Room to roam - Leisure in the Southern Uplands
With the majority of Scotland's population and international airports only a few hours drive way, more and more people are discovering what the locals already know, that this is a remarkable area to explore, where the profound links between the cultural and natural heritage can be experienced.
Walkers love the feeling of remoteness up on the hills and the open vistas from the tops. A great variety of short and long distance routes have been created for walking, mountain biking, cycling and riding and a number have exciting contemporary art installations dramatically placed in the landscape.
The challenging Southern Uplands Way is Scotland's official "coast to coast" long distance route. St Cuthbert's Way takes walkers from Melrose to Lindisfarne in Northumberland and the Pennine Way ends in Kirk Yetholm, south of Kelso. There are numerous well-known walks over the hills, especially to the highest peaks, as well as lower level tourist routes like the Border Abbeys Way, and the Berwickshire Coast Walk. Local path networks have been created around towns and small villages like St Johns Town of Dalry, Moffat, Ettrick, Langholm and Peebles, with 'Walking Weeks' becoming popular regular features.
National Cycle Routes, such as Glasgow to Carlisle and Gretna to Newton Stewart, are growing in numbers, as are off-road tracks and adrenaline-charged down hill routes for mountain bikers.
Opportunities to see the countryside from horseback are growing too, with off-road and multi-use routes. The Buccleuch Ride and Tweed Trails offer short and long distance rides on lanes, old drove trails and forestry tracks. Some Bed and Breakfasts will even provide accommodation for riders and their horses!
There's a long tradition of shooting, wildfowling and angling. Grouse shooting takes place in many of the hills, including the Lammermuir, Moorfoot and Langholm Hills. Wooded policies and farmland surrounding large estate houses host pheasant shoots while wildfowling takes place around the Solway Firth. Deer stalking is undertaken in woodlands and forests.
The Tweed is undoubtedly one of the finest salmon rivers in the world, commanding high prices for rods on its famous 'beats' but is only one of a number of good salmon rivers. An alternative way to get close to salmon is to visit salmon migration viewing stations, such as on the River Ettrick. Up in the hills, smaller tributaries, lochs and reservoirs offer excellent brown trout fishing.
There are endless opportunities to have fun getting wet, with sailing and windsurfing on coastal waters and inland lochs, canoeing on rivers, sea kayaking and excellent diving and surfing on the east coast. St Abbs and Eyemouth Marine Reserve was Britain's first voluntary marine reserve in the UK and is the most popular dive site on the east coast of the UK.
Wildlife tourism is growing rapidly. Birdwatching is very popular, particularly at reserves on the west coast peninsulas, the Solway Firth and the Firth of Forth. There are boat trips to the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. St Abbs, on the North Sea, is one of the most visited seabird colonies in Scotland.
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