AS the search for a country bolt hole continues, I found myself prowling around a holiday home near St Boswells recently. The cottage, perched on the lip of a gorge, was expressly designed to hold wellies, guns and fishing rods. Bikes and canoes could be stowed in the cellar, retrievers and spaniels by the wood-burning stove.

The only problem was that, while every outdoor need had been thought of, there was no wall space for books. For those who would rather stand thigh-deep in the icy Tweed than sit by the fire reading Rob Roy, however, there could hardly be a better spot, within earshot of rising trout, surrounded by woodlands and hills, with an ancient abbey beyond the fence. For centuries the charms of the Borders have been hymned by travellers. Residents have been less effusive.

Since the mills closed, and then the banks and shops, and as hill farming and forestry have become less profitable, for those who live and work here it has been anything but idyllic. Where Borderers once would have ridden off only in pursuit of rustlers or to evade the law, in recent decades there has been an exodus in search of jobs.

For a time, almost all of the main towns grew shabby, with forlorn high streets and bus shelters where tumbleweed took root. Mouldering, abandoned Tibbie Shiels Inn by St Mary’s Loch, once a honeypot for walkers and fishermen, not to mention Sir Walter Scott, James Hogg and Robert Louis Stevenson, speaks to those years of blight.

Thanks to tourism, the wheel has begun to turn once more and it is on the back of this burgeoning sector that the Campaign for a Scottish Borders National Park presses its case, advocating new ambition for the region based on its abundance of fresh-air pursuits, historic sites and unsurpassable natural beauty.

The rabbit-shaped zone it proposes runs from Melrose and Kelso in the north and north east, skirts past Selkirk, Galashiels and Hawick in the west, and extends to Newcastleton and the English border by the Kielder Forest Park in the south. These 400 square miles represent the heart of the Borders, the Kohi Noor of the jewellery box. Those excluded will feel slighted but campaigners claim they will benefit from the so-called “halo” effect the park brings.

While the boundaries can be debated, it’s hard to argue with the general idea. Although many of us are well aware of the allure of Scott’s home turf, winning national park designation would raise its profile 10-fold. Bringing it to international attention will multiply tourist revenue and encourage further investment to enhance and augment the amenities on offer, sparking a virtuous cycle.

The region would be eligible for new sources of funding, although Brexit might threaten some of the aid it might otherwise have drawn on. In time, as more people visit, distinctive regional trades, producers and services will prosper, creating employment and security for an area that until lately seemed destined to decline. Of course, for many years now, enterprising businesses, from B&Bs and bijou hotels to book festivals, bookshops and outdoor ventures, have been capitalising on the area’s exceptional natural assets and dramatic history.

It is a playground for cyclists, walkers, wildlife enthusiasts, anglers, hunters and even golfers, many of whom I’ve witnessed migrating from middle England to sample the delights of its rain-sodden greens. What would be better than watching a ball disappear into the drizzle, against the backdrop of heathered hills?

Should sport ever pall, then there are countless castles and keeps, gardens, mansions and ruins to explore, this being one of the most dramatically eventful parts of Britain. Leafy and tranquil though it looks, it has as many fortresses and hill forts per square mile as Las Vegas has casinos, and with good reason.

Following the success of the Borders Railway – raising the question of whether the line should be extended – this feels like the right time to petition.

The financial benefits of national park status have been well attested in Caithness and the Trossachs. And while the infrastructure of the Borders is slowly improving, there will be incentives for further and faster investment after it has been, literally, put on the tourist map.

The help this will provide to the more run-down of its districts needs not be spelled out.

Yet there are downsides. Official labels bring red tape and new rules and regulations which farmers and businesses in particular find alarming.

House prices might increase too, as more property is bought for letting or by those drawn by the elite status a park promises.

This last is perhaps the trickiest potential problem for locals, and one that must be kept to the forefront of campaigners’ minds at all times. Yet it surely cannot be beyond the wit of planners to find a way around this hurdle.

If they can achieve that then they will be giving the Borderlands a fighting chance of renaissance and inspiration for everyone who lives there; as well, of course, as remaining a visitor’s dreamland.