Two of Scotland’s most outstanding outdoors attractions have beaten stiff competition from top visitor destinations across the UK to win 2017 BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards.
Abernethy Forest, Strathspey, Highlands has been named Nature Reserve of The Year in the prestigious annual national awards which are now in their sixth year and celebrate the best of the British countryside, from its great heritage attractions and favourite holiday destinations to its most stunning nature reserves and finest rural pubs.
The stunning reserve of ancient Caledonian pines overlooked by the snow-capped Cairngorms was called “unmissable” by Radio 4 presenter, naturalist and author Brett Westwood who nominated it. Readers of BBC Countryfile Magazine clearly agreed, voting it ahead of runner-up the Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumberland.
Abernethy Forest – which boasts mountain, moorland and forest landscapes where a host of wildlife including yellow siskins, crossbills, squirrels and the Loch Garten ospreys can be seen – was described by Brett Westwood as: “A worthy winner. Who wouldn’t be seduced by the sunlight filtering through ancient pines, the promise of capercaillies, crested tits and pine martens, all against the majestic backdrop of the Cairngorms?”
Inverewe Gardens in Wester Ross is Scotland’s second 2017 BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards winner.Taking the title Garden of The Year, the beautiful Inverewe benefits from mild temperatures brought in by the Gulf Stream. In 1892, landowner Osgood MacKenzie’s ambitious plans to create a garden from windswept moorland on a rocky peninsula beside Loch Ewe raised a few eyebrows. His vision was to be paid off spectacularly though as he successfully transformed 49 acres which now bloom with flamboyant plants from around the world.
Described as a ‘sub-tropical paradise overlooking Loch Ewe’ by garden designer and ‘Gardeners’ World’ presenter Joe Swift who nominated it, Inverewe Gardens also captured the imagination of Countryfile Magazine readers whose votes enabled it to pip another sub-tropical beauty, coastal Trebah Garden in Cornwall, to the winning post.
More than 57,000 votes were cast in this year’s awards which featured 12 categories and nominees from all over the UK selected by some of the country’s most respected travel, nature and outdoors writers and broadcasters. In addition to Abernethy Forest and Inverewe Gardens there were eight Scottish nominees – of which five came second in their categories.
Isle of Mull was runner-up for Holiday Destination of the Year, with the Northumberland Coast taking the coveted title for 2017.
Skara Brae, Orkney was runner-up for Heritage Site of the Year, which was won by Durham Cathedral.
Balephuil Bay, Tiree, Argyll & The Isles was runner-up for Beach of the Year, won by Embleton Bay in Northumberland.
The Stein Inn, Waternish, Skye shared the runner-up position with The Earle Arms, Norfolk for Country Pub of The Year, won by Crosskeys Inn, County Antrim.
Orkney-set ‘The Outrun’ by Amy Liptrot was runner-up for Book of the Year, won by ‘Fingers in the Sparkle Jar’ by Chris Packham.
The other Scottish nominees were:Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park for National Park of the Year,Seacliff near North Berwick, East Lothian forBeach of the Year and Bass Rock, Fife image ‘Gannet Glory’ by Ken Lewis as Reader Photo of the Year.