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Image: 2015/16 Silver Thistle Winner, Robin Worsnop holding the Silver Thistle trophy at the National Final event

PUBLISHED: 18 March 2016

Scottish tourism ‘Oscars’ winners revealed in record-breaking year

Scotland’s first wakeboarding park, The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, a 15th century chapel and the man behind Rabbie’s Small Group Tours were among those crowned the champions of tourism last night (18 March).  
Held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, the national finals of the Scottish Thistle Awards revealed a total of 14 winners across a range of categories during a glittering evening ceremony hosted by comedian Fred MacAulay.

Among the winners were Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland, Stirlingshire eatery Venachar Lochside and Highland pub, Applecross Inn.  

This year’s awards, which saw a record-breaking number of entries, including hundreds of nominations from members of the public this year, celebrate tourism businesses or suppliers across the country who have gone the extra mile to offer an outstanding visitor experience.

Robin Worsnop, Chief Executive and founder of Edinburgh based Rabbie’s Small Group Tours, was named the winner of the prestigious Silver Thistle Award, given to an individual who has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the country’s tourism industry. Having founded Rabbie’s Small Group Tours in 1993, Worsnop has grown the business into the UK’s most successful independent small group tour company. 

The entrepreneur has also held the position of Chair of Edinburgh Tourism Action Group since 2010 and spearheaded the development of the 2020 Tourism Strategy for the city.  Worsnop was also instrumental in establishing the not for profit organisation Climate Change Scotland and was the groups inaugural Chair. 
Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said:

“The Silver Thistle Award is the top honour in tourism and goes to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the industry. In building a multi-award winning tour business now rated as one of the top ten things to do in Edinburgh, Robin has inspired his peers and competitors along the way. Robin has been an active leader in helping the tourism industry raise its profile and is a worthy winner of the Silver Thistle.”

Stephen Carter OBE, Chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel, said: “I would like to congratulate all our tourism champions for their dedication to Scotland’s tourism industry.  Tourism is at the heartbeat of the Scottish economy, and all those nominated are industry leading ambassadors, positioning Scotland as the perfect place to visit and do business.  “The Scottish Thistle Awards are all about celebrating innovation, highlighting excellence and sharing best practice.  It is important we continue to recognise those who go the extra mile to enhance the visitor experience, embodying the very spirit of Scotland.  “On behalf of the panel, I’d like to urge everyone, if you have been captivated by somewhere you have visited, inspired by the people you have met and simply want to highlight the amazing work that is happening in your area, get online and make a nomination for the next Scottish Thistle Awards.  We know there are many more tourism superheroes out there!”

The Scottish Thistle Awards, now in their 28th year, are led by a panel of industry experts from several organisations including VisitScotland, Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards, Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards, the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and sportscotland.

The Scottish Thistle Awards National Final 2015/2016 follows the launch of VisitScotland’s first ever global campaign and social movement which aims to raise the spirit and profile of Scotland to the highest it has ever been in history by igniting the power of a nation behind tourism.

The national tourism organisation launched its first ever global campaign and social movement – the ‘Spirit of Scotland’ last month. The campaign is built on extensive research which shows that people think Scotland has a unique spirit – whether it’s the magic of the landscapes or the warmth of the people.

Everyone who has shared their #ScotSpirit will become part of a special social movement.  To find our more, visit


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