The Highlands and Islands has scored a triple success at the Scottish tourism ’Oscars’.

Freda Newton, who owns and manages Loch Ness by Jacobite, was rewarded for her role in tourism by being presented with the prestigious Caledonian MacBrayne Silver Thistle by tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop at the Scottish Thistle awards national final last night.

Freda, who chairs the judging panel for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA), received the honour for her pivotal role in the region’s tourism industry.

Kinloch Lodge Hotel & Restaurant, a family-run business in Skye, picked up Fishers Most Hospitable Hotel award, and MacGochans in Tobermory was named Friendliest Pub/Bar.

Isabella Macdonald, owner of Kinloch Lodge Hotel & Restaurant, said: “It has been another amazing year for us. We retained our Michelin star for a seventh year and now our entire team performance has also been rewarded. We are all absolutely thrilled and want to thank everyone for all their hard work.”

Hotel founder Lady Claire Macdonald, who collected the award, added: “It was so lovely to represent the Kinloch team at the wonderful awards ceremony. Although we are still very much involved with Kinloch, Godfrey and I handed over the day to day running of the hotel and restaurant to our daughter Isabella and chef director Marcello Tully nearly ten years ago and it has been wonderful to watch them take Kinloch forward and to continue to go from strength to strength. We are very proud of everyone.”

Thistle judges noted Macgochans’ focus on customer service and an “excellent use of social media” by the in-house team. They also commended the business’s support for local producers and suppliers.

Owner Neil Morrison said: “At Macgochans we pride ourselves on providing a true Scottish Island welcome, so to get national recognition for this, and win Scotland’s Friendliest Bar is an absolute inspiration to the team that they can achieve great things. We are continually trying to improve on what we do and this award drives us forward in our pursuit to make each customer experience something special.”

Kinloch Lodge and Macgochans made it through to the national final having won their categories at the HITA final in November.

Craig Ewan, Chair of HITA, said: “Having two of our category winners recognised at the national finals is a great achievement for the individual businesses and also for the industry in the north of Scotland.

“It was also fitting that Freda Newton was recognised for her outstanding work in supporting and promoting tourism in the Highlands and Islands.

“Congratulations to all those who triumphed last night.”

The 2016/2017 Scottish Thistle Awards, in association with Fishers, recognise innovation, excellence and success in the hospitality and tourism industry – rewarding hotels, restaurants, B&Bs, visitor attractions, events and individuals who go that extra mile to provide customers with exceptional service.

This year’s Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards will be launched next week.

Now in its 13th year, HITA celebrates excellence across all sectors of the industry in the Highlands and Islands. The famous piper trophies will be awarded to businesses or individuals in 16 categories.

Last year, 203 businesses or individuals entered or were nominated for awards, the biggest ever response in the event’s history.

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