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Tourism campaign raises a glass to eight of the South of Scotland’s food and drink legends

Annandale Distillery Group have been included in a series of eight trailblazing food and drink businesses, with an experience focus, to play a starring role in a new promotional campaign delivered by the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA).

Thanks to support from the Regional Food Fund, the SSDA commissioned leading Scottish food and drink writer Cat Thomson and renowned photographer Phil Wilkinson to profile eight local ‘legends’ offering superb quality food and drink experiences in the South of Scotland.

The quality local food and drink sector is a critically important part of the South of Scotland’s visitor experience, as well as a major employer, with hundreds of exemplary businesses – from restaurants and bars to specialist food producers – cooking up a storm for locals and visitors alike, right across the region.

The £6,000 project [of which £5,000 came from the Regional Food Fund, with £1,000 contributed by the SSDA] showcases eight local food and drink ‘legends’ and trailblazers who each represent different highlights of the region’s food and drink tourism experience, including recent winners of the first ever South of Scotland Thistle Awards.

The businesses, who are now set to star in a dedicated multimedia campaign on SSDA channels, including its Scotland Starts Here website and blog, are:


  • Kitchen Coos and Ewes in the Luce Valley, near Stranraer. Owners Neale and Janet McQuistin host visitors to their 900-acre farm, offering a variety of experiences including Highland Cow safaris. They won Best Outdoor or Adventure Experience at the 2023 South of Scotland Thistle Awards.
  • Allanton Innnear Duns in Berwickshire, an award-winning 18th century coaching inn in the peaceful conservation village of Allanton. The Inn was named Best Eating Experience at the South of Scotland Thistle Awards 2023 in recognition of their work championing excellent local produce.
  • The Ethical Dairy near Gatehouse of Fleet, founded by Silver Thistle Award-winners Wilma and David Finlay. Their farm, Rainton Farm, was the UK’s first commercial dairy to follow the ‘cow with calf’ method. As well as farm tours, the Dairy offers cheese-making courses for people to learn how to make artisan soft and pressed cheeses.
  • Wilson’s Farm and Kitchen near Kelsowhich exemplifies the story of the countryside from field to fork and runs a unique 25-mile BBQ event, with all meat and seafood sourced from within a 25-mile radius.
  • The Globe Inn in Dumfries and Annandale DistilleryAnnan. The Globe Inn was a regular haunt of national bard Robert Burns. The original distillery was established in 1836 and was reborn in 2014, a 5-star visitor experience that includes hourly tours and a cafe.
  • Cocoa Black Chocolate and Pastry School in Peebles, where you can try your hand at making delicious chocolate truffles and patisserie, or sample the wide selection of handmade patisserie and indulgent hot chocolates in the café.
  • Barony Country Foods near Lockerbie, whose Barony Smokehouse uses age-old processes combined with unique methods and recipes to create beautifully smoked fish, game and poultry, which is sold at the connecting artisan farm shop.
  • Traquair House & Brewery near Innerleithen is Scotland’s oldest inhabited house – dating back to 1107, it has been visited by 27 Scottish Kings and Queens. It is home to one of Scotland’s oldest breweries and recognised as a pioneer of micro-brewing. Brewery tours and ale tastings are held regularly.

David Hope Jones, Chief Executive of the SSDA, said: “We’re incredibly lucky in the South of Scotland to have such a fantastic range of superb food and drink businesses, offering unforgettable experiences for visitors and local communities to enjoy. Through this Regional Food Fund-backed project we’ve been able to shine a spotlight on a ‘Magnificent Eight’ of the sector’s trailblazers; offering everything from chocolate-making classes and Highland Coo safaris, to field-to-fork farm tours and the chance to sit on Robert Burns’ chair at his favourite howff. These examples of local excellence are sure to whet people’s appetite, inspiring them to visit and sample the experiences first-hand. We’re very grateful to the Scotland Food and Drink Partnership for making this initiative possible, helping us celebrate the cream of our region’s food and drink experiences.”

The piece written by Cat can be read below.

A Spirited Couple

David Thomson’s family has been linked with Dumfries for generations, but growing up he did not always appreciate his hometown. “When you’re young, you just want to get away,” he admits. He attended Dumfries Academy but did not achieve the best set of results. Luckily, he blossomed at university and achieved a first-class BSc in Food Science from Strathclyde University.

