A steam train experience operating on the Borders Railway last month has reported a second successful year, bringing more than 1,200 visitors to the region and providing a major boost for local businesses and visitor attractions.
The Scottish Railway Preservation Society’s Railtours (SRPS) steam special ran four trips from the Fife Coast to the Borders every Sunday in August.
The Black Five steam locomotive travelled along the Borders Railway, stopping at Galashiels and Tweedbank, with passengers given the opportunity to travel onto Abbotsford House for lunch and a tour, or onto Seasons in Gattonside for lunch.
The successful rail tour came as the railway celebrated its third birthday this month.
As part of the Borders Railway Blueprint Partnership, VisitScotland says it is seeking to maximise benefits from the rail route which re-opened in September 2015.
VisitScotland regional leadership director Paula Ward said: “We are delighted that the steam train excursions have proved another success and attracted more than 1,200 visitors to the Borders in August, and benefiting local businesses directly.
“A dedicated social media campaign reached more than 600,000 people, helping to once again shine the spotlight on the region to the rest of the world.
“Scotland is about building bridges, connecting places and bringing people together. Tourism is at the heart of this and VisitScotland plays a role by championing collaboration, spearheading digital innovation, promoting local areas and events and ensuring that tourism is recognised for the ripple effect of success, well-being and prosperity it brings to all sections of society.”
Councillor Mark Rowley, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for Business and Economic Development, said: “The steam train experience has brought almost 3,000 people to the Borders in the last two summers, which is a fantastic boost to the area and would not have happened without the opening of the Borders Railway three years ago.
“It is great to hear a number of passengers returned this year, showing how much they enjoyed the steam train experience and the local attractions and restaurants we have to offer in the Borders.
“We look forward to welcoming steam trains back to the region in 2019 and to many visitors using the Borders Railway to visit year-round.”
Roger McKie, owner of Seasons restaurant in Gattonside, offered lunch to passengers from the train.
He said they used the opportunity to showcase local produce and suppliers and welcomed guests from as far afield as the US.
“We put on special menus focusing on local suppliers from within the Scottish Borders for our steam train diners.
“The steam train excursions were an opportunity to highlight the outstanding natural larder on offer in the region and it was very well received.
“We had a few diners from the US, but most of the guests were from elsewhere in Scotland and were travelling to celebrate a special occasion or a birthday.
“What we have found from taking part last year was that many guests have returned to dine in our restaurant after taking part in the steam train excursion.”
For more information on the Borders Railway, and its steam packages, visit www.bordersrailway.co.uk