Tag: Highland


HITA 2014 Categories and How To Nominate

HITA have been working on an entirely new and refreshing approach to rewarding and recognising the excellence that exists within the Highlands and Islands tourism industry. In 2014 we are offering the opportunity for anyone to nominate a business or person that they feel deserves recognition. Tourism businesses will still be able to register and complete an entry without being nominated.

The new award categories have been selected to reflect the importance of the customer experience in our region and also to streamline the route for our winners to the national stage at the Scottish Thistle Awards. Each HITA 2014 winner, with the exception of our Ambassadors, will automatically become a finalist at the Scottish Thistle Awards 2014.

Most Hospitable Hotel
Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House
Best Holiday Accommodation
Best Informal Eating Experience
Best Restaurant Experience
Friendliest Pub/Bar
Best Event or Festival
Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience
Our Warmest Welcome
Best Visitor Attraction
Creative Ambition Award (Regional nominations for national presentation, no regional winners drawn in this category)
Discovering Scotland Award (National award, no regional winner)
Young Ambassador Award (30 years old and under)
Ambassador Award (30 years old and over)

Nominate now!

Anyone can nominate a company or individual or register themselves* by completing the form online at www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk
The winners will be announced at the HITA ceremony and gala dinner in Inverness on Friday 7 November 2014 at the Kingsmills Hotel, Kingsclub & Spa in Inverness.


*Young Ambassador and Ambassador hopefuls cannot enter themselves, they must be nominated by another party.


Wemyss House – We talk to the owners of the best B&B/Guest House in the region!

Reading through the answers from Christine and Stuart from Wemyss House has left us feeling really warmed on this cold winter’s morning, not least because of the mentions of homemade bread and marmalade!  It has also left us feeling very proud. They are two exceptional people who have created and maintain one of the most outstanding tourism businesses in our region. Read on to learn what they do and how they do it…


Congratulations again on your award win! How does it feel to have won at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards 2013?
We were surprised and delighted to hear we had been short-listed for the Tourism Awards.

The HITA event in October at the Drumossie Hotel was fantastic and then to find ourselves the winners of the Best B&B/Guest house category was totally ‘mind-blowing’ – we never expected it and it took some while to sink in.

As winners we feel honoured to represent the Highlands and Islands, and totally committed to providing excellent customer service and memorable Tourism experience.


What impact does winning awards have on your business?
The award can do nothing but have a positive impact for our business. In business terms it has put us and Wemyss House ‘on the map’, introduced us to other business providers through direct contact and social media and from those points alone it has and is having a positive benefit.

Also the award has had a positive impact on us, ourselves ,as the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards has recognised the work and attention to detail we have put in and commended us as providing ‘exceptional quality’.

All awards help towards visitor choice. This award, which we advertise on our website, will show prospective visitors and tourists that we have been recognised by the Highlands and Islands as the Best B&B/Guest House and as an indication of quality, will, we hope, lead to increased visitor numbers and returners.

The process of entering the HITA awards was done over a period of time – it is not something which can be done in a hurry.  To make it fair across all categories, the questions have to be answered in 400 words so that alone is enough to make you think just what is important to you and your business.

The whole thing proved to be an examination of what, why and how your business operates.  You had to think hard about each question, make notes, discuss with your business partner (s) and then encapsulate the answer in a short paragraph. Only the important elements could go forward…no padding!

This self-evaluation was something all businesses should do but probably never find the time to sit down and ask ‘where am I going with this, how can I learn from past events and how can we improve in the future what we are offering the customer?


Tell us a bit about what is most special about Wemyss House?
Our business is special because as a couple, we have been able to address every issue ourselves, making sure that everything is done to our high standards and attention to detail… from the welcome, the cleanliness and comfort of the rooms, the quality of the food and the time we offer to our guests, listening to them and helping them make the most out of their stay. Of course this is also to our benefit as happy and contented guests are the ones most likely to return, and return they do!

When customers give a review about their stay at Wemyss House, they talk about us as hosts, so we know that welcoming, talking and understanding the needs of your guests is paramount.

