South of Scotland tourism stars aim to break regional record at Scottish Thistle Awards national finals

Regional businesses preparing to fly the flag for Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders at glittering ceremony in Glasgow 

The crème de la crème of tourism and hospitality in the South of Scotland will be tested against their counterparts from the rest of the country as the sector’s leading lights gather in Glasgow for the Scottish Thistle Awards national finals on 1 December.  

Fifteen finalists

The current record Scottish Thistle Awards haul for the South of Scotland stands at three, achieved in 1996 – a tally this year’s formidable team of 15 finalists (beating the previous highest number of 10) is aiming to surpass.  

The Scottish Thistle Awards celebrate excellence in the tourism and events industry, helping to shine a spotlight on a crucial part of the local economy.  

The first ever dedicated South of Scotland Thistle Awards were held at Dumfries’s Cairndale Hotel in October, organised by the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) and South of Scotland Enterprise, supported by VisitScotland and with headline sponsor Caledonia Park Designer Outlet.  

Following this hugely successful occasion, more finalists than ever will make the journey from the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway to the Scotland-wide finals in search of a coveted national accolade later this week.  

South of Scotland regional winners in the running for a Scottish Thistle Award

Innovation in Tourism – Dalscone Farm 

Best B&B or Guesthouse Experience – Nithbank Country Estate 

Best Self-Catering Accommodation Experience – Arden Holiday Cottage 

Best Bar or Pub – The Cross Keys Inn Ettrickbridge 

Best Hotel Experience – Cringletie 

Best Eating Experience – Allanton Inn 

Outstanding Cultural Event or Festival – Borders Book Festival 

Climate Action Award – Nithbank Country Estate 

Celebrating Thriving Communities Award – The Devil’s Porridge Museum 

Best Visitor Attraction – Trimontium Museum 

Best Outdoor or Adventure Experience – Kitchen Coos and Ewes 

Tourism and Hospitality Employer of the Year – The Beagle Country Pub and Barend Holiday Lodges 

Tourism Individual of the Year – Melanie Allen (Nithbank Country Estate) 

Meanwhile, two South of Scotland hospitality businesses will also go head-to-head on Friday for a Scottish Thistle Award in the Best Luxury Experience category: Airhouses in Lauder and Nithbank Country Estate, Thornhill, who are up against Dalkeith’s The Old Millhouse.  

David Hope-Jones, Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) said:  

“We are inordinately proud of our outstanding tourism and hospitality sector in the South of Scotland, and rightly so. Sending our largest ever contingent to fly the flag for the region at the national finals is a massive boost for the whole region and we’re keeping everything crossed the previous record of three South of Scotland trophies will be broken on Friday evening. 

“Tourism is a vital part of our local economy, powering thriving communities and welcoming visitors for unforgettable, sustainable stays to enjoy some of the finest food and drink, accommodation, landscapes, attractions and experiences anywhere in the country. Whatever the outcome at Friday’s Scottish Thistle Awards, all our national finalists in the South of Scotland have already done their region proud; ably demonstrating the real quality on offer in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway. The South of Scotland: excellence starts here!”  

Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of South of Scotland Enterprise, said: 

 “All of the finalists in the first South of Scotland Thistle Awards last month were recognised for their hard work attracting and accommodating visitors to our wonderful region. Our South winners now step forward for the national awards, and I am sure they will get behind one another on the night, as they each aim to pick up a Scottish Thistle Award. Good luck to all of them.” 

 Planning is already under way for the next South of Scotland Thistle Awards in 2024, with entries due to go live in the spring.  

 A special free session aimed at helping businesses craft a successful application – How to be a Scottish Thistle Award Winner – is scheduled on 7 March 2024 as part of the SSDA’s ongoing Winter Webinar series, available to all tourism businesses in the region. 

 The South of Scotland Thistle Awards 2023 ceremony was sponsored by Caledonia Park Designer Outlet,  The Borders Distillery, Fishers, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, Johnstons of Elgin and SW Audio. Any businesses or organisations keen to find out more about sponsoring the awards in 2024 are invited to contact the SSDA via at their earliest convenience. 


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