Founder of Ayrshire hospitality group takes top trophy at 2022 SLTN Awards

Industry Achievement Award winner Malcolm Simpson, SimpsInns

The co-founder of one of Scotland’s leading independent hotel and restaurant businesses took the top accolade at the 26th SLTN Awards in Glasgow.

Malcolm Simpson founded SimpsInns with wife Karen more than 20 years ago after a stint working for hospitality group Whitbread. Expansion and reinvestment became hallmarks of the business as the company grew from a single site operator to include The Old Loans Inn near Troon, The Waterside Hotel in West Kilbride, Si! Bar Restaurant in Irvine and The Gailes Hotel & Spa near Irvine. At every stage of the journey the Simpsons have worked to raise standards, continually updating and improving their estate.

This approach was truly tested during the pandemic, but the family pressed ahead with the construction of a £2 million luxury spa at The Gailes, as well as stunning refurbishments of the hotel’s bar, restaurant and function suite.

As the business has grown so too has the family’s involvement; sons Lee and Jack are now both key players in the company.

Meanwhile, Malcolm has championed the local area through involvement in a number of tourism initiatives.

Passion for both Ayrshire and hospitality has underpinned everything Malcolm has achieved in the past two decades – along with grit, determination and sheer hard work.

An audience of 650 gathered at the Glasgow Hilton for the 26th SLTN Awards, where coveted corkscrew trophies were presented to pubs, restaurants, staff and operators from across Scotland.

The event, hosted by top comedian Jason Manford, was organised by leading trade publication, the Scottish Licensed Trade News (SLTN).

Winners hailed from across the country, from Aberdeen to Aberfeldy, Coll to Kirkcudbright.

Malcolm Simpson wasn’t the only individual honoured on the night.

David Whiteford, chair of Highland Coast Hotels, was named Entrepreneur of the Year; Ryan Way of Orchid in Aberdeen won Barperson of the Year; Sasha Carlyle of Hugo’s in Moffat took the title of Licensee of the Year; Liam Grogan of Glasgow bar The Absent Ear was named Mixologist of the Year; and Gavin Price of the Schiehallion Hotel and The Fountain Bar in Aberfeldy took the Hospitality Hero Award for his efforts to look after vulnerable people during the pandemic as well as an initiative to help people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Other winners included Hey Palu in Edinburgh, which was named Cocktail Bar of the Year; The Meadow Inn in Crieff, winner of Independent Pub/Bar of the Year; The Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha, which took the title of Gastropub of the Year; and Unalome by Graeme Cheevers in Glasgow, which won Restaurant of the Year (Fine Dining).

SLTN editor Gordon Davidson said: “The SLTN Awards is an opportunity to highlight the very best of Scottish hospitality – the entrepreneurialism, resiliency and passion that makes this business so special.

“And as hospitality continues to contend with a raft of challenges, it has never been more important to celebrate the industry’s best and brightest.

“All our winners and finalists deserve huge congratulations. The standard of venues in Scotland has never been higher and that’s a testament to the incredible staff and operators that make this industry what it is.”

SLTN Awards 2022 full winners list available on our website: click here


SLTN Awards 2022

Winners and highly commended finalists

Whisky Bar of the Year, in association with Glenfiddich Grand Series

W: The George Hotel, Inveraray
HC: Seumas’ Bar at The Sligachan Hotel, Isle of Skye
HC: The Ensign Ewart, Edinburgh

Cocktail Bar of the Year, in association with Bacardi-Martini Ltd

W: Hey Palu, Edinburgh
HC: The Absent Ear, Glasgow
HC: The Adamson, St Andrews

Beer Quality Award, in association with Tennent’s

W: Winstons, Corstorphine
HC: The Stag, Forfar
HC: Malones, Edinburgh

Best Venue to Watch the Match, in association with Sky

W: The Record Factory, Glasgow
HC: The Ball Room Sports Bar, Meadowbank
HC: Fullbacks, Milngavie

Best Outdoor Area, in association with Magners

W: Rose Street Garden, Edinburgh
HC: The George Hotel, Inveraray
HC: The Fox & Willow, Ayr

Gin Bar of the Year, in association with Schweppes

W: Masonic Arms, Kirkcudbright
HC: The Old Ship Inn, Perth
HC: Radisson RED, Glasgow

Barperson of the Year, in association with Smokehead

W: Ryan Way, Orchid, Aberdeen
HC: Gregor Grant, Bridge Inn, Peebles
HC: Cameron Woodger, Ninety-Nine Bar & Kitchen, Aberdeen

Licensee of the Year, in association with Kopparberg

W: Sasha Carlyle, Hugo’s, Moffat
HC: Steve Latto, The Criterion, St Andrews
HC: Ian Gibson, Platform 3, Linlithgow

Mixologist of the Year, in association with Absolut and Barnomadics

W: Liam Grogan, The Absent Ear, Glasgow
HC: Josh Ramsay, East Finch, Edinburgh
HC: Liam Scott, The Ubiquitous Chip, Glasgow

Family Outlet of the Year, in association with Vimto Out Of Home

W: Clayton Caravan Park, St Andrews
HC: The Bird & Bell at The Redhurst, Giffnock
HC: Carrigan’s Eating House, East Kilbride

Restaurant of the Year, in association with Bibendum

Casual Dining
W: Coll Hotel, Isle of Coll
HC: Stravaigin, Glasgow

Fine Dining
W: Unalome by Graeme Cheevers, Glasgow
HC: Brian Maule at Chardon d’Or, Glasgow

Gastropub of the Year, in association with Distell

W: The Oak Tree Inn, Balmaha
HC: Hamilton’s Bar & Kitchen, Edinburgh
HC: Bag O’Nails, Glasgow

Craft Beer Bar of the Year, in association with Molson Coors

W: The Bow Bar, Edinburgh
HC: Shilling Brewing Company, Glasgow
HC: MacGregor’s, Inverness

New Business of the Year, in association with The London Essence Co

W: The Boar’s Head, Auchtermuchty
HC: Volunteer Arms, Uphall
HC: Hotel 1881, Archiestown

Best Use of Technology, in association with Hungrrr

W: The Barrelman, Dundee
HC: The Ivy Lodge, Aberdeen
HC: Radisson RED, Glasgow

Music-led Venue of the Year, in association with X by Glenmorangie

W: Saint Luke’s & The Winged Ox, Glasgow
HC: The Twa Tams, Perth
HC: BLOC+, Glasgow

Independent Pub/Bar of the Year, in association with Brown-Forman

W: The Meadow Inn, Crieff
HC: Bag O’Nails, Glasgow
HC: Macgochans, Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Best Late Night Venue, in association with Tia Maria

W: Radisson RED, Glasgow
HC: The Record Factory, Glasgow
HC: BLOC+, Glasgow

Hospitality Hero Award, in association with PayFacto

W: Gavin Price, Schiehallion Hotel and The Fountain Bar, Aberfeldy

Independent Multiple Operator of the Year, in association with Diageo

W (8+ outlets): The McGinty’s Group
W (4-7 outlets): Stack & Still

Entrepreneur of the Year, in association with Chivas Regal

David Whiteford, Highland Coast Hotels

Industry Achievement Award, in association with Edrington UK

Malcolm Simpson, SimpsInns