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 14 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&B’s, 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 independent judging panel is drawn from experienced industry professionals working across the region.
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
Best Informal Eating Experience
Best Outdoor / Adventure Experience
Best Restaurant Experience
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
- Emma Clark, Glenegadale House, Islay
- Eleanor Harcus, Lodges at the Mains, Inverness
- Andrew Mackay, The Caithness Collection
Most Hospitable B&B / Guest House
Most Hospitable Hotel
Tourism Everyone’s Business
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
Twitter – @HiTourismAwards