Hownam hostel plans take a step forward

Bierhope Farm at Hownam.
Bierhope Farm at Hownam.

A new walkers hostel, sure to boast one of the most unusual views around, has been approved by planners.

Once built, the six-bedroom facility in the Cheviot Hills will offer a herd of alpacas as neighbours to those walkers making use of the one of the first new hostels to be built in the region for years.

Plans to convert a dilapidated farm steading at Bierhope Farm, just on the outskirts of Hownam, near Jedburgh, were approved by planners last week.

The farm is better known as a visitor attraction providing alpaca trekking over the nearby countryside, but will now also be able to offer residential accommodation to walkers.

The development will consist of a four bunk rooms, two bathrooms, two shower rooms, a large kitchen and social area, drying room, plus two en suite rooms with their own associated kitchens.

The existing outer walls of the former stable will be retained, and an upper floor and balcony added.

Bierhope Farm owners Alan and Lynne Jobes opened their alpaca trekking businesses, Bierhope Alpacas, in May 2017 and shortly afterwards submitted the application to diversify the farm to offer accomodation too.

However, the plans, put forward by Galashiels-based firm Boydell Architecture last spring, were only approved last week, after Scottish Borders Council sought further information on aspects of the development, including a bat and bird survey and water supply works.

Backing the plans, planning officer Euan Calvert described the development as a “sensible conversion”.

He said: “This is a former agricultural holding in a sparsely populated area characterised by hill glazing and scattered farms.

“This approach is supported and encouraged to preserve the culture and heritage of the area. It will appear as sensitive conversion of an existing building of architectural merit without substantial demolition and rebuilding.”

He added: “I do not identify this tourism use to be incompatible with the existing use.”

Kalewater Community Council also welcomed the idea highlighting that it fits with the infrastructure and culture of the locality and could potentially bring in money to surrounding businesses.

Now that approval has been granted conversion works could begin this year.