As we countdown the days until the 2019 Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards finalists are revealed, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to look back on last year’s winners.
The annual awards recognise and reward the best places to stay, eat, drink and enjoy the area’s sporting, historic and cultural events, as well as its nature and scenery.
Last year, Inverness, Argyll and the islands enjoyed the most success with five trophy winners, while others went to Ross-shire, Moray, Strathspey and Sutherland.
Let’s remind ourselves of the 2018 winners –
Best Bar/Pub– Macgregor’s in Inverness, who, at the time of the awards ceremony, had only been operating for a year and was set up by crowdfunding, took the title of Best Bar/Pub.
Best Cultural Event– Oban Live, the biggest live music event in Argyll & Bute, won the Best Cultural Event or Festival award. HITA judges commended the company for their dedication and commitment as well as injecting an economic boost of £1.4 million to the area.
Best Eating Experience– The Seafood Shack in Ullapool, which was set up by two local women, won in the Best Eating Experience category. Judges commented on the hard work the women put in to ensure “customer satisfaction is key with sustainability and provenance at the core of their offering.”
Best Heritage Tourism Experience– Speyside Cooperage Visitor Centre, in Craigellachie, the only working cooperage in the UK where visitors can experience the art of coopering, won the Best Heritage Tourism Experience award.
Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience– Basking Shark Scotland who run boat tours from Oban, took the Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience. Judges said their focus on the wider environment inspires guests who come on their trips to follow their lead in keeping the local area clean.
Best Self Catering Accommodation– this accolade went to self-catering business Where Stags Roar, from Newtonmore. The judges noted that the business paid a high level of attention to detail and customer satisfaction, with repeat business being “exemplary”.
Best Visitor Attraction– Cruise Loch Ness took home this award after judges praised them for their “continuous re-investment in the business, their digital efforts, commitment to staff training and effective collaboration with others.”
Highland Ambassador– HITA board director Elizabeth Mackintosh of Achmony Holidays, who has made an outstanding contribution to tourism in the north of Scotland for more than 50 years was named the 2019 Highland Ambassador.
Highland Rising Star– During the Year of Young People, three winners were chosen for the Highland Rising Star award due to the high level of entries – Brian Sharp from tour company Scottish Routes, Euan Walker from Achnagairn Estate in Kirkhill and John McNulty, from the Etive Restaurant in Oban. The HITA judges were “delighted with the calibre and emerging talent of the young people who applied for this award.”
Innovation in Tourism– Inverness Taxis picked up the Innovation in Tourism award and judges commended the company on their “efforts to seek new and innovative ways to benefit the business and the customer.”
Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House– Pool House at Achnasheen in Wester Ross won the title of Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House. “A truly wonderful experience” awaits guests at Pool House said judges.
Most Hospitable Hotel– Links House at Royal Dornoch was crowned Most Hospitable Hotel with judges praising the 15-bedroom luxury hotel’s “bespoke customer experience.”
Tourism & Hospitality Hero– Emma Clark, from Glenegedale House in Islay, was named Tourism & Hospitality Hero for her ability to build up a rapport with each guest long before they set food at Glenegedale House. Emma was praised for the personal touch she offered guests.
Working Together for Tourism– This category was won by Mull Eagle Watch, a credited 5-star Visit Scotland attraction that allows people to get great views of sea eagles without disturbing them.
The HITA 2019 finalists will be announced on Monday 23rd September – keep an eye out on our Facebook, Twitter and our blog for the announcement. We wish all those who have entered the very best of luck.