As the new season arrives in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders and the landscapes slowly change colour, there’s nothing better than welcoming it with distinctly autumnal activities.
Whether you enjoy heading outdoors to take in the colourful foliage or prefer cosying up indoors as you savour the tastes and smells of the season, you can be sure to find what you’re looking for with our guide to making the most of autumn.
Please note: In light of the coronavirus pandemic, health and safety are of paramount importance. Stay safe and adhere to current government guidance. If you are going for walks or exercise, always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Closures and access restrictions may apply and will be lifted in line with government guidance. Always check with places directly and prebook where possible.
Taking a walk in Scotland’s woodlands is especially magical at this time of year. Leaves are turning from green to fiery shades of red, orange and yellow, while the sunlight illuminates the hillsides, turning them gold. Breathe in the crisp air or embark on a search for the best conkers with local walks for all abilities.
See historic places basking in the warm autumn light with a visit to Dryburgh Abbey and along the Borders Abbeys Way, or follow the gentle murmur of the River South Esk as you explore the woodlands around Newbattle Abbey. Not far from Newbattle, discover the stories of Midlothian’s lost industries with a walk to Roslin Glen’s ruined gunpowder mill. For views across the glen, make your way to Rosslyn Castle and world-famous Rosslyn Chapel. Those wanting to take in the sounds of crackling leaves on a long walk will enjoy exploring Gore Glen – the local network of paths leads all the way to Arniston House.
From leisurely jaunts suitable for short legs as well as prams to hikes up nearby Peniel Heugh, Harestanes offers a great day out for all. Afterwards, recharge with coffee and cake from the onsite cafe. And if you’re looking to combine your autumn walk with stunning gardens, Monteviot House Gardens are laid out to offer picturesque views in every season.
Scottish Tree Festival
From late September to early December, the Scottish Tree Festival offers an excellent opportunity to head outside and admire Scotland’s varied vistas. Admire the country’s finest and oldest tree collection at Dawyck Botanic Garden, including giant redwoods and Douglas firs. Home to rare plants from as far away as China, Japan and North America, visitors can expect a vivid display of autumn colour.
Savour the tastes of the season
Midlothian and the Scottish Borders are the perfect destinations for those looking to enjoy the rich flavours autumn brings. Whether you want to pick your own or are looking to enjoy a hearty meal in one of our award-winning eateries, there’s lots on offer.
Pick your own
Can it get any more autumnal than picking apples and pumpkins? At Priorwood Garden in Melrose, you can be sure to get your five a day during their Apple Day Market. Join in celebrating the harvest, and browse the small local produce and arts and crafts market! In addition to a variety of home-grown apples, you will also find sweet treats, willow crafts and more.
To choose the perfect gourd, head to one of the area’s pumpkin patches. Whether you’re planning to cook a tasty soup or want to carve a scary jack-o-lantern, St Abbs Pumpkin Patch has you covered. Choose from thousands of pumpkins, then celebrate your colourful bounty with tea and cake from nearby Old Smiddy Coffee Shop. Alternatively, head to Clackmae Farm near Earlston. Here, you can take your pick from varieties including the aptly named ‘Wicked’ pumpkin.
While we may not be able to celebrate Oktoberfest this year, you can still toast the season with fantastic offers from craft breweries in Midlothian and the Borders. Stewart Brewing are offering click and collect, as well as extended opening hours at their taproom in Loanhead. And in Galashiels, Tempest Brewing have released their seasonal special – All the Leaves Are Brown.
It’s a great time to enjoy the best locally sourced produce. At Cringletie in Peebles, award-winning Sunday roast awaits you, while fresh seafood and seasonal cocktails are available at Oblo in Eyemouth on the Berwickshire Coast. Celebrations are also in order at Born in the Borders near Jedburgh. The visitor centre with shop, café and brewery reopens this October, so why not plan a visit.
In case you’d rather enjoy a tasty meal at home, many restaurants currently offer takeaway and delivery. This includes the popular Paper Mill in Lasswade. Let us whet your appetite even further: The Sun Inn’s deli shop is currently open, and a delicious takeaway menu of homemade burgers, pies and doughnuts is available.
For even more ideas, check out our Food and Drink e-book.
Enjoy family days out
Make the most of the Autumn Break in Midlothian and the Borders with activities for all ages.
In Duns, the Jim Clark Motorsport Museum has launched its ‘Lap of the Museum’. Go on a grand tour of the life of one of the world’s greatest racing drivers with a mix of quizzes and model car spotting.
Those looking for hands-on outdoor fun can head to Jacksons at Jedburgh. Throughout the school holidays, the working family farm is running ‘Meet and Greet the Animals‘ sessions. Additionally, there will be special crafting sessions, including pumpkin carving, and outdoor music.
Explorers of all ages can also tune in to the Midlothian Science Festival. Now in its ninth year, the festival has moved online. With material lists available beforehand, families can join in from home and take part in a variety of fun and creative experiments.
Discover spooky stories and historic places
From bone-chilling ghost stories to secrets hidden away in the depths of Midlothian and the Borders’ castles, there are many ways to get into the ‘spirit’ of the season!
Take over the house of secrets: Gunsgreen House in Eyemouth. Throughout the autumn months, the museum is offering self-guided tours and a smuggling trail. Explore the incredible hiding places used by John Nisbet, then take on a range of quizzes to see if you can match his resourceful band of smugglers to become a certified smuggler yourself.
Calling all witches, vampires and skeletons! Dress up in your spookiest outfit and explore the Paxton House Halloween Trail. There’s even a prize for the best costumes. And with the tearoom, play park and picture gallery open as well, there’s lots to discover.
On two weekends in October, a spooktacular event takes over the gardens at Scotland’s largest inhabited castle. Head along and follow the Halloween Pumpkin Trail at Floors Castle in Kelso. At the end of the trail, each child will get to celebrate delicious homemade Halloween biscuit at The Terrace Café. Make sure to also stop by the new Apple Shed to browse seasonal produce, hampers and gift ideas.
There are many more stories waiting to be discovered at historic properties in the area. Several castles and grand houses are offering private tours for small groups, as well as special trails and activities for children. Plan a day out and explore Traquair House, Abbotsford and Thirlestane Castle.
Autumn is a great time to spot an array of Scottish wildlife. With trees slowly shedding their leaves, look out and listen for red squirrels, deer and owls hiding in the forest of Midlothian and the Scottish Borders. While exploring the Berwickshire coastline, you may even spot seal pups along the shore or dolphins out at sea as the season progresses.
Check our guide on the wildlife you can spot in Midlothian and the Borders for more information. And always remember to be respectful of our natural environment and its inhabitants, big and small.