THE best tourism businesses in the Borders are in the running for top honours.

A total of nine leading companies from across the region have been revealed as regional finalists for this year's coveted Scottish Thistle Awards.

The VisitScotland awards aim to shine a spotlight on individuals and businesses going above and beyond to leave a lasting impression.

The shortlisted entries range from a luxury self-catering accommodation within a 16th-century Scottish castle to the first Micropub in the country.

Rebecca Brooks, Chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards industry panel, told us: “Once again, the Scottish Thistle Awards, have attracted entries from right across the country, with the regional winners earning their place at the prestigious national final in March, where they will join the country’s tourism elite to be honoured with the highest accolade in the Scottish hospitality and tourism sector.

“On behalf of the panel, I would like to congratulate all shortlisted entrants and wish each and every one of them the very best of luck at the regional finals.”

Among the local businesses that are up for honours is the Thirlestane Castle Trust in Lauder for Best Self-Catering Accommodation Experience.

Kingsmuir House in Peebles is also short-listed for Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House.

Provender in Melrose is also a finalist for Best Restaurant Experience, while Rutherfords Micropub in Kelso is in the running for regional Best Bar/Pub.

VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director Paula Ward added: “I am delighted to see such a strong representation from the Scottish Borders in the Scottish Thistle Awards Regional Final.

"These entries show the strength and depth of the tourism industry in the region, from unique outdoor experiences, luxury accommodation and high-quality food and drink to those individuals and organisations going the extra mile to put the region on the map.

"Those individuals and businesses should feel very proud to have reached the regional finals and I wish them the very best of luck.”

Other local shortlisted entries include Beirhope Alpacas near Kelso and Wild Tree Adventures in Melrose - both in the Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience.

Ride Scottish Borders in Galashiels and Visit Berwickshire Coast in Eyemouth are also regional finalists for Working Together for Tourism.

And another finalist is Johnstons of Elgin in Hawick for both Best Heritage Tourism Experience and Best Informal Eating Experience.

The Lothian & Borders Regional Awards ceremony take place at Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh on Thursday, November 14.