Small Consultancy of the Year PRCA
Icons of Whisky Scotland PR Agency of the Year 2023
Small PR Consultancy of the Year 2022

Small PR Consultancy of the Year 2022

Icons of Whisky Scotland PR Agency Highly Commended

Edinburgh-based Beeline PR specialises in:

Public Relations | Crisis and Reputation Management | Brand Building

We can:

create maximum impact through strategic communications

raise the awareness of your brand or organisation

support your business objectives

identify and communicate with target audiences

provide white-label services for other creative agencies


About Beeline PR

Beeline PR Team

Debbie Byers


Debbie was Chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) in Scotland 2009/10 and also scooped the CIPR Award for Best PR Consultant under the age of 30 in Scotland in 1998.

Debbie Byers, Director

Debbie Byers established Beeline PR in September 2011.  The independent agency works with corporate clients and consumer brands as well as other creative agencies looking for strategic PR and business development support.  Services include brand building, media relations, business-to-business marketing support, crisis communications and reputation management, stakeholder and political engagement and social media strategy.

Each client is provided with a strategic tailored approach to both its campaign planning and the dedicated team selected to implement the activity.  Beeline PR is affiliated to a number of organisations and consultants to create positive working relationships for the benefit of the client.   

With more than two decades of experience, Debbie worked for leading PR consultancies in Edinburgh, London and Glasgow before establishing Beeline PR.

She is a business degree graduate and the past Chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in Scotland representing its 750-strong membership from the private, public and charitable sectors.

Debbie has fostered a broad experience across consumer, business-to-business and corporate campaigns as well as issue-led media relations working across all sectors from financial and professional services to food and drink. 

In June 2018, Debbie also launched a purpose-lead motivational speaker agency, Speaker Buzz.  It is on a mission to inspire change by representing speakers with an authentic story to tell that can address today’s challenges from mental health and wellbeing, diversity and inclusion to social impact.

Debbie sits on the Executive Team of WeDO Scotland, which provides powerful and proven entrepreneurial support enabling its members to scale their businesses and maximise their growth potential.

Jim Byers, Director

Jim brings more than 20 years’ experience in journalism, communications and marketing to Beeline PR.

His career began in journalism, first as a feature writer in Edinburgh and later as an editor in London. During the first dot-com boom, he was content editor of a pioneering music website in London.

In Glasgow, Jim broadened his skills at a content and communications agency in Glasgow, where he managed print and digital projects for various clients, including The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s award-winning Unfiltered magazine.

On his return to Edinburgh, Jim moved into PR with specialist drinks marketing agency, Steely Fox. As associate director, he worked on variety of projects over several years ranging from brand creation and strategy, to experiential events, content creation and traditional PR.

A lifelong music fan, Jim also runs Edinburgh Music Lovers (EML). His mission with EML is to help make Edinburgh a music city.

Jane Lynchehaun, Senior Account Manager 

Following the completion of her post-graduate diploma in PR at Queen Margaret University, Jane has developed her love of communicating and storytelling professionally since 2015. 

During her seven-year career in PR she has worked with a range of B2B clients in the technology, renewables, investment, fintech, startup, life science and manufacturing sectors, to name a few. She also has experience working with Third Sector organisations.

Jane strives to build a strong foundation of knowledge and understanding about each client that she works with, allowing her to deliver robust, insightful and impactful campaigns.

With strong media relationships and communication skills, her experience includes the launch of manufacturing innovators Vert Rotors’ ground-breaking air compressor design, driving media relations for The Scottish Government’s CivTech Accelerator programme, and promoting SSE’s renewable energy services for businesses. 

Before her PR career took off, Jane learned about Australian agriculture and the rules of rodeo during her time working for the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, studied the full spectrum of human nature whilst working in several hospitality roles and helped to roll out a new smart card initiative when working at The Law Society of Scotland. 

John Hatfield, Associate and Media Training Consultant 

John supports Beeline PR with copy writing for white papers, reports and in-depth comment pieces on behalf of our clients.  He is a former equities analyst, journalist, columnist and editor on national newspapers including the FT and Scotsman.  Also, the former head of media relations at ScottishPower. 
John also offers media training for our clients.  He is highly experienced in this area having trained a wide range of blue-chip clients including one in ten FTSE100, global professional services firms and public bodies, some of which are listed. 

Alan Twigg, Consultant Creative Director

Alan is an award-winning consumer communications consultant with more than 25 years’ experience developing creative comms strategies and building standout 360 brand communications campaigns for clients across consumer and lifestyle sectors from FMCG, retail and food and drink to sport, automotive, gaming, hospitality and travel and tourism.

A Scot based in London, he has led a number of agencies over the years and now works between direct clients and select agencies, including Beeline PR, supporting and directing on both business and creative development.  

Alan has worked on many leading brands and household names including Red Bull, Nintendo, expedia, McVities, Dominos, The National Lottery, UEFA Champion’s League, Continental Tyres, Hamleys, M&S, Waterstones, The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Highland Park, Whyte & Mackay, Peroni, Yo! Sushi and InterContinental name but a few. 

Alan and Debbie worked together in London more than 20 years ago and have maintained their professional working relationship and friendship ever since.

Julie Dunn, Social Media Manager

Julie combines 15 years of brand marketing experience and experience in strategic social media management to create engaging content for the social platforms of Beeline PR’s clients.  

Lotte Latimer, Account Executive

Lotte studied English at The University of St Andrews, where she was awarded the Catherine Wyatt Fenty Memorial Prize for outstanding dissertation, and graduated with first class honours. While studying she developed a passion for both academic and creative writing, which she has carried on beyond her university career through her internship at Beeline PR, and in her free time. 

Previously Lotte has held in roles as a receptionist at The Royal Yacht Britannia, and as a host at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre during its time as a Mass Vaccination Centre throughout the pandemic, and during its time as a Festival Fringe venue. 

Lauren Stewart, Client Services Executive

She is our hot shot administrator who helps the Beeline PR team with scheduling meetings, compiling client reports, marketing, and new business development. 

Lauren held similar administrative roles at the NHS for several years and more recently during the countdown to launch phase of the new Gleneagles Townhouse in the heart of Edinburgh.

Carol Graham, Financial Controller

Carol enjoyed an almost 20-year career with the global technology company, IBM, where the focus was on finding the right solutions for customers to build smarter businesses.
She was awarded the prestigious 'Best of IBM' award in 2017 for her achievements and contributions, a global recognition award for the top contributors to IBM’s business.

Carol is experienced in all business operations, from financial modelling and forecasting to negotiating and delivering.

Tino Nombro

Tino Nombro, Non-Executive Director 

Tino is an experienced business advisor and entrepreneur who helps develop Beeline PR’s growth. Tino founded and sold digital marketing company Ambergreen and advises a number of other companies. He is also a board member of the Homeless World Cup Foundation and advises Beeline PR’s sister business, Speaker Buzz sharing the ethos of inspiring positive change.

Bagel Byers

Bagel Byers, Wellness Manager

Contributes to walking meetings and end of day wind downs.  Sadly, not allowed in the office until our dog friendly policy changes so works from home.


How we can help

As a small PR business with a carefully managed portfolio of clients, Beeline PR can offer senior level support and commitment at all times.  In addition to working with our own clients, we provide a white-label service to other PR consultancies and creative agencies that need support driving busy projects or assistance with securing new business.

Recent News from Beeline PR

30 May 2024

Sterling Furniture Group’s new CEO unveils designs for a bold new future as firm celebrates 50 years

John Pattison heralds ‘exciting times ahead’ for Scotland’s leading independently owned home furnishing specialist, headquartered in Tillicoultry

SCOTLAND’S leading independently owned home furnishing specialist, Sterling Furniture Group, has designs on “exciting times ahead’ in its 50th anniversary year as it reflects on the “prompt and decisive action” it has taken under new leadership to address issues affecting the firm’s financial performance.

The Group’s latest accounts for the 18-month period up to August 2023, published today, point to a challenging period when trading was adversely hit by the combined impacts of reduced consumer confidence post-pandemic and due to the cost-of-living crisis, as well as the ongoing instability of the geopolitical situation and its effects on the supply chain.
Turnover grew from £55,477,829 in February 2022 to £83,683,595 in August 2023, while pre-tax profits dropped from £4,150,585 to £43,870, with the results for the prior period incorporating the end of Covid19-related reliefs such as Furlough and Non-Domestic Rates support.
In their accounts, Sterling Furniture Group acknowledges that “the material decline in profitability for the period is also reflective of the historic lack of action taken to address the cost base of the business given reduced sales revenues and inflationary cost pressures”.

Founded in late 1973 by George Knowles, the Tillicoultry-based firm last year appointed industry veteran John Pattison as its new CEO. Since taking up the role in August 2023, John has spearheaded a new direction of travel for the business.

Over the past nine months, Sterling, under Pattison’s stewardship, have:
  • appointed several key senior personnel to their top team
  • instigated a change in style, tone and approach to engage with the wider colleague team on key matters such as company values and colleague communication
  • secured significant new funding in a new and extended arrangement with banking partner Royal Bank of Scotland, which Sterling expects to formalise the terms on over the coming weeks
  • mapped out ambitious plans for the years ahead, including several planned new stores across the Group, starting with a major new 50,000sqft Sterling Home store at Hillington in Glasgow, for which Heads of Terms have been agreed, and change of use proposals have been made through the local authority, anticipated to open by the end of the year.

John Pattison, Chief Executive of Sterling Furniture Group, said: “It’s undoubtedly been a challenging period, we needed to take prompt and decisive action to set ourselves back on a sustainably profitable course, but I firmly believe that there are exciting times ahead for Sterling, all our colleagues and customers. To that point I really want to thank all the Sterling team for their incredible hard work, commitment and support in my first nine months, where we’ve made several significant changes across the Group.

“We’re powering ahead with the major rebrand to our Sterling Home marque and our leadership team has been reinforced by a number of significant senior hires that have already put the company in the best possible position as we build on the legacy created by George Knowles and embark on the next 50 years.

“This is a historic Scottish company with a long-cherished reputation for quality and we’re brimming with ideas for how we’ll ensure Sterling is leading the way as the home of inspiration for Scottish consumers.

“We’re delighted to have received, and agreed, credit approved terms for a £10m banking facility from Royal Bank of Scotland, which we expect to confirm terms on over the coming weeks. In addition to consolidating Sterling’s existing term borrowings, the Facility provides expansionary funding, in the form of a Revolving Credit Facility, to support the exciting growth and development of the Sterling estate over the next 5 years. Working with a Scottish bank that wants to support us to grow is hugely important, and the team at RBS have listened to our plans and really stepped up to work with us. We’re really looking forward to working with them.

“Through our refreshed leadership team, clear vision for growth, ‘right-sizing’ our cost base and our exciting new store plans – starting with Hillington in the coming months - we are looking forward to Sterling’s next 50 years with optimism and confidence.”

Since joining Sterling Furniture Group, John has appointed four new directors to his leadership team. They are:
  • Kenny Barclay – Chief Financial Officer. Kenny was formerly Finance Director at Rangers Football Club.
  • Matt Bonar – IT Director. Matt was previously Group Information Technology Director at the Stewart Milne Group.
  • Donna MacPhee – People Director. Donna is a Human Resources and Development specialist, with experience across six different industry sectors.
  • Silvia Hernandez – Commercial Director. Silvia, a global procurement specialist, is due to join Sterling next month, bringing a wealth of buying and vendor relations expertise.

The four new directors join Sterling founder George Knowles’ family members Euan and Murray Graham, who sit on the Group and Executive Boards and George Smith Knowles, who sits on the Group Board.

Viewers in Scotland can look out for new Sterling Home ads throughout July and August: the company has secured 135 coveted 10-second spots during Good Morning Britain on STV to compliment the wider Summer Sale campaign which is due to launch on July 3rd , with all their new style TV and Radio ads voiced by Two Doors Down actress Joy McAvoy.

27 May 2024


The South of Scotland Destination Alliance is celebrating local excellence thanks to funding secured through Scotland Food & Drink’s Regional Food Fund

EIGHT trailblazing food and drink businesses, with an experience focus, are playing a starring role in a new promotional campaign delivered by the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA).
Thanks to support from the Regional Food Fund, the SSDA commissioned leading Scottish food and drink writer Cat Thomson and renowned photographer Phil Wilkinson to profile eight local ‘legends’ offering superb quality food and drink experiences in the South of Scotland. Their resulting portfolio of written profiles and high quality images is available for use by any publication, free of charge.
The quality local food and drink sector is a critically important part of the South of Scotland’s visitor experience, as well as a major employer, with hundreds of exemplary businesses – from restaurants and bars to specialist food producers – cooking up a storm for locals and visitors alike, right across the region.
The £6,000 project [of which £5,000 came from the Regional Food Fund, with £1,000 contributed by the SSDA] showcases eight local food and drink ‘legends’ and trailblazers who each represent different highlights of the region’s food and drink tourism experience, including recent winners of the first ever South of Scotland Thistle Awards.

