HAWICK’S economy and reputation as a tourist destination was given a massive boost by last week’s Scottish Borders Walking Festival.
That is the overriding message following a hugely successful series of daily walks which attracted not only the highest number of bookings in the event’s 17-year history, but filled the town’s B&Bs and restaurants, and showed the community at its best.
Organising group chairman Andrew Farquhar, who led the bid to host the festival, told the Hawick News: “The whole festival went really well. We’ve had some cracking feedback on the whole thing and we are over the moon.
“With bookings up on previous year’s and over 700 places booked on the walks, and feedback from evaluation forms showing that 90 per cent of visitors intend to return, people like what they’ve seen, so it has certainly been worthwhile.”
Visitors on average stayed between five and six nights – although the issue of a lack of bedspace in Hawick did raise its head once again.
Although delighted with the spin-off benefits felt in the town, Mr Farquhar commented: “There were a lot of people staying in the town’s B&Bs and they were certainly busy, but a number of people had to stay outwith Hawick, so there is no doubt we need a hotel.”
Mr Farquhar said the town’s restaurants also benefited hugely from the week-long event.
The walkers came from all over the UK and as far afield as Holland, Luxembourg, Hungary, Finland and Norway to join in the festival and its 21 walks throughout Teviotdale and Liddesdale, which were carefully chosen to showcase the area’s scenery, history and wildlife.
And encompassing locations which included Denholm, Hawick Common, the W. H. Ogilvie Cairn (pictured), Shankend and Newcastleton, the walks and their leaders have certainly impressed.
Comments made included J. Gordon, from Aberdeen, who said: “Good company and the leaders were very knowledgeable and helpful.” While Mrs B. Smith, from Dumfries, said: “I enjoyed the company and will be back.” And Margaret, from Glasgow, said highlights were “the friendliness of the townsfolk”, and also “the ladies who supplied the teas, with the home baking 10 out of 10”.
Indeed the involvement of local clubs also contributed to the success of the six-days, which included help from the Girl Guides and WRI providing teas and food, and also boasted local entertainment each night ranging from a sell-out Hawick Sings concert to an Archeological talk.
Mr Farquhar commented: “Almost every organisation in the town was involved in some way, people really came together and the friendliness is one thing which impressed.”
And since the festival ended on Saturday, the praise has continued. Paying tribute to the organisers, Provost Ron Smith told the Hawick News this week: “I cannot give enough praise to Andrew Farquhar, Lesley Fraser and the steering group.
“Without the initiative and determination of Andrew in seeking the festival for the town, and the commitment and organisation of the group, an economic and publicity opportunity for the town would have been lost.”
He added: “I myself took part in the Friday walk from Whitrope back to town, and I was able to chat to some of the 34 walkers.
“Five or six were local, but others came from Selkirk, Kelso, Galashiels, Peebles, Edinburgh, Clydebank, Durham and Finland. And as I went around and asked where they were staying and where they ate, I got a measure of the benefit to the Hawick economy.
“Everyone was much impressed by the level of organisation of the week.”