The other item mentioned by guests, one of our USPs, is the quality and presentation of the food. The food we buy for the guests is of the best quality and preparation. We do not save money by giving them less than we would expect ourselves.

In February 2013 we were awarded a Silver in the World Marmalade Competition in Cumbria, judged by the ex MD of Tiptree Jams. This award proved so worthwhile and has been such a talking point at breakfast. No marmalade was available for sale as we had only made enough for the B&B, but we could have sold many, many jars to guests had we known to make more. We shall know another time!

We think Wemyss House is also special as Stuart has handmade most of the furniture in the bedrooms and around the house. The guests eat dinner and breakfast –with our homemade bread, yogurt, preserves from his handmade table and we have many local works of art, tweeds and pottery around the house. Also the new contemporary entrance extension built by Stuart and myself has proved very popular with guests especially for relaxing evenings chatting and watching the sun go down over the Cromarty Firth.


Are there any new developments for Wemyss House in the near future we can look out for?
During the winter we are upgrading to enhance the visitor experience with luxury contemporary pieces from Matki and Kohler in one of our double en-suite bathrooms.

January 2014 sees the Seville Oranges come into the shops so marmalade making will be on the agenda …question is do we enter the competition and if so how many jars do we make, in case it is judged to be a good batch? Hummm…

The help from HIE has been put to good effect this year and help from the digital team has set us up with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. It felt like an uphill journey to begin with but now we have the hang of it we realise the benefits of ‘keeping in the loop’ of Highlands and Islands businesses and providing a good image and offers for guests on our Facebook page. Pinterest can also be utilised to promote tourism (I have added Pictish Cross Slabs). So all in all, 2013 with the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards and great help from HIE has been wonderful and we offer our thanks to all who have made this possible for us.

Thank you HITA and HIE from Christine and Stuart at Wemyss House!


Wemyss House
Phone:       +44 1862-851212

Web:           www.wemysshouse.com

Facebook:  wemyss house B&B

Twitter:      @wemysshouse


We talk to our 2013 Ambassador of the Year, Fraser Campbell of the Cobbs Group!

