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One of Scotland’s most historic battlefields has fought off opposition to pick up two major tourism honours at an annual awards ceremony.

The double success was celebrated by Culloden Battlefield, near Inverness, at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA), which enjoyed another record-breaking year.

Winners in 16 categories overcame unprecedented competition to be crowned the best in the region and picked up the famous piper trophies.

In all, 232 business and individuals – 14 per cent more than last year – were put forward for honours and 55 finalists were vying for the awards, which celebrate and recognise the best places to eat,
drink and enjoy the area’s scenery, hospitality, wildlife, history and culture.HITA banner

HITA chairman Craig Ewan said: “Congratulations to all our award winners and finalists in another outstanding year. HITA continues to grow with the number of entries and nominations rising each year, making it more difficult than ever to win one of our coveted trophies.”

The awards finale, held at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness, was addressed by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs. She said: “As these awards demonstrate, the iconic attractions, vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of the Highlands and Islands continue to be an important tourism draw.

“It is hugely encouraging to see a record-breaking number of entries this year and I congratulate all of the HITA 2017 winners and finalists.”

Inverness, Ross-shire and Moray enjoyed the most success with three trophy winners each, with two going to Skye and others to the Outer Hebrides, Argyll, Orkney, Lochaber and Sutherland.

Rebecca Brooks, chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel and VisitScotland Board member, said: “On behalf of the panel, I’d like to congratulate all of the winners of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards. They are a credit to themselves, their local area and the entire Scottish tourism sector.

“Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs and sustains communities. These awards let us recognise the unsung heroes of our industry who show real dedication and enthusiasm for Scotland’s tourism industry.

“As the Scottish Thistle Awards prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary I’d like to wish all HITA winners the very best for the national final.”

HITA, which is run in association with SSE, is recognised as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland. The awards highlight and reward excellence throughout the sector which is worth more than £4.5 billion to the Scottish economy.

Mike Seaton, SSE’s Director of Development, said: “It has been another outstanding and recording breaking year for the Highlands and Islands Tourism awards with nominations up again from last year.

“These awards recognise the excellence of the tourism industry in this region and celebrate, as well as promote, the high standards seen across the Highlands and Islands.

“This is SSE’s fifth year as lead sponsor of the event and we are thrilled to have been part of another amazing evening. The energy industry and the tourism industry in the Highlands and Islands help to sustain communities, create jobs and generate income and I hope we can continue to work together and support one another for many more years to come.”

Culloden Battlefield picked up the Best Visitor Attraction title, while Peter Cowe, who has been a volunteer at the site for ten years, was named HITA’s Tourism and Hospitality Hero.

Culloden is the site of the last pitched battle on British soil in 1746 when Jacobite supporters, seeking to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British thrones, fought the Duke of Cumberland’s government troops.

HITA judges said the battlefield attraction works hard to constantly improve its offering to visitors and has an ‘unwavering desire to re-awaken the past in the present’.

They said Peter Cowe has a passion for bringing history alive and has a pride for the whole of Culloden, not just the battlefield.

Captain Iain Dunderdale, who has worked for 27 years developing the cruise ship industry which now generates millions of pounds annually, was named Highland Ambassador of the Year.

The Ambassador title is a special award given by the HITA Board to an individual who ‘goes the extra mile’ in contributing to the success of tourism in the Highlands and Islands.

Judges said Capt Dunderdale has built up a business that is burgeoning and contributes greatly to the economic wealth of the area.

Eilean Donan Castle in Dornie, Wester Ross, was named Best Heritage Tourism Experience, an award introduced to mark the Year of Heritage History and Archaeology.

Portavadie in Argyll, a former oil platform construction site which was transformed into a visitor attraction, won the award for Best Accommodation Provider and Links House at Royal Dornoch won the Best Restaurant Experience title.

The Ferry Inn, in Stromness, Orkney, was named Best Pub/Bar and Gordon Castle Walled Garden in Fochabers won Best Informal Eating Experience.

The Hebridean Celtic Festival in Lewis picked up the award for Best Cultural Event or Festival, and the title for Best Outdoor Adventure Experience was secured for a second year in succession by Go to St Kilda.

The Best Sporting Event title went to the Fort William UCI Mountain Bike World Cup; Most Hospitable Hotel was The Torridon in Wester Ross and the Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House award was collected by Inverglen Guest House in Inverness.

Ghillie Basan, a Moray-based food and travel writer, won the Innovation in Tourism Award, and the trophy for Working Together in Tourism went to the Malt Whisky Trail in Aberlour.

Charlotte Poynton, sommelier and assistant restaurant manager at The Three Chimneys in Skye, was named Highland Rising Star.

Judges’ commendations went to Cuil Moss Cottage, Ardgour, by Fort William, in the Best Accommodation Provider category and the Isle of Harris Distillery in the Best Visitor Attraction category.

HITA winners, with the exception of the Highland Rising Star and Highland Ambassador categories, will go on to compete at the glittering Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

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