A £1m investment in developing a new tourist attraction in the Borders set to help secure more than £10.7m in private-sector funding and draw thousands of extra visitors to the region has been welcomed.
That funding, being given to Forest Enterprise Scotland by the Scottish Government, will help pay for plans for 10 miles of new mountain biking trails, multi-use paths and other infrastructure improvements as part of a wider 56 cabin development at Glentress Forest, near Peebles.
The £11.75m project is being managed by Forest Enterprise Scotland and Forest Holidays, the latter supplying private-sector investment of £10.75m altogether.
The initiative is expected to generate an extra £1m a year for the region’s economy, create jobs for up to 60 people and boost the forest’s visitor numbers from 300,000 to 330,000 by 2022.
Scottish Government First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the £1m handout – made up of an extra £300,000 on top of £700,000 previously agreed – for the project ahead of the Scottish Tourism Alliance’s annual conference in Edinburgh, saying: “Tourism is one of our most important industries, showcasing Scotland as a great place to live, work, study and invest in, so I’m delighted this support will draw thousands of new visitors to the south of Scotland.
“This project highlights the potential of private and public sectors working together.
“This fantastic new forest attraction will increase tourism and potential for overnight stays, create new jobs and boost the local economy.
“Our investment builds on the range of support we’re providing through the rural tourism infrastructure fund, Scotland is Now campaign and the work we will undertake over the coming year to encourage fair work practices and promote tourism as a career of choice.”
Sallie Bailey, regional manager for Forest Enterprise Scotland, said: “This is great news for the Tweed Valley and the Borders as a whole.
“Work is now in progress to take forward these exciting new developments at Glentress, and in the next two years we will see a real step change in what we offer visitors to the area.
“We are thrilled at the prospect of raising the game of forest tourism in the Borders.”
Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame has welcomed the extra cash too, saying: “I’ve met the team at Forest Enterprise Scotland before and they have a great vision for what they want from Glentress.
“I’m delighted they’ve been successful in securing this funding as this project has the potential to attract many more visitors to the Borders and provide a significant economic boost to the area.
“Tourism is a vital and growing industry in the Borders, with mountain biking in particular expanding rapidly, and this investment by the Scottish Government represents its commitment to supporting that.”
“I look forward to seeing this project develop over the coming years.”
Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for business and economic development, said: “The Glentress masterplan was developed by the council in conjunction with Forest Enterprise Scotland and set out a range of options for sustainable development within the forest.
“This exciting development will capitalise on the fantastic opportunities in Glentress and provide an enhanced visitor experience.
“The Scottish Borders is one of the best cycling destinations in the country, and this will cement that reputation and encourage more visitors to enjoy the area, bringing benefits to many businesses in Tweeddale and the wider Borders.”
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, added: “This is great news for the south of Scotland, an area where there is huge potential for tourism, and the partnership project is an excellent example of public and private sectors working together to strengthen Scotland’s position as a global tourism destination.”