Tourism ‘Oscars’ Shortlist Revealed for the South of Scotland

Unveiling the South of Scotland tourism businesses shortlisted for the region’s first dedicated Scottish Thistle Awards  




Clockwise from top left: Dalscone Farm Park, Out-there Artisan, Spring Fling Open Studios and Tiny Home Borders 


The shortlist for the South of Scotland’s first dedicated regional Thistle Awards – Scotland’s premier tourism and events industry accolades – has been unveiled today. 

The Scottish Thistle Awards, with headline sponsor Johnstons of Elgin, celebrate the very best of the tourism and events industry, which is worth £11.5 billion to the Scottish economy. 

The South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) today announced the shortlist for the South of Scotland Thistle Awards, with more than 30 tourism businesses, events and individuals in the running to receive the prestigious award, selected from a pool of 112 entries from across the region. 

Among those shortlisted are The Devil’s Porridge Museum in Eastriggs, Dumfries and Galloway, which is shortlisted in the Best Visitor Attraction category as well as in the new Celebrating Thriving Communities category, alongside KPT Management Trust in Thornhill and Go Wild Scotland Community Interest Group in Selkirk.  

The Devil’s Porridge Museum’s Chairman, Richard Brodie, is also shortlisted for Tourism Individual of the Year 

Dalscone Farm Park in Dumfries and Trimontium Museum in Melrose make up the running for the Best Visitor Attraction category and are also going head-to-head in the Innovation in Tourism category. 

Meanwhile, Gather near Gatehouse of Fleet is shortlisted for the Best Eating Experience award at the South of Scotland Thistle Awards, alongside The Allanton Inn in Berwickshire and Out-there Artisan in Jedburgh.  

And Queensberry House in Moffat, Nithbank Country Estate in Thornhill and The Ghillie B&B in Melrose are all up for the Best B&B or Guest House Experience gongs.  

The South of Scotland Thistle Awards, organised by the South of Scotland Destination Alliance and supported by South of Scotland Enterprise, will take place at the Cairndale Hotel and Leisure Club in Dumfries on 5 October 2023. The venue is itself up for the Best Hotel Experience accolade, alongside Cringletie Hotel in Peebles and The Selkirk Arms Hotel in Kirkcudbright.   


Finalists’ reactions: 

Joanna Jones, Assistant Director of Upland, who runs Spring Fling Open Studios in Dumfries, said: ‘We applied to highlight the hard work of our participating studios, staff, and board, so we are all delighted that our flagship event, Spring Fling Open Studios has been shortlisted for the Outstanding Cultural Event or Festival in the South of Scotland regional finals. 

“Having just celebrated our 21st event it’s fantastic to get this recognition for everyone that makes it happen, especially for our artists and makers that have supported the event over the years and made it the unique experience it is today. It would be incredible for the event, Upland, and the wider communities who support us if we were to win!” 


Eilidh Cox, owner of Out-there Artisan in Jedburgh, said: “Receiving the nomination for the Thistle awards encouraged me to continue the application as I felt it would be a brilliant way to celebrate and thank my local regular customers for their continued support. The pandemic has been such a test to many businesses and being able to continue to build and expand Out-there Artisan by being shortlisted for the regional award fills me with pride. Just making it to the final is a huge honour but to bring the award home would be a huge achievement for my whole team and our amazing customers that make running my business possible.”  


Ellis Corrigan of Dalscone Farm Park in Dumfries said: “We decided to apply for the Thistle Awards to showcase the work we have put into incentivising people to come to our often overlooked yet beautiful region of Scotland. Our live streams about our farm park on social media platforms have resulted in an increase in national and international visitors to the region. We work hard to ensure visitors of all ages have an unforgettable and fun day out at Dalscone and it’s great to be recognised for this. We feel incredibly honoured to be a finalist in not just the Innovation in Tourism award but also the Best Visitor Attraction award!” 


David and Claire MacTaggart, proprietors of Tiny Home Borders in Hawick, said: “We are delighted to have been shortlisted for a Thistle Award, an award which is held in such high esteem in the tourism industry. In reaching this stage it is a compliment to the wonderful local suppliers and partners we use at Tiny Home Borders, who support us in providing for our guests a truly memorable experience here at our cosy hillside retreat.” 


