It's been interesting seeing the new business models for trails spring up in the last few years especially as European funding has been drying up and austerity cuts have eroded most would be UK investment Not unsurprisingly the private sector is stepping in. The recently announced £11.3m investment from Forest Enterprise Scotland and Forest Holidays (who are covering £10m of the investment) in Glentress on the surface seems quite sweet but for some reasons leaves me with a slightly bitter after taste.
The deal will see 56 secluded luxury eco-cabins, the removal of the existing iconic freeride area at Buzzard’s nest (where the new plush cabins will be) and so to compensate there will be new biking trails and a walking route.
I sense the Forest Holidays luxury tourist demographic may, on the whole, be quite different from today's MTB rider at Glentress and as this deal is predominantly based on commercial gain this may not bode too well for enthusiast MTBers. Love to be wrong just can't seem to get my head around where the interest would be in catering for them.
One final thought is if the plan for the uplift had got off the ground at Innerleithen then it would feel more balanced. A Bike Park Wales type set up or more that level of specific trail and trail facility investment is needed if the Scottish Borders wants to retain or as many may say regain their MTB jewel In the Scottish crown status.
The Forestry Commission is currently running a consultation on the Tweed Valley's forests including Glentress. Please share your own thoughts and concerns (see embedded tweet below).
Maybe it's just been a long week at work and the cynic is emerging. Here is the press release so you can make up your own mind:
Press Release: Plans for luxury woodland eco-cabins and new trails at Glentress Forest could take the popular visitor destination to the next level and grow the Borders’ tourism economy.
That’s the aim of a joint partnership between Forest Enterprise Scotland and Forest Holidays who are joining forces for an £11.3 million investment to create 56 secluded eco-cabins, new biking trails and a walking route at Glentress.
The private and public sector investment has the potential of generating an extra £1 million into the local economy each year and employ up to 60 people.
The combined attractions are part of the award winning Glentress Masterplan project which has been consulted widely on over the past two years.
Two pre-planning applications for the cabins and the trails are to be submitted to Scottish Borders Council and will be subject to further local consultation.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing said:
“This is a significant and very welcome investment which could deliver a positive step change in establishing the Glentress and the Tweed Valley as a top visitor attraction.
“The investment by Forest Holidays is a huge vote of confidence in the area. A development such as this would be a major tourism boost, bringing substantial benefits to the local economy.”
Forest Holidays has a proven track record in Scotland, managing two high quality and very popular cabin locations in Strathyre and at Ardgartan Argyll. As with their seven cabin sites in England, Forest Holidays run their locations in partnership with Forest Enterprise.
Bruce McKendrick, CEO of Forest Holidays explains:
“We are extremely proud of our unique partnership with Forest Enterprise Scotland. Our existing locations bring many benefits for the environment, for local communities, for cabin guests and day visitors alike and we hope to realise these at Glentress.
“The Tweed Valley is an absolutely stunning region enjoyed by many and we are incredibly excited to support the wider masterplan and all it has to offer.
“Our cabin locations are planned with great care and sensitivity, we work closely in partnership with local businesses and community groups and we very much look forward to building relationships with local people both during the next steps of consultation and in the longer term.”
Hugh McKay, Recreation and Tourism Manager with Forest Enterprise Scotland added:
“We’ve worked very hard over the past two years in consulting stakeholders on these progressive plans and we’re thrilled to see it all taking another step forward.
“As part of the planning process, we’ll be working with Forest Holidays to gather more views and explain the proposals in finer detail over the coming months. It is a very exciting time for Glentress and the Tweed Valley.”
All Forest Holidays cabin developments are sensitively blended into the forest’s surroundings so that visitors feel they are very much immersed within a woodland environment.
A new mountain bike skills area will be built along with a number of new biking taster trails for all levels. The new trails will incorporate elements of the ‘Freeride’ area, as well as a new route for walkers. All the new trails will be situated around the Glentress Peel development at Castle Hill.
These new facilities will replace the existing skills and freeride areas at Buzzard’s nest, where the cabin development is planned to be situated.
Forest Holidays will provide private sector investment of £10 million for the project with the remaining £1.3 million from Forest Enterprise Scotland.
Feel free to share your thoughts below and or on Social.