Hundreds to lace up their boots for walking festival

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THE popularity of the annual Scottish Borders Walking Festival, which returns to Hawick next week, has attracted the highest number of bookings in its 17-year history.

After other host towns pulled out of the running due to funding concerns and only nine months to plan, working group chairman and Community Councilllor Andrew Farquhar has revealed that Scotland’s longest established walking festival is exceeding all expectations.

“We have 535 places pre-booked on the walks throughout the week and according to Visit Scotland have been consistently ahead compared to previous years. We are absolutely delighted with the response, it’s fantastic,” he said.

Hundreds of walkers from all over the country and as far afield as Luxembourg, Holland and Helsinki are arriving to take part in the festival’s impressive programme, with seven of the 21 walks around Teviot and Liddesdale already fully booked. It begins on Sunday with three walks which will converge on Ruberslaw, where its association with the Covenanters will be marked by a short service. And the rest of the week will boast three walks of differing grades every day until Saturday, which, ranging from the Joogly Brig and the W.H Ogilvie cairn, to Shankend and Newcastleton, Mr Farquhar says have all been specially chosen to show the countryside at its best.

He stated: “Our area is an undiscovered mecca for walkers. We have fantastic wildlife, scenery and history, and we have tried to demonstrate that.”

Having benefited from grants of £3,500 from Scottish Natural Heritage, £2,340 from Sestran and almost £4,000 from SBC, the Hawick Community-Council-led event in partnership with the 50+ Walking Group has been carefully co-ordinated, and includes a brochure, registration centre, and transport.

And with the local economy set to benefit from the influx of people, local groups are also backing the festival by providing entertainment throughout the week, including the Film & Video Group, Archaeological Society and Callants Club, to name a few. Tower Mill is also hosting the Jenna Reid Band on Monday, and on Thursday author and broadcaster Alistair Moffat will introduce his new book, ‘The Scots: A Genetic Journey’.

Local historian Ian Landles, who is leading one of the walks from Denholm to Ruberslaw on Sunday, and the 1514 Club-sponsored walk around Hawick Common on Monday, says in the programme: “We invite you to sign up for the 2011 festival, by doing so you will discover a fascinating corner of Britain.”

Mr Farquhar, who chaired a previous festival in 2002, added: “We really hope this festival puts Hawick on the walking map. There is something is for everyone.”

To book call Visit Scotland on 01835 863170.