New 250-mile coast to coast cycle route being named in homage to South of Scotland pedal-bike pioneer

David Hope-Jones (in red) and Markus Stitz (in light blue) lead cycle trip in Peebles. (Photo: Phil Wilkinson for SSDA PG)

A BRAND new 250-mile coast to coast cycle route set to launch in the south of Scotland this summer will be named after Kirkpatrick Macmillan, the 19th century Dumfriesshire blacksmith who invented the first pedal-driven velocipede.

The official name for the exciting new route connecting Stranraer in the west with Eyemouth on the east coast – Kirkpatrick C2C, South of Scotland’s Coast to Coast – was unveiled at a major tourism conference today, organised by the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA).

Guests from across the region’s tourism, events and hospitality business community gathered at Peebles Hydro for the SSDA’s second annual gathering exploring opportunities and challenges facing one of the south of Scotland’s key sectors in 2023 and beyond. 

As well as the official name for what will be one of the UK’s longest coast to coast cycle routes, due to launch in early summer, the conference also saw the announcement by SSDA Chief Executive David Hope-Jones OBE to move the South of Scotland as a distinct region within the prestigious Scottish Thistle Awards, recognising excellence in tourism and events.

In previous years, tourism businesses in Dumfries and Galloway were recognised as part of the wider ‘West’ region, also covering Glasgow and Ayrshire, while Scottish Borders businesses have been included as part of the Lothian and Borders category, which includes Edinburgh.

This year will see the introduction of dedicated South of Scotland Thistle Awards, delivered in partnership with the SSDA and South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), which will invite nominations and entries from the tourism and events industry in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway. 

Regional South of Scotland winners will then compete as finalists against businesses from across the country in the national VisitScotland Thistle Awards, due to be held by the end of 2023.

Finally, conference-goers learnt about the development of a major new responsible tourism destination development and marketing strategy for the region, which is due to be published along with an accompanying action plan by the end of December 2023. Spearheaded by VisitScotland, SOSE, the SSDA, Scottish Borders Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council – the strategy will be informed by a wider Advisory Group composed of other key agencies, organisations, businesses and representative groups, who will be able to help steer the process and offer constructive challenge and input throughout, to ensure the strategy drives economic and community prosperity. There will also be far-reaching consultations right across the sector, with businesses and communities invited to feed in their vision for tourism in the south of Scotland.

David Hope-Jones OBE, SSDA Chief Executive, said: “Cycle tourism is a major growth area for the whole of Scotland’s visitor economy and we’re thrilled that the forthcoming new Kirkpatrick C2C, South of Scotland’s Coast to Coast is in the spotlight as one of the longest and most exciting on-road routes of its kind in the UK.

“It’s a fantastically exciting time for our region’s tourism and hospitality sectors.  As well as the projected increase in visitor numbers and spend that the Kirkpatrick C2C will generate, we’re also now gearing up for our first ever VisitScotland Thistle Awards for the South of Scotland. These awards will attract welcome attention and recognition for the countless local tourism businesses excelling in their field, helping put the south of Scotland even more firmly on the map. When nominations open for 2023 tomorrow, I’d encourage everyone to make sure nominate businesses in Borders and D&G which go above and beyond.  And let’s help the South of Scotland bring home a well-deserved national accolade!

“For me, 2023 is all about partnership and collaboration, as all the key agencies come together to agree an exciting and ambitious new responsible tourism strategy and action place for the south of Scotland. A key priority for me is ensuring every single business, organisation, community group and individual that wants to, is able to feed into this new strategy.  It needs to be owned by all and it needs to deliver real, sustainable economic impact.”

VisitScotland Director of Industry and Destination Development, Rob Dickson, said: “It is an exciting time for tourism in the South of Scotland, as today’s South of Scotland tourism industry conference clearly demonstrates. 

“As we countdown to the opening of the Kirkpatrick South of Scotland coast to coast cycling route and the UCI Cycling World Championships, we continue to build on the important partnerships we have in place in the South of Scotland to drive forward tourism recovery and continue to strengthen the economy of the south.

“We look forward to working with our regional partners on the new South of Scotland Thistle Awards, helping to ensure that tourism is recognised for the positive impact it brings to the country. The development of a responsible tourism strategy and action plan for the region represents a significant step in supporting our ambitions for Scotland to be a world leader in 21stcentury tourism. We would encourage individuals, businesses and organisations to get involved in helping to protect, shape and enhance the region’s renowned tourism offering.”

The Kirkpatrick C2C is expected to prove a huge draw for the south of Scotland when formally launched in early summer – early projections forecast that the new route could attract up to 175,000 new visitors to the region, with a direct spend of £13.7M per year. 

Adventurers in search of a new challenge on two wheels this summer will experience one of the UK’s longest coast to coast routes, taking them on an unforgettable journey through the region’s spectacular, history-steeped landscape and discovering a huge wealth of brilliant places to stay, visit, eat and drink along the way.

The route’s official name was announced earlier today at the SSDA conference by Paula Ward of South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), as part of a cycling-themed keynote session on the future of the region’s visitor economy.  The keynote speech was delivered by ‘bikepacking’ expert Markus Stitz, with a further presentation from local business owner Esther Tacke of Galloway Cycling Holidays.

Paula Ward, Economic Infrastructure Development Specialist and Delivery Manager for the South of Scotland Cycling Partnership Strategy & UCI Optimisation Plan, said: “Kirkpatrick Macmillan is an iconic cycling figure which we in the South are immensely proud of, and it is fitting that his achievements are being acknowledged and our heritage celebrated with this new exciting tourism offering.

Kirkpatrick C2C, South of Scotland’s Coast to Coast is one of a number of new cycling opportunities taking place in our region at present, alongside the arrival of the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in the South this summer. 

“These are opportunities we must grasp if we are to achieve our goal of the South becoming Scotland’s leading cycling destination and recognised as the global home of the bike.”

For those seeking to challenge themselves, the Kirkpatrick Coast to Coast can be tackled over four days, however riders are encouraged to immerse themselves in the beauty, heritage and charm of the south of Scotland, spending eight days completing the route from Stranraer to Eyemouth. 

Nominations for the 2023 Scottish Thistle Awards will be open from Wednesday 15 March via

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