Stranraer’s ambition to redefine itself as a waterfront destination is set to receive a boost this week with the opening of Gateway to Galloway; a community-led visitor information centre and community hub based at Stranraer Harbour.
Developed by community organisation, Stranraer Development Trust, Gateway to Galloway is the culmination of three years of planning for the group, as they take over the striking art deco clock tower and former harbour master building, recently refurbished by Dumfries and Galloway Council.
The goal of Gateway to Galloway is to establish a tourism focal point for visitors to the town which will showcase the wealth of things to do and experience in Stranraer and the wider Galloway area. The information centre will also promote local businesses, produce and crafts; as well as providing volunteering opportunities and space for community groups to showcase their activities.
It is hoped that Gateway to Galloway will replicate the success of Stranraer Oyster Festival, also organised by Stranraer Development Trust, in putting Stranraer on the map as one of Scotland’s up and coming destinations.
Romano Petrucci, Chair of Stranraer Development Trust, said:
“The purpose of Gateway to Galloway is to let people know what we have in this area, not necessarily to tell people the fastest way to get to Glasgow or the Lake District, but to promote the amazing things we have in Galloway and encourage them to spend time here. To explore Port Logan and Portpatrick, to visit Whithorn and Wigtown, to be amazed by the Mull of Galloway and to spend time enjoying Stranraer itself.
“When it was announced that the former Tourist Information Centre was to close a few years ago, just as the community was committing to developing tourism, it was the last thing we wanted to hear. At the time we had just held our hugely successful first Oyster Festival, we knew we needed a tourism hub for Stranraer, and we spent a lot of time looking at other examples of community-run information centres.
“We are really serious about promoting this area, and we’ve gone to great lengths to secure a stunning building with the assistance of our local council to help make that happen. What an incredible thing it is for the Development Trust to now be based in the marina overlooking the native oyster beds, watching our dream expand to include all things relating to local tourism.
“Gateway to Galloway will be for the people of our community as much as for those who visit our town. We are really excited at the number of local businesses that Gateway to Galloway can support and promote, there is just so much going on, and we are astonished at the abundance of quality that there is here. Our job is to inspire every visitor to Stranraer to see all the incredible things there are to do, to return and to encourage their friends and family to visit too.
On a day to day basis, Gateway to Galloway will be run by Vanessa Gracie and Amanda Horberry. Vanessa said:
“We have been enjoying getting everything set up and creating content for visitors and locals. It has been a great chance to network with our local community and we hope to continue this in the future. One of the things we’re keen to do is work with local businesses and artists, to increase our range of local arts, crafts and local produce. We already have some fantastic work for sale by Galloway businesses such as Curlytale Books, Zany Zoo, Molten Fire and Studio 17 and we’re keen to expand our range to provide a window onto the work of the people of Galloway.“
“There has been a buzz already about town, with people wanting to know when we are opening, what we can offer and for some how they can be part of this. We would love our community to be part of Gateway to Galloway, so if there are members of the community who may wish to share their knowledge and skills by volunteering their time assisting in the hub, please pop in or get in touch.”
Douglas McMillan of McMillan Hotels said Gateway to Galloway will be important in establishing Stranraer as a destination, particularly when international tourism returns. He commented:
“I see it as a focal point for marketing and information, of the Rhins in particular. This facility helps to establish Stranraer as a serious destination that can help our town meet the needs of visitors as our tourism reputation grows.
“If we are able to attract even just a fraction of the volume of visitors going through the north channel route ferries, and encourage them to spend a few days exploring the local area, then that would transform Galloway’s visitor economy. When the travel trade returns we hope to get Stranraer established on itineraries as a place to stop, and we’ll be encouraging operators to draw up itineraries through Dumfries & Galloway before heading on the boat.
“This is obviously an unusual year in terms of tourism, but in the longer term we are looking to do a great deal with the Gateway to Galloway hub, like offering guide-led town tours, taking people up through the historic sites and round the town trail.
“Gateway to Galloway is about amplifying our tourism offer, inspiring visitors to make the most of our local area and encouraging them to linger and to spend their time and their money in our communities. The important thing is that we now have the facilities in place so that we can hit the ground running for Stranraer when international tourism opens back up.”
Gateway to Galloway is launching on Friday 2nd July with a drop in for local businesses, between 10am and 2pm.