News

Exciting step forward for Traquair path network

Catherine Maxwell Stuart with a map showing plans for the footpath network

 

Locals and visitors alike will soon be able to explore woodland around Traquair using a network of off-road paths following the Forestry Commission’s recent approval of a Woodland in and around Towns (WIAT) plan for major access improvements over the next two years. The plan will receive core funding of around £200,000.

WIAT’s work seeks to improve access for local communities to enjoy their woodlands, and promote education and understanding of nature, health & well-being and the economic benefits of woodlands.  

Following a community consultation exercise held in November 2016 by the Traquair House Charitable Trust, there was enthusiastic support from the general public who came to hear about plans for an off-road footpath to Traquair House, and a path network around the Traquair woodlands. Much of the support centred on creating a path network that would take people off the busy public road (particularly children and dog walkers), and the development of a multi-use, off-road link to Traquair.

Over the past 18 months, the management plan has been developed taking the many comments on board to produce an exciting combination of new access, interpretation and woodland management, all of which was included in the plan submitted to the Forestry Commission. Preparatory work has also taken place over the last year in the woodlands through the approved Forest Design Plan with the felling and thinning of several areas of woodland to ensure that work on the paths can begin immediately.

The path project will include a raised decking pathway linking the pavement from Innerleithen to the mountain bike trails car park; 3,800 metres of good quality footpaths, including links to Traquair village and Traquair House; a high-level link to the Southern Upland Way, with stunning views over the Tweed Valley; plus a range of themed interpretation boards, picnic benches and perch benches that will make more than 30 hectares of woodland accessible to the public. 

Work is planned to start in June and will take about 18 months to complete – with access routes opened as they are completed.

“We are absolutely delighted that the path network is taking shape at last,” commented Traquair’s Catherine Maxwell Stuart. “It has been a long held desire to make Traquair more accessible by foot and particularly for local people to take advantage of the woodlands around Traquair which have previously been difficult to access.”

Further information on developments with the path network will be available at www.traquair.co.uk

 

 

FINDRA launches menswear range

 

Having made its name with a range of high-end clothing for women, Tweed Valley-based adventure clothing brand FINDRA has announced the launch of its debut menswear capsule collection.

Much loved by discerning outdoor enthusiasts across the country, FINDRA was launched in December 2014 as an activewear/lifestyle brand for women, with pieces specifically designed to fit and flatter the female form. Made from New Zealand merino wool and designed in Scotland, the collection was created to encourage wearers to look good, feel good and perform to the best of their ability.

The message clearly resonated, and not just with female customers, with FINDRA bombarded with messages and requests from the male relatives and friends of the company’s original female customer base asking for items, too. The result, ‘Design by Demand’, is a capsule menswear collection comprising the essentials that any outdoor enthusiast needs – all made to the same level of quality and design that FINDRA has become known for.

In a range of colours and fits, specifically designed for male wearers, each piece has been crafted to ensure both comfort and style. These include tops, jerseys and shorts, alongside the existing unisex range of hats and neck warmers, in a sophisticated colour palette. The range is perfect for a huge variety of outdoor adventures, from climbing to cycling, running to hillwalking.

“It was a surprise to receive so many requests for menswear after the launch of our womenswear range,” explained FINDRA founder Alex Feechan. “FINDRA had always been designed with the needs of women in mind, so we were intrigued to hear that many men felt that the same problems with the wider sportswear offering applied to menswear too, with shapeless, unstylish garments available that could only be worn whilst exercising.

“Just like women, men don’t always want statement branding, they want classic looks and styles that says something about who they are,” she added. “We want our customers to feel as comfortable in FINDRA having coffee with their friends at the weekend, as they do when they’re running or riding their bikes.”

Further info

When next in the Tweed Valley, visit the FINDRA store on Innerleithen High Street, or find out more here, https://findraclothing.com

 

 

 

ENDS

All the fun of the fayre

 

There will be a host of medieval merriment in the Tweed Valley this weekend (26-27 May) as the celebrated Traquair Medieval Fayre returns to the spectacular grounds of Traquair House, near Innerleithen.

Now in its 15th year, the Medieval Fayre is Scotland’s only authentic event of its kind. And this year looks set to be bigger than ever, from spectacular jousting displays on the grassed avenue to an old walled garden filled with medieval traders, workshops and demonstrations.