The businesses, who are now set to star in a dedicated multimedia campaign on SSDA channels, including its Scotland Starts Here website and blog, are:
  • Kitchen Coos and Ewes in the Luce Valley, near Stranraer. Owners Neale and Janet McQuistin host visitors to their 900-acre farm, offering a variety of experiences including Highland Cow safaris. They won Best Outdoor or Adventure Experience at the 2023 South of Scotland Thistle Awards.
  • Allanton Inn, near Duns in Berwickshire, an award-winning 18th century coaching inn in the peaceful conservation village of Allanton. The Inn was named Best Eating Experience at the South of Scotland Thistle Awards 2023 in recognition of their work championing excellent local produce.
  • The Ethical Dairy near Gatehouse of Fleet, founded by Silver Thistle Award-winners Wilma and David Finlay. Their farm, Rainton Farm, was the UK’s first commercial dairy to follow the ‘cow with calf’ method. As well as farm tours, the Dairy offers cheese-making courses for people to learn how to make artisan soft and pressed cheeses.
  • Wilson’s Farm and Kitchen near Kelso, which exemplifies the story of the countryside from field to fork and runs a unique 25-mile BBQ event, with all meat and seafood sourced from within a 25-mile radius.
  • The Globe Inn in Dumfries and Annandale Distillery, Annan. The Globe Inn was a regular haunt of national bard Robert Burns. The original distillery was established in 1836 and was reborn in 2014, a 5-star visitor experience that includes hourly tours and a cafe.
  • Cocoa Black Chocolate and Pastry School in Peebles, where you can try your hand at making delicious chocolate truffles and patisserie, or sample the wide selection of handmade patisserie and indulgent hot chocolates in the café.
  • Barony Country Foods near Lockerbie, whose Barony Smokehouse uses age-old processes combined with unique methods and recipes to create beautifully smoked fish, game and poultry, which is sold at the connecting artisan farm shop.
  • Traquair House & Brewery near Innerleithen is Scotland’s oldest inhabited house – dating back to 1107, it has been visited by 27 Scottish Kings and Queens. It is home to one of Scotland's oldest breweries and recognised as a pioneer of micro-brewing. Brewery tours and ale tastings are held regularly.
David Hope Jones, Chief Executive of the SSDA, said: “We’re incredibly lucky in the South of Scotland to have such a fantastic range of superb food and drink businesses, offering unforgettable experiences for visitors and local communities to enjoy. Through this Regional Food Fund-backed project we’ve been able to shine a spotlight on a ‘Magnificent Eight’ of the sector’s trailblazers; offering everything from chocolate-making classes and Highland Coo safaris, to field-to-fork farm tours and the chance to sit on Robert Burns’ chair at his favourite howff. These examples of local excellence are sure to whet people’s appetite, inspiring them to visit and sample the experiences first-hand. We’re very grateful to the Scotland Food and Drink Partnership for making this initiative possible, helping us celebrate the cream of our region’s food and drink experiences.”
Scotland Food and Drink Partnership quote: TO FOLLOW
Food writer Cat Thomson, who has been nominated as Scotland’s Food and Drink Writer of the Year in the 45th Scottish Press Awards, said: What a joy and privilege it was to speak to the people featured in this project. I hope by telling the stories of these amazing food and drink businesses, we can tempt more visitors to come to the South of Scotland."
The full portfolio of eight business profiles and photographs [] is available for use free of charge. Please credit: Phil Wilkinson / South of Scotland Destination Alliance

21 May 2024


A new sculpture honouring Kirkpatrick Macmillan, inventor of the first pedal-driven velocipede, has been installed to mark the start point of 250-mile Kirkpatrick Coast 2 Coast cycling route in the South of Scotland

A STRIKING new interactive sculpture of the world’s first pedal bicycle has been installed on the West Pier in Stranraer at the official start point of a major cycle route – the Kirkpatrick C2C: South of Scotland’s Coast to Coast.

The awe-inspiring route is 250 miles – making it one of the longest coast to coast cycle routes in the UK – and ends in Eyemouth, where another eye-catching artwork has been installed to mark the finish line.

Funded by South of Scotland Enterprise, the eye-catching sculpture was created by local blacksmith brothers Finn and Sam Barlow, who won the tender late last year.

Measuring 4ft tall and 4ft wide, it is made of steel and weighs 300kg. The £14,500 piece took three months to design and build in the Barlow brothers’ workshop in Auchencairn, near Castle Douglas.
Representing the first pedal-powered bicycle – known as the velocipede and invented by Dumfriesshire blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillan in 1839 – the sculpture is life-sized and designed to bear weight, meaning cyclists about to attempt the route can mark the occasion with a photo of them sitting atop the representation of the first pedal bicycle.

The brothers paid homage to Kirkpatrick Macmillan through more than just the form of the sculpture, choosing to approach the project as the famous blacksmith would have by combining traditional blacksmithing skills with innovative design.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the Kirkpatrick C2C, on the Berwickshire Coast, a new artwork has been installed at Eyemouth Harbour marking the end point of the route – or the start point, depending which direction cyclists tackle it!

Unveiled last summer, the fully signposted Kirkpatrick C2C route is already proving to be a huge draw for the South of Scotland. Early projections prior to its July 2023 soft launch suggested the new route could attract up to 175,000 new visitors to the region, with a direct spend of £13.7M per year.

For cyclists who want a challenge, the Kirkpatrick C2C can be tackled over four days, while the slower Explorer Route allows riders to immerse themselves in the beauty, heritage and charm of the South of Scotland, spending eight days completing the route from Stranraer to Eyemouth with plenty of places to stay, visit, eat and drink along the way.

The development of the route has been led by South of Scotland Enterprise alongside Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders councils, South of Scotland Destination Alliance, VisitScotland and Sustrans.

Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of South of Scotland Enterprise, said: “We are delighted to have funded the interactive sculpture, created by local blacksmith brothers, to mark the start of the Kirkpatrick C2C, South of Scotland’s Coast to Coast cycling route.
“SOSE has helped, alongside partners, to develop this fantastic cycling route which showcases some of the most beautiful sea views and picturesque towns across the South of Scotland.
“Cycling continues to offer significant social, economic and environmental opportunities to the region, and our long-term aim is to make the South the leading cycling destination in Scotland by 2032.”
Councillor Ian Carruthers, Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy and Resources committee said: “The Kirkpatrick C2C is a great addition to our region’s long-distance routes. As one of the UK’s longest coast to coast routes and taking in the best wild scenery the South of Scotland has to offer, it’s sure to be a challenge many will be keen to take.”
Councillor David Inglis, Vice Chair of Economy and Resources committee added: “It is fitting that this sculpture has been created by the Barlow brothers – blacksmiths based in Dumfries and Galloway, as was Kirkpatrick Macmillan. The new interactive sculpture of Kirkpatrick Macmillan’s velocipede will give residents and visitors the chance to experience this important invention.”

Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance, David Hope-Jones, said: “Created, fittingly, by innovative Auchencairn blacksmith brothers Finn and Sam Barlow, this remarkable representation of the first pedal-powered bicycle is truly evocative of the spirit of Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a blacksmith and inventor himself.

“What better way to mark the start of this fantastic new coast to coast cycling route, which takes cyclists on an unforgettable journey through the breath-taking landscapes of Dumfries & Galloway’s dramatic coastlines and rolling hills before reaching the romantic ruined abbeys and striking Victorian viaducts of the Scottish Borders, with plenty of brilliant places stay, eat and drink along the way.”

Janet Jones, Art and Engagement Officer at Creative Stranraer, said: "It's brilliant for Stranraer having the fabulous new coast to coast cycle route starting in the town, it really puts it on the map for a whole new audience of potential visitors. Creative Stranraer was thrilled to get involved in this public art project to mark the route's official start point and the Barlow brothers have absolutely knocked it out the park with their magnificent tribute in steel to Kirkpatrick Macmillan's world-changing invention.

"We hope it will inspire locals of all ages to also embrace cycling in the town and all the benefits it brings and take pride in the route starting here. We will celebrate cycling locally on 22 June, from 11-1pm at Agnew Park – come along and join the fun!”

Creators of the new sculpture, blacksmith brothers Finn and Sam Barlow, said:

“In researching this project we instinctively recognised the employment of craft skill and technological innovation which brought about the genesis of the original Kirkpatrick Velocipede. We approached our project in a similar manner, combining today's methods of CAD design and laser cutting with traditional Blacksmithing techniques to produce a viable replica of the world’s first treadle bicycle. We also built in various aspects to meet the brief as a robust and ergonomic piece of public sculpture.
“We hope that many people of all ages will interact with the piece, using their eyes and bodies to understand how the velocipede works and why it was such an important milestone in the development of human powered transport. Maybe they will be inspired to cycle some of the same roads that Kirkpatrick Macmillan used to test out his marvellous machine.”

20 March 2024


Hundreds of local businesses and communities have fed into the development of a ten-year South of Scotland Responsible Tourism Strategy which unites all public agencies in partnership and collaboration, with unprecedented ambition for the South. It will:

  • Grow tourism spend by £1 billion to £1.76bn by 2034
  • Support a further 6,000 jobs in the sector, to 20,000 FTE by 2034
  • Develop a year-round destination that is ‘go to’ not ‘go through’
  • Increase the number of higher-spending, longer-staying international visitors
The new strategy follows the success of the initial 5-year Covid-recovery strategy which exceeded its targets two years early.
A “hugely ambitious’ new 10-year tourism strategy for the South of Scotland was launched today in Dumfries, seeking to “create Scotland’s fastest growing visitor economy”.

The South of Scotland Responsible Tourism Strategy and action plan, which sets out radical plans for tourism in the region between now and 2034,was formally unveiled at the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA)’s third Annual Conference today.

Hundreds of delegates from across the Scottish Borders, Dumfries & Galloway and beyond packed into The Crichton’s Easterbrook Hall for a day of knowledge-sharing and networking, with inspiring speakers including Tourism Minister Richard Lochhead MSP, incoming head of Visit Iceland Oddný Arnarsdóttir, accessible travel specialist Paul Ralph and Melanie Allen of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere. The headline sponsor for the Conference was Dumfries and Galloway Council with Business Gateway.

Co-developed by five major organisations – the SSDA, South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), VisitScotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council – with input from hundreds of businesses, organisations and communities, the new Responsible Tourism Strategy succeeds the region’s five-year post-pandemic recovery plan, whose aims were achieved two years early.

The South of Scotland set itself a Covid recovery plan for 2020-2025, aiming to establish a £750m visitor economy and increase the associated number of jobs by 6,500. It successfully exceeded these targets two years ahead of schedule, signalling the visitor economy’s resilience and potential for growth.

As agreed in the Delivery Plan of the South of Scotland’s Regional Economic Strategy (RES), all key agencies in the region came together in 2023 to develop and agree a single Responsible Tourism Strategy for the South of Scotland, with a clear Action Plan for successful delivery.

With core aims to:
  • grow tourism spend in the South of Scotland by £1 billion to £1.76bn by 2034; and
  • support a further 6,000 jobs in the sector to 20,000 FTE by 2034,

the new 10-year Strategy sets out an inspiring vision and rallying call for the South of Scotland over the coming decade:

“We will make the South of Scotland a thriving, responsible destination; leveraging our unique geography, culture, history and landscape to create Scotland’s fastest growing visitor economy, attracting international visitors, creating employment and powering community prosperity.”

The Strategy will promote the region as a ‘rural escape’ for the 14 million people within two to four hours’ travel time, as well as emphasising the appeal of the South of Scotland as an unmissable ‘go-to’ rather than ‘go-through’ destination.

It also aims to grow the number of higher-spending, longer-staying international visitors holidaying in the South of Scotland.

The Strategy sets out 22 priority areas for action, spread across four strategic objectives:
  • Inspire visitors to come to the South of Scotland
  • Develop the visitor experience with a focus on quality
  • Support business to succeed; and
  • Act responsibly for long-term collective benefit

The first of three three-year Action Plans (2024-2027) was also shared at the Conference, identifying 109 tangible actions which all public agencies hold themselves accountable for and will publicly report quarterly on the delivery of.

The draft text of the Strategy was shared with businesses and communities in January as the final part of the extensive consultation, receiving overwhelming support:
    • 84% felt there had been an inclusive, transparent and fair consultation in the development of this strategy
    • 93% of respondents who inputted to the consultation felt their views are represented in the strategy
    • 95% saw themselves being involved in the delivery of the strategy somehow
    • 97% saw themselves benefitting from the strategy

David Hope-Jones OBE, South of Scotland Destination Alliance CEO, said: “This is a game changing moment for tourism in the South of Scotland. The private, public and third sector have come together and, with one voice, have set out a plan with unprecedented ambition for the South, outlining how we will increase our visitor economy by £1bn.

“There is such a palpable sense of energy, excitement and ambition right across the region and our new Responsible Tourism Strategy lays down a clear marker of where we want to be by 2034 – namely, Scotland’s fastest growing visitor economy.

“I am hugely grateful for all who fed into and helped develop the strategy across dozens of public meetings over the last year.

“By pulling together to make this ambitious blueprint a reality we’ve already demonstrated how effectively the key agencies work together with local businesses and stakeholders as Team South. That same cohesive, mutually supportive approach will help us make the South of Scotland the most sustainable, talked about, successful, energetic and coveted destination in Scotland. Scotland truly does start here.”

Tourism Minister Richard Lochhead said: “Tourism is vital to our country, creating jobs, sustaining communities and contributing significantly to the economy. 
“This is especially true for more rural areas like the South of Scotland, which is the gateway to our nation with so much for visitors to see and do - from the Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels to the picturesque Port Logan beach near Stranraer.
“The Scottish Government’s national tourism strategy Outlook 2030 contains responsible and sustainable goals for Scotland to be a world leader in 21st century tourism.
“The South of Scotland Tourism Strategy aligns with our national ambitions and puts in place the bedrock foundation of looking after the communities, the culture and the amazing natural heritage in this part of the country, to ensure they are here for generations to come.”

Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of both South of Scotland Regional Economic Partnership and South of Scotland Enterprise, said: “Developing a long-term, ambitious tourism strategy was a key priority for the Regional Economic Partnership, and I am delighted to see public, private and third sector work together to shape what is a crucial document for the future of the South’s economy.
“All the partners are absolutely committed to the new South of Scotland Responsible Tourism Strategy, which will deliver the best for our visitors, our businesses, our people, our communities and our environment.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland said: “This is a hugely important piece of work and shows the strength of ambition in our partners in the South of Scotland to create a responsible tourism destination for the region.
“Dumfries and Galloway, and the Scottish Borders create a truly incredible visitor destination. The strategy presents an opportunity for the region to raise its profile to the world and grow visitor demand in line with the needs of businesses and local communities.
“Our vision is for Scotland to be one of the most economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable destinations in the world. We look forward to working with our partners to deliver this bold new approach for the South of Scotland.”

Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy and Resources Committee, Councillor Ian Carruthers, said: “This is a very useful document to enable us to plan our way forward. All too often visitors to our region pass through, and we need this plan to encourage them to stay. It would be to our mutual benefit; helping our economy and allowing tourists to enjoy the spectacular scenery Dumfries and Galloway has to offer.”
Vice Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy and Resources Committee, Councillor David Inglis, went on to say: “I welcome this strategy and it is a good example of partnership working where we have a common vision. It is an ambitious goal, but one that we will tackle together for the benefit of our visitors and our economy.”

Councillor Scott Hamilton, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Community and Business Development, said: “Our region has so much to offer visitors and we have to continue to build on the efforts across the partners, and within the tourism sector itself, to maximise the benefits for the whole of the South of Scotland.

“I am really excited by this ambitious new strategy and the development of the action plans, which have the potential to be transformative for our economy.”

14 March 2024

Peebles Hydro named as venue for the 2024 South of Scotland Thistle Awards as entries open to local businesses

Tourism and hospitality businesses across the South of Scotland urged to throw their hat into the ring and enter this year’s awards celebrating the brightest and best in their sector

TOURISM and hospitality businesses in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders are being encouraged to enter the South of Scotland Thistle Awards 2024, back after a brilliantly successful inaugural year to celebrate the leading lights of the region’s burgeoning visitor economy.
Awards organisers the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) today announced that Peebles Hydro in the Scottish Borders will be the proud host venue for the 2024 award celebration later in the year.
Set to be held on 3 October, this prestigious event will showcase and pay tribute to the quality and excellence of the South of Scotland’s tourism, hospitality and events sector, recognising the invaluable contribution made by individuals and businesses right across the region.
The nomination process began for the 2024 South of Scotland Thistle Awards earlier this month, with members of the public already showing their support for an outstanding local hotel, restaurant, visitor attraction or event.
Direct entries open on Monday 18 March allowing businesses to put themselves forward for a Thistle Award by the 28 April closing date, with the regional shortlist due to be announced in early July.
Regional winners who scoop a trophy at the awards event at Peebles Hydro in October will go on to fly the flag for the South of Scotland against their fellow regional winners from the rest of Scotland at the national Scottish Thistle Awards. Led by VisitScotland in collaboration with regional partners and due to be held towards the end of 2024, this year’s event marks the 30th anniversary of the Scottish Thistle Awards programme.
Last year, after a sell-out first ever regional awards celebration, the South of Scotland went on to scoop more national awards than any other single region, winning six Scottish Thistle Awards in total.
Delivered by the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA), supported by South of Scotland Enterprise and with Caledonia Park, Johnstons of Elgin, Fishers and The Cairndale Hotel returning as sponsors, the South of Scotland Regional Thistle Awards 2024 will this year feature a new ‘Rising Star’ award category to recognise emerging talent shaping the future of tourism in the region.
Entries for the 2024 South of Scotland Regional Thistle Awards open on 18 March, closing on 28 April. To find out more and enter, see the SSDA's website.
David Hope-Jones OBE, Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) said:
“The South of Scotland Thistle Awards are heading to the Scottish Borders for what promises to be a very special event at Peebles Hydro this October, following the resounding success of last year’s inaugural regional awards celebration in Dumfries.
“These awards shine a very welcome spotlight on the remarkable achievements of our local tourism and hospitality businesses, whose hard work and dedication to quality and excellence really put the South of Scotland on the map as a thriving visitor destination. As entries officially open, we encourage as many fantastic businesses as possible to step forward and seize the opportunity to be honoured at the Thistle Awards this year.”
Caroline Raeburn, Hotels Manager at Peebles Hydro, who herself scooped a Tourism and Hospitality Hero Thistle Award at the Lothian & Borders regional finals in 2022, said: "We are absolutely delighted that Peebles Hydro has been selected as the venue for the prestigious South of Scotland Thistle Awards for 2024. Hosting this landmark event underscores our commitment to excellence in hospitality and tourism in the South of Scotland and is testament to the warmth and hospitality of the Peebles Hydro team.”
“We are proud to be able to showcase not only the impressive event and conferencing capabilities of our venue but also the vibrant spirit and quality of tourism in our region.”
Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of South of Scotland Enterprise, said: “We had a hugely successful first South of Scotland Thistle Awards in 2023, with six of our regional winners going on to claim national titles.
“With that success in mind, I would encourage businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector to enter the 2024 South of Scotland Thistle Awards and join us for a fantastic night at the Peebles Hydro later this year.”
Rob Longworth, Heritage Manager at Trimontium Museum, which won Best Visitor Attraction at the inaugural South of Scotland Thistle Awards in 2023 said: “Winning the Best Visitor Attraction 2023 has been a fantastic experience. It has provided the team of volunteers, trustees and staff at Trimontium Museum with the understanding that their hard work has been acknowledged and judged as the best of the best.
“The awards process from application to presentation has brought a sense of pride and fulfilment to the team and the associated impact on our profile and visibility for customers has been much welcomed.”

Keith Mundell, Retail Sales and Operations Manager for Johnstons of Elgin in Hawick, said: “We’re so proud to be sponsoring the south of Scotland Thistle awards, we don’t shout enough about what we do, and we should. It’s brilliant to celebrate communities, tourism and hospitality business and attractions. These events give the south of Scotland a well-deserved spotlight on everything we have been doing for years.”

8 March 2024


The Scotch Malt Whisky Society has released five special bottlings from all-women Tasting Panel and will donate 5% of profits to the OurWhisky Foundation

As part of its celebrations for International Women’s Day 2024, global whisky club The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) is releasing five special-edition single cask whiskies selected by an all-women Tasting Panel.
The SMWS, which was founded in Leith, Edinburgh in 1983 and now has over 41,000 members worldwide, has announced that 5% of the profits from the total sale of the five bottles will be donated to the OurWhisky Foundation, a non-profit organisation that seeks to support and empower women in the global whisky industry.
The all-women Tasting Panel was hosted at the Society’s headquarters at The Vaults in Leith, Edinburgh, to mark International Women’s Day 2023. The SMWS has a unique whisky selection process, in which members of the Tasting Panel are kept anonymous, and the origin of the whiskies – which are bottled at cask-strength and hand-picked from over 140 distilleries in Scotland and beyond – are not disclosed. Each member of the Tasting Panel had to have been recommended by an existing member and have passed the necessary sensory evaluation test.
Each of the five whiskies has a quirky name chosen by the expert Tasting Panel. The sweet, fruity and mellow “A Toffee-Coated Hay Bale” and the peated “Hebridean Hamper” are for international release, the old and dignified “Liquid Riches” and the rich “A Humble Mountain Feast” for UK & EU only, and the spicy and sweet “Christmas on The Beach” is limited to Members’ Rooms release. The UK & EU release bottles will be available to buy online and in UK Members’ Rooms from 8th of March.
With tasting notes ranging from orange peel and freshly sprung wildflowers to new trainers and chicken chow mein, the whiskies fall into a wide variety of flavour profiles, each offering a unique sensory experience.
Founded in 2018 as a movement to champion inclusion and diversity in the whisky industry, the OurWhisky Foundation was reestablished as a non-profit organisation in March 2022. It offers qualifications and internship schemes as well as a mentorship programme and various workshops, all of which are free resources designed to help women progress within the male-dominated whisky industry. 
Founder and CEO Becky Paskin said: “As a non-profit, we rely on support from the whisky industry to help us achieve our objectives of recognising, supporting and empowering women in whisky. It’s so important that whisky organisations invest in women working in whisky, and this project is a perfect example of that.

“Hosting an all-women tasting panel is a great way to facilitate conversation and challenge the outdated and gendered image of the whisky industry that remains prevalent today. Anyone who tries these exceptional whiskies will be left in no doubt about the importance of highlighting women in whisky!”
The OurWhisky Foundation is partnering with Whisky Auctioneer, the global market leader on the buying and selling of whisky and spirits at auction, to launch the Demeter Collection, the world’s first auction of whiskies celebrating female achievement. The auction will be hosted from the 29th of March to the 8th of April this year, coinciding with Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day.  SMWS’s Cask no. 44.179 Christmas on the Beach will be included at the auction.
Julie Roberts, Brand Innovation Manager at the SMWS, was one of 50 women to take place in the OurWhisky Foundation Mentorship and Coaching Programme of 2023, and describes the mentorship, workshops, and networking opportunities as a “pivotal chapter” in her career.
She said: “Our all-women Tasting Panel last year was a huge success, and this special collection of whiskies is a real testament to that. The five exemplary whiskies selected during the tasting are a celebration of women in whisky, and we are proud to contribute a percentage of the sales of the bottles to the OurWhisky Foundation, a brilliant organisation that is helping to pave the way in encouraging women into the whisky industry.
“Women have always played a key role in the evolution of the Society; from our first managing director Anne Dana driving early membership uptake in the 1980s and establishing the first tasting room when the Society was in its infancy, to our growing number of women members, and the many women across our venues, international branches and teams.
“With that in mind, we encourage everyone to join us in raising a dram to women in whisky this International Women’s Day!”
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is holding several International Women’s Day events in their Glasgow and Edinburgh venues, each celebrating the women of the Society with a five-dram tasting of the new special bottlings led by five women who are long-standing and passionate Society members.
The first event took place at The Vaults in Leith on the 7th of March, and further events take place on 8th of March, with tickets available for purchase here: Bath Street and Queen Street.

28 February 2024

The Thistle Awards are back for 2024, honouring the South of Scotland’s magnificent tourism and hospitality sector

Nominate your local heroes and celebrate quality and excellence in the Scottish Borders’ and Dumfries & Galloway’s visitor economy

After a hugely successful first year, the South of Scotland’s regional Thistle Awards are back for 2024, showcasing the finest in Scottish tourism and hospitality across the region, with nominations open from 1 March and a dedicated online session on offer to help businesses craft a winning entry.
Spearheaded at national level by VisitScotland, in collaboration with regional partners, the 2024 awards commemorate the 30th anniversary of the esteemed Scottish Thistle Awards Programme.

Last year saw the first ever South of Scotland Thistle Awards take place, culminating in a fabulous awards celebration at the Cairndale Hotel in Dumfries attended by the leading lights of tourism and hospitality from right across the region.

The success didn’t end there, either – the South of Scotland triumphed at the national finals, taking home six Scottish Thistle Awards, double the number scooped by any other single region.

Nominations open on Friday 1 March – and entries on 18 March - for the regional 2024 South of Scotland Thistle Awards, again proudly sponsored by Caledonia Park and Fishers and delivered by the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA), supported by South of Scotland Enterprise.
Through this initial stage, members of the public can show their support and appreciation for a hotel, restaurant, visitor attraction or event whose quality and excellence makes them a prime contender for an award by nominating businesses to consider applying once direct entries open on 18 March.
Entries must be submitted by the closing date of 28 April 2024, with the regional shortlist due to be announced in July.

Plans are already well under way for this year’s awards celebration on Thursday 3 October, with the venue to be announced in the coming weeks.
Showcasing the very best in tourism and hospitality across the South of Scotland, the 2024 Thistle Awards feature a new ‘Rising Star’ award category for 2024, recognising emerging talent shaping the future of tourism in the region.

Last year, the South of Scotland Thistle Awards saw 112 entries and more than 200 nominations.

To help businesses craft a winning Thistle Awards application, the SSDA are hosting a free webinar on 7 March, guiding participants through the nomination process for the 2024 Thistle Awards.

David Hope-Jones OBE, Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) said: “Last year’s inaugural South of Scotland Thistle awards were a brilliant success, and it was wonderful to see so many quality businesses from the South of Scotland being recognised by their industry peers in the region and throughout Scotland. If you know a tourism or hospitality business in your local community that deserves to be celebrated for excellence and innovation, then this is the time. Get your nomination in and show them your support!”

Rory Steel, owner of The Cross Keys Inn, Ettrickbridge, which won Best Bar or Pub at both the 2023 South of Scotland Thistle Awards and the national Scottish Thistle Awards, said: “Being nominated for a Thistle Award was a thrill in itself, but winning the Best Pub accolade was a different level.  The whole team is still buzzing from it, and the impact it’s had on the profile for the Cross Keys Inn has been dramatic.  We have a lot to live up to in 2024, and it’s a challenge we are relishing!

