The borderlands of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders could have been made for mountain biking. The region boasts some of the most challenging biking trails in the UK and have become a must visit destination for bikers everywhere.
Over 400,000 bikers head to the borderlands every years to test their skills along the 7Stanes network of trails in southern Scotland, at Glentress, Innerleithen and, south of the border, around Kielder Forest.
And recent announcements, backed by a £19m investment fund, aim to establish the Scottish Borders as the mountain biking capital of Europe. It will help create the world’s first Mountain Bike Innovation Centre to support businesses to develop world class products and services for the cycling sector.
At the same time plans are taking shape to establish an integrated Bike Park and Trail Lab at Innerleithen, a global first catering for tourism and innovation.
One of the most popular events on the mountain biking calendar is the Tweedlove festival, a week of open races, guided rides, ride-outs and a hugely popular apres rides social programme of film and concerts.
For the perfect cycling experience The Tweed Cycleway wends its way from Biggar to Berwick-upon-Tweed, an 89-mile journey that takes in Peebles, Melrose, Kelso and Coldstream.
Other popular cycle route include the 4 Abbeys, Coast and Castles and the Border Loop covering 250 miles of rolling hills and country lanes. The SouthernBorders Loop offers a shorter 50-mile route through Hawick, Bonchester Bridge and Newcastleton.
Northumberland National Park has a fine selection of cycling trails including the Sandstone Way from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Hexham, and bike hire services.
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Supporting the ever increasing number of cycling events to become sustainable and independent is the focus for Scottish Borders Council’s newly appointed Cycling Event Development Coordinator, who will be in post for just over a year.
Neen Kelly has worked in Scottish tourism for over three decades, including a spell as project manager for the Cycle Scottish Borders initiative, and helped to develop cycling for the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. She has also worked for VisitScotland and was part of the successful bid team for the 2014 Ryder Cup.
The Council has provided significant support to a number of cycling events in the area over recent years, but with increasing budget pressures it is important that these events can continue to be successful but be sustained without financial support from the public sector.
Researchers appointed by the Council found that last year’s TweedLove cycling festival had a direct economic impact of around £1.5million on the Scottish Borders, with the Tour o’ the Borders bringing in over £200,000.
Mountain biking has been one of the success stories of recent years in the Borders and Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is aiming to work with Scottish Enterprise, Forestry Commission Scotland and other key stakeholders to encourage further tourism growth linked to this opportunity.
To do this a Tweed Valley Mountain Biking Stakeholder Group has been established, which includes representatives of a wide range of organisations.
The opportunity to grow mountain biking further in the Tweed Valley, including the local AIMUp project, was included in the South of Scotland Alliance’s Rural Regional Economic Development Programme, which was presented to the Scottish Government in June last year. Following a meeting with Lena Wilson, Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise, it has made a commitment to explore these mountain biking opportunities, including the AIMUp project.
Dedicated trails and wild tracks criss-cross the region …open roads through wonderland landscapes freedom of the Tweed cycleway follows the source of River Tweed at Biggar to the sea at Berwick.
The Coast and Castles Cycle Route enters the Scottish Borders at Inneerleithen and head through Melrose Kelso and Coldstream and Berwick
75-mile alternative via Hawick, Ettrick, Eskdalemuir, Langholm and Newcastleton takes in five significant climbs The circular Border loop cycle path links Peebles to Eyemouth on the Berwickshire Coast - 250 miles.