News

Hub lights up Innerleithen High Street

Pauline Archibald, Hub on the High Street

 

For the Archibalds, the family behind the latest addition to Innerleithen High Street, some opportunities are just too good to resist. Pauline Archibald (pictured) recently opened the Hub on the High Street, a high-quality gift shop in the heart of the town – although that is only half of her plan for the new business.

Pauline, her sister-in-law Marie and husband Danny are already well known in the area as owners of Headcases hair studio – which operates a salon in Penicuik and one inside Peebles Hydro – as well as running a busy holiday let in Innerleithen itself.

Already with plenty of experience in tourism having worked in the industry overseas for many years, Pauline knows all about how to welcome visitors to an area. “When the building came up for sale, we knew it would be perfect for what we had in mind,” she explained.

Staffed together with friends Carmel Scott and Hayley Cameron, the emphasis is very much on showcasing bespoke products from local producers, artists and manufacturers. One corner of the shop is devoted to a range of craft gins from the likes of Lilliard, Holyrood Gin, Selkirk Distillers, Kerr’s and Gin Bothy, plus beers from Born in the Borders, Traquair and Tempest Brewery, and mixers and soft drinks from Bon Accord. Nearby there are condiments from Damn Good Jam and chocolates from Ruby and Cocoa.

The shop also brims with local arts and crafts, with art, gift cards and gin lamps from Lesley Johnson Shedio Art, wool art and cards from Juniper Cards, handmade gifts from Phabulous Pheasant, pictures from Inspired by Tweed, candles from Carol’s Creations and Love Scottish Candles, plus soaps and shampoos from The Soap Farm.

Other local items include bike accessories from Wee Cog, canvasses from Ian Linton Photography, slate art from Hatch, Burn, Carve, recycled items from Recycled Vegan and cards from artist Mary Kenny.

Meanwhile, those who have visited the craft workshops at Traquair will also recognise the handmade jewellery and leather craft from Centaur Design, plus quirky violin clocks made by Kenneth McQueenie from his Driftwood Studio.

“High Streets are known to be struggling up and down the country and now people are looking for more bespoke, one-off gifts – it’s gone back to supporting local again,” explained Pauline. “We felt Innerleithen was ready for a shop like this where you can pick up small gifts and save a trip further afield. We’d like the shop to be for Innerleithen, as well as for visitors.”

But the gift shop is just one part of the plan for the building. As Pauline explained, it will soon also include a visitor centre with an accompanying website where local businesses will be able to advertise what’s on offer in the area – from cafés, restaurants and activities to accommodation, sights and attractions.

“We’ve got so much going on locally and we need to let people know that this is such a great place to visit and spend more time in.”

Further info

The Hub on the High Street is at 33 High Street, Innerleithen. The shop is open seven days a week: 10am-6pm, Mon-Sat; 12am-5pm, Sun. For more information, including for businesses keen to be involved in the new visitor centre, contact Pauline or Carmel on 01896 209012.  

 

TweedLove announces major shake-up for 2019

 

Big changes are planned for the tenth edition of the Tweed Valley’s award-winning TweedLove Bike Festival – recent winner of the Scottish Mountain Bike Event of the Year award for the third year running.

As part of a major new event, and a totally re-invented festival weekend in 2019, organisers have unveiled Transcend Epic, described as the UK’s first ‘Trans Provence’ style enduro, with two days of uplifts and shuttles providing access to trails in forests from Glentress downstream to Yair and back again. The event is the headliner for the re-imagined TweedLove festival weekend, now named Transcend Festival and switching base from Peebles to a fully-contained site near the trails at Innerleithen. 

“The Epic is something we’ve always wanted to do,” explained TweedLove originator Neil Dalgleish. “It’s based on the Trans-Rockies, Trans-Provence format, though obviously a lot shorter – and with better beer. We’ll be working with the guys at Adrenalin Uplift – they provide an awesome service here in the Tweed Valley. It should be an amazing weekend of riding and a big adventure.”