Past events have seen re-enactors come from far and wide, and this year is no different with Les Chardons d’Orleans from France on hand to explain life, military tactics and fight techniques from the heart of the Auld Alliance. They will be joined by the Douglas Retinue on the avenue who will be involved in a few feisty skirmishes throughout the day.

Elsewhere, there will be gunning displays, combat demonstrations, archery and falconry displays throughout the day. Youngsters are also well catered for with a sword and helmet making workshop, have-a-go longbow archery, jester shows and storytelling with Mistress Quill. They can also take part in the children’s army and attack the knights!

Meanwhile, for those with a penchant for the grizzlier side of medieval life, the Perth executioner will be on hand to explain his instruments of torture.

Music is always a highlight of the Fayre and this year the event sees wandering minstrels Hautbois with their handcart full of strange and wonderful early instruments; Gaita will entertain in the garden with early music and dance; the Gargoyles will perform medieval songs in the courtyard; while Capella Nova and The Galloway Consort will perform in the chapel on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Finally, delicious food and drink will be on offer from the Garden Café as well as buffalo burgers, spit roast pig, pizzas from the wood-fired oven and home-brewed Traquair Fayre Ale from the estate’s 300 year old brewery.

Further info

Traquair Medieval Fayre, 11am-5pm, 26-27 May, Traquair House, Innerleithen. Tickets available online at https://www.traquair.co.uk/event/traquair-medieval-fayre-2/2018-05-26, and on the gate. Adults £12.00 (£10.00 advance), Child/Concessions £10.00 (£8.00 advance), Family £38.00 (£36.00 advance). Ticket price includes all entertainment and entry to house. Dogs welcome on leads.

Photo: Ian Georgeson Photography

 

Emma Guy to spearhead Tweed Valley Tourism BID

 

A pioneering local mountain biking figure has been appointed to lead an ambitious tourism-based Business Improvement District (BID) project that aims to turn the Tweed Valley into a truly world-class destination for cycling and outdoor activities.

A former professional downhill rider, coach and joint owner of the much-loved Hub in The Forest café, which operated at Glentress for a decade, Emma Guy is well-known in local mountain biking circles and beyond.

“We had an incredibly strong list of candidates for the position, each with a good range of skills, but we felt that Emma was the ideal person to enthuse and inspire tourism businesses to explore the benefits of the BID,” explained Catherine Maxwell Stuart, Chair of the BID steering committee.

Appointed on an initial 18-month contract, Emma took up her post as Project Coordinator for the Tweed Valley Tourism BID in early April. She will now begin the detailed process of speaking with businesses of all shapes and sizes to see how they envisage the area developing as a tourism destination in the years ahead. This feedback will help shape the creation of a comprehensive business plan for the BID.

Once the business plan is finalised, the BID proposal will be put to a vote for all the local businesses who may wish to become part of the project, with a ballot scheduled for autumn 2019. If approved, the scheme will enable Scottish Borders Council to collect a compulsory levy from all the businesses involved, with the funds invested in delivering the agreed plan.

“I’m really excited to be given this opportunity,” commented Emma. “As all those who know me are aware, I’m deeply passionate about the Tweed Valley and its potential to become a genuinely world-class activity destination. Cycling and mountain biking are certainly the catalysts that will bring more visitors here in the future.

“I strongly believe that a tourism BID is the best way to take what’s already on offer in the Tweed Valley to the next level – for the benefit of tourism businesses and visitors alike. I can’t wait to get started.”

With the project very much in its infancy, Emma will be assisted by the Tourism BID steering committee, which consists of local tourism businesses and many of the area’s large hotels. Additional support will come from a variety of people with experience of working on BID projects elsewhere, plus representatives of Scottish Borders Council.

The project follows on from successful work carried out by the Tweed Valley Tourist Consortium over the past decade, and will initially also be supported by them.

“This crucial first phase of the project is very much about listening to tourism businesses to understand where we are today and what their ambitions are for the future development of the Tweed Valley as a tourism destination,” added Emma. “Only once we’ve spoken with as many businesses as possible will we begin to formulate our business plan.”

