Plans to create a golden eagle visitor centre in Selkirk are set to take flight now the Scottish Government has announced £155,000 funding for the project.
The venture is among the latest recipients of support from the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, with an initiative to improve Galashiels town centre also set to benefit.
The golden eagle centre, one of five schemes awarded a share of £1,045,184 in the latest funding round, will form part of a nature tourism expansion project at the Philiphaugh Estate.
Pledging £154,484 towards the scheme at the estate’s Waterwheel Cafe on Monday, Scottish Government rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said: “The Scottish Government, working with the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, is determined to help the south of Scotland to realise its full economic potential.
“We’re doing that by targeted investments in projects which we believe will act as the catalysts for creating new businesses, providing vital skills and making the region an even more attractive place to visit.
“The Borders has got so much to offer Scotland.
“Some people think that in the past it hasn’t got the full attention it deserves.
“I’m determined that won’t be the case in the future.”
Expansion plans at the Philiphaugh Estate, as well as establishing the golden eagle centre, include extending its cafe, installing a children’s playpark and making more of the estate walks.
They are expected to increase visitor numbers by 10,000 within the first three years, creating four permanent jobs and four seasonal ones.
Estate owner Michael Strang-Steel said: “It is a very exciting project. We will be able to expand the Waterwheel Cafe and create a golden eagle centre, having released the golden eagle in southern Scotland in the last two years.
“The centre will have live cameras to show them in the wild and interpret their life cycle.
“At the same time, we are renovating the salmon visitor centre, where we have live underwater cameras showing the annual migration upriver.
“We intend to have a new display of the history of water power in the Borders and create new walks on the estate, including one from the cafe to the Selkirk Gin Distillery and one to the restored Victorian walled garden, which produces items used in the distillery.
“With those visitor attractions, together with the hydro station on the River Ettrick, we hope to increase the amount of tourists and local visitors to the estate and hope that this will also benefit businesses in the area.”
Energise Galashiels has also been awarded funding towards its efforts to enhance the town centre ahead of the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre opening next year.
The partnership has given the project £72,500 for improvements and marketing projects in the town in a bid to attract more visitors to the area.
Mr Ewing said: “The Great Tapestry is a marvellous thing. I have seen parts of it myself when it was in Holyrood.
“It’s part of the history of the south of Scotland, and I’m delighted that the announcement today will take it a step forward.”
Community Enterprise Support, a pilot project aiming to increase the number of community enterprise ventures in the south of Scotland, was the biggest beneficiary in the latest round of funding, with the partnership awarding £510,000 to the scheme.
Growing Rural Skills was awarded £289,000 to build on the success of a dairy sector pilot in Dumfries and Galloway by expanding the programme into the Borders, and Eyemouth-based social enterprise ReTweed has been given £19,200 to pilot a new business incubator to help women start and grow their own creative businesses.