Ross-shire makes Highland tourism awards roll of honour as shortlist revealed
More than 50 businesses have been shortlisted for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA), dubbed the 'Oscars' of the industry in the region.
Big hitters like Eilean Donan Castle, which has plans to improve its offering to visitors, feature in the Best Heritage Tourism Experience category.
The Lochalsh attraction is up against Culloden Battlefield, the Glenlivet Hill Trek at Ballindalloch and the Highland Folk Museum in Kingussie.
The Strathpuffer 24 round-the-clock mountain bike race, which has achieved a global reputation down the years, is up for a gong in the Best Sporting Event category. It faces more two-wheeled competition from the Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup as well as Highland Golf Links and Skyline Scotland.
Rosie Wilkins, an apprentice at The Torridon Hotel is in with a shout for the Highland Rising Star award. The Torridon is also up for an accolade in the Most Hospitable Hotel category.
Ross-shire does not however feature in several other categories such as Best Accommodation Provider, Best Bar/Pub and Best Visitor Attraction.
Competition to win a coveted HITA trophy has reached an unprecedented level with entries and nominations this year surpassing previous record-breaking levels.
The 232 businesses and individuals vying for honours was more than 14 per cent up on last year’s figure.
Judges have had the arduous task of narrowing down contenders to a 55-strong shortlist in 16 categories.
Among those to be recognised will be the best places to stay, eat, drink and enjoy the area’s sporting and cultural events, as well as its wildlife and scenery. A new category, Best Heritage Tourism Experience, was introduced in 2017 to mark the Year of Heritage History and Archaeology.
The finalists represent the entire length and breadth of the region – from Shetland to Argyll and from Moray to the Outer Hebrides – and range from castles to pubs and from internationally-renowned visitor attractions to remote get-aways.
Craig Ewan, the HITA chairman, said: “Congratulations to everyone who has made the shortlist which is a fantastic achievement given the unprecedented number of quality entries and nominations we received this year. The geographical spread of finalists demonstrates the strength of tourism facilities across the Highlands and Islands.
“The competition is really hotting up now and the judges have a really tough job to pick our winners.”
HITA is regarded as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland, where the tourism sector is worth more than £4.5 billion to the economy.
The awards scheme, which is held in association with SSE, is free and is open to people operating in the Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Argyll & Bute (excluding G postcode areas) local authority areas.
Winners will receive the famous piper trophies at a ceremony in the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness, on Friday, November 3.
See the full listing and further details at www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk
Best Accommodation Provider - Cuil Moss Cottage, Ardgour, by Fort William; Knoydart Hide, Inverie, Knoydart; Morag's Lodge, Fort Augustus; Portavadie, Loch Fyne.
Best Bar / Pub - Ferry Inn, Stromness, Orkney; Johnny Foxes and The Den, Inverness; The Lord of the Isles, Craobh Haven, Argyll; The Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore
Best Cultural Event or Festival - Findhorn Bay Arts, Forres; Gordon Castle Highland Games and Country Fair, Fochabers; Hebridean Celtic Festival, Stornoway; Oban Live
Best Heritage Tourism Experience - Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, Inverness; Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, by Kyle of Lochalsh; Glenlivet Hill Trek, Ballindalloch; The Highland Folk Museum, Kingussie.
Best Informal Eating Experience - Coll Hotel, Isle of Coll; Duart Castle Tearoom, Isle of Mull; Gordon Castle Walled Garden, Fochabers.
Best Outdoor / Adventure Experience - Ace Adventures, Forres; Active Outdoor Pursuits, Newtonmore; Go to St Kilda, Uig, Skye; Scapa Scuba, Stromness, Orkney.
Best Restaurant Experience - Links House at Royal Dornoch; Ninth Wave, Isle of Mull.
Best Sporting Event - Fort William UCI Mountain Bike World Cup; Highland Golf Links; Skyline Scotland; Strathpuffer24, Strathpeffer
Best Visitor Attraction - Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, Inverness; Isle of Harris Distillers Ltd; Orkney Brewery and Visitor Centre; The Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie.
Highland Rising Star - Euan Walker, Achnagairn Estate, near Inverness; Charlotte Poynton, The Three Chimneys, Skye; Neil Slessor, The Station Hotel, Rothes; Rosie Wilkins, The Torridon Hotel
Innovation in Tourism - Ghillie Basan, food and travel writer and cook, Moray; Gordon Castle Walled Garden, Fochabers; MotoScotland, Inveraray, Argyll; Scottish Wildlife Trust, Ullapool
Most Hospitable B&B / Guest House - Daviot Lodge, Inverness; Inverglen Guest House, Inverness; Loch Ness Guest House, Fort Augustus; RossMor Guest House, Grantown on Spey.
Tourism and Hospitality Hero - Emma Clark, Glenegedale House, Islay;Ewen Macpherson, Clan Macpherson Museum, Newtonmore; Jodie Bramall, Portavadie, Argyll; Peter Cowe, Culloden Battlefield, Inverness.
Working Together for Tourism - Sharing Shetland; The Malt Whisky Trail, Aberlour; The Shetland Times; Visit Inverness Loch Ness.
Most Hospitable Hotel - Skeabost, Skye; The Torridon, Ross-shire.
Highland Ambassador - Winner announced on the evening