A string of Courier Country businesses have tasted success in an awards scheme recognising excellence in rural Scotland.
Arbikie Highland Estate, Uan Wool and Arbroath smokie producer Iain R Spink from Angus joined Perthshire’s Enchanted Forest on the top step of the winners’ rostrum at the Scottish Rural Awards gala ceremony held at Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth.
The glittering event was the culmination of a second year of partnership between Scottish Field and the Scottish Countryside Alliance to host the awards, which celebrate the innovation, dedication and enterprise of those living and working in rural Scotland.
Arbikie Highland Estate at Inverkeilor toasted a double after emerging as winners of both the business diversification and artisan drink categories.
Run by brothers John, Iain and David Stirling, Arbikie impressed the judging panel with its strong portfolio of craft spirits, including vodka, chilli vodka, and the blueberry-infused Kirsty’s Gin, named after the company’s master distiller, Kirsty Black.
Kirriemuir-based Uan Wool has secured the top place in the business start-up category.
Owner Julie Hermitage, who launched Uan’s range of natural wool pillows and cushions at the 2015 Royal Highland Show, initially started her business in order to find a solution to her young son’s sleeping troubles due to asthma.
Completing the wins for Angus was Iain R Spink, whose Arbroath smokies topped the artisan food category.
The rural tourism and hospitality accolade was scooped by the Enchanted Forest, the Faskally Wood spectacle which saw visitor numbers up 33% to more than 60,000 in 2015.
Other finalists at the gala event, compered by comedian Fred MacAulay, included Denfind Stone from Monikie, Enterprising Eastern Perthshire, Rannoch Studio, Crieff Hydro and the Gin Bothy at Lintrathen, near Kirriemuir.
More than 200 award nominations were received and judging took place at the end of January to select a winner, runner-up and highly commended in each of the 10 open award categories, encompassing every aspect of rural life, from aquaculture to agriculture, tourism and food and drink.
Toby and Mary Fichtner-Irvine, who have played key roles in developing the Isle of Muck, were jointly presented with the rural hero award, while the lifetime achievement accolade went to chef and businesswoman Shirley Spear of The Three Chimneys in Dunvegan, Skye.