Initially established in 2000 as a Strategic Rural Partnership, the Southern Uplands Partnership (SUP) is a charity and for nearly 20 years it has been working to develop new approaches to land use across the Southern Uplands. With a core staff of just three, the partnership currently employs 11 project staff who deliver specific projects, ranging from the UNESCO Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, developing equestrian tourism, engaging the public in biological recording and reinforcing the magnificent golden eagle population. SUP has worked on a wide range of issues, from community capacity, access, local food, renewable energy, nature-based tourism, festivals, walking and broadband. SUP also works with others to raise the profile of Southern Scotland and it has recently played a key role in lobbying for the new South Scotland Enterprise and helping to shape its remit.
15 years ago, we worked with partners to create a network of 350kms of waymarked riding routes (Tweed Trails) across the Scottish Borders in the hope that this would encourage more equestrian businesses to use them. The routes have been well-used, but few businesses have taken advantage of the opportunity these trails represent.
Now, we are being more proactive. Ride Scottish Borders is a collaborative project between Scottish Enterprise, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Borders Council, Buccleuch Estates, Future Hawick, Energise Galashiels and the British Horse Society.
The Scottish Borders is known as ”Scotland’s Horse Country” because of the number of people who ride and the role the horse plays in many community traditions such as the common ridings. This project is working to add value to this rich community asset. The partnership is unique in that it combines community groups (Energise Galashiels and Future Hawick), local agencies (Scottish Forestry, Scottish Borders Council and Scottish Enterprise), land owning interest (Buccleuch Estates Ltd) and local interest groups (British Horse Society and Southern Uplands Partnership). Together this group is developing a new niche product, one that has the potential to deliver economic benefit to some really remote communities as well as adding value to local skills and developing local cultural pride.
The project started in November 2017 and is funded by the partners and by the Scottish Borders LEADER programme. Gowan Miller is our project officer and she has developed a network of horse friendly accommodation businesses & equestrian trails across the Scottish Borders that are now ready to be marketed to those wanting to bring their horse on holiday. Participating businesses are already reporting a growth in interest as well as positive feedback about the quality of the trails.
The next stage will be to extend the approach across into Dumfries & Galloway so that visitors can explore the whole of South Scotland. We are currently seeking funds to allow the project to continue.