David Hope-Jones OBE, Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance, said: “Tourism, events and hospitality businesses are crucial to the South of Scotland’s community and economic prosperity. The sector has weathered some huge challenges in recent years but, through all this, businesses have worked tirelessly to ensure the South of Scotland remains a leading global destination – as recognised by Lonely Planet. 

“Our new South of Scotland Thistle Awards allow us to celebrate our region’s leading lights in the sector, recognising quality and excellence.  My hearty congratulations to the outstanding businesses named today as regional finalists.  We look forward to our inaugural South of Scotland Thistle Awards in Dumfries in October – the ‘Oscars’ of tourism in the South!” 


Professor Russel Griggs, SOSE Chair, said: “SOSE is delighted to see the shortlist for the region’s first dedicated Scottish Thistle Awards. We have been really fortunate to work with and support some of these fantastic tourism businesses over the past few years. 

“We will continue to work in partnership with SSDA and Visit Scotland to help transform the visitor economy in the South and continue to highlight the region as a fantastic place to visit and live. I would like to wish each and every one of the companies shortlisted today all the very best for the final on 5 October.” 


The full South of Scotland Thistle Awards shortlist, by category: 

Best B&B or Guest House Experience 

  • The Ghillie B&B, Melrose 
  • Queensberry House, Moffat 
  • Nithbank Country Estate, Thornhill 

Best Bar or Pub 

  • The Cross Keys, Ettrickbridge 

Best Eating Experience 

  • Allanton Inn, Allanton 
  • Gather, Gatehouse of Fleet 
  • Out-there Artisan, Jedburgh 

Best Hotel Experience 

  • The Cairndale Hotel and Leisure Club, Dumfries 
  • Cringletie Hotel, Peebles 
  • The Selkirk Arms Hotel, Kirkcudbright 

Best Outdoor or Adventure Experience 

  • Beirhope Alpacas, Hownam near Kelso 
  • Kitchen Coos and Ewes, Newton Stewart 
  • Ridelines, Innerleithen 

Best Self-Catering Accommodation Experience 

  • Arden Holiday Cottage, Dumfries 
  • Loch Ken Eco Bothies, Castle Douglas 
  • Tiny Home Borders, Hawick 

Best Visitor Attraction 

  • Dalscone Farm Park, Dumfries 
  • The Devil’s Porridge Museum, Eastriggs 
  • Trimontium Museum, Melrose 

Celebrating Thriving Communities 

  • The Devil’s Porridge Museum, Eastriggs 
  • Go Wild Scotland Community Interest Group, Selkirk 
  • KPT Development Trust, Thornhill 

Climate Action Award 

  • Nithbank Country Estate, Thornhill 

Innovation in Tourism 

  • Dalscone Farm Park, Dumfries 
  • Trimontium Museum, Melrose 

Outstanding Cultural Event or Festival 

  • Borders Book Festival, Melrose 
  • Newton Stewart and Minnigaff Traditional Music and Dance Festival, Newton Stewart 
  • Spring Fling Open Studios, Dumfries 
  • Stranraer Oyster Festival, Stranraer 

Tourism & Hospitality Employer of the Year 

  • Barend Holiday Lodges & The Beagle Country Pub, Dalbeattie 

Tourism Individual of the Year 

  • Melanie Allen, Thornhill 
  • Richard Brodie, Eastriggs 


The Scottish Thistle Awards are delivered by VisitScotland in partnership with regional awards programmes. The five different regional award ceremonies will take place in September and October before the regional winners battle it out for a Scotland-wide accolade at the National Final in December.  

The awards champion innovation, collaboration and sustainable practices, in line with the ambitions of the national tourism strategy, Outlook 2030.   

Responsible tourism is at the heart of the Scottish Thistle Awards, supporting the aim for Scotland to be recognised globally as a leader in this field.   

Every entry to the 17 categories was required to provide clear evidence on how their business addresses responsible tourism, with new categories such as the Celebrating Thriving Communities Award, Inclusive Tourism Award and Climate Action Award introduced this year.  


Steven Walker, Chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards industry panel, said: “The Scottish Thistle Awards mark an important celebration of the best in our industry. They showcase the very best of Scotland’s tourism and events sector, helping to ensure that tourism, and the individuals who work in the industry, are recognised for the positive impact they bring to the country and our communities.  

“Every one of the shortlisted regional finalists is supporting our ambition to make Scotland a better place for people to live and visit. On behalf of the panel, I would like to congratulate all regional finalists and wish each and every one of them the very best of luck at the regional finals and beyond.”  


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