TWO Borders businesses came out with top prizes at a national awards ceremony this month, marking a record-breaking night for the South of Scotland.

After winning at the South of Scotland regional Thistle Awards – delivered by Visit Scotland – Airhouses and The Cross Keys Inn, Ettrickbridge have both won awards at the national round of the awards.

Winning in the Best Luxury Experience category, Elisabeth and Damian Kelly, partners in Airhouses – luxury self-catering accomodation in the Borders countryside near Oxton – said they were "delighted" that their team's efforts had been recognised.

They added: "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."

Thistle Awards judges praised Airhouses for its community engagement and for its commitment to fair employment, adding that such work will "help to inspire other businesses in the Scottish tourism industry".

The second Borders winner at the Glasgow Hilton ceremony on December 1 was The Cross Keys Inn at Ettrickbridge.

Named as the Best Bar or Pub winner, owners Rory and Vicki Steel – who only took over the business in February of this year – were "thrilled" with their win.

They 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!"

Peeblesshire News: Elisabeth and Damien Kelly from Airhouses (centre) at the Thistle Awards in Glasgow.Elisabeth and Damien Kelly from Airhouses (centre) at the Thistle Awards in Glasgow. (Image: Connor Mollison)

Key to its success at the Thistle Awards was The Cross Keys' engagement with the local community during its refurbishment, with management working hard to create a warm and welcoming environment for locals and visitors.

Businesses in the South of Scotland picked up six awards in Glasgow, a record-breaking result for the region.

Professor Russel Griggs, chair of South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), said: “From being named one of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel destinations, to successfully hosting the UCI World Cycling Championships, 2023 has been stellar year for tourism in the South of Scotland.

“The South’s success highlights that Scotland really does start here, and we look forward to working with partners in 2024 to ensure our region becomes a leading responsible tourism destination.”

Adding his praise to all of the South of Scotland winners, VisitScotland's destination development director Gordon Smith said: “Congratulations to all of the winners from the South of Scotland at this year’s Scottish Thistle Awards national final.

“It is a fantastic achievement to earn recognition as one of the best in the country, shining a spotlight on the region and the positive impacts our tourism and events industry brings to Scotland.

“The Scottish Thistle Awards celebrate innovation, collaboration and sustainable practices, supporting the ambition of the national tourism strategy, Outlook 2030, for Scotland to be a world leader in 21st century tourism.”

For more information on the Thistle Awards, and to see all of the regional and national winners, visit the Thistle Awards website.