Tweed Valley-based tourism businesses are invited to attend the official launch of the Tweed Valley Tourism BID at the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles at 11am on 25 April. The launch will include a short presentation by Graeme Ambrose, Chief Executive of Visit Inverness Loch Ness, which became the first tourism BID in Scotland four years ago. The launch will be followed by the AGM of the Tweed Valley Tourist Consortium. 

 

Further step forward for Tweed Valley tourism BID

 

Plans to develop a tourism-based Business Improvement District (BID) project for the Tweed Valley have taken a further step forward with applications for the position of project coordinator now being invited. The post, which is for an initial 18-month period, will be taken up in April, with the successful applicant charged with driving a collaborative effort to bring more tourism-related business to the Tweed Valley.

This appointment follows initial seed-corn funding awarded to the Tweed Valley Tourist Consortium by the Scottish Government and Scottish Borders Council, announced in November last year.

Once the project coordinator is in position, work will begin on contacting all relevant businesses in the area, collecting feedback ahead of creating a comprehensive business plan for the BID. The BID will include businesses in the Tweed Valley area which are directly involved in tourism, as well as those for whom visitors are an important part of their trading activity.

The project coordinator will be aided by the BID steering group, which consists of local tourism businesses and many of the area’s large hotels, with the additional help of people from other BID projects and representatives of Scottish Borders Council. The project follows on from successful work carried out by the Tweed Valley Tourism Consortium over the past decade, and will initially be supported them.

Once the business plan is finalised, the BID proposal will be put to a vote for all the local businesses who may wish to become part of the project, with a ballot scheduled for autumn 2019. If approved, the scheme will enable Scottish Borders Council to collect a compulsory levy from all the businesses involved, to be invested in delivering the agreed plan.

The overall vision of the Tweed Valley tourism BID is to position the area as a world-class cycling and outdoor activity destination, as well as to grow tourism visits and spend in the area through its promotion as a sustainable, year-round destination that capitalises on its unique geography, heritage, natural environment and people.

Originally conceived in Canada during the 1970s, the BID concept has since been taken around the world, with more than 135 in the UK alone. If approved, the Tweed Valley BID will become only the second such tourism-focussed BID in Scotland, following that of Visit Inverness Loch Ness in 2014. 

 

 

Tweed Valley tourism BID gains momentum

Autumn fishing at Yair

 

An exciting initiative to develop a tourism-based Business Improvement District (BID) project for the Tweed Valley has taken a step forward following the Tweed Valley Tourist Consortium’s (TVTC) successful application for initial seed-corn funding.

This grant, provided by the Scottish Government, supports local partners in taking forward development proposals to establish BIDs – a coming together of businesses to work towards improvements that help grow a local community and economy.

Scottish Borders Council has also indicated that it will provide match funding for this development phase of the project.

“This initial funding means that we can now really get started on the project,” commented Catherine Maxwell Stuart from Traquair House, and Chair of the Tweed Valley Tourism BID. “When we applied for funding in the summer, we saw excellent support from local tourism businesses, all of whom recognise this as a means of securing a consistent level of funding to resource a targeted and effective tourism business plan for the Tweed Valley.”

The Tweed Valley has seen a significant growth in tourism over the past 15 years, with the rise of mountain biking and leisure cycling in particular playing a critical role in bringing more visitors to the region.

Neil Dalgleish, Vice Chair of the Tweed Valley BID, added: “It’s an exciting prospect – we have an opportunity to do something bold, innovative and unique here, which could dramatically transform the tourism offer and industry in the Tweed Valley. This project could help take the Tweed Valley to a totally new level of visibility and success.”

If approved, a BID will enable the local authority to collect a compulsory levy which the businesses within the proposed BID area must vote in favour of before the BID can be established. The income raised from the levy can then be matched against other public sector funds to allow for additional investment.

The Tweed Valley Tourism BID Steering Group have been busy planning the development phase, including bringing on board a project manager who will begin work early in 2018. The project manager will work closely with all tourism businesses in the Tweed Valley to develop a fully-fledged business plan, and then generate support for that plan ahead of a final vote on the proposed Tourism BID in 2019.

Catherine added: “The Tweed Valley has a strong brand, but in order to sustain and grow tourism here we need further investment in marketing the area, as well as improving transport links and tourism infrastructure. We have some world class assets to work with, and standing still is not an option. There’s huge potential if we combine our ideas and resources and work together for mutual success.”  

