Castle named
as venue of year

Alick Hay and Jonathan Findlay, business development partner at Duns Castle, with the two Scottish Event Awards won by Duns Castle - venue of the year, and customer experience of the year.
Alick Hay and Jonathan Findlay, business development partner at Duns Castle, with the two Scottish Event Awards won by Duns Castle - venue of the year, and customer experience of the year.

Duns Castle has had a fairytale end to an incredible year starting with being rebranded ‘the Gem of the Scottish Borders’.

The 14th century castle shot to international fame when it beat competition from castles across Europe to be chosen as the flagship for HomeAways 2017 campaign to celebrate Disney’s remake of Beauty and the Beast.

A Beauty and the Beast tea party in the dining room of Duns Castle.

A Beauty and the Beast tea party in the dining room of Duns Castle.

That was hailed by VisitScotland as a massive coup, and judges at the Scottish Event Awards weren’t immune to the Disney magic that sparkled at Duns.

Last week, Duns Castle owner Alick Hay was presented with the prizes for venue of the year and customer experience of the year at the awards ceremony in Glasgow.

Judges’ chairman Damian Clarke said: “There were some excellent entries this year, and as the panel went through each of them, we decided to focus on three key themes throughout the judging process.

“We felt that success should be attributed to events that added real value to the local communities they were run in, offer a culturally diverse experience whilst remaining true to Scotland’s rich heritage and offer excellent sustainability by both creating a legacy long after the event and ensuring their processes were environmentally sound.”

Hundreds of thousands of people entered the HomeAway competition to win a stay at Duns Castle as television crews from across the world broadcast live from the castle and grounds, and the competition winners can vouch for the customer experience they had.

Ted Shannon, one of the prize-winners from Massachusetts, said “Without exception our group of 22 family and guests agreed that it was the

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best experience any of us has ever had. The hospitality and attention to detail were unparalleled and truly made our stay a once in a lifetime experience.

“Alick and Aline were by far the most gracious hosts and made us all feel thoroughly welcomed and provided all the comforts of home.”

“It has been quite a roller-coaster of a year,” explained Aline, “with back-to-back events and bookings throughout the summer.

“We are particularly grateful to the team. They have worked so hard in the interests of our guests and without their efforts, winning these awards may not have been possible.

“We are proud of what we have achieved as a small, rural team! Our greatest thanks go of course to all our guests. Thank you for choosing Duns Castle Estate and for the positive reviews you have shared.”

“The HomeAway campaign has certainly helped to put Duns on the map internationally,” added Alick, “and we anticipate the win will drive additional business to the region due to the self-catering nature of the bookings.

“Our visitors find the community very welcoming and use its services enthusiastically.”

Jonathan Findlay, who took on the business development of Duns Castle Estate 14 months ago, believes it is a perfect example of how private estates can contribute to the local and national economy.

“We are particularly grateful to HomeAway for having put their trust in our services and for having given us this incredible opportunity to shine on the international stage,” said Jonathan.

“We also thank our preferred caterers and service providers and indeed members of the local community who have contributed towards helping us to enhance our guest experience and achieve this amazing recognition from Scotland’s events industry.”

This year, in addition to the HomeAway win, when Duns Castle Estate provided hospitality for film crews, international journalists and five prize-winning groups from the US, UK, Italy and Hong Kong, the property has increased its capacity to accommodate up to 49 guests.

And as if that wasn’t enough, it increased weddings and holiday bookings and was one of the launch venues for the 2017 Scottish Borders Heritage Festival, while continuing to play host to local community events such as the Berwickshire Hunter Trials, the Berwickshire County Show and Duns Summer Festival.

Duns Castle Estate can be contacted by email on info@dunscastle.co.uk or phone on 01381 883211.