Alongside the Epic, an almost entirely new programme of events and races aims to provide a unique, new bike festival weekend for the UK. Organisers are building on their existing race experience and success with the BEMBA British Enduro Champs and Enduro World Series with additions to the programme which this time are less focussed on the race results.

A new enduro, fittingly called Transcenduro, will provide Saturday’s major trail challenge on the Tweed Valley’s famous enduro tracks, while a short, sweet ‘Boost’ version will run on the Sunday for those who prefer a more compact event. Meanwhile, TweedLove’s established Mega Bike Demo will run all weekend alongside the expo, while a major new E-MTB event will also be announced shortly.

Rounding off the programme are Gritopia – TweedLove’s gravel adventure ride – and a new ‘X-Trail’ event. As Neil explained: “It’s not XC, it’s X-Trail – there’s a crucial difference in the fun factor and it doesn’t fit pure XC criteria”.

Bike uplifts, DJs, live music, a pumptrack, festival bar and food village complete the picture, with parking and camping all on site, too.

“This is a big step up for us,” explained Neil. “We’ve learned a lot over the last nine years and we want to put it to good use with something new. We’ve hosted a fair amount of the top level enduro racing in the UK to date, and we’ve always tried to show how inclusive the sport can be too.

“Building on that, we’re going for a full ‘grin factor’ approach – we want the riding to be as good as it can get, with uplifts and events to squeeze the most good times we can out of a weekend. It’s year one for Transcend, but a big new start for TweedLove.”

Further info

Transcend Epic places go on sale at 7pm on Monday 3 December (limited to 150 places). Entries for the TweedLove Triple Crown enduros will also go on sale at the same time – including Round 5 of the British National Enduro Series (17-18 August), and Vallelujah Enduro (23-24 March). Early bird discounts are available. More details available at www.tweedlove.com

Photography: Richard Turley

 

Outstanding response to Tourism BID survey

 

A survey sent to tourism-related businesses throughout the area has generated a clear list of priority actions that will now be used to inform the development of a Tweed Valley Tourism Business Improvement District (BID).

A key stage in an ongoing, and extensive, consultation process, the survey was sent to more than 170 tourism-related businesses, including accommodation providers, activity companies, retailers, restaurants and others with an interest in tourism in the Tweed Valley. The survey asked businesses a series of questions exploring their views on everything from access and infrastructure, advocacy, marketing and promotion and the visitor experience to the relative importance of specific markets, activities, events and festivals.

The questions clearly struck a chord, generating not only a high response rate from a cross-section of businesses, but also detailed feedback on how businesses would like to see tourism develop in the years to come.

Although the consultation process remains very much in its early stages, the responses demonstrated some clear initial priorities. Chief among them is improving the wider visitor experience, in part through the provision of better, more accessible information about the area and understanding the different needs of various visitor segments. 

The Tweed Valley is blessed to have a wide range of activities and experiences for visitors to enjoy, and it is exactly this mix that is key to many businesses. The survey responses highlighted that while mountain biking is, unsurprisingly, important to local businesses, so too are activities such as walking, wildlife watching, plus the arts, cultural and historical experiences.

Such a message reinforces the aim of the Tourism BID to build a business plan that is layered around not just bike-related activities, but also a wide range of other activities that together offer a complete visitor experience.

Building a strong, recognisable Tweed Valley brand is another important theme identified by survey responses, as is promoting that brand through a mix of specific marketing campaigns, online presence and traditional print media such as leaflets and maps for visitors.

Other priorities identified include closer engagement with national tourism bodies to promote the area, plus leveraging the area’s prime geographical position to take better advantage of key transport networks from north and south.

“We’ve received so many good ideas and feedback from this initial survey, with a lot of businesses commenting on the same points and issues,” explained Emma Guy, Project Coordinator for the Tweed Valley Tourism BID. “There is real enthusiasm for driving the tourism product forward in the area and the importance of working collectively to make that happen.”

The survey responses will now be used to help shape the creation of a comprehensive, five-year business plan for the Tourism BID, the initial draft of which will be worked on over the next three months.

Once the business plan is finalised, with further shaping from local tourism businesses, the BID proposal will be put to a vote for all the local businesses that 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.

