COUNTY businesses have been held up as being among the very best of the tourism and events industry after scooping four awards.

Drift, near North Berwick; Fringe by the Sea; East Lothian Cottages, near Morham; and Foxlake Adventures, between West Barns and East Linton, took home prizes at the Central and East Thistle Awards at the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh last night (Thursday).

The tourism and events industry is worth £11.5 billion to the Scottish economy.

This year, more than 600 entries were submitted, including almost 1,200 nominations from members of the public keen to give hotels, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, visitor attractions and individuals the opportunity to earn the recognition they deserve in the part they play in making Scotland such a fantastic place to visit.

Drift, to the east of North Berwick, was named the winner of the Best Eating Experience award.

The eatery, which offers panoramic views of the East Lothian coast, prides itself on providing fresh seasonal Scottish produce, including from its own farm.

The business was praised by judges for developing experiences and the opportunity to learn about arable farming “well beyond a simple eatery.”

Joanna Macnicol, owner of the cliff-top business, said: “The competition has been incredibly tough with two other fantastic businesses also shortlisted.

“This adds to our Food Tourism award in 2022 and shows that despite many challenges and hurdles faced in the last year our strive to deliver and serve good food and drink has never faltered.

“We pride ourselves on celebrating the excellent fresh, seasonal Scottish produce to offer including that from our own farm with more to come later in the year.

“Huge thanks go to our team and of course the Scottish Agritourism sector who have helped us achieve this.”

Fringe by the Sea 2022 was named Outstanding Cultural Event or Festival.

The not-for-profit multi-arts festival takes place in the heart of North Berwick and attracts about 55,000 people to 250 events over 10 days in August.

The event was praised by judges for its impressive year-on-year growth and for demonstrating excellent engagement with the local area and its people.

Jackie Shuttleworth, general manager of Fringe by the Sea, was full of praise for everyone connected with the event.

She said: "Fringe by the Sea is a huge team effort with fantastic crew and volunteers so this award is really a big thanks to everyone involved.

“Community is at the heart of the festival and we think that's what really delivers the magic."

East Lothian Cottages received the inaugural Climate Action Award.

The award recognises businesses that have made demonstrable progress on their journey to NetZero.

The self-catering accommodation was described by judges as an “outstanding example” of how businesses can help look after the planet and offer a luxurious and memorable stay in Scotland.

Owner Andrew Watson said: “It’s never been more important to champion our natural environment and, as sustainability is rightly an important factor assessed across all Thistle Award categories, it’s a huge honour to be recognised with a dedicated Climate Action Award for our own small efforts at East Lothian Cottages.”

Finally, Foxlake Adventures received the Best Outdoor or Adventure Experience award.

The five-star adventure hub offers a wide range of activities, including wakeboarding, segways, open water swimming and a new aqua park.

It was commended by judges for demonstrating a clear commitment to responsible tourism.

Allison Flockhart, operational manager for the business, said they were “thrilled and humbled” to receive the award.

She added: “We would like to thank all our incredible staff who have helped achieve this award, and more importantly, our exceptional customers who come and enjoy what we do.”

The Scottish Thistle Awards are delivered by VisitScotland in partnership with regional awards programmes.

Five different regional awards ceremonies take place before the regional winners go through to battle it out at the national final in December.

Steven Walker, Chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards industry panel, congratulated the various winners.

He said: “The Scottish Thistle Awards shine a spotlight on the very best of Scotland’s tourism and events industry, celebrating the businesses and individuals who work hard to create the fantastic destination and visitor experiences that Scotland is famous for.  

“The Scottish Thistle Awards mark an important celebration of the very best of our tourism and events industry and support the ambition for Scotland to be recognised globally as a leader in this field.”