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Friday, December 16, 2011

Year of Active Scotland - Southern Scotland

Many business tourists and MICE event planners are so fixated on Edinburgh and Glasgow that they don’t seem to notice Southern Scotland when they fly over it. That is a real shame as I found out when I headed to the Scottish Borders and then Dumfries and Galloway and discovered a wealth of opportunities for MICE groups looking to get active amongst the rolling hills, rugged coastlines and sweeping forests.

The Borders are a bucolic wonderland, much eulogised by Scotland’s most famous writer, Sir Walter Scott. I was instantly in amongst the great outdoors as I found myself thigh deep in its most famous river, the Tweed. This watery artery offers world class salmon and trout fishing, which make for brilliant incentive trips. Fin Wilson of Fish Wild ( had me, a first timer, casting a ‘double spey’ in no time and then attempting to land a hallowed Atlantic salmon.

Fin was a great advert for fishing for small groups: ‘They work really well as we can create a really special day out, where you fish then are met with fresh local smoked salmon and whisky by the river banks with a piper to round a unique experience off’. That is my kind of active day out!

A great base for MICE groups in the Borders is the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel (  It boasts four light and airy meetings rooms, a private lounge and terrace, plus an event suite that can cater for conferences for up to 240 people. It also sits right on an excellent golf course. This is serious mountain biking country too and it is easy to see in the Borders why Scotland has been voted the world’s number one mountain bike destination.


This year saw the opening of the new £8.5m Peel mountain bike centre at Glentress, just minutes from the hotel, turning what was already a great biking centre into a real asset for business tourism groups. Glentress have also recently added new sections of blue (moderate) to go along with the existing green (easy), red (difficult) and black (severe) routes. I headed off on their blue, mixing in a section of red to finish. It was a thrilling experience whizzing along tight single track through forests, swinging around giant berms and getting serious air on the jumps.


Breaking west I crossed into Dumfries and Galloway. I checked out the Galloway Forest Park, the largest forest park in the UK. Here I tackled a chunk of the 212 mile Southern Upland Way ( Scotland’s longest walking route cuts from the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea, with a smorgasbord of scenery, from rugged sea cliffs, through to cobalt blue lochs and rounded hills. I’d thoroughly recommend it for any active business groups looking for something a little different.


Dumfries and Galloway is also serious mountain biking territory. The trails at Glentrool are part of the 7 Stanes (, which has really opened up Southern Scotland’s forests for bikers. Dumfries & Galloway boasts four of the stanes: Glentrool itself as well as Kirroughtree, Dalbeattie, Mabie and Ae. Like in Glentress (also one of the Stanes) there are myriad runs. I contended myself with a rolling, fairly relaxed blue that took in some remarkable forest and hill scenery.


Dumfries and Galloway boasts a number of companies that help C&I groups get active. Laggan Outdoor ( are right on the Galloway coastline. They offer everything from archery and clay pigeon shooting, through to guided mountain biking trips and even rolling down their specially made track in a three metre high inflatable ball! Both the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway are full of surprises like this, which can be organised for you by companies with a can do attitude that I think makes Southern Scotland a great destination for active business tourism.


For more information about this area of Scotland please contact



Caroline Lyons
Business Tourism Manager
Burns House
16 Burns Statue Square
Tel: +44 (0) 1292 616 124






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