"If any businesses are pondering whether or not to apply this year, I'd tell them to do it in a heartbeat. It's a huge boost to your organisation's morale being involved in the Thistle Awards process and a great way to meet and learn from the excellent businesses working to make the South of Scotland the incredible destination it is.”

Melanie Allen, owner of Nithbank Country Estate, won four national Scottish Thistle Awards in 2023, including Tourism Individual of the Year. She said:

“I am thrilled to see the launch of the Thistle Award nominations for 2024, inviting individuals across the South of Scotland to acknowledge and nominate the outstanding tourism businesses, enterprises, and individuals who epitomise authenticity and excellence in their field. Being honoured with both regional and national Thistle Awards in 2023 was an immensely gratifying experience, personally and for my business. These awards not only distinguish your contribution but also foster invaluable connections and partnerships within industry.

“Whether as a winner, finalist, or nominee, the Thistle Awards provide a platform for reflection, recognition, and connection. They stand as a testament to the tireless efforts of our tourism community and the enduring spirit of hospitality that defines Scotland's identity. Celebrate the remarkable achievements of Scottish tourism talent and nominate those who deserve to be honoured. Let us make 2024 another year of unparalleled success for the South of Scotland!”

Caledonia Park Centre Director Scott Wells said: "We are incredibly proud to sponsor and support the South of Scotland Thistle Awards. This platform allows us to recognise and celebrate the excellence and success of outstanding individuals, businesses, and partnerships within our tourism, hospitality, and events industry.

“At Caledonia Park Designer Outlet, Gretna, we understand the importance of acknowledging and championing the very best that the South of Scotland has to offer. We are honoured to be a part of an event that showcases the exceptional innovation and quality that our region has to offer.”

Gordon Smith, VisitScotland Destination Development Director – South of Scotland, said: The Scottish Thistle Awards champion the very best of the Scottish tourism and events industry. It was fantastic to have so many regional finalists go on to become national winners. This testament to the passion and dedication of those who work tirelessly to ensure the South of Scotland is a must-visit destination.

 “By winning a Scottish Thistle Award, tourism businesses join a prestigious roll of honour, earning recognition as one of the best in the country and gaining support to maximise the opportunity and support responsible tourism growth.?As nominations open, this is a chance for everyone across the region to recognise their tourism heroes and give them a vote of confidence to enter this year’s Scottish Thistle Awards.”
All South of Scotland tourism and hospitality businesses are eligible to join the SSDA’s free webinar on writing a winning Thistle Awards application on Thursday 7 March, from 2pm to 3.30pm.

To find out more about the South of Scotland Thistle Awards, including nomination guidelines and information about the entry process, visit the SSDA’s online Thistles hub.

20 February 2024

Award-winning Scottish Drinks Biscuits firm raises a glass to new Whole Foods Market UK deal

Edinburgh-based Dragons’ Den success story The Drinks Bakery toasts latest premium listing as it celebrates scooping a Gold Award from Raymond Blanc OBE at the Great British Food Awards

Multi-award-winning Drinks Biscuits maker and Dragons’ Den stalwart The Drinks Bakery is raising a glass to its latest premium retail listing, with its delicious, flavour-profiled savoury biscuits now available to discerning customers at all Whole Foods Market stores in the UK. 
The news that all four signature Drinks Biscuits flavours can be snapped up at each of the UK Whole Foods Market stores – located around London – follows hot on the heels of the firm winning a coveted Gold Award at the Great British Food Awards 2023, as well as scoring a hat-trick with their third successive victory at the Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards.
This Whole Foods Market listing signals the continuing growth of the Drinks Biscuits brand, whose products are also available to 1st class passengers on Eurostar services, business class transatlantic Aer Lingus customers as well as at the deli counters of 230 Waitrose stores across the UK and online. 
Whole Foods Market joins an ever-growing list of 250+ stockists including independent delis, specialist shops and prestigious stores and outlets such as Selfridges, Liberty of London and Claridge’s Hotel. The company also sells across Europe, the USA and UAE. 
Established in 2016 by Edinburgh food lover and entrepreneur Andy Murray, The Drinks Bakery offers four flavours of savoury biscuits which are expertly flavour-profiled to match different drinks from around the world. 
The brand has won legions of fans in the intervening years – not least Dragons Den stalwarts Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones, who both tucked into a share of the business in 2018 when Andy appeared on the programme. 
Drinks Biscuits are deliciously rich, crumbly savoury biscuits, thoughtfully crafted to balance with and enhance the character of your favourite drink. 
  • Parmesan, Toasted Pine Nuts and Basil – perfect with Champagne and fruity white wines; 
  • Lancashire Cheese and Spring Onion – delicious paired with cask-finished whisky or bitter beers and IPAs; 
  • Pecorino, Rosemary and Seaweed – superb served with a G&T or gin cocktails; and 
  • Mature Cheddar, Chilli and Almond – the ideal partner for ciders and Malbec style red wines
Celebrity fans include India Knight, chef Raymond Blanc and Deborah Meaden. Ecstatic Facebook reviews praise the snacks as ‘dangerously addictive’, ‘divine’ and ‘the most delicious biscuits I have ever tasted’.  
Welcoming the news of the Whole Foods Market listing, The Drinks Bakery founder Andy Murray said: “In the eight years since I launched The Drinks Bakery, the brand is going from strength to strength as we introduce ever-growing numbers of discerning drinkers to more thoughtful, proper snacks. 
“It’s wonderful to welcome such a brilliant and respected new partner for The Drinks Bakery in Whole Foods Markets. Seeing our thoughtfully crafted Drinks Biscuits on the Whole Foods shelves is yet another exciting milestone on our journey to grow the brand, especially as it coincides with our recent success at the Great British Food Awards 2023 and Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards.”
Dragons’ Den Investor Peter Jones said: “The Drinks Bakery is one of the best brands I’ve ever seen in the Den and Whole Foods Market is yet another ideal pairing for Andy’s delicious Drinks Biscuits.”
Dragons’ Den Investor Deborah Meaden said: “It was immediately clear to me that Andy’s passion and vision would attract the best retailers. Drinks Biscuits are fabulous products and I’m certain they’ll fast become a hit with Whole Foods’ discerning clientele.” 
Alastair Smith, Category Manager at Whole Foods Market, said: At Whole Foods Market, we are constantly looking for unique brands to stock as a part of our promise to provide our customers with a high-quality offering centred around innovation.
“We’re delighted to be stocking all four signature Drinks Biscuits flavours that The Drinks Bakery offer, providing our customers with the perfect complement to the diverse selection of drinks we have on offer. The product really speaks for itself.”
The Drinks Bakery has scooped several coveted accolades in the eight years since its inception, including a Great British Food Awards Gold Award in 2023 for the Lancashire Cheese and Spring Onion variety, many Great Taste awards, three Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards and Best Indulgence Product at the World Food Innovation Awards 2021.

16 February 2024


South of Scotland Destination Alliance Annual Conference will unveil 10-year Responsible Tourism Strategy for the region

TICKETS are selling fast for the South of Scotland Destination Alliance’s (SSDA) third annual conference, a key annual gathering for tourism and hospitality in the South of Scotland with a packed programme of inspiring speakers, stimulating breakout sessions, unmissable networking opportunities and entertainment. 

Kicking things off at The Crichton’s Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries on 20 March 2024 will be the SSDA’s CEO David Hope-Jones OBE with a focus on strategy development and collective ambitions for the region over the next decade.  

As well as an address by Scotland’s Tourism Minister Richard Lochhead, influential speakers will include sustainability expert Dr Martin Valenti, Carron Tobin, Exec Director with SCOTO, accessibility and inclusive tourism specialist Paul Ralph and Mary Jane Brett of the Johnnie Walker Princes Street experience. The event will conclude on an uplifting and light-hearted note with a finale delivered by Scottish comedian, tour guide and Burns aficionado Bruce Fummey.  

The centrepiece of the 2024 Conference will be the official launch of the comprehensive new South of Scotland Responsible Tourism Strategy. This ten-year plan has been developed jointly by South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA), South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), Scottish Borders Council, Dumfries & Galloway Council and VisitScotland with input from dozens of regional tourism and hospitality businesses and local and national stakeholders.  

The Strategy consists of four main strands: Inspire, Develop, Support and Act Responsibly, and the Conference agenda will revolve around these, with the aim of sharing experience, learning and building new local collaborations between businesses. The Responsible Tourism Strategy will underpin all agency work in the South of Scotland over the next decade.  

David Hope-Jones, Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance, said: “Our third annual gathering of tourism and hospitality businesses from across the South of Scotland promises to be bigger and better than ever.?? 

“Tourism in the South of Scotland is enjoying significant success, with ambitious economic and job creation targets hit two years early and, for the first time ever, the South winning more national Thistle Awards than any other region.? 

“Now is the time to come together and map out the next ten years: how we’re going to increase our visitor economy by £1billion.” 

Professor Russel Griggs, SOSE Chair, said: “Tourism and hospitality is critical to the South of Scotland, and the SSDA Conference is another excellent opportunity for local businesses in this sector to connect, network, learn and collaborate. 

“There will be a chance to hear some inspirational speakers, while the Conference will also unveil the South of Scotland Responsible Tourism Strategy, a really important partnership document which aims to deliver the best for our visitors, businesses, people, communities and environment.” 

South of Scotland Destination Alliance Annual Conference 2024 agenda highlights: 


Among other speakers, Mary Jane Brett, Customer Development Manager at Johnnie Walker Princes Street, will examine the importance of attracting international visitors. 


Growth and development hubs, visitor information and infrastructure and inward investment will be among the topics covered, featuring talks from Destination Tweed Project Director Luke Fisher and marketing specialist Vanessa Wegstein of the SSDA.  


Featuring discussion of collaboration between businesses and tourism boards, as well as support for businesses, development of the tourism workforce, data sharing and representation, with speakers including John King from Dumfries and Galloway Council and Eva Milroy from Dumfries and Galloway College. 

Act Responsibly  

Dr Martin Valenti, award-winning sustainability practitioner and Director of Net Zero, Nature and Entrepreneurship at South of Scotland Enterprise, will provide insight into how the region’s tourism industry can play its part in the South of Scotland’s transition to a Net Zero economy. Carron Tobin, Exec Director with SCOTO, will follow this with a speech on embracing community-led tourism before Paul Ralph of Partners in Access discusses the importance of accessible and inclusive tourism.   

After a concluding Q&A session chaired by David Hope-Jones, Scottish history comedian and Burns enthusiast Bruce Fummey will bring the Conference to an entertaining close. 

Find out more and book tickets on the SSDA’s website.  

16 January 2024


Established in 1720, Stewart Christie & Co now welcomes renowned author Alexander McCall Smith as an investor, along with opening of new women’s tailoring atelier

Scotland’s oldest bespoke tailoring business, Stewart Christie & Co, is weaving an exciting new era in its 300+-year history.
The celebrated tailor, which has dressed both royalty and Hollywood stars - from King George V and Sir Walter Scott to Ewan McGregor and Outlander star Sam Heughan - in its sumptuous tweeds and tartans for centuries, has welcomed internationally bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith as an investor in the business.
Alexander, whose 44 Scotland Street and No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series have sold over 20 million copies worldwide, has invested in the business and joins fellow Stewart Christie & Co shareholders: Managing Director Daniel Fearn, Creative Director Vixy Rae and Chairman Prof James McCallum.
The news of Alexander’s involvement follows the historic tailor’s announcement of a new ‘by appointment’ studio for ladies’ tailoring in the heart of Edinburgh’s Georgian New Town, in the adjacent premises to their existing men’s tailoring emporium on 61-63 Queen Street.
The new ladies’ tailoring studio opened its doors this summer at 61-63 Queen Street, in the space formerly devoted to their popular The Chaumer tearoom. Cake-lovers needn’t worry though as afternoon tea continues to be taken there, with the ‘tiniest tearoom in town’ serving the finest teas and coffees alongside a selection of tempting sweet and savoury bites on an exclusive ‘clients and guests’ in the know basis.
Stewart Christie & Co Creative Director Vixy Rae said: “This is such an exciting moment for Stewart Christie & Co – not only are we welcoming the delightful Alexander McCall Smith aboard our company, we also recently opened our first ever ladies’ bespoke tailoring studio. Alongside our expansion into ladieswear, we’re really looking forward to launching our new website early next year, with an online fabric store so clients can build their own garment virtually. The best experience, though, is still in-house – you can’t beat the satisfaction of taking home a beautifully made garment that’s been perfectly tailored to your measurements.”
Alexander McCall Smith said: “There is nowhere quite like Stewart Christie & Co. This firm has been a vital part of the Scottish clothing and textile industry for a very long time. The team of James, Daniel and Vixy have been tireless in their support of Scottish textiles and tailoring and that is what prompted me to offer support in the first place. Their work has helped to secure Scotland’s reputation as a source of fine clothing, traditionally made with this country’s wonderful cloth. It is a great honour to be able to support that.”
Stewart Christie & Co’s ladies’ studio opened its doors at 61-63 Queen Street in summer 2023. Appointments must be booked in advance by calling 0131 225 6639 or emailing

4 January 2024


The owner of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society adds to its portfolio of brands offering exceptional single-cask and limited-edition whiskies