Following a distinguished and varied academic career, which ended up with him lecturing in Sensory and Consumer Science at the University of Reading David founded his company MMR in 1989 with his partner, now his wife, Teresa Church. They first met at Bristol University where she worked in a research laboratory. David explains, “We started the business in the back bedroom of our house in Oxfordshire.” MMR now have offices in Shanghai, Singapore, Bangkok, Mumbai, Durban, Amsterdam, London, Oxford, Nottingham, New York City and State, Colombia, and Sao Paulo.

Although David has not lived permanently in Scotland since 1972, he has always felt a personal and emotional connection to Scotland. He says, “Whenever anyone asked me where home was, I would say Dumfries.”

Despite reopening Annandale Distillery, unbelievably David has not always enjoyed whisky. As a teenager he says, “I thought it was the most repulsive drink I’ve ever had.” But as an expatriate Scot living in England, he felt duty-bound to learn how to appreciate it and has taken a keen interest ever since.

In addition to running his primary business, David secretly harboured an ambition to do something in Scotland with whisky. He explains how that happened. “Teresa gave me a book called Scotch Missed, which lists Scottish distilleries that have closed. Annandale Distillery was one, and despite growing up nearby, I was unaware it existed.” The couple who are based in Oxford decided to step in to save the distillery buildings from redevelopment and re-establish Scotch whisky production in the South of Scotland.

The previous owner had planning permission to convert the buildings into holiday accommodation. David realised that if he didn’t act quickly the buildings would be lost forever. He stresses, “I wouldn’t have done it without Teresa’s encouragement. You can’t go into something and commit yourself in every sense, without it being something we both wanted to do.”

As a teetotaller whisky was not the draw for Teresa, her ambition was to breathe new life into the beautiful sandstone buildings. David says, “She wanted to make the most beautiful distillery in Scotland. How it looks today is testimony to her input. My ambition was to make exceptionally good whisky, I didn’t want it to be second-rate, it had to be up there with the best of the best. I wanted to be sure that our whisky, made in the South of Scotland, was as good as everyone else’s and maybe a bit better. I am a bit of a perfectionist.”

They used their company’s research capabilities to identify specific whisky flavours and sensory profiles for the whisky they wanted to make. Then employed the late Dr Jim Swan to design their new distillery. David describes him as being a genius, “He was one of the first people I called when we bought the distillery. “

David wanted to make both peated and unpeated whiskies with a unique but unifying taste. The distillery reopened in 2014, swiftly followed by their award-winning visitor centre in 2015 with their first whisky bottling happening in 2018.

Taking on a distillery project from scratch is not for the fainthearted: the project cost around £20 million. David admits, “It pushed us. We were at the limit of what funds we could raise, but we are very glad we did it.” Annandale Distillery makes Man O’Sword, a whisky which is named after King Robert the Bruce, Man O’Words, named after Robert Burns, and STORYMAN which was created to reflect the character of actor, James Cosmo.

Whisky lovers visiting the distillery can book a tour or a tasting. They can also visit the Maltings café where you can soak up the atmosphere. David says, “People from around here can enjoy the place and value it, which is good motivation for doing anything. We also get tourists and the whisky hardcore, who are always good fun.”


Teresa gave The Globe a stylish makeover sympathetically renovating the pub and turning it into a fine dining restaurant, keeping intact the important Burns heritage. David explains their philosophy is, “To make every project we undertake commercially viable, so it has a future outside our finances and our lifetime.”

They have acquired a building opposite The Globe Inn, which they hope will become the focus of a new Burns quarter in Dumfries. To do this they are working collaboratively with Robert Burns House, the Mausoleum, where the bard is buried, Theatre Royal, where Burns wrote several pieces for the stage, Ellisland Farm and The Robert Burns Centre to maximise Burns tourism. David says, “I think we can bring more tourism and money and jobs for people into the area and breathe some real life into the centre of Dumfries.

In Dumfries and Nithsdale, you’ll find a wealth of connections to Scotland’s national poet, while living in the area, Robert Burns wrote over 130 poems and songs, including Tam O’Shanter and Auld Lang Syne. David suggests, “Come to the area, sit down, and visit the Burns rooms, where it feels to me like you are in the presence of the great man.”

David also adds, “Having travelled the world all through my career going to busy places it is nice to be able to come back to the quiet of the South of Scotland. It is a lovely part of the world, a place of great natural beauty with the seaside, hills, and nature all around. We want more people to come and enjoy the peace and quiet.”



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