For much on the Tweed Valley Tourism BID, visit www.gotweedvalley.co.uk

The world in a weekend

 

The New York Times travels to the Scottish Borders as part of the Beyond Borders International Festival held at Traquair House this weekend (25-26 Aug), with its world-class photography exhibition, Hard Truths. This arresting exhibition by the world’s leading photo-journalists shines a light on the daily realities of life against the backdrop of conflict and upheaval in Venezuela, Iraq, Iran, the Philippines and Cuba.

Now in its ninth year, Beyond Borders International Festival has a packed programme of cultural events and exhibitions over the weekend. Bringing together a range of influential speakers, writers, artists and diplomats, the festival hosts an eclectic mx of politics and arts, with prize-winning photography from The New York Times, former CIA operative Valerie Plame, former head of the United Nations Department for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, historian William Dalrymple and authors Magnus Linklater, Richard Holloway and Stuart Kelly.

Associate Managing Editor of The New York Times Jodi Rudoren and Iranian photojournalist Newsha Tavakolian are set to head up a compelling Main Tent talk on the importance of deeply-reported journalism and the role of photography to bear witness to global economic and political atrocities. A curated selection of images from the photography collection can also be viewed as part of the festival’s Walled Garden Arts and Music Programme.

Other events in the Walled Garden include music, dance, film, yoga, pop-up poetry, arts and food and drink with tea, wine and ale tastings, plus special appearances from Barbara Dickson, SOWhErTO Africa, E Karika Djal and the Jennifer Ewan band.

For those that wish to explore more, Nigel Osborne will be leading a procession through the ancient woodlands of Traquair accompanied by Carnatic singing, foraging walks led by Fi Martynoga, plus bike rides with journalists and authors Kate Rawles, Peter Walker and Will Manners.

Kate Adie, former BBC Chief News Correspondent describes her experience of the Beyond Borders Festival: “It’s like a rather wonderful party, but you are talking about serious matters, interesting matters.”

 

Further info

Beyond Borders International Festival, 25-26 Aug, Traquair House. Tickets – Weekend Pass £49/Day Pass £26/ Walled Garden only £12/ Concessions available. The full Beyond Borders Scotland Summer Events Programme and Box Office is available at www.beyondbordersscotland.com

Photograph: Prize-winning photography from The New York Times is just one of the highlights at this year’s Beyond Borders International Festival held at Traquair House in the Tweed Valley. Pic Ian Georgeson Photography

ENDS

Gone to the dogs

 

Dogs and owners who love a good day out together should make a point of heading to Traquair this weekend for the third annual Dogs Day Out – a joyous celebration of all things doggie!

Held on Sunday 15 July (11-5pm), the event offers a host of activities for dogs and their owners throughout the day. One of the highlights is the not-very-serious Companion Dog Show with categories that include owner who looks most like their dog, fastest sausage eater and best rescue dog. Meanwhile, the Daphne Memorial Cup will be awarded to Best in Show in honour of Traquair’s much-loved Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

On the main avenue, visitors can learn all about sheep dogs with expert demos, while this year also sees a first ever gun dog display, with tips on training four-legged friends how to retrieve (and drop, all being well).

Elsewhere, the Bow Wow Mini Circus will delight with some wonderful tricks, Dryburgh Dog Agility will be on hand to guide pooches through a special agility course, while the old walled garden will be stocked full of stalls selling a wide range of dog accessories.

And for visitors who need a little more exercise, there’s a chance to go for a wander in the woods with captivating storyteller, Mary Kenny, who will be telling a few Shaggy Dog stories, or even take part in a Doggy Treasure Hunt in Traquair’s famous Maze.
 

Further info

Dogs Day Out, Sunday 15 July (11-5pm). The event is supported by Burns Natural Dog Food, with goodie bags provided for all dogs. Admission: £9.00 Adults £4.50 Concessions & Dogs Go Free (entry to house included – on site dog creche provided!). For more information, visit https://www.traquair.co.uk/event/dogs-day-traquair

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. 

 

 

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