 

Halloween treats for all

 

Visitors with a love of things that go bump in the night will not be short of options this Halloween as three of the Tweed Valley’s top attractions go all spooky. 

As Scotland’s oldest inhabited house, it’s no surprise that Traquair has a few spirits and spooks to reveal. On Friday 27 and Saturday 28 October, there’s a chance to experience this wonderful old house like never before on a ghostly guided tour that tells all about its past inhabitants, and how the family survived supporting the Jacobite cause. Tours take roughly an hour, with a special Halloween supper at Traquair’s 1745 Cottage Restaurant also on offer.

Then, on Sunday 29th October, Traquair will once again open its doors for is ever-popular Halloween Family Fun Day. This year’s event includes magic shows with Quantum Magic, creepy crawly animal handling sessions, the famous Spooky Passage Experience, plus tarot readings, ghost stories in the woods, a witches and wizards workshop, spooky face painting and traditional Halloween games.

Elsewhere, at Bowhill, the Borders country seat of the Buccleuch family, the estate is offering both Halloween ghost walks in its impressive grounds on 27 & 28 October, plus a very special Halloween Zombie Jog on 28 October – a 5k or one mile Halloween-themed run around the estate. Dressing up is most definitely encouraged!

Meanwhile, at majestic Abbotsford (pictured), the home of Sir Walter Scott invites all for a Halloween dinner at its lovely Ochiltrees Restaurant on Sat 28 October. Scott was enthralled by the darker aspects of Scotland’s history – a fascination that will be clear for all to see at this spooky dinner. The dinner includes everything from toffee apples to scary cocktails, with diners of all ages asked to come dressed in their very best Scotty Horror Style. 

FINDRA opens design hub in Innerleithen

Alex in front of the new FINDRA shop in Innerleithen

 

Already a major centre for mountain biking in Scotland, female cyclists have another reason to make a bee-line for Innerleithen following the opening in May of a first ever retail outlet by FINDRA, the women’s cycle and outdoor clothing brand, on the town’s High Street.

Since its inception in 2014, with support from Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Entrepreneurial Spark and Scottish Edge, the Scottish brand has gone from strength to strength. Founder, Alex Feechan, has combined her love of cycling with years of design experience working with a host of leading luxury brands to create a range of clothing that aims to encourage and empower women to look good, feel good and perform to the best of their abilities when out adventuring.

Housed in a lovingly refurbished old building on Innerleithen’s busy High Street, the retail space not only highlights the full range of FINDRA clothing but already also serves as a hub for women’s cycling in the area. With organised rides, talks and presentations to inspire and motivate not only women cyclists but the active community at large, the store aims to be a centre within the community that welcomes everyone.

One such talk, on Thursday 8 June, sees brand ambassador Marion Shoote talk about her bikepacking and other adventures in Tibet and beyond.  

FINDRA celebrated the opening of the new retail space last month with a weekend of activities, including a social ride, plus a run with another brand ambassador, Jenny Tough.

Further info

For much more on FINDRA and the vision of its founder, Alex Feechan, see this recent interview in The Scotsman.

FINDRA Design Hub, 83 High Street, Innerleithen, EH44 6HD, Scottish Borders, www.findra.co.uk

 

Lunch with a twist

Spring at Cringletie House Hotel

 

A monthly lunch club with a difference has been launched at one of Scotland’s top hotels. Held at Cringletie House Hotel near Peebles, the special Cringletie lunch club offers its members the chance to learn something new, while eating eat well and socialising with friends old and new.

Guided by executive chef Willie Pike MBE, the food is original and full of flavour, while the monthly experiences are suitably eclectic, ranging from food and drink demos to drone flying, kilt making, encaustic painting workshops, and talks by local rangers.

“Making lunch more than just a meal is what it is all about,” explains Jeremy Osborne, General Manager. “Customers asked us for a platform to mix people and experiences and we’ve been delighted with the positive response so far.”

The new lunch club meets on the last Wednesday of the month (12-2pm). The next meeting, on 29 March, includes a cocktail (and mocktail) masterclass by Cringletie’s award-winning mixologist.

