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Demo Day Programme Finishes on a High

Dumfries House hosted a hugely entertaining event, “Rural Tourism with a Twist” providing the perfect venue for a wide variety of speakers on unusual topics, making delegates from across Scotland  think about all aspects of a rural tourism business.  This event was the final in a three year programme of SRDP funded demonstration days, and the last to be devised by Pat Somerville, the Project Officer.

The event was ably chaired by Moira Birtwistle, chair of the Ayrshire & Arran Tourism Leadership Group and Senior Lecturer/Tourism Consultant at SRUC.  Ros Halley, Tourism Manager for Ayrshire & Arran Tourism focussed on the work that they are doing throughout Ayrshire, providing a practical and informative presentation.  Annique Anderson of VisitScotland took the idea nationally giving ideas on how delegates and tourism operators across Scotland could exploit future events like the Commonwealth Games 2014 and the Ryder Cup. 

Ed Forrestof the Southern Upland Partnership and Project Officer in charge of the Wild Seasons initiative provided a huge number of informative links that delegates could use to help them market their product. This joint initiative between wildlife and countryside bodies and tourism businesses to link visitor enjoyment of wildlife and the natural environment aims to market D&G as widely as possible as a great destination for wildlife and nature-based tourism and bring in more visitors.   Marian Chandler of the Forestry Commission Scotland provided an enthusiastic and highly useful talk on Dark Skies and other offerings that FCS partners and provides, and why tapping into these services is so important for tourist operators, at little or no cost to themselves.

Neil Gourlayof the Three Glens House provided an entertaining example of Tourism with a Twist.  He and his wife Mary have built an eco-house from which they do a ski chalet style upmarket catered holiday.   He was so enthusiastic that he took everyone on his journey, talking about the highlights and hiccoughs, the hydro schemes and the wind turbine, the floor boards made out of sleepers from the farm steading and the amazing wood burner. 

One or two delegates had come specifically to listen to John Fitzgerald of Internet Anywhere and learn more about satellite broadband.  John started his company two years ago and has already won various awards, locally and nationally.  His presentation showed how his energy and vision has taken this small company forward and he explained how and why all rural business should consider satellite broadband and how it won’t break the bank.

After a lovely lunch in the stables many of the delegates headed out with factor, Oliver Middlemiss, who gave a fantastic walk and talk, which only someone with a passion and focus for his subject could provide.  Over the following hour and a half we saw so many of the projects that Dumfries House is working on, what a visionary Prince Charles is, and I realised how much one misses of the country estates which are on our doorstep.  As one the last to leave I was privileged to the “factor’s tour” of Dumfries House, which short and so very interesting.  We saw the first Axminster carpet ever made in the 1750s, the Chippendale Mahogany bed, a unique £15m Chippendale bookcase, plus watched one of the restorers at work.  Unfortunately the ghost did not make an appearance.  I can only suggest that everyone takes the opportunity to take the guided tour of Dumfries House and the Estate.

Paul Wakefield of Scottish Land & Estates said afterwards: ‘I would like to thank Pat for her excellent work over the last 2 and a half years, in producing a superb array of demonstration days, all of which have helped land and rural business owners and managers to look beyond their day to day operations at new business opportunities. The feedback has been excellent, which is testament to Pat’s dedication to the job and skill in providing the very best experience for all those who attended the events. Pat has pulled together some of the very best speakers on topics ranging from renewable energy and social media to rural tourism and forestry’




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