The Artisanal Spirits Company (ASC) plc, the creator of outstanding, one-of-a-kind whisky and experiences around the world, and owner of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), has acquired US-based independent bottling brand, Single Cask Nation.
Single Cask Nation, which was founded in 2011 by Jason Johnstone-Yellin and Joshua Hatton, joins ASC’s family of brands alongside the SMWS and J.G. Thomson & Co.
The acquisition is driven by ASC’s ambition to expand its portfolio of exceptional quality brands which are aimed at a growing global community of discerning whisky and craft spirits consumers.
Single Cask Nation sources, curates and bottles rare single-cask and limited-edition whiskies and other spirits for sale both online and through specialty on- and off-premise accounts in eight markets including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Israel and Canada. Today, Single Cask Nation has an audience of over 10,000 whisky drinkers across the globe, with the US being the largest market for the business.
The move will not impact on the operations of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society which will continue to deliver exceptional Scotch whisky experiences for its members.
Johnstone-Yellin and Hatton will continue to run Single Cask Nation as a distinct business within the ASC group. Whisky industry veteran Steve Hawley, president of the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission and former VP Global Marketing for Westland Distillery in Seattle, has also joined ASC’s team and will work closely with Single Cask Nation to provide strategic and tactical support.
Andrew Dane, CEO of ASC, commented: "We are thrilled to welcome Single Cask Nation to our family of brands at Artisanal Spirits Company, alongside The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and J.G. Thomson & Co.
“This acquisition aligns with our ambition to thoughtfully expand the portfolio while staying true to our core mission to captivate a global community of whisky adventurers with rare and exceptional bottlings.
“This is also very much an investment in Jason and Joshua themselves who have cultivated a global following and stellar reputation as thought leaders in the world of whisky. They will both add a tremendous wealth of knowledge, experience and passion to our business and we’re looking forward to welcoming them and their followers to the family.”
Single Cask Nation’s co-founder Johnstone-Yellin said: “In a way, by joining Artisanal Spirits Company we’re coming full-circle in our whisky journey. It was actually The Scotch Malt Whisky Society that first inspired us to start an independent bottling business in the first place. We’ve admired them (and their whiskies) for years, so to be a sister brand to them now is pretty wild.”
Co-founder Hatton added: “Jason and I have certainly never been short on ideas. With the resources and wealth of experience to draw from at Artisanal Spirits Company, we’ll now be able to bring those ideas to life and more incredible whisky to the Nation. I can’t wait for everyone to see what’s coming next.”

3 January 2024


‘Crispmas’ treat for Grace, aged 10, who bagged herself a year’s supply of her favourite crisps after writing a letter to campaign for their return

An enterprising Edinburgh schoolgirl has received an unexpected 'Crispmas’ taxi-load of treats after writing a letter to the managing director of the company that makes her favourite haggis-flavoured crisps.

Ten-year-old Grace decided to take matters into her own hands when she was unable to find her favourite haggis crisps in the shops. She went straight to the top and penned a heartfelt letter Taylors Snacks’ MD James Taylor pleading that he bring back her beloved Haggis and Black Pepper crisps year-round. 

The Perthshire-based company had decided to release Haggis and Black Pepper crisps as a seasonal flavour only available over the winter months as part of its brand overhaul when it transitioned from Mackie’s Crisps earlier this year.

Her initiative was rewarded when the Taylors team arranged a very special delivery to her house – a Taylors taxi packed with a year’s supply of the crisps and a “golden ticket” for an exclusive tour of the Taylors Snacks factory.

Taylors Snacks has also made the haggis crisps available in smaller 40g bags in response to market demand, a move which will see the haggis crisps available in more retailers, food service outlets, tourist sites, and hospitality venues.

Mr Taylor said: “When Grace’s letter landed on my desk I was blown away by her enthusiasm and initiative. The Taylors team put our heads together to see how we could celebrate our biggest Haggis and Black Pepper crisp fan and can’t wait to show her and her family around our factory here in Errol.

“It was not just Grace who got in touch, however. Our customers let us know in droves that they were missing their favourite Haggis and Black Pepper snacks. We loved that people took the time to tell us how passionately they felt about the flavour. From letters to emails and calls, lots of people got in touch to talk about their love of haggis crisps, and to ask for them to return.

“We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to ensure our customers don’t miss out and are delighted to announce that the haggis crisps are back on the shelves!”

Grace’s mum, Becky, added: “It's fantastic that the team at Taylors took the time and effort to respond and it really made all of our days! It also helps Grace see the power of communicating with creativity and care.

“Grace was the one who had the idea to write to James and to get such a wonderful response really validates and empowers her. These small things really can make a huge impact on a young child's life. We look forward to visiting the factory soon and learning how our favourite snacks are made.”

The crisps will now be available from now until the end of February 2024 as a seasonal flavour and will be back on shelves again later next year. Consumers can also purchase the crisps year-round through online outlets like Amazon and at select locations.

Crisp fans can expect the exact same delicious flavour as before the transition from Mackies, as no changes were made to the recipe. The unique thick-cut crunch of the crisps is also the same, but the bags have a stylish new look under the Taylors brand. 

Haggis and Black Pepper fans will find them on the shelves now in Tesco stores and will soon be available at Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Morrisons.

4 December 2023

Best in Show! South of Scotland triumphs with record-smashing six national Thistle Awards

Region makes history by scooping its highest ever number of Scottish Thistle Awards celebrating excellence in tourism and hospitality

CORKS are popping across the South of Scotland as the region celebrates a sensational performance at the national Scottish Thistle Awards for the tourism and hospitality sector – businesses from Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders scooped six national awards at Friday’s glitzy ceremony in Glasgow, smashing the previous regional record of three and making the South of Scotland the most successful region on the night.
The six winning businesses’ achievements are now set to be recognised by the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) with guest of honour status at their next annual conference, being held in Dumfries on 20 March 2024.
The South of Scotland triumphed in the following categories at the Scottish Thistle Awards 2023:
  • Cream o’ Galloway ice cream founders Wilma and David Finlay, who are partners in family farm Rainton Farm in Dumfries and Galloway, home of The Ethical Dairy, won the prestigious Silver Thistle Award, which recognises an individual or individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to tourism over many years.
VisitScotland Chair Lord Thurso, who presented their award, said: Congratulations to Wilma and David Finlay on receiving this year’s Silver Thistle Award. This is a well-deserved award that recognises the outstanding contribution they have made to tourism in Scotland.
“Described as pioneers in their industry, they have demonstrated the principles of responsible tourism throughout their career and continue to inspire and encourage others to follow in their footsteps. They have not only made a huge impact on their local community in Dumfries & Galloway, but their pioneering work has had a lasting effect on farming, agritourism and responsible tourism in Scotland as a whole.”
  • Tourism Individual of the Year award was won by Melanie Allen, recognising her as an influential leader and ambassador and in light of the positive impact she has made on the visitor experience at regional and national level.
Melanie Allen said: “I am absolutely honoured and delighted to be recognised as Tourism Individual of the Year at the Scottish National Thistle Awards particularly being alongside so many talented finalists. Winning this prestigious award is such a wonderful accolade that I dedicate to all the inspiring people I have had the pleasure to work with. Success in tourism is always at its best when it’s achieved in collaboration with other like-minded people who work with a shared vision to be 'world leaders in 21st Century Tourism’. Through these cherished relationships, I hope the passion and ambition I have for destination Scotland continues to be contagious with both businesses, community and visitors. Wishing massive congratulations to all the award winners and finalists celebrating this evening and making a difference to tourism in Scotland.”
  • Melanie Allen, with husband John, also scooped the Scottish Thistle Award for Best B&B or Guest House Experience for their Nithbank Country Estate luxury B&B in Thornhill, Dumfries & Galloway. The couple operate an exclusive B&B in this historic country house set in an 11-acre estate and were commended for their focus on local first and responsible tourism.
Owners Melanie and John Allen said: “We are honoured and delighted to win this prestigious award. The Thistle Awards are the pinnacle of success for tourism in Scotland and showcase a commitment to providing consistency through authentic and quality guest experiences.
“The great tourism product we are able offer is only made possible through working with some amazing local businesses and our wider community - it is definitely a collaborative effort that goes towards creating unique memorable moments for guests here at Nithbank.”
  • Best Self-Catering Accommodation Experience went to Arden Holiday Cottage in Dumfries and Galloway, a rural self-catering cottage with an ‘outside the box’ approach, helping provide a different kind of experience for guests looking to switch off from their everyday lives and social media.
Owner Hester Binge said: “Arden Holiday Cottage are absolutely delighted to receive this prestigious award. "We are just one of many self-catering cottages who go that extra mile to ensure the experiences we offer are memorable and unique. Our Escape Room is based on local folklore which celebrates the rich tapestry of Dumfries & Galloway encouraging guests to explore all our beautiful region has to offer. This award means we can highlight Dumfries & Galloway and bring more guests to our often-overlooked region benefitting all tourism providers.”
  • Scottish Borders luxury self-catering specialist Airhouses landed the Best Luxury Experience award, with judges praising their community engagement and fair employment, which will  ‘help to inspire other businesses in the Scottish tourism industry.”
Elisabeth and Damian Kelly, partners in Airhouses, said: “We are delighted that our team's hard-work and dedication to customer service, excellent cleanliness and providing each guest with a unique and bespoke experience, has been recognised by this award. We would like to thank our wonderful team and our fantastic guests for making Airhouses such a special place.”
  • Finally, Best Bar or Pub was won by The Cross Keys Inn, Ettrickbridge, which reopened in early 2023 after a painstaking refurbishment by new owners Rory and Vicki Steel. Judges hailed the Inn for its comprehensive programme of engagement with local groups and the Ettrickbridge community.
Rory and Vicki Steel, owners of The Cross Keys Inn, said: “We were absolutely thrilled to win this award in our region and we’re honoured to fly the flag for the South of Scotland in the Thistle Awards National Final. To win again this evening really is the best end to our first year of operating. We can’t thank our whole team and our local community in Ettrickbridge enough for all their support and we’re looking forward to building on this success throughout 2024!”
David Hope-Jones, Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to see so many South of Scotland businesses receive national recognition at the Thistles. It demonstrates just how brilliantly our tourism and hospitality sector does what it does, with a real devotion to excellence, quality and responsible tourism.
“The scale of the South’s success (beating all other regions and doubling our best ever result in the 30-year history of the Thistles) is hugely inspiring.  It’s not just these six brilliant businesses that are celebrating, it’s all of the South of Scotland.  As a destination, we are finding our voice, building confidence and establishing our global reputation.
“This sensational result couldn’t be better timed, with a new Responsible Tourism Strategy soon to be launched, setting a bold, ambitious vision for the future of tourism in the South. Under our shared banner of ‘Scotland Starts Here’, we are keen to tell a new story about the South of Scotland, as an exciting destination offering a quality rural experience for the discerning visitor.”
The first ever dedicated South of Scotland Thistle Awards were held at Dumfries’s Cairndale Hotel in October, organised by the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) and South of Scotland Enterprise, supported by VisitScotland and with headline sponsor Caledonia Park Designer Outlet.
Planning is already under way for the next South of Scotland Thistle Awards in 2024, with entries due to go live in the spring.
A special free session aimed at helping businesses craft a successful application - How to be a Scottish Thistle Award Winner - is scheduled on 7 March 2024 as part of the SSDA’s ongoing Winter Webinar series, available to all tourism businesses in the region.
The South of Scotland Thistle Awards 2023 ceremony was sponsored by Caledonia Park Designer Outlet,  The Borders Distillery, Fishers, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, Johnstons of Elgin and SW Audio. Any businesses or organisations keen to find out more about sponsoring the awards in 2024 are invited to contact the SSDA via at their earliest convenience.
About the South of Scotland Destination Alliance
Established in May 2020, the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) is the industry-led Destination Management and Marketing Organisation for the South of Scotland, encompassing Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders. With a focus on place-making, people, digital capability and sustainability, the ambition of SSDA is to make the South of Scotland a top tourism destination, offer a world-class visitor experience, increase tourism spend in the region to £1bn by 2030 and create 6,500 new jobs.
SSDA is supported by South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), VisitScotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Borders Council, and received £2.7million over five years in 2020 from South of Scotland Enterprise.

4 December 2023


Edinburgh Panto sponsorship and a fleet of eye-catching branded taxis will promote the flourishing Scottish snack brand’s festive and seasonal flavours

Perthshire-based Taylors Snacks has invested £75,000 into a ‘Crispmas’ marketing campaign, which will promote its festive seasonal products through sponsorship of one of Scotland's most high-profile pantomimes, and the launch of a fleet of branded taxis.

The new campaign comes as Taylors Snacks, which officially launched in March, has secured listings across all major supermarkets in Scotland, enjoyed impressive sales figures and experienced a 50% increase in awareness of the brand.

Thousands of panto fans flock to the Capital Theatres Edinburgh Panto over the festive season, which this year will be The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan featuring the much-loved actors Allan Stewart, Grant Stott and Jordan Young. Audiences will have the opportunity to sample Taylors Snacks festive range, which includes Gingerbread popcorn, and Boxing Day Curry crisps, as well as the Taylors core range of unique thick-cut crisps.

Over the coming months, a fleet of 15 branded Taylors taxis will also be hitting the streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow. The taxis, which were unveiled at Edinburgh Castle, are wrapped in flavour-themed livery, with different colours each representing a Taylors flavour, such as Turkey & Stuffing, Pickled Onion, Jalapeno & Cheddar, Sea Salt & Vinegar, and Sea Salt.

