COUNTY businesses are officially among the very best of the tourism and events industry after scooping four awards.

Drift cafe, east of North Berwick; Fringe by the Sea music festival; East Lothian Cottages, near Morham; and Foxlake Adventures, between West Barns and East Linton, all took home prizes at the Central and East Thistle Awards at the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh last Thursday.

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

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

Drift was named the winner of the Best Eating Experience award.

The eatery, which offers great views of the East Lothian coast and the Bass Rock, prides itself on providing fresh seasonal Scottish produce, including from the owners’ farm.

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

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

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

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

East Lothian Cottages, based near Morham, south east of Haddington, received the inaugural Climate Action Award.

This award recognises businesses that have made demonstrable progress on their journey to net zero.

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

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

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

The not-for-profit multi-arts festival, founded in 2008, takes place in the heart of North Berwick and attracts about 55,000 people to 250 events over 10 days in August.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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