We were delighted that Fraser Campbell, our newly awarded Highlands and Islands Ambassador of the Year 2013, took time to chat to us last week on tourism in the region and his business, the Cobbs Group. Read on to find out what we discussed. We must say, all the talk of Cobbs cranachan cake left us feeling rather hungry!Congratulations on being HITA’s Highlands and Islands Ambassador of the Year for 2013. So, how does it feel to have been chosen by your peers in the region for this accolade?I was absolutely blown away when George Baxter SSE announced my name, so much so that I was in a state of shock when I went to the stage to collect the trophy and couldn’t gather my thoughts quick enough to make a more meaningful delivery than just a “thank you”. It was a great honour, of which, now that it has sunk, in I am very proud of. It has also been received extremely well by colleagues and friends within the industry – my Facebook page has never been busier!What most excites you about Highlands and Islands Tourism?This is my profession and I have been involved in it since I was a boy through my family. I studied this game since I left school and have experienced all aspects of hospitality, from washing dishes to owning my own hotel and running this company (Cobbs). I am from the Highlands and I want this area to be the best and the area where people want to return to, not just for the scenery, but also the friendly, good service and quality of the experience.We cannot sit on our laurels, we still have a long way to go and every day does not always go as planned, but as long as I am involved I will always try to right the wrongs and take the praise when we get it right, the Highlands and Islands has a great future in all aspects of hospitality!What do you feel the Highlands and Islands do best in regards to the visitor offering?No doubt, interaction with the guest is one of the top attributes. Good, well-prepared locally sourced food is another and great, iconic locations for some of our hotels, guest houses, and self-catering offerings.  There a variety of activities in the region that are easy to get to in a day and that is another unique selling point of the Highlands and Islands.Are there any particular topics affecting our region’s tourism industry that you are most passionate about? Because of the seasonality of our industry in the Highlands and Islands, I have always been a great advocate for a moratorium on VAT throughout the close season, which would help to sustain what we made in the season.The development of an International Hotel School in the Highlands would help to raise awareness of what a great training ground we have here for the hospitality stars of the future.Apart from developing our own business thus creating more jobs, it is my hope that this accolade will help to raise the credo of my involvement with the charity that I am a supporter of, The Archie Foundation.What do you feel are the biggest challenges of running a tourism business in this region?High transport and fuel costs are a serious consideration. Another is staffing and finding particularly trained staff that have a passion for the job. The pitfalls of government legislation from employment law, health and safety and the rest (we all encounter it and as a business grows) so these things kick in on a regular basis and we incur more costs in dealing with it. Can you please tell us a little about the Cobbs Group? The holding company of the trading name Cobbs was born out of The Loch Ness Coffee Co. Ltd, a company I started with three others when we won the franchise for the catering for Historic Scotland at Urquhart Castle. We were then based at The Drumnadrochit Hotel. After we left there we opened a restaurant in the village of Drumnadrochit on the site of The Drum Farm where we inherited Shenna Lloyd, the baker. We named the new venture Cobbs after John Cobb who was tragically killed on September 29th 1952 on Loch Ness attempting the world water speed record.About a year after we took over we started selling our home baking as there seemed to be a demand for this type of product on a commercial scale and as they say, the rest is history!As a company we now have three hotels, one private members club in Edinburgh, 10 coffee shops and of course the bakery, which is the best form of advertising, marketing and PR we have. What better way to introduce yourself but with a large slice of Cobbs Carrot Cake? I rest my case! How does your typical day unfold? I usually have a very early start. If I am at home, the first stop is at our office in Drumnadrochit, at the rear of The Drumnadrochit Hotel. On many occasions however I am heading down the A9 to meetings with our distributors, Fife Creamery, or with our manager and director in Edinburgh who happens to be my son Daniel, (who has just made me a Grandfather with the birth of Max James Campbell), so my journeys south will definitely be increased.Every day there is a new challenge to tackle from human resources and manager meetings, to checking Trip Advisor, to tasting new product (good job!), to looking at new sites, buying bric a brac for our coffee shops or checking what our suppliers are charging us – there is never a dull moment! I usually get home about 7 or 8pm.That’s the way it is but I wouldn’t change it for a 9 to 5 – No Thanks!!!!!!! We need to know this! What is your personal favourite from the Cobbs bakery? Ours is the Carrot Cake but what can’t you resist? I like all the products as one can see by looking at me, but our award winning Cranachan Cake is hard to beat with a nice glass of Prosecco of a Sunday with my good wife and fellow director Jackie who has to put up with all my idiosyncrasies.Check out http://www.cobbs.info/ to keep up to date with news from Fraser Campbell and the Cobbs Group.



Sixteen outstanding tourism businesses and individuals were revealed on Friday at the eighth annual Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) ceremony and gala dinner at the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness.  HITA recognises and rewards businesses and individuals offering superior service levels and customer awareness throughout the Highlands and Islands tourism industry.

Amongst the list of outstanding winners, owner and managing director of the Cobbs group, based at Loch Ness, Fraser Campbell, was awarded the coveted HITA Highlands and Islands  Ambassador of the Year award.

The 2013 Awards were opened by HITA Chairperson, Marina Huggett, Minister of Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, Fergus Ewing and Chairman of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Stephen Leckie, following entertainment from magician, Clive Grewcock, the Black watch 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland and Pipe major Richard Grisdale, and musicians, Ruairidh McDonald and Colin and Alan Train, before the winners were announced. The awards were presented by the master of ceremonies, Robert Lovie.