Each taxi will have a QR code on its tip seats, allowing customers to enter a fortnightly competition to win a box of festive snacks, while each driver will even have their own supply of Taylors crisps matching the ‘flavour’ of their taxi to hand out to lucky customers.

Taylors has also launched a separate competition on social media where three people will win a year’s supply of crisps. Participants can enter by simply snapping a picture of a branded taxi and tagging Taylors Snacks on social media.

James Taylor, managing director of Taylors Snacks said: “Taylors Snacks is fast becoming a household name across Scotland, and we are seeing more and more people enjoying our snacks each month.

“While we are pleased with the excellent sales and brand-awareness we have already experienced this year, we are keen to further engage with snack fans across the country so they can enjoy our unique range of crisps, popcorn and lentil waves, which is why we have invested in these seasonal campaigns that reflect our fun family values.

“The future is looking bright for the brand, and we are grateful for every person who has picked up a bag of Taylors Snacks this year. We look forward to listing more retail opportunities across Scotland and beyond in the coming months.”

Formerly Mackie’s Crisps, Taylors Snacks launched in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda stores across Scotland under its new name in April 2023. Despite the company’s rebranding and new packaging, the uniquely thick-cut crunch of their crisps and moreish flavours remain the same.

Produced near the fourth-generation Taylor farm in Perthshire, Taylors Snacks boasts award-winning crisps and a growing product range including popcorn and lentil waves. It has a continued dedication towards making high-quality and delicious thick-cut crisps with a signature texture, which are cooked gently to create a unique flavour.

6 October 2023

First ever South of Scotland Thistle Awards celebrates the region’s leading lights in tourism and hospitality

Triumphant South of Scotland businesses now preparing to battle it out at the national Scottish Thistle Awards finals in December

Tourism and hospitality businesses from right across the South of Scotland are celebrating today after emerging victorious at the region’s first ever dedicated regional Thistle Awards, held in Dumfries last night. 

Finalists, key suppliers and local leaders turned out in their finery for the glittering ceremony at the Cairndale Hotel and Leisure Club, sponsored by Caledonia Park Designer Outlet.  

The Scottish Thistle Awards celebrate the very best of the tourism and events industry, helping to shine the spotlight on this vital part of the local economy.  

This year saw the South of Scotland host its first ever dedicated regional awards event, encouraging even more businesses than in previous years to achieve richly deserved recognition and acclaim from their peers and from the region as a whole.  

At last night’s sell-out celebration event, South of Scotland Thistle Award-winners were unveiled in thirteen separate categories. The winners*, who will now go on to represent the South of Scotland at the national Scottish Thistle Awards finals in December, were:  

Innovation in Tourism – Dalscone Farm 

Best B&B or Guesthouse Experience – Nithbank Country Estate 

Best Self-Catering Accommodation Experience – Arden Holiday Cottage 

Best Bar or Pub – The Cross Keys Inn Ettrickbridge 

Best Hotel Experience – Cringletie 

Best Eating Experience – Allanton Inn 

Outstanding Cultural Event or Festival – Borders Book Festival 

Climate Action Award – Nithbank Country Estate 

Celebrating Thriving Communities Award – The Devil’s Porridge Museum 

Best Visitor Attraction – Trimontium Museum 

Best Outdoor or Adventure Experience – Kitchen Coos and Ewes 

Tourism and Hospitality Employer of the Year – The Beagle Country Pub and Barend Holiday Lodges 

Tourism Individual of the Year – Melanie Allen (Nithbank Country Estate

*please see Notes to Editors for quotes from all the winners 

David Hope-Jones, Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) said: “Hosting our first ever South of Scotland Thistle Awards has been a wonderful way of bringing together and honouring the leading lights in tourism and hospitality from our region – it’s been a celebration of the South of Scotland, by the South of Scotland. The independent judging panel were blown away by the calibre of all those who applied for the Awards, and while of course last night was all about recognising our brilliant local winners, we want to celebrate and pay tribute to everyone who took part in the process.  

“I’d like to thank all our generous sponsors and fantastic suppliers for helping make our inaugural awards event such a roaring success. Now we wish our splendid winners every success as they get ready to fly the South of Scotland flag at the national Scottish Thistle Awards finals in December.” 

Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of South of Scotland Enterprise, said:?“A huge congratulations to all the finalists and winners in the first South of Scotland Thistle Awards, who have been recognised for their hard work attracting and accommodating visitors to our wonderful region.? 

“To have a dedicated awards evening for the tourism and hospitality sector in the South highlights the commitment of SOSE, SSDA, VisitScotland and both Councils to the local industry. 

“All the partners are also committed to the new South of Scotland Responsible Tourism Strategy which aims to deliver the best for our visitors, our businesses, our people, our communities and our environment.” 

VisitScotland Board member and Chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards industry panel, Steven Walker said: “Congratulations to all of the winners?at the very first?South of Scotland Thistle Awards. 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.?? 

“I wish the regional winners the best of luck as they continue through to the Scottish Thistle Awards National Final later this year.”? 

The awards ceremony was also sponsored by The Borders Distillery, Fishers, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and Johnstons of Elgin.  

Images from the awards event are available to download 

28 September 2023


The England and Harlequins player has ‘signed’ as an ambassador for Raleigh International to encourage young people from all walks of life to try a volunteering expedition abroad

Having smashed through many glass ceilings in her remarkable life, rugby star Shaunagh Brown is perfectly positioned to tackle her latest challenge as the first-ever ambassador for youth adventure organisation Raleigh International.

In the new role, the Harlequins and ex-England rugby player will use her platform and passion for equality and diversity to inspire young people from all walks of life to embrace challenge and adventure, like on a Raleigh Expedition, to develop resilience, confidence, and self-belief. Brown continues to play for Harlequins, the club she returned to in the summer following her retirement at the end of last year.

Raleigh takes 17–24-year-olds on volunteering Expeditions to South Africa and Costa Rica to build confidence, communication and leadership skills. While on their Expeditions, the young people take part in projects supporting local communities. In 2000, Prince William volunteered in Chile with Raleigh.

To announce her 'signing’ with Raleigh, the 33-year-old visited Medway RFC in Kent, the club where she started her career in rugby. After being presented with a bespoke iconic green t-shirt by Raleigh’s managing director Lucy Constable Fernandez, Brown took time to chat with the club’s Under 18 girls team, and led parts of their training session.

Brown, who grew up in a single parent family and working-class environment, has spent her life and career breaking down barriers, and is passionate about helping young people from less advantaged backgrounds do the same. Her career path has been unconventional, having worked as a heating engineer for British Gas, a firefighter, and commercial diver before rising to the top of rugby, a sport considered elitist by many.

As an icon of the club and international game, she has used her platform to raise awareness of several issues close to her heart such as social, gender and racial equality, body image and the importance of physical activity for young people.

Brown’s appointment as an ambassador comes as Raleigh prepares to launch a new charitable foundation, which aims to make its volunteering experiences more accessible by providing financial support to young adults from less advantaged backgrounds.

In her role, Brown will speak at schools, host presentations, build partnerships with like-minded organisations in her network, promote Raleigh on social media and help Raleigh launch its charitable foundation.

Brown said: “I’ve had to push myself out of my comfort zone throughout my life to try and achieve more than might be expected from someone like me. I had to be brave and expose myself to difficult challenges at times and that’s what I want to encourage others to do.

“In my role as an ambassador, I want to show that you don’t have to be a certain type of person to go on a Raleigh Expedition. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what your background is.

“I’ll be telling young people about the new charitable foundation and also encouraging them to be brave and go and take up space that doesn’t have your name on it. Be the only type of person like you in the room. Use the experience to get to know who you are, what environments bring out the best in you and expose yourself to new challenges.”

“One of my messages will ‘You are capable of more than you realise’ and it’s amazing what you can do when you step out of your comfort zone.”

Lucy Constable Fernandez, Managing Director of Raleigh International, said: “We are thrilled to have Shaunagh on our team as she takes up her role as our first-ever Ambassador for Raleigh International.

“Shaunagh is an incredibly inspirational person who has shown throughout her life and career many of the values we hold at Raleigh such as courage and the importance of challenging yourself, leadership and never giving up.  

“She also has a powerful authentic voice and a passion for equal opportunities. As we prepare to create a new charitable foundation, Shaunagh will play a key role in helping us inspire more young people from diverse backgrounds to join an expedition and let them know that Raleigh is for everyone.”

The announcement of the partnership between Brown and the youth expedition organisation, which relaunched in January 2023 under the aegis of Impact Travel Group, comes after Raleigh introduced a series of initiatives to support the mental health of its young participants.

These include a ‘No Phones on Project’ policy, which has volunteers giving up their smartphones for each of their three 19-day projects, as well as the addition of new Wellbeing Coordinators on Expeditions to provide additional mental and emotional support, following a significant rise in applications from its 17–24-year-old volunteers citing mental health issues and a desire to improve wellbeing.

28 September 2023

Southern pride: team effort from across the region to make first South of Scotland Thistle Awards a glittering success

Local suppliers pulling out all the stops to honour and celebrate their area’s tourism and hospitality stars

The South of Scotland’s first ever dedicated regional Thistle Awards celebrating the best in tourism and hospitality are only days away and businesses from across the region are going the extra mile to ensure the awards event on 5 October 2023 is a roaring success.   

From locally-sourced flowers, food and entertainment to South of Scotland-based audio-visual and creative support, photography and trophy production, the ceremony at the family-run Cairndale Hotel & Leisure Club in Dumfries will be a true “celebration of the South of Scotland, by the South of Scotland”, according to David Hope-Jones OBE, Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA), which is organising the event. 

The Scottish Thistle Awards celebrate the very best of the tourism and events industry, helping to shine the spotlight on this vital part of the local economy.  

In the South of Scotland’s inaugural event, in association with headline sponsors Caledonia Park Designer Outletshortlisted finalists are in contention across thirteen separate categories, including Innovation in Tourism, Tourism and Hospitality Employer of the Year and Climate Action Award. Other sponsors of the occasion are The Borders Distillery, Fishers, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and Johnstons of Elgin.  

Guests attending the evening event on Thursday (5 October) will be treated to musical entertainment from local piper Gregor Grierson, as well as a specially arranged set by Dumfries & Galloway-based folk and Americana-influenced band Smith & McClennan, featuring former BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year, Emily Smith with husband and multi-instrumentalist Jamie McClennan. 

The menu for the celebration includes fillet of Scottish beef with an Annandale Whisky sauce and salmon from Lockerbie’s The Barony Smokehouse served with oatcakes from Irvings Bakery in Castle Douglas, as well as a seasonal pumpkin soup spiced with Galloway chillies.  

Beautiful glass trophies featuring the key colours of the main partners behind the Thistle Awards - navy and yellow for the South of Scotland, purple for VisitScotland and light blue for South of Scotland Enterprise – have been expertly designed and produced in Selkirk by the Holmes Glass father-and-son team Peter and Andrew Holmes. 

Sound and visual on the night will be orchestrated by Dumfries’s SW Audio, with photography by Borders-based Phil Wilkinson Photography & Video and bespoke flowers by Eden of Dumfries.  

Design work for the event was by Alix Lunn of Selkirk-based Lunncreative.  

David Hope-Jones OBE, Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) said: “Excitement is building right across the South of Scotland ahead of our first ever Thistle Awards, which looks set to be the ‘hot ticket’ event of the season. It’s wonderful to see so many fantastic local specialist suppliers coming together to help us deliver an unforgettable occasion honouring the leading lights of tourism and hospitality in our region – it truly is a celebration of the South of Scotland, by the South of Scotland. 

“The South of Scotland Thistle Awards caps what’s been a tremendous year for the region – not only did the South of Scotland achieve the highly-coveted accolade of being named ‘Best in Travel’ by Lonely Planet, but we also welcomed the world to discover the Home of the Bike thanks to our new Kirkpatrick Coast to Coast and, of course, the UCI Cycling World Championships in Dumfries and at Glentress Forest.  

“All of us at the SSDA very much look forward to welcoming all the Thistle Awards finalists and guests to Thursday’s ceremony at the Cairndale, and to giving the winners a splendid send-off before they fly the South of Scotland flag at the national Scottish Thistle Awards finals in December.” 

Professor Russel Griggs, Chair of South of Scotland Enterprise, said: “The tourism sector is one of the most significant in the South of Scotland, worth over £600million and supporting thousands of jobs, and it is therefore appropriate that we come together to celebrate the best of tourism and hospitality through the first South of Scotland Thistle Awards. 

“I am delighted to see the Awards utilise a range of local suppliers to put on the event, from the food and drink offered on the night to the creation of the 13 awards for each category being contested.   

“This year has been a fantastic one for tourism and hospitality in the South, and I am confident that the 13 winners who go forward to the Scottish Thistle Awards in December will showcase on a national stage the excellent offering we have in our region.” 

VisitScotland Destination Development Director Gordon Smith said: “The Scottish Thistle Awards champion the very best of Scotland’s tourism and events industry, helping to shine a spotlight on the positive impact it brings to our country. It is fantastic to see the quality of finalists in the first ever South of Scotland Thistle Awards and the involvement from all aspects of the industry in coming together to create what is set to be a memorable celebration. I would like to extend my best wishes to the regional finalists and the winners as they go forward to the National Final in December.” 

