More than 50 tourism businesses took a step nearer being crowned the best in the Highlands and Islands after being named as finalists in the industry’s annual ‘Oscars’ on Friday 29 September.

Competition to win a coveted Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) trophy has reached an unprecedented level with entries and nominations this year surpassing previous record-breaking levels.

In the Outer Hebrides, finalists include Hebridean Celtic Festival as Best Cultural Event or Festival and Isle of Harris Distillers Ltd, Tarbert as Best Visitor Attraction. 

The total of 232 businesses and individuals vying for honours was more than 14 per cent up on last year’s figure.  Judges had to narrow 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.

Ten of the finalists are from the Inverness area, with nine each from Argyll and Moray and six from Strathspey, while Lochaber, Ross-shire, Sutherland, Skye, Orkney and Shetland all feature.

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.”

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 their trophies at a ceremony in the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness, on Friday, 3 November and (with the exception of the Highland Rising Star and Highland Ambassador) go on to compete at the glittering Scottish Thistle Awards next year.



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