This Project was the Development Company’s first significant project. Its aim was to create a walk right round St Mary's Loch in the Yarrow Valley with the aim of attracting more visitors to this spectacularly scenic area, to the benefit of local businesses, hotels, cafes and B & Bs, to enhance those visitors’ experience by providing opportunities to visit previously inaccessible areas and viewpoints, and to encourage visitors to explore this little-known part of southern Scotland.
The Southern Upland Way already followed the east and south shores of the loch and therefore needed very little additional work. However completing a circular walk around the north and west sides of the loch entailed following the main road, which is both unpleasant and dangerous for walkers, and also misses some of the most scenic vantage points and places of historical interest.
An 11 km route right round the loch was therefore devised which kept off the main road as much as possible, using existing paths and tracks where possible. It was designed with a variety of walking experiences along the route – lochside walks, woodland and moorland – and incorporated as many places of interest around the loch as possible – the March Wood, the Shinglehook Sculptures, St Mary’s Kirkyard, the loch outflow, Dryhope Tower, Cockburn’s Grave and the Dow Linn.
After obtaining approval to the route from all the various landowners and residents around the loch, and being awarded the necessary funding from SSE, the path works were carried out – draining and surfacing existing sections of path, creating new paths to link existing paths, creating completely new sections of shoreline and moorland paths, and installing gates, stiles and bridges. Waymarkers, fingerposts and information boards were made and erected, and a descriptive leaflet and guide to the walk was printed.
The walk was officially opened in August 2015 and has proved to be a huge success. Local hotels, cafes and B&Bs have all reported additional visitors, attracted by the walk, and feedback from walkers has been overwhelmingly positive. As well as the route guide, which is widely distributed in the Borders, the walk has also featured in numerous walking magazines, a couple of guide books, and is one of the few Scottish walks to have a 5-star rating on the Walkhighlands website.
All in all, an outstandingly successful project for the Development Company to have got under its belt.