The full list of HITA 2013 winners are Best Bar, Café or Restaurant Award winner – Café Artysans, Inverness, Best Cultural Event Award winner  – Tiree Music Festival, Tiree, Best Sporting Event Award winner – Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland’s Culloden Run, Inverness, Best Shopping Experience – Johnstons of Elgin, Elgin, Best Guest House or B & B Award  Wemyss House, Tain, Best Hotel Award winner  – Duisdale House Hotel, Isle of Skye, Best Self-Serve Accommodation Award – Whitefalls Spa Lodges, Isle of Lewis, Best Tour Operator Programme award winner – Wilderness Scotland, Aviemore , Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award – Boots N Paddles / TreeZone, Inverness, Marketing Campaign of the Year  Award – Wilderness Scotland, Aviemore, Best Partnership in Tourism award winner – Highland Experience Tours, Highland-wide operation, Best Nature Based Experience Award – Aigas Field Centre, Inverness-shire, Best Visitor Attraction Award – The Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Centre, Ballindalloch and the winner of the Training and Skills Development Award – Frankie’s Fish & Chips, Shetland.  Andrew Whitehouse, Café Artysans, Inverness and Gordon Pearson, WOW Scotland, Inverness were awarded HITA Best Young Ambassador of the Year 2013.

Each of the HITA winners* were automatically given a place on the shortlist of VisitScotland’s national tourism awards scheme, the Scottish Thistle Awards, providing the opportunity for HITA winners to be acknowledged nationally for their achievements. The Scottish Thistle Awards will be held on 15 November this year.

Marina Huggett, chairperson of HITA said: “In this our eighth year of operation, the HITA Board is delighted to report our biggest number of registrations for the awards. This high level coupled with the excellent quality of applicants made the task of our independent judging panel even more challenging.

We would like to say “well done” to every one of our finalists and to the winners “congratulations”. The hard work and determination of businesses like theirs is what puts Scotland on the map and helps us become a “must visit” destination.”

For more information please log on to www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk



We are excited to announce this year’s finalists in 15 categories, each in the running to receive a coveted 2013 HITA award at the ceremony and dinner to be held on 4 October in Inverness.Our eight year old regional tourism awards programme received more entries this year than ever before and the judging panel emphasised the volume of quality submissions, identifying the 2013 short listing process as the most competitive yet.Best Bar, Café or Restaurant Award-          Café Artysans, Inverness-          Cups Tearoom, Scrabster-          Glencoe Café, GlencoeBest Cultural Event Award-          The Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Inverness-shire-          The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, Elgin-          The Tiree Music Festival, TireeBest Guest House or B & B Award-          Distant Hills Guest House, Spean Bridge-          Sandown House, Nairn-          Wemyss House, TainBest Hotel Award-          Duisdale House Hotel, Isle of Skye-          Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness-          Premier Inn Inverness Centre (River Ness), InvernessBest Nature Based Experience Award-          Aigas Field Centre, Inverness-shire-          Highlands Unbridled, Brora-          Scottish Dolphin Centre, FochabersBest Self-Serve Accommodation Award –          Isle of Skye Yachts, Isle of Skye-          The Brochs of Coigach, Ross-shire-          Whitefalls Spa Lodges, Isle of LewisBest Shopping Experience Award-          Dornoch Luckenbooth, Dornoch-          Johnstons of Elgin, Elgin-          The Drawing Room, InvernessBest Sporting Event Award-          Global Energy Inverness Half Marathon, Inverness-          Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland’s Culloden Run, InvernessBest Visitor Attraction Award –          Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Centre, Ballindalloch-          Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition, Loch Ness-          The Glenfiddich Distillery, DufftownMarketing Campaign of the Year Award –          Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie-          Hilton Coylumbridge, Aviemore-          Wilderness Scotland, Aviemore-Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award –          Boots N Paddles / TreeZone, Inverness-          Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness-          Highland Experience Tours, Highland-wideTraining and Skills Development Award –          Frankie’s Fish and Chips, Shetland-          Mackays Hotel, Wick-          Wilderness Scotland, AviemoreBest Tour Operator Programme of the Year Award –          Highland Experience Tours, Highland-wide-          McKinlay Kidd, Highland-wide-          Wilderness Scotland, AviemoreBest Partnership in Tourism Award-          Highland Experience Tours, Highland-wide-          Lark and Lily Designs, WickHighlands and Islands Young Ambassador of the Year-          Andrew Whitehouse, Café Artysans, Inverness-          Angus MacLeod, Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness-          Claire MackIntosh, Ramada Encore Hotel, Inverness-          Gordon Pearson, WOW Scotland, InvernessThe winner of the Highlands and Islands Ambassador of the Year award will be announced at the ceremony and dinner along with the winners of the aforementioned shortlisted on 4 October 2013 at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness.Through HITA’s partnership with VisitScotland and the alignment of both awards programme’s categories, each of the HITA 2013 winners will automatically be given a place on the shortlist of Visit Scotland’s national tourism awards scheme, the Scottish Thistle Awards*, providing the opportunity for HITA winners to be acknowledged nationally for their achievements in tourism.The HITA ceremony and gala dinner tickets cost £80 +VAT and are available by contacting 01224 646488 or email amanda@primeeventmanagement.com  or log on to www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk



From award-wining food writers and hoteliers to kilt makers and even the Loch Ness Monster, The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) have received a wealth of worthy nominations over the years for their highest accolade, The Highlands and Islands Ambassador of the Year Award.
The HITA board are now calling for nominations from the community for the 2013 Ambassador of the Year Award, presented at the HITA ceremony and gala dinner on 4 October at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness. The award is traditionally kept under-wraps until the night of the awards ceremony and no short-list is drawn for the category.

Marina Huggett, chairwoman, HITA, encourages nominations for potential 2013 Ambassadors from across the Highlands and Islands and highlights the importance of the accolade: “The Highlands and Islands Ambassador of the Year award is a very significant one in our programme. It is the people in our industry that drive excellence forward and these people must be recognised and encouraged to keep going.

“We know that many of our previous Ambassadors feel that receiving the award has enabled them to further their tourism mission and gain greater profile for the tourism work they are involved in. For this award, we are looking to identify an individual who has dedicated their time and energy to making a marked difference to tourism in the Highlands and Islands.”

The criteria states that nominees for this category should be 31 years or over on 1st November 2013 and should have demonstrated commitment in their chosen field and business community. They should have a track record of inspiring and leading others to create a more sustainable tourism industry.

Previous HITA Highlands and Islands Ambassadors have been Shirley Spear of award winning restaurant ‘The Three Chimneys’ in Skye in 2012, Grant Sword, director at the Royal Golf Hotel in Dornoch and partner at Castle Stuart Golf Links in 2011, Lady Claire Macdonald, acclaimed cook and food writer in 2010, Gavin Ellis, owner of the Knockomie Hotel, Forres in 2009, Freda Newton, managing director of five star visitor attraction, Jacobite, Inverness in 2008, Duncan Chisholm, kilt maker, in 2007, Hamish Swan, chairman of CairnGorm Mountain Ltd (1997-2011), in 2006 and Willie Cameron, director, business development director, Cobbs Group in 2005.

Those wishing to nominate should send the name of the nominee and write, in 750 words or less, what the candidate has contributed to tourism in the Highlands and Islands. Nominations should be sent to info@highland-tourism-awards.co.uk by Friday 30 August 2013.



Dounreay Communities Fund and FSB Host Awards Workshop
for Caithness and Sutherland Businesses
The Federation of Small Businesses, in association with the Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards, will pilot an awards workshop for businesses in Caithness and Sutherland on Tuesday 16 April at Traill House,Thurso.

The event, sponsored by the Dounreay Communities Fund, will comprise of presentations, a workshop and open discussion delivered by Marina Huggett FIH, of Tourism Excellence Consultancy and chair of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards, and Catherine Bunn of award-winning business, Highland Campervans.

The event is free to attend and offers an opportunity for businesses to learn how to present awards submissions in the most compelling way whilst adhering to the criteria set and to hear what judges look for when identifying award winning entries.

To reserve a place contact Joan Campbell by email at stoneybraes@btinternet.com or phone 01641531231.

Date: Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Time: Registration Tea/Coffee at 11.00am, finishing with a networking lunch at 1.30pm.

Venue: Traill House, 7 Olrig Street, Thurso KW14 7BJ.

The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards deadline for entries is 03 May 2013. All categories are free to enter and submissions should be made online at www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk.

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