Set in 28 acres of rolling countryside just 40 minutes from Edinburgh, Cringletie House Hotel is renowned for providing luxurious experiences at affordable prices. For more information on the lunch club, click HERE

 

Outdoor Film Festival inspires all ages

Spot the climber ... Emily Harrington toughing it out in Role Reversal

 

With almost 30 films covering every imaginable adventure sport, outstanding speakers, a run and ride together with two inspirational athletes, and strong support from local businesses, the 2017 Peebles Outdoor Film Festival last month (27-29 Jan) proved a massive hit, with more than 1,100 people flocking to the Eastgate Theatre.

“We’re so pleased with the response to the festival, which continues to grow rapidly year on year,” said Rich Rowe, part of the organising team. “Our hope was for this year’s programme to really inspire and energise people – and that’s exactly what happened. With this being such an outdoors community, we saw great support from the local area, but were also delighted to attract people from all over Scotland.”

The tone was set in the opening presentation by mountain biking legend Crawford Carrick-Anderson – the first in a series of ‘local hero’ sessions at the festival. Crawfy’s life story is a remarkable one, and his presentation left a packed room truly inspired.

This year’s festival saw a change of format in its main auditorium programming, with each afternoon and evening session beginning with a selection of breathtaking short films from around the world, followed by live presentations from some major names. And with food supplied by Osso Restaurant during the interval of the evening sessions, audiences were well-fed as well as well-entertained.

There was a moment during the headline Saturday night presentation by renowned adventure cameraman Keith Partridge that seemed to sum up this year’s festival. As part of a tour de force presentation that ranged from the steaming rainforests of Venezuela to the intimidating North Face of the Eiger, Keith provided a gripping behind-the scenes account of life filming on award-winning climbing documentaries such as Touching the Void and The Beckoning Silence.

But it was his clip of hunters in Mongolia who train golden eagles to catch foxes and wolves – complete with a tiny camera mounted on the back of an eagle – that drew audible gasps from the audience.

That sense of ‘how did he do that?’ was also in evidence on Friday night when endurance adventurer Sean Conway gave an amusing account of completing the world’s longest triathlon – a sometimes chaotic 4,200-mile cycle, run and swim around the entire coast of mainland Britain.

On the Saturday and Sunday afternoons, runners and riders were treated to specially-themed sessions that saw an eclectic selection of short films, followed by live presentations by record-breaking fell runner Nicky Spinks, and World Champion mountain biker Tracy Moseley. These two stars of their sports also experienced some of the Tweed Valley for themselves when Swift Trails led a ride-out with Tracy, while Moorfoot Runners guided a run together with Nicky.

“Peebles is a delight – a really lovely town surrounded by very runnable hills,” commented Nicky, on her first visit here. “Thank you so much for inviting me to speak at the festival.”

As well as pulling in the big names, the festival also featured a range of local adventurers, all with compelling stories to tell. In addition to local hero Crawford Carrick-Anderson, the festival saw David Aston reveal all about his trek to the magnetic North Pole, while Ed Shoote spoke to another packed room about his bikepacking experiences around the world. Later presentations by charity marathon runner Bob Johnson – complete with life-size Dalek outfit – adventure racing supremo Paul McGreal, and Scottish winter climbing sensation Greg Boswell were all hugely entertaining.

The audience for Greg’s presentation had a particular treat, as Greg premiered a talk that he will take to this year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival – the most prestigious event of its kind in the world.

The festival ended in celebratory mood on the final night with a screening of the winner (Project Attack Squad by Lynne Armstrong and Lucy Grant) and runner-up (Our adventure by Chris and Thomas Hilton) of this year’s Outdoor Shorts film competition as part of the final short film session.

It was then left to Edinburgh-based bikepacker Markus Stitz to round off the weekend with a wonderful tale of his recent 21,000-mile ride around the world on a singlespeed bike – the seeds of which were sown when he first started bikepacking right here in the Tweed Valley.

The Peebles Outdoor Film Festival would like to thank this year’s sponsors – John Muir Trust, Macdonald Cardrona Hotel, Tontine Hotel, Out & About, Swift Trails, Peebles Physiotherapy and Ridelines – without whose generous support the event could not happen. 

Image: Spot the climber ... Emily Harrington toughing it out in Role Reversal

 

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