking for a group that runs worldwide intern and fellowship programmes for young Scottish people. As a student, he won an internship with the group in Boston.

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He raises money for various charities and recently became an ambassador for the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

He is now planning a new challenge, which he will announce shortly. All he will say is that it is not on a bike, and not a solo journey.