PLANS for turning the entire length of the River Tweed into a must-visit destination are starting to take shape.

Funding is currently being processed for the development stage of the £20 million Destination Tweed scheme.

It is estimated that once complete an additional 375,000 visitors will head for the stream of attractions along the world-famous river.

The Tweed basin, from its source in rural Peeblesshire all the way to the coast at Berwick, is already a magnet for walkers, cyclists and, particularly, anglers.

But it is hoped that a new joint-up route will make the area even more desirable for visitors from all over the world.

A development phase of the project will run for the next two years at a cost of just over £560,000.

Scottish Borders Council is one of the partners supporting the project.

Councillor Mark Rowley, spokesman for business and economic development, said: “The idea to use the River Tweed as the basis for an ambitious and far-reaching tourism destination, beyond just the riverbank, has been an ambition of many people for a number of years.

“We have now reached a point where there is a significant opportunity to take it to the next stage thanks to the funding that may be available.

“The Tweed is famed for its salmon fishing and its catchment characterises much of the Borders landscape.

“With traditional rural industries such as fisheries and farming are increasingly fragile and tourism has to be an even more important part of the future.

“This project would build on the outstanding natural, built and cultural heritage and visitor attractions along its banks to attract significant additional numbers of visitors to the Borders area.”

It is hoped to establish dedicated hubs and launch points along the river.

The restored Crook Inn community hub has already been identified as a possibility for the Upper section of the route, with similar type facilities

being made available in the Middle and Lower stretches of the river.

Site specific and fixed interpretations will be available along the 100-mile route, mixed with a digital smart phone audio trail incorporating tours, music, images, video, augmented reality and geomapping.

The trail will also act as focal point for a wide-range of conservation and enhancement projects along the river.

And archaeology projects that assess, interpret and inform the conservation of historical assets along the Tweed will take place.

The planned activity programme to accompany the infrastructure will also deliver events, learning, skills, training and business development opportunities.

Councillor Rowley added: “This project would deliver multiple benefits from Moffat to Berwick, including the regeneration of key buildings, community projects, river restoration and the delivery of a modern, innovative tourism experience unlike anything else in the south of Scotland if not the UK.”

As well as Scottish Borders Council allocating £175,000 to the development phase, the project’s lead, the Tweed Forum, has secured a £299,000 development grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

And it is expected that the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal will provide financial support of £11 million to the overall Destination Tweed project in future years.

Luke Comins, director of Tweed Forum, said: “The Tweed is an incredible natural and cultural asset that is largely off the radar to many in the UK and beyond.

"This project will change that and create a journey from source to sea that will showcase the beauty of the river and connect up the myriad houses, castles, towns and tell the rich and varied story that is Tweed.

“But the project is far bigger than just the trail itself – we also be looking to restore woodland, rivers and designed landscapes; interpret key archaeological sites, create cultural activities and involve and educate children and people about the importance of the river to the region and how it is managed.”

Partners involved in the Destination Tweed project are Tweed Forum, Scottish Borders Council, SEPA, Scottish Natural Heritage, Borders Forest Trust, Northumberland County Council, Sustrans and Scottish Forestry.