Southern Scotland Bidding To Attract Northern England Families As Scottish Schools Return

Families from northern England have already been crossing the border in numbers to sample the outdoor activities southern Scotland has to offer.
With Scottish pupils back at school this week and outdoor attractions in the Scottish Borders open and good to go, a former Northumberland social worker who moved north of the border four years ago says there’s never been a better time to explore the area on a day trip or short break.
Lynne Jobes gave up her social work career in Northumberland and moved to the Cheviot Hills with husband Alan in 2016 to take on a run-down farm and turn into an alpaca trekking business.
Open again after lockdown restrictions were eased, she has welcomed a surge of families from Northumberland, Newcastle, Durham and Carlisle.

“We’ve never been as busy, which is phenomenal,” said Lynn, whose Beirhope farm offers alpaca walks ranging from 30 minutes to three hours for children of all ages. “The feedback we’re getting is that it’s because we are an outdoor activity in the countryside.
“This area is a hidden gem, but people are now finding out about us and travelling over the border. We’re only an hour from Newcastle Airport, so Scotland really does start here with us. We’re just 3.5 miles from the border.”

She is finding that families also enjoy travelling further up the A68 corridor to enjoy the huge new play-park at Harestanes Countryside Centre, exhilarating rib trips from Eyemouth on the Berwickshire coast, and countryside walks at the magnificent Floors Castle in Kelso and Paxton House on the River Tweed.

“A lot of families go from us to Harestanes or Eyemouth, or they come the other way,” added Lynn. “With the Scottish schools going back there’s never been a better opportunity for families to come north of the border.”

Tim Grimshaw, owner and skipper of Eyemouth Rib Trips, is a former powerboat champion who loves giving families a fast blast in his 12-seater rigid hulled inflatable boat.
He said: “We’ve been really busy. The coastline in Berwickshire is stunning, with amazing wildlife. We had a pod of dolphins right next to us only last week.

“People of all ages love our exhilarating trips in the sea air before going on to enjoy other activities in the area.”

After the easing of restrictions, outdoor family attractions in the Borders and Midlothian are open again and a Scotland Starts Here campaign called ‘A Great Break Is Closer Than You Think’ is marketing the area’s amazing offering of walking, cycling, riding and more to UK visitors.

VisitScotland regional leadership director Paula Ward added: “As tourism businesses continue to reopen across the south of Scotland and we welcome visitors back, we want to showcase the huge variety of activities on offer across the region, encouraging people to get out and enjoy what’s on the doorstep in a responsible way. Our marketing campaign focusses on the fact that only in Scotland can travelling so little make such a big difference.
“It is important that we respect that tourism might not look the same as before, and we ask people to follow the recommended guidelines – book in advance, respect local communities, and shop locally. As restrictions lift, we would also urge visitors to ‘know before they go’ checking online whether attractions and businesses are open and welcoming visitors. For more information, go to www.visitscotland.com and search Good to Go and Scottish Borders/ Midlothian.”

Most of the outdoor actives can and should be booked online in advance. Here we pick out five out of the best things to do for families.
• Beirhope farm’s fabulous alpaca treks are ideal for day trippers. The family-run smallholding in the Cheviot Hills near Jedburgh is just 3.5 miles over the border, and offers families the chance to take one of 19 alpacas on a one, two or three-hour walk in the rolling hills. You can also do meet-a-paca for those not wishing to go for walks. Prices range from £5 to £45. Book online at www.beirhope.co.uk
• The fully refurbished play park at Harestanes Countryside Centre, near Ancrum, opened just last year before shutting down in March. It is open again from 11am to 3pm Friday to Sunday, offering 50 exciting play features for children of all ages. A variety of equipment for kids with additional support needs, including wheelchair swings and an all-inclusive sensory boardwalk, add to its appeal. With a café, gift shop and stunning countryside walks, there’s plenty to enjoy. Entry is free. www.liveborders.org.uk/play/harestanes
• Eyemouth Rib Trips are an exhilarating way to explore the stunning Berwickshire coastline. Starting at the harbour, the boat trips run daily until October and include the popular half-hour Fast Blast, particularly appealing to appeal to kids. The Coastal Explorer is a gentler option and the shuttle service to the quaint fishing village of St Abbs is another favourite. The thrilling Fast Blast is £60 for two adults and two children. Book online at www.eyemouthribtrips.co.uk
• Paxton House, a family-friendly countryside treasure trove on the banks of the River Tweed, has reopened its grounds, gardens, play-park  toilets, summer trail, caravan park and self-catering accommodation. A fabulous summer trail for children aged two to eight is a new addition. An adult pass, valid for a year, is £15. Under-16s are free. Book online at paxtonhouse.co.uk
• For a princess picnic in front of a stunning castle, Kelso is the place to go. Floors Castle in Kelso is the encouraging families to bring a picnic blanket and find the perfect spot within the grounds to go alfresco. The Terrace Café has a new picnic-style menu and the gardens look magnificent at this time of year. It has reopened its gardens, grounds, walks and cycle trails. Until September 30, admission is free for those visiting café, the beautiful grounds, cycle trails, and woodland and riverside walks. More info at www.floorscastle.com
• GoApe Peebles, high in the hilltops of Glentress Forest, has high-speed zips, free-fall Tarzan swings, and daring crossings for adults and kids over 10. For an action-packed adventure the tree-top obstacles are the ultimate test of balance and nerve. The zip wire, Go Ape’s highest in the UK, offers amazing views of the reservoirs below and a whole new way to take in the Borders countryside. The three-hour Tree Top Challenge is £25 (10 to 15 year olds) and £33 (16+) per person. Book online at goape.co.uk/locations/glentress-forest
• The grounds of Traquair House, Scotland’s oldest inhabited house, in Innerleithen are well worth exploring. The maze, brewery, woodland walks, play areas, Garden Café and Old Walled Garden are all open daily from 10am to 5pm. A family pass (valid for 12 months) for up to two adults and three children is £18. Guided tours of the house must be pre-booked at www.traquair.co.uk
• Socially-distanced entertainment is on offer at Dalkeith Country Park this month in a series of interactive events for families to enjoy from their car. The Parking Lot Social, from August 12-16 and 19-23, includes movies, live band car-a-oke, silent disco, bingo, comedy, food trucks and more from an inflatable stage and giant screens. Fort Douglas adventure park, which must be booked online in advance in three-hour slots, has a sky maze, turreted treehouses, zip wires, suspension bridges, slides, climbing walls and secret tunnels. Adventure park prices range from free to £7. Plus, there’s Restoration Yard Store, Restaurant and take-away spot The Larder for food and drink while on site. There’s something for everyone – fantastic food and shopping for mums and dads too. Book online at www.dalkeithcountrypark.co.uk

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