Peter Holmes of Holmes Glass, which designed and produced the trophies for the South of Scotland Thistle Awards, said: “In our own small way we are delighted to be involved and support the SSDA by?producing the awards for the South of Scotland Thistle Awards.?It’s great to see lots of activity in the South of Scotland and people from across the region being recognised for all they do.” 




Issued on behalf of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance by Beeline PR. For more information please contact Katie Spence, Senior Account Manager at / 07585 211652. 

About the South of Scotland Destination Alliance 

Established in May 2020, the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) is the industry-led Destination Management and Marketing Organisation for the South of Scotland, encompassing Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders. With a focus on place-making, people, digital capability and sustainability, the ambition of SSDA is to make the South of Scotland a top tourism destination, offer a world-class visitor experience, increase tourism spend in the region to £1bn by 2030 and create 6,500 new jobs.  

SSDA is supported by South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), VisitScotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Borders Council, and received £2.7million over five years in 2020 from South of Scotland Enterprise. 

21 September 2023


Market leader in luxury Scottish catering, events, and venue operations, Hickory, dishes up the news of their exclusive partnership with The Merchants’ Hall.

The independent Scottish catering, events and venue operator, Hickory, has announced its new and exclusive partnership with The Merchants’ Hall, a hidden gem located in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic New Town. Hickory has been appointed sole caterer and venue manager of the iconic venue and will support The Merchants’ Hall in its mission to promote local artisans and businesses. 
The announcement highlights the recent growth of the multi award-winning company and follows several exciting new partnerships and developments, making Hickory one of the largest independent catering operators in Scotland 
The Merchants’ Hall is a distinguished nineteenth century building owned by The Royal Company of Merchants of The City of Edinburgh, designed to reflect values still associated with Scotland’s capital city, of integrity, acumen, and accomplishment. Over the years it has had an impressive array of hosts, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh. Representing the graceful union of art and architecture, the Hall is available for hire for those who wish to enjoy its resulting opulence and prestige.  
Seating up to 150 dinner guests, Merchants’ Hall provides a beautiful backdrop to weddings or Champagne receptions with its striking domed ceiling and Minstrels’ Gallery. A complimentary red carpet can be rolled out for guests, adorning the Hall’s grand entrance and providing guests with a truly one-of-a-kind experience.  
Businesses looking to hire The Merchants’ Hall have their choice of hosting conferences, receptions, and seminars in the main Hall, or hiring the Court Room and adjoining Crush Hall upstairs for smaller events. The venue provides the perfect space to mingle, entertain, and network in, and is fully accessible with a lift and accessible toilet facilities.  
Hickory managing director, Stephanie Stubbs, said: “The Merchants’ Hall is one of Edinburgh’s true hidden gems offering a stunning and memorable venue for formal gatherings from corporate events to intimate weddings. 
“Hickory is thrilled to have been appointed as the sole caterer and venue manager. Our team brings creativity and industry expertise, consistent high quality and commercial understanding.  We look forward to hosting our first client event in September and have a busy festive period ahead.”   
The Membership, Events and Communications Manager for the Royal Company of Merchants, Gill Daniell, said, “We’re delighted to be partnering with Hickory as we evolve The Merchants’ Hall into a new era. With their exceptional quality of service and catering, their impressive investment in sustainability and their respect for traditional and history, they represent our vision and aims for the future of our historic venue.” 
With a commitment to facilitating spaces of enriching experience across Scotland and strong emphasis on sustainability, Hickory continues its mission to deliver Scotland's best events and hospitality experiences. Quality ingredients are sourced locally by a professional culinary team, who deliver innovative seasonal dishes.  
Named a finalist in the Best Scottish (Independent Business) category at the Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards in 2022, Hickory continues to scoop awards year after year, and secured its first contract outside of Scotland in August of last year. They achieved their ISO 9001 accreditation last year and catered for Climate Action at COP26 in 2021, demonstrating their commitment to excellence in all areas of service, and their core values of quality and sustainability. 

18 September 2023

Dentons grows in Scotland with double partner hire

Dentons, the world's largest global law firm, has announced the hires of Philip Knight and Steph Innes as partners in Scotland. Philip joined the firm's Edinburgh office on 12 September, while Steph joined in Glasgow on 18 September.

Claire Armstrong, Managing Partner of Dentons in Scotland, said: 'Steph and Philip will be real assets to our growing Scottish offices. We are committed to investing in Scotland's brightest legal talent and using Dentons' unique global reach to support clients on their most complex issues across practices, sectors and geographies.'

Steph Innes rejoins Dentons from leading industrial energy solutions provider Aggreko, where she was Head of Group Legal. Prior to this, she spent ten years as a Senior Associate in Dentons' Scotland TMT practice. Steph is also a part time commercial contracts tutor at the University of Glasgow.

Henrietta Baker, Head of Dentons' TMT practice for the UK, Ireland and Middle East said, 'I am delighted to welcome Steph back to Dentons. As a partner specialising in intellectual property, data protection and technology transactions, her arrival will allow us better to serve our clients in Scotland, the rest of the UK and internationally.'

Philip has joined the firm's Litigation and Arbitration practice, arriving from Womble Bond Dickinson where he was head of litigation in Scotland. Previously, he spent 11 years in DWF's Real Estate Litigation team. He has extensive experience advising on contractual disputes, real estate disputes, insolvency and director disqualification, licensing, regulatory, professional negligence, interdicts and financial services disputes. He joins Dentons' fast-growing Disputes team, which currently includes over 90 lawyers across the UK and Ireland. In the firm's recent announcement of its partner promotions seven originated from the Disputes team.

Louisa Caswell, head of the Disputes team for Dentons in the UK said, 'I am thrilled to welcome Philip to our Disputes team. His broad experience as a first-class litigator will help us towards our goal of creating a thriving Scottish disputes practice that is leading on cases for local, national and international clients.'

Paul Jarvis, Chief Executive for the UK, Ireland and Middle East (UKIME) region of Dentons, added, 'We are delighted that Philip and Steph have joined the high-quality group of partners who are committed to strengthening our position as the premium international law firm in Scotland.'

About Dentons
Across over 80 countries, Dentons helps you grow, protect, operate and finance your organization by providing uniquely global and deeply local legal solutions. Polycentric, purpose-driven and committed to inclusion, diversity, equity and sustainability, we focus on what matters most to you.

5 September 2023


Key agencies working on the new Responsible Tourism Strategy for the region want to hear from as many people as possible through their online survey, which closes on 15 September

Members of the public in the South of Scotland are being urged to take part in an online survey about the area’s Regional Responsible Tourism Strategy, which is being developed collectively by the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA), South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), Scottish Borders Council, Dumfries & Galloway Council and VisitScotland.

As agreed in the Delivery Plan of the South of Scotland’s Regional Economic Strategy (RES), all key agencies in the region are coming together in 2023 to develop and agree a single Responsible Tourism Strategy for the South of Scotland, with a clear Action Plan for successful delivery.

The five partner organisations are all working together to support the development of the strategy, which aims to ensure the South of Scotland has a sustainable, year-round tourism offer. All involved are committed to ensuring the strategy and action plan are genuinely informed by, and owned by, local businesses and communities, as well as public agencies. To achieve this, they want the process of strategy development to be as inclusive and as possible.  

Alongside a series of 27 in-person and digital meetings, being held right across the region, an online survey to inform the new Strategy and Action Plan will be live until 15 September.  The survey aims  to capture the views of people throughout the South of Scotland, from tourism and hospitality businesses to community groups, residents and other stakeholders.

The online survey is being hosted by Scottish Borders Council and runs until 15 September 2023.

The first draft of the Strategy and Action Plan is due to be published in the autumn and a second round of (mostly digital) consultations is planned to obtain business and community feedback on this draft, before anything is finalised.

The five organisations aim to have the process complete, and the Strategy and Action Plan agreed by all parties, by the end of 2023.

David Hope-Jones OBE, South of Scotland Destination Alliance, said: “We’re really keen to hear from as many people in the South of Scotland as possible as we develop the Responsible Tourism Strategy. It’s about working collectively together, businesses and communities, to develop a sustainable, year-round tourism offering to benefit everyone who lives, works and visits here. 

“With a single Responsible Tourism Strategy, achieved through proactive outreach, open-minded consultation, and genuine collaboration, we can strengthen our visitor economy and support community prosperity. It’s about ensuring we’re all pushing in the same direction, with everyone bought into one single plan, for collective good.

Our goal is a strategy which is owned by, and delivers for, businesses, public agencies and communities. So, if you haven’t already done so, please share your views and insight into the future of tourism in the South of Scotland.”

Jane Morrison-Ross, Chief Executive of SOSE, added: “We know how important tourism is for the businesses and communities across our region and want to ensure that we grow its potential in a sustainable way.

“That is why the Responsible Tourism Strategy will be such a key tool for partners in the South.

“I would encourage anyone with an interest in the future of tourism in the South to take part in the survey to help ensure the final Strategy can help support a fair and flourishing industry.”

VisitScotland Destination Development Director Gordon Smith said: “The online and in-person meetings coordinated by the South of Scotland Destination Alliance have been a great success and allowed communities and businesses the opportunity to help influence the future direction of tourism across the region.

“There is still time for communities, businesses and for people living across the South of Scotland to have their say in the development of the South of Scotland Responsible Tourism Strategy. I would urge residents and businesses to take part in the online survey before it closes on 15 September. Partnership and collaboration are at the heart of Scottish tourism and working together to find ways to position the South of Scotland as a unique and special holiday choice is essential.”

Councillor Scott Hamilton, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Community and Business Development, said: “It is particularly important that our local tourism businesses and those that support the sector and also benefit from visitors to the area feed into this strategy.

“Through the continued collaboration of the partners involved and the input from our businesses, communities and residents we will be able to not only deliver the strategy and action plan but most importantly act upon it for the benefit of everyone across the South of Scotland.”

Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy and Resources Committee, Councillor Ian Carruthers said: “We are very fortunate here in the South of Scotland to live in such a beautiful part of the country. We welcome tourists to our region throughout the year, but we need to know if we could do more to encourage people to visit and ensure that their stay is as happy as it can be. I would like to encourage everyone, residents and visitors to take a little time to fill in the survey and let us know your thoughts.”

Vice Chair of Economy and Resources, Councillor David Inglis said: “It is not just visitor ’hotspots’ that we need to look at, but our stunning region as a whole, from coast to coast across the South of Scotland. Businesses also need to get involved to let us know what we could be doing to help them to encourage visitors which of course, boosts our economy. Please let us know your thoughts and ideas so that we can collaboratively plan the best way forward.”

1 September 2023


Val McDermid says she made a “tactical error ” by making Karen Pirie a gin fan as she keeps being given bottles of the spirit – which she doesn’t actually like

Best-selling Scottish crime author Val McDermid has confessed that she wishes she’d made her popular Karen Pirie character drink whisky instead of gin. 
The whisky-loving writer behind the globally successful Karen Pirie book series has revealed she regularly receives bottles of gin as a gift from well-meaning fans, but she much prefers a good single malt. 
McDermid made this revelation during a conversation with The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) for its Whisky Talks podcast.  
Kind-hearted readers, she says, often assume that she must have made her cold case-solving protagonist a gin drinker because of her own appreciation of the spirit. In fact, she is unable to drink Pirie’s favourite tipple due to an ill-fated drinking session when studying at university.  
While first writing the books, McDermid was impressed by the growing gin industry and the variety available in Scotland and thought it would be interesting to make Pirie’s drink of choice a gin and tonic.  
She explained: “I do feel that I made a tactical error in making Karen a gin drinker. I still think it suits her personality, but as a result, I've generously been given quite a few bottles of gin. 
“My partner and her colleagues assure me these are lovely, but I can't drink any as I over-indulged to the point of being sick for three days back when I was a student. The very smell still makes me faintly queasy.” 
McDermid is a long-time member of the world’s largest whisky club, the SMWS, which specialises in rare, one-of-a-kind whiskies which are selected by their expert tasting panel. 
This year the Society is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a series of fun events, including supporting McDermid’s recent appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.. 
She continued: “I’ve always enjoyed a dram, so I missed a trick by not making Karen like our national spirit. When I was developing my new series, 1979 and 1989, I took the opportunity to correct this by making the main character Allie Burns a malt whisky drinker.” 
The latest Karen Pirie instalment, Past Lying, will be released in October. The podcast featuring McDermid’s full conversation with The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is available to listen to now at :  

10 August 2023


Fife-based Seaweed Enterprises announces major investment plans to scale up factory and operations, helping to realise the potential of this abundant ocean resource across the country

Scottish seaweed start-up, Seaweed Enterprises Limited, has announced large-scale plans to develop a market-leading primary processing facility to supply a global market set to grow by $7.8bn outside of the Far East over the next eight years1.

The Fife-headquartered firm, having retained seven jobs in the local region following the purchase of assets from Mara Seaweed (in Administration), has set its sights on scaling up its factory and operations with market-leading tech in order to become the UK’s leading harvesting and processing hub for seaweed. 

The Scottish seaweed industry has seen much interest and change in recent years, but is still an under-invested, untapped, and highly fragmented sector. Seaweed is a potent and abundant ocean resource packed full of nutritional, cosmetic and pharmaceutical benefits, as well as being an agricultural asset as both a fertiliser and foodstuff.

