£20m Tweed trail project aiming to put Borders on track for tourism boost

A £20m initiative is being put together in a bid to help the Borders’ tourism industry bounce back from the blow it is expected to suffer this summer because of the current coronavirus outbreak.

Thursday, 26th March 2020, 9:39 am
The River Tweed at Leaderfoot Viaduct, near Melrose. Photo: Jim Gibson

The Destination Tweed project devised by a partnership led by the Tweed Forum and Scottish Borders Council is aimed at attracting hundreds of thousands of extra visitors to the region in years to come.

The initiative is expected to cost £20m, and £11m of that has already been pledged as part of the UK and Scottish governments’ Borderlands inclusive growth deal.

Further funding of £299,000 has been secured from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the council itself is set to contribute £174,500 to the kitty.

An aerial view of the River Tweed with the Eildon Hills in the background. Photo: Jim Gibson

That funding was due to be approved by the council’s executive last week but, now that the local authority’s meetings are being cancelled until the end of September, it is expected to be given the thumbs-up under emergency powers shortly instead.

Central to the project is the creation of a 100-mile shared-use trail for walkers and cyclists from the source of the Tweed near Moffat in Dumfries and Galloway to Berwick in Northumberland via the Borders.

Forum director Luke Comins said: “The Destination Tweed project is set to be hugely important for the area, both in terms of developing new economic opportunities to replace those currently in decline through the creation of a world-class long-distance route but also in terms of education, culture, environmental protection and conservation.”

A report to last week’s abandoned meeting by council executive director Rob Dickson adds: “Whilst the Tweed has an incredible array of natural, built and cultural heritage concentrated in and around its banks, it is little known at a national level.

Neidpath Castle guarding the River Tweed near Peebles. Photo: Jim Gibson

“The rural economy is increasingly fragile, with traditional industries such as textiles, farming and fishing being in decline.

“Tourism can be core to the region’s future and has huge potential. This project will showcase the extraordinary assets and experiences on offer.

“This is a large-scale strategic project that is aiming to join up an ambitious range of assets, facilities, businesses and activities.

“It has the potential to raise the visitor profile of the area nationally and internationally.

“A shared-use trail will connect Moffat to Berwick and beyond, providing a focal point for a wide range of conservation and enhancement projects throughout.

“This cross-border approach helps to support the strategic nature of the project and make it relevant in a Borderlands context.

“Each year, an estimated 375,000 visitors will enjoy the 100-mile route, underpinned by an innovative interpretive experience.”