The eighth edition of the Highland Business Awards was hailed as even more special than usual as it returned to the Drumossie Hotel some 113 weeks after the last awards in 2019.

Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce which organises the awards in partnership with Highland News & Media, said it truly was special to be able to hold the awards in person.

He continued: “Prior to the pandemic, I would regularly describe our business community as being resilient, innovative and diverse. I’m delighted to report that the resilience, innovation and diversity of Highland business has been demonstrated by every one of our finalists and most certainly the winners.”

Caithness gin-maker Dunnet Bay Distillery was the only finalist to take home two awards, winning both the innovation and environmental sustainability awards.

The firm, which was founded by Martin and Claire Murray, was also shortlisted in the employer of the year category, but was pipped to the title by PR agency Muckle Media.

MacGregor’s Bar won the resilience award for initiatives including its daily Live at Five internet broadcasts which have earned the Inverness bar a worldwide following, boosting its profile and merchandise sales. More recently, the bar has opened a daytime café and has expanded into Golspie.

Jo De Sylva, who runs the business with her husband Bruce MacGregor, said: “It has been an incredibly difficult almost two years, but what we have all learnt is that when we all work together, the Highlands is one of the most amazing places to be in terms of business.”

Near neighbour the Ironworks claimed the digital transformation award, pivoting to help north creative industries support network XpoNorth deliver online content after it was forced to shut as a live venue.

The workforce upskilling award was won by family owned Inverness communications company HighNet/BrawBand, while the employee wellbeing title went to Moray construction firm Springfield Properties. D&E Coaches apprentice Scott Campbell was named top young employee.

The final trophy, the local hero award, went to Craig Ewan, operations director of the Kingsmills Hotel Group, recognising not only his leadership over the crisis, but his raising thousands of pounds for Maggie’s Highlands by cycling the NC500.

“It is a great honour to receive this,” Mr Ewan said.

“Over the last 18 months it has been really challenging in all of our businesses. One thing that has really stood out for me over that period of time is that the people we work with and play with really showed their true colours. Thank you to everyone who has been behind me and packing my parachute.”

The 2021 Highland Business Awards winners

Innovation Award sponsored by
Highlands and Islands Enterprise:
Dunnet Bay Distillery

Resilience Award sponsored by
Caithness Chamber of Commerce:
MacGregor’s Bar

Environmental Sustainability sponsored by SSE Renewables:
Dunnet Bay Distillery

Digital Transformation sponsored by Business Gateway’s DigitalBoost:
Ironworks Venue

Employee Wellbeing sponsored by
Lochaber Chamber of Commerce:
Springfield Properties

Workforce Upskilling sponsored by
Highland Council:
HighNet and BrawBand

Employer of the Year sponsored by
DYW (Developing the Young Workforce) Inverness & Central Highland and DYW North Highland:
Muckle Media

Young Employee of the Year sponsored by Virtual Learning Academy:
Scott Campbell, D&E Coaches

Best Local Hero sponsored by Brodies LLP:
Craig Ewan, Kingsmills Hotel Group