An Aberdeenshire restaurant that celebrates local produce and a luxury country house hotel were named best in the business at Scotland’s biggest awards night in tourism.
Eat on the Green in Ellon was crowned Best Eating Experience, sponsored by Caledonian MacBrayne, at the Scottish Thistle Awards National Final on March 14 alongside Meldrum House Country Hotel and Golf which received the Most Hospitable Hotel award, sponsored by Fishers
Scottish tourism’s premier awards ceremony took place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, where 15 individuals, businesses and events were honoured for their innovation, excellence and success in the hospitality and tourism sector.
Judges praised Eat on the Green for the strong promotion and partnership-working with local suppliers, as well as their clear vision for the future.
Craig Wilson, chef/owner of Eat on the Green said: "Delivering the best Eating Experience for our guests is at the forefront of everything we do. We work closely with specially selected local producers to access the freshest, homegrown ingredients to feature in our dishes, not only delivering full on flavour, but telling the 'food story' behind how these ingredients came to be.
“We are immensely proud to be named best Eating Experience and we are delighted to bring this national award back to Aberdeenshire to celebrate with our hardworking and outstanding team."
Meldrum House Country Hotel and Golf was commended by judges for its strong focus on staff training and scholarship schemes, as well as the importance of sourcing Scottish produce in its food and drink offering.
Andy Burgess, CEO at Meldrum House Country Hotel and Golf: "It is an honour to win a Thistle Award against such stiff competition. With over 100 staff, it's a huge team effort that goes into making Meldrum House what it is today and I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of them for their hard work.”
VisitScotland regional director Jo Robinson said: “Congratulations to all of the winners from Aberdeenshire at this year’s Scottish Thistle Awards National Final. These awards recognise the drive and passion the industry has for enhancing the region’s tourism offering and attracting more visitors to our region. I’m delighted that the hard work and commitment of these businesses and individuals has been recognised at Scotland’s biggest awards for tourism.
“Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it is the heartbeat of the Scottish economy and touches every community, generating income, jobs and social change.”
American author of the bestselling Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon, was also in attendance at this year’s ceremony to receive a special honorary Thistle Award in recognition of her International Contribution to Scottish tourism. The award was granted in recognition of the phenomenal success of the Outlander TV series, based on Ms Gabaldon’s novels, and the resulting impact on Scottish tourism in recent years.
2019 also marks VisitScotland’s 50th anniversary and the development of the Tourism Act. Over the last 50 years tourism has become the bedrock of the Scottish economy – now attracting 15m visitors and generating £11bn for the Scottish economy.
The 2018/19 Scottish Thistle Awards, in association with Fishers, rewards hotels, restaurants, B&Bs, visitor attractions, business and consumer events, and individuals who go that extra mile to provide customers with exceptional service.
Scottish actor, writer and comedian, Greg McHugh, co-hosted the evening with TV presenter and former Miss Scotland, Jennifer Reoch. Entertainment was provided by Highlands-based Indie rock band Elephant Sessions.
Rebecca Brooks, chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel and VisitScotland Board member, 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.
“Congratulations to all of our national winners of the 2018/19 Scottish Thistle Awards. We were honoured to have Diana Gabaldon amongst our guests who represent the best of Scottish tourism and epitomise the strength and depth of the sector which continues to innovate and excel in giving visitors a high quality experience.
“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.”
The Scottish Thistle Awards is led by a panel of industry experts from several organisations including VisitScotland, Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards, Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards, the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland, the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions, Scotland Food and Drink, Scottish Tourism Alliance, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, sportscotland and Wild Scotland.
The regional finals were: Central, Fife & Tayside; Lothians & Borders; West; Highlands and Islands, organised by the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards; and Aberdeen City and Shire, organised by Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards.
Since its creation, VisitScotland (and previously Scottish Tourist Board) along with the wider tourism industry have helped position Scotland as a must-visit destination in international and UK markets.