Galashiels, a town in the Scottish Borders, is a narrow valley town along the Gala Water quite close to the point where it meets with river Tweed.
The town has many local attractions like the Old Gala House, the war memorial etc., along with the exquisite views all around town, of hills, valleys, water bodies and the other natural beauties. It also has good connections to the nearby attractions, such as the Mountain Bike routes in Peebles, easy routes in and out of England. thus making it a good central location.
One of the main reasons why the town flourished was the development of textile industry along the banks of the Gala Water. The mills not only provided a good source of income for the town, but also used hydro energy from the river. But as time went by, the mills shut down and the river was not used for hydro power generation anymore.
The floating population of the students in and out is what defines most of Galashiels today. Whereas on the one hand this could be a positive effect, one tends to forget the immense potential the town has on the tourism sector due to the perfect mix of attractions and routes.
Our idea is to combine this potential of the river, both as a tourism attraction and as an energy source to create a sustainable base for tourism in Galashiels.
Galashiels definitely has the potential of being a significant tourist centre but has zero existing tourism projects. To begin with, there aren’t any hotels except for about three bed and breakfasts for tourists to come, stay and experience the surroundings. But this situation can also be seen the other way round – that there aren’t any big hotels because there has never been a need for one. There is not only the ‘tourism’ side of this that is getting wasted but a good source of income for the town.
The problem is not the absence of the core but the absence of the right medium to display it. Today Galashiels is more of a ‘Transit’ Town rather than a place where tourists would come and enjoy for its beauty. There have been minimal, if not zero attempts to attract crowds to enjoy and experience what Galashiels beholds.
Not only that, but as discussed in the Sustainability Workshop held in Galashiels on the 2nd of February, the town has all the right ingredients for becoming a ‘renewably run’ community but does not make use of it.
The existing topography naturally helps in hydro projects, the hills and vast openness around creating the perfect space for tapping wind energy, the potential for biomass through crops etc., the ability to use PV and district heating systems, etc., provides for all the right bases.
Thus, the whole situation can be reversed by creating a platform for tourists to see Galashiels in a whole new perspective while in the process creating awareness regarding sustainability through ‘sustainable tourism’.
1. London Riverside Walk
“WALK LONDON’s Queen’s Walk takes you over Westminster Bridge, along the south bank of the River Thames towards Tate Modern then back over the river on the Millennium footbridge to St Paul’s Cathedral. This pedestrian walkway is several miles long and passes some of London’s most popular tourist and visitor attractions all of which can be visited throughout the year”
2. Bath Riverside Development
“As one of the largest brownfield regeneration projects in the south west, Bath Western Riverside comprises approximately 70 acres of land west of the city centre adjoining the river AVON. The project is a major opportunity for Bath to deliver a platform for the city’s future economic and social prosperity.”
As mentioned earlier, our idea is to create a walkway along the Gala water while creating connections to all the important tourist nodes in and around Galashiels.
The Gala Water which runs through most of Galashiels is a tremendous potential for tourism. It not only runs all along Galashiels but is also a natural attraction in itself. Thus, we had the idea of creating a ‘Walkway’ all along the river. This way the tourists not only get to see the beauty of the river but can also walk down to the nodes.
The next task would be identifying all the natural and man made tourist attractions in and around Galashiels. The access points to the views of the hills around, the valley views and gardens. The river connection to the river Tweed and the parks around it. The libraries, universities and the proposed energy features would also be good sites.
The best known feature of the town is the impressive war memorial with its massive Border Reiver horseman – the work of local sculptor Thomas Clapperton. The Braw Lads Gathering in late June is the focal point of the local calendar commemorating the history of Galashiels.
Old Gala House, home of the Lairds of Gala for several centuries, is now a museum and art gallery set in landscaped gardens. Gala Aisle has been the burial place for the Lairds of Gala since the 17th century and has recently been restored.
Connecting the Nodes
Connecting all the above identified nodes to the walkway would be the next task. The connection should be so easy and smooth that, as one walks along the river, they should clearly know where and how they should proceed. Also a major connection to the town centre would be a good edition to create attraction.Clear signages and walkways would assist all along.
Creating a base for tourism in Galashiels is one thing and trying to make this sustainable is another. While trying to create a whole new experience for visitors to Galashiels, we would like to make this as green as possible. Making use of the renewable sources of energy at every possible stage would be one of our main ideas. For example, the street lights that light up the walkway could be solar and wind powered and could also help in supplying energy to other immediate necessities. The retrofitting of existing centres as well as fitting the new ones with passive heating techniques and trying to tap renewables wherever possible would be looked into. Our idea is to have all the tourist centres in operation, running via renewables from solar, wind, hydro and biomass.
Another important reason behind doing this is the fact that it would create public awareness regarding sustainability and instil a sense of ‘greenness’ in the tourists, thus promoting the importance of renewables. All the efforts would be highlighted to draw extra attention to the sustainability bit to the tourists in the process, thus not only helping making Galashiels sustainable but also spreading the message across to one and all.