AN “inspirational” Inverness businesswoman who runs a Loch Ness boat cruise company has scooped the top award at the Scottish tourism Oscars.

Freda Newton MBE, who owns and manages Loch Ness by Jacobite, was rewarded for her role in tourism with the prestigious Caledonian MacBrayne Silver Thistle Award, which was presented by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

She was praised for her “pivotal role in their region’s tourism industry” including her work as an ambassador for Scotland on international business trips and was described as “an inspirational role model to women” and “mentor to young entrepreneurs”.

Newton’s award was one of 13 handed out at the Scottish Thistle Awards national final, held during Scottish Tourism Week, at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre hosted by TV presenter and Deacon Blue drummer, Dougie Vipond, and presenter and former Miss Scotland, Jennifer Reoch.

Michelin-starred Kinloch Lodge Hotel and Restaurant on Skye, owned by Lady Claire Macdonald with her husband, Lord Godfrey, chief of the Clan Donald, was named Most Hospitable Hotel at the event.

Comrie Croft near Crieff won the Scotland CAN DO Award for Innovation In Tourism, CalMac ferries picked up Edinburgh Airport Working Together For Tourism, while Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, produced by Unique Events, took home Caledonian MacBrayne Best Cultural Event.