Make the Most of Autumn in the South of Scotland

by Scotland Starts Here, 7th September 2023
Leaderfoot Viaduct | Melrose.
Make the Most of Autumn in the South of Scotland

As the new season arrives in the south of Scotland 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. 

Go leaf-peeping

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. 

UNESCO Biosphere

The UNESCO Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is an ideal place to start, whether your itinerary follows Scotland’s new UNESCO Trail or you’re just out for an afternoon jaunt. The RSPB Wood of Cree is in the Biosphere and an excellent place to start, offering glimpses of wildlife and the perfect autumnal woodland walk. Or if you want to look down on the colours of autumn, head for the Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve. Here the keen walker can hike up to the top of Cairnsmore and be rewarded with excellent views down on Wigtown Bay and the Biosphere below.

 © RSPB 2020
RSPB Wood of Cree in the UNESCO Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere

Historic spots

See historic places basking in the warm autumn light with a visit to Dryburgh Abbey and along the Borders Abbeys Way. In Galloway, Loch Trool was the site of Robert the Bruce’s victory over an English cavalry five times the size of his own army in an act of guerilla warfare on the shores of loch. You can start with a quick detour from the car park to see the Bruce’s Stone commerating this victory before meandering around the Loch Trool circular walk.

Loch Trool
Loch Trool provides an excellent venue for an autumnal walk

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. Or take advantage of the extension of its opening hours this year at Thirlestane Castle – there are guided tours inside and wonderful grounds to explore outside! There’s even afternoon tea towards the end of the month!

Gardens and 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.  Or join the monthly guided walks at Logan Botanic Garden for insight into this real treat of a garden nestled in the far southwestern corner of Scotland.

Savour the tastes of the season 

The south of Scotland is 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.

Can it get any more autumnal than apples and pumpkins? At the National Trust’s Priorwood and Harmony Garden in Melrose, you can be sure to get your five a day during their Apple Weekend in mid-October. Join in celebrating the bees that make the pollination possible, the apple displays and kids can request rosy cheeks at the face painting booth!

Priorwood Gardens
Priorwood Gardens’ Orchard

Pick your own

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. Those brave enough to try can pick their pumpkin and then see what lies beneath at this year’s Creepy Pumpkin Patch at Dalkeith Country Park. For visitors in D&G head to Ernespie Farm where they too have grown a bounty of pumpkins in preparation for the season.

What better way to get ready for Halloween than picking your own Jack o’ Lantern?

Celebrate local

There’s a multitude of local food and drink offerings wherever you look. With Scotland now accounting for 70% of the UK’s gin production it is perhaps no surprise you are spoilt for choice from Crafty Distillery in Newton Stewart to Dark Art Distillery in Kirkcudbright. Whiskey is on offer at the Borders Distillery in Hawick while in Galashiels, Tempest Brewing are hosting their Oktoberfest after a four-year absence towards the end of September.

Locally made beer and great food are on the menu at the Steam Packet Inn in the Isle of Whithorn. Five Kingdoms Brewery‘s IPA is on tap and the food is under the watchful eye of Callum Harvey of No 1 Fleet Street.

Isle of Whithorn home to Steam packet Inn
The Isle of Whithorn is home to the Steam Packet Inn.

There is nothing better than locally sourced produce beautifully cooked and served with care. 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.

For even more ideas, check out our Food and Drink e-book

Enjoy family days out

Make the most of the Half-term break with activities for all ages. From tree climbing adventures to alpaca trekking or paddle boarding there are outside activities aplenty. If the weather turns a tad damp, there is plenty to do from checking out the life of a motor sport legend in Duns to gazing at the stars (indoors!) in Kirkcudbright. For all this and more ideas and inspiration we’ve written guides for rainy days and outdoor activities so you’re covered no matter what the weather.

Stunning walks, Galloway Alpacas
Walking an alpaca is sure to be a popular way to get the kids outside this autumn.

Discover spooky stories and historic places

From bone-chilling ghost stories to secrets hidden away in the depths of castles, there are many ways to get into the ‘spirit’ of the season! Check out our events page for info on the different Mostly Ghostly’ tours running in October. They combine alternative historical stories with a ghostly touch. We’re rounding up the best Halloween treats and will be publishing it shortly so keep an eye out for our new blogs. Or you could try spotting a real ghost at Jedburgh Castle Jail!

Join a Mostly Ghostly tour for a super spooky insight into the history of the area.

Wildlife spotting

This year’s Wild Goose Festival in and around Dumfries will run for 11 days and takes its inspiration from the migratory route of the barnacle geese between Svalbard and the Solway estuary.

Each autumn, tens of thousands of wild geese arrive in Dumfries & Galloway after their long migration, some traveling over 2,700km to reach the region. This mass gathering includes: barnacle, greylag geese, brent geese and Greenland white fronted geese. They flock to the region each year making it one of the best places in the UK to see such a variety of geese.

This is also 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 the South of Scotland. While exploring the coastline, you may even spot seal pups along the shore or dolphins out at sea as the season progresses. 

And always remember to be respectful of our natural environment and its inhabitants, big and small.  

 © RSPB 2020
See the geese migrations along the Solway estuary in Dumfries and Galloway