Innerleithen is a small town that lies between Peebles and Galashiels in the Scottish Borders – with the high street shortlisted for Scotland’s most beautiful high street in 2019.
Built on the success of the wool and knitwear industry, it’s now better known for mountain biking. Nearby 7stanes is regarded as one of the best and most challenging downhill tracks in the UK and the town welcomes a host of biking events, including the upcoming Enduro World Series this October.
The town has seen a number of changes over the last few years, most of them related to mountain biking becoming such a dominant focus. Shops such as cycling and outdoor wear brand Findra, bike shops and coffee shops have popped up on the High Street over the last few years and sitting at its heart is The Hub.
The Hub is not just a gift shop, but also acts as a tourism information point as well as a centre for the community. Co-owner, Pauline Archibald, who was born in the town, set it up after working abroad in tourism for several years. She saw that Innerleithen was begining to thrive again and took the opportunity to open the hub when the building became available.
As a local, I’ve seen the town change incredibly over the years and whilst it’s great to see such a boom in visitors, it’s important those who live here feel part of that. There’s a close community in Innerleithen with many businesses thriving as a result of the changes in the town. We want people to be respectful of those who live here when they visit but likewise, we’re able to show the local community the benefits of these changes.
I’ve loved seeing things develop, there’s a great buzz here. Lots of the businesses work with each other so we know everyone, and we’ve even seen a couple of new ventures open during lockdown. Like everywhere, tourism to the area has been hit by the pandemic but we’re looking forward to welcoming not just bikers, but fishing enthusiasts and hillwalkers back to the area over the next few months.
In March, the Borderlands Growth Deal was signed. For Innerleithen, this was welcomed as it was announced that £19 million was to be invested in the development of a new mountain bike innovation centre.
This ambitious project will support Scottish, UK and international businesses to develop innovative products and services within mountain biking and across the cycling sector. The project is predicted to contribute £141 million in Gross Value Added (GVA) and over 400 new jobs in the south of Scotland.
With the biking centre planned, development of the infrastructure at 7Stanes and the reputation it is gaining, biking is a huge part of the growth in Innerleithen. Ridelines is a great example of a business opening, thriving and committing to taking on premises on the High Street. Owner, Andy Weir is an advocate for the town and area, encouraging visitors with bike tuition for all ages and abilities and a walk-in shop and biking centre.
Now that the Scottish Borders has moved into level two restrictions, it allows many tourism businesses, including our own, to fully open up and we are very excited for the coming summer. With restrictions in international travel, it’s a great opportunity to provide high quality activities for all abilities and we welcome the increase in all visitors to the area and to engage many people in mountain biking who might otherwise not have visited the area.
As Innerleithen and the wider Tweed Valley is already seen as a mecca for mountain biking, it’s also very exciting to see riders return in large numbers. Ridelines is an all year-round business so we are looking forward to many new visitors to the area who’ll take advantage of our training facility, courses and our wide range of mountain biking experiences. It’s a real boost to the local economy and very much needed.
Also in March the The Bike Shop Inners opened their doors on ‘Inners’ (a fond local name for the town) High Street. The shop is bright and bold, selling biking gear and offering a custom bike service.
The shop is run by Adrenalin Uplift – an innovative service which is to mountain bikers what chairlifts are to skiers. They operate seven buses departing every seven minutes, shuttling 112 riders to the top of the trails overlooking the Tweed Valley. This is another example of how businesses in the town are creating innovative experiences for visitors and driving growth.
The future is bright for Innerleithen and it's clear that with the continuing level of investment in the High Street, town and surrounding area, there is a great opportunity to shine the spotlight and bring visitors from across the world to experience it for themselves.
How you can get involved
Tourism is an economic and social powerhouse for Scotland. It creates wealth and social benefits in every corner of the country and enhances the wellbeing of everyone who takes a holiday at home. For more information on all strands of this project and how you can get involved visit our #tourismforceforgood page.