Emma Harper MSP for South Scotland last week met with a director of a Kirkcudbright-based cycling tours company to hear her ideas to turn Dumfries & Galloway into a world-wide tourism hotspot for cycling.
For a number of years Esther Tacke has been running Galloway Cycling Holidays with her husband, Warren Sanders, and now she hopes to find parliamentary support to transform the cycling routes in Dumfries & Galloway to match the likes of Rügen in her native Germany.
Rügen is an island just off the north-east coast of the country, and has one of the most popular biking routes in the world and Esther believes there are already many similarities between the German island and Dumfries & Galloway, which could help the Scottish region emulate its European neighbour.
She said: “There is a correlation between both areas; they are both agricultural and have green areas with a shoreline and similar terrain. Both Rügen and Dumfries & Galloway are areas that are culturally active, artistically and musically, which is another big pull in coming to the area because there’s lots to see and do when cycling around the region.
“One thing Dumfries & Galloway has that Rügen doesn’t have is lots of hills and this is a very good thing for cyclists to get that variation between the flat routes and the uphill routes. There is also a big attraction to people from outside Scotland to view the picturesque Scottish landscape, and we have our very own mountains and lochs in this area which I like to say are part of the ‘Galloway Highlands’.
“It was really great to meet Emma, who seemed very interested in what we are doing locally and was keen to know more what could be done to improve tourism and the economy in Dumfries & Galloway.”
Emma Harper MSP said: “I was interested to meet Esther, someone from a neighbouring EU country who has decided to make Scotland her home and to make a really positive impact locally through her cycling business. She is not alone as there are other groups across the region and many bike shops all supporting better cycling infrastructure.
“I will work with Esther to see what we can do to add to the existing cycling routes to make this a region to really rival the likes of Rügen and other cycling hotspots around the world. This sort of project would provide a huge boost to the local economy and would lead to more people from this area getting out on their bikes and getting active.
“I will be writing to Fiona Hyslop and Michael Matherson, the Cabinet Secretaries responsible for tourism and transport, inviting them to meet Esther and to hear more about the Rügen model and how it could be implemented here.
“When it comes to transport, improving the A75 and A77 roads is my immovable priority, but I will also make the case to the Scottish Government that improved and dedicated cycling routes would be extremely important in bringing more visitors to the area where the bicycle was invented.“