Best Places to Stay in Scotland, and Award Winning Restaurants

2021 Catering Scotland (CIS) Award Winners – Best Places to Stay and Eat in Scotland (*affiliate links)

‘Tiny hotel in middle of the Atlantic’ fights off big fish in Scotland’s top hospitality awards   

Best places to stay in Scotland

Best Places to Stay in Scotland – Coll Hotel

Best Places to Stay in Scotland – Winners of the Independent Hotel Category

A small hotel ‘in the middle of the Atlantic’ has beaten some of Scotland’s top establishments to become one of the big winners of the country’s premier hospitality awards. The 10-bedroom Coll Hotel on the eponymous island, a three-hour ferry trip from Oban, was named joint winner in the Independent Hotel category in the Catering Scotland (CIS) Awards alongside the five-star Glenapp Castle in South Ayrshire. 

The runners up were Scots2Travel favourite Douneside House, Aberdeenshire (read a full review here) and the Crinan Hotel, Argyll.

“We are absolutely over the moon,” said Coll Hotel owner Julie Oliphant who runs the hotel at Arinagour with her daughter Laura and husband Kevin. “It’s an amazing honour for a relatively tiny hotel in the middle of nowhere.”

Three years ago, the Oliphant family doubled the hotel’s number of bedrooms and added an extension which includes a new restaurant, kitchen and bar. Almost all the seafood is caught off the island or Mull. 

best places to stay in scotland

The Coll Hotel’s chef, Graham Griffiths

Glenapp Castle, where rooms can cost more than £500 a night, won the category title outright in 2019. Transformed from a Victorian ruin by the Stranraer-based McMillan family, the 21-bedroom hotel at Ballantrae overlooks Ailsa Craig, Arran and the Mull of Kintyre, and is owned by London financier Paul Szkiler and his wife Poppy.

Best Places to Stay in Scotland – Group Hotel of the Year Winner

Glasgow Radisson Red General Manager Graeme Chalmers with Alex Buchanan of the CIS Awards and Michael Payne of category sponsor Instock

The Group Hotel of the Year Award was also shared this year between the Radisson Red next to Glasgow’s Hydro and SEC venues, and Fairmont St Andrews (read a review here). Runner-up was another luxury hotel, the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa bordering the 17th hole of one of the world’s most famous golf courses in St Andrews.

best places to stay in scotland

Graeme Chalmers in shock!

The Coronavirus crisis meant that for the 2020 awards entrants were judged on performance before or soon after the onset of the crisis, and how they coped during it. The pandemic also prevented an in-person ceremony so organisers and sponsors formulated an alternative plan to travel all over Scotland to present awards as part of a series of elaborate surprise appearances.

Graham Chalmers, Curator (General Manager) of the 174-bed Radisson Red which opened in April 2018 was attending a meeting with a business associate (who was aware of the surprise) when CIS organiser Alex Buchanan and Michael Payne of category sponsor Instock Group walked in with the trophy.

“One of the best shocks I’ve ever had!” Chalmers said. “It’s a much appreciated tribute to the hard work put in by the team and wonderful encouragement at a time when the industry is in recovery mode and looking forward to a brighter future.”

Chair of the CIS Advisory Board, Andrea Nicholas, commented: “The shared awards show not only how difficult it was to pick a winner from a high class field but also what a magnificent wide range of top class hospitality we have in Scotland.”

Where to Eat in Scotland – Foodie Awards

Chef of the Year was awarded to Stuart Ralston who runs Edinburgh restaurants Aizle at the Kimpton in Charlotte Square, and Noto on Thistle Street. Noto was also awarded Best Restaurant Newcomer. 

Young Chef of the Year went to Fraser Cameron, sous chef at The Globe Inn in Dumfries, a popular haunt of the poet Robert Burns who wrote verses on its window panes using a diamond stylus.

Chef of Year Stuart Ralston with Tom Maguire of award sponsor BaxterStorey

In a successful year for Dumfries and Galloway, the Stranraer Oyster Festival was awarded the Food Tourism Award, despite having been cancelled in 2020 and 2021. When last held in 2019 it attracted a crowd of 17,000 and raised more than £1.5m for the local economy. 

The Restaurant of the Year title went to Number One at The Balmoral in the capital, and the Lifetime Excellence Award was presented to Willie Pike MBE, founder of the annual Scottish Chefs’ Conference which he set up in 2006, the year he won CIS Chef of the Year.

Congratulations to all the winners, and we hope this gives readers ideas and inspiration for places to stay, dine and enjoy Scotland.

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