An £11.3m investment in new log cabins and cycle trails at Glentress Forest, near Peebles, is expected to generate £1m a year for the Borders economy and create 60 jobs.
The project, a joint effort by Forest Enterprise Scotland and Forest Holidays, would see 56 secluded woodland cabins built and a new walking route laid out, as well as providing new trails for mountain bike enthusiasts.
Two pre-planning applications for the cabins and bike trails are to be submitted to Scottish Borders Council and will be subject to further consultation on top of that already carried out as part of the Glentress masterplan.
Scottish Government rural economy and connectivity secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This is a significant and very welcome investment which could deliver a positive step change in establishing the Glentress and the Tweed Valley as a top visitor attraction.
“The investment by Forest Holidays is a huge vote of confidence in the area.
“A development such as this would be a major tourism boost, bringing substantial benefits to the local economy.”
Forest Holidays already runs two cabin sites in scotland, at Strathyre, near Stirling, and Ardgartan in Argyll and Bute, in partnership with Forest Enterprise, along with seven in England.
Bruce McKendrick, chief executive of Forest Holidays, said: “We are extremely proud of our unique partnership with Forest Enterprise Scotland.
“Our existing locations bring many benefits for the environment, for local communities, for cabin guests and day visitors alike, and we hope to realise these at Glentress.
“The Tweed Valley is an absolutely stunning region enjoyed by many, and we are incredibly excited to support the wider masterplan and all it has to offer.
“Our cabin locations are planned with great care and sensitivity.
“We work closely in partnership with local businesses and community groups, and we very much look forward to building relationships with local people both during the next steps of consultation and in the longer term.”
Hugh McKay, recreation and tourism manager for Forest Enterprise Scotland, added: “We’ve worked very hard over the past two years in consulting stakeholders on these progressive plans, and we’re thrilled to see it all taking another step forward.
“As part of the planning process, we’ll be working with Forest Holidays to gather more views and explain the proposals in finer detail over the coming months.
“It is a very exciting time for Glentress and the Tweed Valley.”
If approved, a new mountain bike skills area will be built, along with several new biking taster trails for cyclists of varying levels of ability, around the Glentress Peel development at Castle Hill.
They would replace the existing skills and free-ride areas at Buzzard’s Nest as they would make way for the planned cabin development.
Forest Holidays plans to put up private-sector investment of £10m for the project, with the remaining £1.3m coming from Forest Enterprise Scotland.
Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for business and economic development, welcomed today’s announcement, saying: “I am delighted that Forest Enterprise Scotland and Forest Holidays have made this significant commitment to the Scottish Borders, which will be a major boost to our tourism industry and wider economy, especially in Tweeddale.
“It is a vote of confidence from yet another high-quality tourism operator that the Scottish Borders is a great place for people to visit and for them to invest.
“The developments planned will further strengthen the case that this area is Scotland’s leading cycling destination, and Tweeddale is at the heart of the world class off-road element in particular.
“The council worked closely with Forest Enterprise Scotland on the development of the award-winning Glentress Masterplan, and it is exciting to see that work now bearing fruit.
“This goes to show what can be achieved by such partnership-working, especially when there are such significant opportunities for delivering widespread economic benefits.”
Paula Ward, VisitScotland’s regional director for the Borders, added: “Glentress and the Tweedvalley area is already one of the busiest visitor attraction sites in Scotland, welcoming over 330,000 visitors a year.
“We have breathtaking scenery, exceptional hospitality on offer in Peebles, Innerleithen and the surrounding towns and it is easily accessible from many destinations both north and south of the border.
“The addition of the 56 eco-cabins located in the heart of Glentress will only cement our reputation as a brilliant outdoor destination for a holiday or short break.
“Tourism is more than a holiday experience. It creates jobs and sustains communities in every corner of Scotland all year round and is at the heart of the Scottish economy, and I am positive that this investment will generate a significant economic boost for the region and create brilliant memories for those who come and stay.”