The cream of the region's tourism industry was honoured last night at the second North East England Tourism Awards.
Organised by One NorthEast, the ceremony recognises leading individuals, businesses and visitor attractions which have contributed to the region's thriving tourism industry.
Last night, those shortlisted in 16 categories - ranging from the year's best large hotel to the top tourist information centre - gathered at Newcastle's Civic Centre to hear the results.
Among the winners were Langley Castle, in Langley, Northumberland which picked up the award for small hotel of the year.
Alnwick Castle won large visitor attraction and for the second year in a row The Keelman in Newburn, Newcastle, won best visitor pub.
The award for tourism website of the year went to the Centre for Life in Newcastle for its site www.life.org.uk and the Discovery Museum in Newcastle won the category for best family experience.
Winners in the first 12 categories will represent the region in the national Enjoy England Awards for Excellence, to be held in London in 2007, where last year the North- East won two gold and three silver awards.
John Holmes, One NorthEast director of regeneration and tourism, said: "I congratulate all of our winners and wish them the best of luck in the national finals.
"The competition for the 2006 North East England tourism awards has been of the highest standard and the judges have had a very difficult task on their hands. All of our winners should be proud of themselves.
"The North East England tourism awards celebrate what is best about tourism in our region and this year we have had a huge amount to be proud of.
"Our latest research shows it is worth over £3bn to the region and directly employs over 50,000 people.
Tourism is not only a major contributor to our economy but also plays a significant role in enhancing the image of the region."
Some of the business and tourist attractions which just missed out on the top spot this year included De Vere Slaley Hall in Slaley, Northumberland which picked up a silver in the large hotel category; Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend, North Tyneside and Hexham Old Gaol in Hexham, Northumberland, which received silver and bronze respectively in the small visitor attraction of the year.
Haggerston Castle Holiday Park in Beal, Northumberland won silver in the Caravan holiday park of the year category.
The full list of gold award winners - who will go on to represent the region at the national Enjoy England Awards for Excellence in spring next year - are:
Bed and Breakfast of the Year - The Old School Quality B&B, Newton on the Moor, near Alnwick, Northumberland.
Business Tourism of the Year - Teesdale Marketing, Barnard Castle, County Durham, which was formed in 1998 to promote Teesdale and encourage economic prosperity and vitality
Caravan Holiday Park of the Year - Ord House Country Park, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland
Small Hotel of the Year - Langley Castle Hotel, Langley, near Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
Large Hotel of the Year - Malmaison, Newcastle
Outstanding Customer Service Award - Natasha Wilson, Seaham Hall Hotel and Serenity Spa, County Durham.
Self Catering Holiday of the Year - Beacon Hill Farm, Longhorsley, Northumberland
Taste of North East England - Teesdale Farmers Market, Barnard Castle, County Durham
Tourist Information Centre of the Year - Once Brewed Tourist Information Centre, near Bardon Mill, Northumberland.
Tourism Website of the Year - www.life.org.uk , Centre for Life, Newcastle
Small Visitor Attraction of the Year - Raby Castle, Staindrop, County Durham
Large Visitor Attraction of the Year - Alnwick Castle, Alnwick, Northumberland.
Other gold winners last night were:
Newcomer of the Year - Seven Stories, Centre for Children's Books, Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle. Best Family Experience of the Year - Discovery Museum, Newcastle.
Tourism Ambassador - Education Business Connections Ltd, Sunderland.
Visitor Pub of the Year - The Keelman, Newburn, Newcastle.
Page 2: Staff break out the bubbly
Staff break out the bubbly
Winners last night spoke of their joy of getting the recognition they have worked so hard to achieve.
At Langley Castle, staff had already opened their second bottle of champagne before general manager Anton Phillips was able to formally pass on the good news.
Mr Phillips added: "I managed to get a second to ring the staff, but somebody had already sent them a text and they were on their second bottle of champagne.
"We are truly delighted with the award and it is a reward for all the investment that has been put in over the last four or five years.
"In saying that, it can only go so far without the effort and commitment of all the staff and this award is for everyone involved in the day to day work at the castle."
Discovery Museum senior manager Ian Thilthorpe was thrilled to have received recognition for the efforts he and his team have made to create a family atmosphere.
He added: "The Discovery Museum is built around our family audience and it is a venue that has something for everyone. It's a delight to watch families interact - Grandma telling the kids about the heritage, while the kids explain the science to her.
"People realise they are part of the history of this wonderful city and wonderful region, and we have worked really hard to get to that stage."
Raby Castle marketing supervisor Catherine Turnbull added: "This has come as a bit of a surprise, but it is credit for all the hard work that the staff have put ion to develop Raby Castle as a top visitor attraction.
"This has been a very good evening - the food and service have been superb - and overall it has been a very merry night, especially since we knew we had won the award."