Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards shortlist revealed

More than 40 businesses and individuals have been shortlisted for honours in the 2015 Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards, which this year saw a record number of entries and nominations.

The 44 finalists have been named across 15 categories in the annual awards, including four new sections created to recognise tourism innovation, friendly pubs, outstanding sporting events, and individuals dedicated to hospitality.

Shortlisted businesses, projects and people are spread across the region, including a hotel in Shetland, sporting events in Argyll, an adventure business on Skye and visitor attractions in Moray.

Categories recognise quality and service in accommodation types from hotels to B&Bs, as well as experiences such as formal and informal dining and outdoor adventures. They also cover attractions and events and identify individuals who champion hospitality or are young ambassadors for the industry.

The wider Inverness area accounts for 10 finalists, with others from small islands like Coll and Tiree and even one in mainland Scotland’s most westerly point, at Ardnamuchan, Lochaber.

In all, the judges considered 190 entries and nominations from all parts of the Highlands and Islands. The total was boosted this year with the inclusion of part of Argyll, but even without the boundary change the figure is nearly 40 per cent up on 2014.

The competition is run in association with SSE and will culminate in a grand ceremony at the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness on 13 November, from which HITA winners will go on to represent the region at the glittering national final of the Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

The HITA awards were launched in April by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop and past winners say success has not only raised awareness of their businesses, but has also been an inspiration to further improve their operations.

Marina Huggett, Chair of HITA, said: “The record number of entries and nominations we received this year has been very encouraging. The extremely high standard has also demonstrated the outstanding level of service we are providing to visitors in the Highlands and Islands.”

The shortlist is –

Best Cultural Event or Festival
Commando Spirit, Lochaber
Forres Events Ltd, European Pipe Band Championships, Moray
Orkney Folk Festival
Tiree Music Festival

Best Holiday Accommodation
Ardgour Estate, Lochaber
Coillabus Lodges, Islay
Torrisdale Castle Estate, Argyll

Best Informal Eating Experience
Applecross Inn, Wester Ross
Coll Hotel
The Mountain Café, Aviemore

Best Outdoor / Adventure Experience
Glenlivet Hill Trek, Speyside
Skye Adventure
WOW Scotland Tours Ltd, Inverness

Best Restaurant Experience
Kinloch Lodge Hotel and Restaurant, Skye
Ninth Wave Restaurant, Mull
Scalloway Hotel, Shetland

Best Sporting Event
Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon, Wester Ross
Mull of Kintyre Half Marathon and 10K, Argyll
Tiree Wave Classic
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, Fort William

Best Visitor Attraction
Aberlour Distillery, Speyside
EcoVentures, Cromarty
Loch Ness Centre Exhibition, Drumnadrochit
Scottish Dolphin Centre, Moray

Friendliest Pub / Bar
Applecross Inn, Wester Ross
The Anderson, Fortrose
The Old Mill Inn, Moray

Hospitality Hero
Emma Clark, Glenegadale House, Islay
Eleanor Harcus, Lodges at the Mains, Inverness
Andrew Mackay, The Caithness Collection

Innovation Award
Caledonian MacBrayne
Gordon Castle, Moray
North Highland Initiative, Caithness and Sutherland

Most Hospitable B&B / Guest House
Ardtorna, Oban
Inverglen Guest House, Inverness
Rockpool House, Ardnamurchan

Most Hospitable Hotel
Kylesku Hotel, Sutherland
The Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness
Uig Hotel, Skye

Tourism Everyone’s Business
Johnstons of Elgin, Moray
Morag’s Lodge Loch Ness, Fort Augustus
WOW Scotland Tours Ltd, Inverness

Young Ambassador of the Year
Christina Smith, Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness
Kyle Beattie, Boots N Paddles, Inverness
Alan Ewen, Inverness Airport
Adam McMaster, Lochness Country House Hotel, Inverness