Seaweed Enterprises has been established by CEO Pete Higgins who is experienced in getting businesses investor ready and scaling for growth, along with the senior team from Mara Seaweed – Arnie Sathiy and Clare Dean – who have several years’ practical and commercial experience in the seaweed industry.

The team has already successfully secured private investment to roll out its business plan, which aims to see it grow to become the leading seaweed processing hub, supporting sustainable business growth for the Scottish seaweed sector with market-leading tech, whilst always pushing responsible harvesting protocols and enduring partnership work.

Significant capital expenditure at Seaweed Enterprises’ Glenrothes site is key to its investment strategy, allowing the production and sale of a range of species in demand from a vast array of offtake channels, already looking to seaweed for sustainable solutions.

The firm’s goal is to broaden its revenue base across a range of commercial opportunities, from the food industry to skincare and agri-business (fertilisers/feedstock), positioning Seaweed Enterprises as a centrally located solution to the continued bottlenecks seen across the seaweed industry as it matures.

Seaweed Enterprises CEO Pete Higgins said: “Seaweed is an extraordinarily beneficial natural resource whose potential is not yet fully realised, so this is a tremendously exciting time for Seaweed Enterprises and the sustainable seaweed sector as a whole.”

“Working in partnership with Scottish seaweed farmers, as well as the large volume from our licence to wild harvest granted by the Crown Estate, we are proud to be developing innovative products to the highest standard. Our state-of-the-art facility will offer not only volume much needed by many customers, but importantly the versatility and refinement for higher value items.”

9 August 2023


To celebrate its 40th anniversary, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is gathering members from around the world in a bid for the world’s biggest online whisky tasting

To celebrate its 40th anniversary and approaching the milestone of 40,000 members around the world, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) has announced it will attempt to set the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for the most participants in an online whisky tasting event.

Up to 1,250 members of the worldwide whisky club across the UK, USA, Japan, China and Australia will come together online and take part in the three-dram tasting for around 45 minutes on Saturday 30th September 2023.

The record-setting attempt is taking place during ‘The Gathering’, the flagship event in the Society’s year-long series of 40th anniversary activities for its growing community of members around the world.

Founded in Edinburgh in 1983 by maverick Pip Hills, the SMWS started out as a small group of like-minded whisky lovers who shared a passion for single cask whisky. Now owned by the Artisanal Spirits Company, but with Hills, now 82, at the heart of its 40th-year celebrations, the Society is now the world’s largest whisky club, with almost 38,000 members in more than 20 countries across the globe.

The groundbreaking online whisky tasting event will take place across the world at 2pm. It will be live-streamed from The Vaults in Leith, Edinburgh, the spiritual home of the SMWS, The first dram will be hosted by SMWS Master Ambassador, John McCheyne, the second by Tom Smith, Senior Director of SMWS USA, and the third by Matt Bailey, Director of SMWS Australia.

Partnering with video production company GLO to live-stream the tasting via Zoom, the Society’s world-record bid will see their members taste three Society drams during the online event.

The drams are Cask No. 55.78 What a Spread!, a 13-year-old rich and sweet bottling from a Speyside distillery, with tasting notes of “spiced toffee, creme brulee and a touch of fresh oak”; Cask No. 39.244 Tutti Frutti in a Wooden Bowl, an 11-year-old whisky from the SMWS Juicy Oak & Vanilla flavour profile; and Batch 15 Smokus Fruticosus, a blended malt comprised of malt whiskies from the islands of Islay & Orkney.

Commenting on the record-breaking attempt, Madeleine Schmoll, event host and Social Media and Community Manager at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society UK said, “The Scotch Malt Whisky Society has come a long way since Pip Hills and his friends started exploring the amazing array of flavours in single cask whisky in Edinburgh in the early 1980s.

“Now, 40 years later, the Society has almost 40,000 members around the world, including around 18,000 here in the UK, so what better way to celebrate that by bringing so many of our members together to go for this world record.

“We’re delighted to be playing our part in this world record attempt – we’ll certainly have fun trying to do it!”

31 July 2023


The South of Scotland Destination Alliance’s new Operational Plan takes a locally-led, bottom-up approach, putting businesses in the driving seat

Harnessing local knowledge and expertise through a ‘bottom-up’ approach led by local businesses is a key focus of the newly published one-year Operational Plan released by the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA).
In addition to publishing the 12-month Operational Plan on their website, the SSDA is launching two series of meetings, accessible to all, to progress the Regional Responsible Tourism Strategy, alongside partners South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), Scottish Borders Council, Dumfries & Galloway Council and VisitScotland and to help design the South of Scotland’s locally-led Destination Development Plan.
The Operational Plan includes 16 key projects for the year ahead, directly informed by feedback from tourism businesses across the South of Scotland on what would be most beneficial for their businesses.

It sets out how, over the next 12 months, the SSDA will:
  • Attract more and better-spending visitors to the region
  • Create a coordinated, community of businesses across our region, working together for greater collective impact
  • Support businesses to benefit from key strategic opportunities upcoming
  • Help progress the South of Scotland’s journey to become a quality, year-round destination
  • Bring together all relevant organisations across the public and private sector, to unite behind one single responsible tourism strategy which will underpin all our work
  • Deliver a bottom-up, locally-led Destination Development Plan designed by and owned by businesses themselves.
David Hope-Jones OBE, South of Scotland Destination Alliance, said: “At its core, the SSDA is a community of businesses, all with unique identities and stories which each contribute something different to the fantastic patchwork quilt that is the South of Scotland.

“In drafting our new Operational Plan, we listened to the pressures and priorities, and the ideas and insights, of businesses and communities engaged in our tourism and hospitality sectors. We and our partners are now looking forward to taking to the road to develop a genuinely locally-led approach to developing the south of Scotland as a world-class destination. 

“By thinking strategically and acting collaboratively we can transform the South of Scotland’s visitor economy.”
Gordon Smith, VisitScotland Destination Development Director, said: “It is vital for communities and businesses to be consulted on tourism plans for their local area. They are on the frontline and can provide a critical input to help influence the future direction of tourism across the region.
“The public meetings being coordinated by SSDA provide a great opportunity for communities and businesses to share their ambition for tourism and help shape the development of the emerging South of Scotland Responsible Tourism Strategy. Partnership and collaboration are at the heart of Scottish tourism and working together to find ways to position the South of Scotland as a unique and special holiday choice is essential.”

From next month, the SSDA is holding a series of fourteen public meetings across the South of Scotland to discuss and shape the locally-led Destination Development Plan, kicking off at The Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels on 9 August.

Simultaneously, a series of thematic/sectoral digital sessions will help the SSDA and its partners to progress the Regional Responsible Tourism Strategy.

 Full details of both series available at

26 July 2023


Professor Brendan Walker helps The Scotch Malt Whisky Society explore extraordinary new chilli-infused spirit that you can mix in cocktails, sip if you’re brave enough or even cook with!

This summer, a maverick whisky club is turning up the heat with the release of Exp.01, a limited-edition new chilli-infused drink resulting from an experiment that saw 100 fresh red Scotch Bonnet chillies matured in a cask of Scotch whisky for 17 years.
For the experiment, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) added around 100 sliced chillies to a cask of 10-year-old single malt – in doing so, stripping it of its title as a Scotch whisky. The curious concoction was then left to mature for a further 17 years before being bottled as the spicy spirit it is today.
At 55.6% abv and bottled in 10cl hot-sauce sized miniatures, Exp.01 packs a peppery punch with hints of ‘sweet paprika’. The Society is encouraging adventurous flavour explorers to continue the experiment at home, by adding the spicy spirit to summer cocktails, cooking with it like a hot sauce or marinade, or sipping it neat.
The SMWS, which is based in Edinburgh but has members all over the world, created the experimental spirit as part of its 40th-anniversary year celebrations, during which it is staging various events and releasing special editions, all inspired by the maverick attitude of its founder Pip Hills. 
Professor Brendan Walker, the world’s only ‘Thrill Engineer’ - who focuses on examining and constructing emotional experiences - was called upon to investigate the Society’s unusual experiment and the tasting experience.
Walker, whose previous work has included designing theme park rides such as Th13teen at Alton Towers, said: “After around 17 years of infusion, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society asked me to investigate their experiment. What could be more exciting than being asked to explore two components of known high quality – a Scotch-in-the-making plus 100 fresh red Scotch Bonnet chillies?
“The methanol and aromatic higher alcohols found in whisky immediately trigger the release of dopamine. Chilli contains capsaicin and in small amounts, capsaicin has a pleasurable, warming, peppery effect. Capsaicin can also trigger the release of endorphins for endurance, and dopamine to reward surviving such an ordeal.
“This concoction of whisky and chilli has the most psychotropic thrilling potential. My initial tasting made me say ‘wow!’, and then smile – a genuine mini-euphoric moment for any connoisseur of thrill. There’s a whole roller coaster of experience being played out on a micro scale, over milliseconds, right there on your tongue
“It’s not just the resulting liquid of Exp.01 that I find amazing – with its smooth, sweet consistency and initial peppery chilli kick.  What’s most exciting for me is the Society’s spirit of experimentation. This captures my imagination. Try it in a cocktail, splash it into a creamy sauce for haggis, or pipette a single drop onto your tongue, then feel your mind and body explode with excitement.”
James Freeman, the Society’s Executive Chef, has also created special recipes that showcase the spirit’s culinary potential, including mussels with tomato, anchovies and Exp.01, a teriyaki salmon dish and an incredible chocolate and Exp.01 tart.  Meanwhile, SMWS ambassador Logan Shaw recommends mixing the spirit with tonic water, ice, lime and sea salt to create a fiery highball cocktail.
No stranger to the Society, Professor Brendan Walker collaborated with the SMWS in 2022 for their Memory Box campaign, in which tasting Society whisky evoked fond memories and happy moments. The campaign was unveiled to wide-eyed whisky fans at London and Glasgow whisky festivals, with Walker present to guide guests through their journey of nostalgia.
Helen Stewart, Head of Brand Marketing & Membership, said: “In our 40th and most adventurous year yet, this kind of cask experiment is a great example of the fun we have with whisky. We did this simply for the thrill of it to discover what would happen - and we’re excited to share the results of the experiment with everyone and we’d encourage people to have fun with it whether using it in cocktails, cooking recipes or simply sipping it.
“Brendan’s expert knowledge of how people react to thrills and excitement was key to this experiment. His investigations have helped explore the tasting experience and explain what’s happening in the mouth when people taste it.”
Founded in Edinburgh in 1983 by maverick whisky-lover Pip Hills, the SMWS is now the world’s largest whisky club, with close to 40,000 adventurous and discerning members across the globe, all united by a passion for flavour and exquisitely crafted liquid.
Exp.01 is available while stocks last from 26th July as part of a special new Society membership offer:

24 July 2023


Whisky & fitness fans were treated to a unique tasting event at Bellcraig Farm in Fife which paired drams with pilates... and goats!

Fitness-lovers with a penchant for whisky experienced a one-off tasting which saw them sample a pilates session paired with the water of life, surrounded by – and clambered upon - by Pygmy goats. The aim of the tasting was to experiment with different sensory experiences to see how the environment affects the appreciation of whisky. 
Following the nationwide craze of Goat Pilates, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), a global whisky club with an unconventional approach to whisky tastings, created the experimental event.
The tasting event took place as part of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s 40th anniversary year celebrations. Recently, the Society has paired drams with unusual items such as a hugely popular whisky & insect tasting, as well as unique environments like staging a whisky tasting inside a sauna.
The latest unconventional tasting event was hosted by Jo Munro of Edinburgh’s The Pilates Attic - as she guided attendees through pilates techniques, the pygmy goats were present to put people at their ease while providing a humorous and fun atmosphere.
Three drams were introduced to the guests from the ever-changing selection of SMWS single cask whisky, with guests petting the goats, tasting the whisky and all the while holding their best pilates poses.
Three Drammy Goats Gruff
At the event, the first dram presented was Summer Strawberry Scones, a Highland whisky from the Society’s Juicy Oak & Vanilla flavour profile.
The second whisky was An Emulation of Jam, a dram described as having a “scent of warm milk poured over a slice of madeira cake served in a papier-mâché bowl” and “a palate accompanied by a luxurious jam of red grapes, blackcurrants, gooseberries and wild strawberries.”
Finally, to round the tasting off was Sophisticated Emulation, a 15-year-old whisky from the Highland region described as tasting like “freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice stirred into a glass of cool ginger beer with a drop of minted blackcurrant jam”.
40th anniversary adventures
This year, the Society is celebrating its 40th anniversary and is approaching 40,000 members around the world. To mark this milestone in its journey, a series of special releases, events, collaborations and happenings, all inspired by founder Pip Hills’ unorthodox outlook, will continue throughout the year. 

Helen Stewart, SMWS Head of Brand Marketing & Membership, said: “At the Society we love to experiment with different environments in which to taste whisky. Creating unique settings is such an exciting way to host sensory experiences. It’s fascinating to see how these events affect the appreciation of whisky.
"The trend for Goat Pilates has swept the nation and it felt like the perfect, adventurous idea for a whisky tasting. At SMWS, we continue to bring adventurous whisky fans together to explore the flavours of whisky and enjoy sensory experiences. Goats & pilates is just one of our many unique tasting events taking place in our 40th year."
*Disclaimer: All goats’ wellbeing was considered, and all animals were properly looked after by experienced professionals at Bellcraig Farm.*

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