Must See for ’23 in the South of Scotland

by Sara Barton, 17th January 2023
Must See for ’23 in the South of Scotland

Lonely Planet have named the South of Scotland a Must See Destination for 2023, so what exactly should be on your Must Visit list while you are here? Here is our round-up of events and attractions to put on your travel itinerary to the South of Scotland this year! All the events listed can be found on our Events page, so be sure to check it out for specific dates and details.

Literary must see

Lonely Planet cited the South of Scotland’s literary heritage as a key reason to visit and we couldn’t agree more. From Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg to Robert Burns, from John Buchan to Hugh McDiarmid, the south is brimming with literary connections.

Key literary attractions to see in the Borders
  • Abbotsford, Melrose – home of Sir Walter Scott
  • John Buchan Museum, Peebles – chronicles the life of the author of the The 39 Steps
  • Sir Walter Scott’s Courthouse, Selkirk – see where Scott as Sheriff dispensed justice for over 30 years
  • James Hogg Exhibition, Ettrick – celebrating the poet Hogg, known as the Ettrick Shepherd
Abbotsford House, home of Sir Walter Scott.
Key literary attractions to see in Dumfries & Galloway
  • Ellisland Museum & Farm, Auldgirth – first home of Robert Burns and his wife Jean Armour
  • Robert Burns House, Dumfries – home of the poet and his family in his final years
  • Moat Brae, Dumfries – the garden inspired J.M. Barrie’s Neverland when he wrote Peter Pan
  • Wigtown – Scotland’s National Book Town, teeming with bookshops to explore
Robert Burns’ desk at Ellisland Farm & Museum, Auldgirth, Dumfries.

Book your place at these literary festivals

In addition to visitor attractions, in an area known for its literary heritage there are some key events celebrating the written word that any visitor should know about.

Must See in 23: The Wigtown Book Festival in September is a 10 day celebration of the written word.
The Wigtown Book Festival runs for 10 days from 22 September.

Kirkcudbright Book Week (Feb)- In its second year, this bijou festival showcases the developing literary scene around the Kirkcudbright area and throughout Dumfries & Galloway. Centred around World Book Day, the festival is a great opportunity to experience this gem of a town with its connections to famous Scottish artists such as E.A. Hornel, its historical connection to Scotland’s National Bard Rabbie Burns and the stunning landscapes that have attract visitors since Mary Queen of Scots visited in the 1560s.

Big DoG Children’s Book Festival (Mar)- Hosted at Moat Brae, the National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling, this family-oriented festival is named in honour of Nana, the big dog who looks after the Darling children in Peter Pan. This year the Big DoG, targeting pre-school to middle grade aged children is joined by Hooked, the book festival for young adults aged 16-25. The result is a whole family festival for the weekend with a sneak preview of speakers including record-holding Paralympian swimmer Ellie Robinson; Jack Meggitt-Phillips, author of the Beast and the Bethany; Alex Foulkes, author of spooky tales for children, Rules for Vampires series. Book in now for a weekend of barking fun where everyone has a tale to tell.

Borders Book Festival (Jun) – This wonderful festival set in the Harmony Gardens in Melrose plays host to famous authors; stars of stage and screen, and leading figures from the world of politics and current affairs. A diverse programme of more than 100 events offers visitors the chance to hear first-hand the inspirations, humourous recollections and poignant memories of the authors who visit. Running alongside the festival is the Family Book Festival ensuring children have their own chance to be up close and personal with the authors who lead the children’s book scene and participate in craft activities and workshops.

Wigtown Book Festival (Sep) – Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Wigtown Book Festival’s 10 days are sure to be jam packed with celebrities, authors, journalists, broadcasters, politicians, and sports legends. The festival runs a children’s programme concurrently with the main events and in addition to audiences with authors there are musical and theatrical events, arts activities, a ceilidh and fireworks. This is a must see event for any visitor.

Cycling events to experience

The South of Scotland offers much more than its literary connections. Lonely Planet touched on its stunning forest parks and one of those, Glentress, will play host to two of this summer’s UCI Championship Cross Country cycling races. And with a coast-to-coast cycle path due to launch this summer, the South of Scotland has established itself as a go-to-place for cyclists and world class events.

Must See: Muck n' Mac is just one of the cycling events in 2023 in the South of Scotland.
Muck n’ Mac – a cycling festival with a difference based at Traquair House.

Muck n’ Mac Festival (May)- Based at Scotland’s oldest continually inhabited house, Traquair House, this festival is a weekend of gravel riding, live music, beer, yoga and family friendly activities. The combination of mucky, gritty, gravelly roads with some tarmacked sections give riders multiple challenges over the course of the routes. Once the riding is done there is live music entertainment in the evening and if your friends or family want something other than cycling there is a variety of activities on offer including yoga classes.

The Gralloch (May) – A brand new gravel cycling race at the very top of the sport and the first UK event in the TREKUCI Gravel World Series. Starting in Gatehouse of Fleet, the Gralloch will pit the top riders in this field agains the rugged terrain of the Galloway Hills and each other.

UCI Championships (Aug)- From the cross-country and cross-country marathon taking place in the Glentress Forest to the paracycling around Dumfries, the first half of August is all about cycling and the UCI Championships. Keep your eyes out on social media for celebratory events around the UCI races in both locations.

Raiders Gravel (Aug)- Now in its second year, this gravel cycling race gives riders the ultimate challenge as they face three days of gravel adventure in the heart of the Galloway Forest Park. Across three race stages riders explore the many corners of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere taking in the natural wonders, wildlife and serene outdoors. Based at Gatehouse of Fleet there will be a food village, grand marquee and Expo tent. Expect evening entertainment, local food and drink and the latest products from event partners.

Tune in to these music festivals

The South of Scotland has its fair share of music festivals and they are growing annually, attracting local and international talent and offering a different vibe to that of the mega-festivals common elsewhere.

Must See in 23: The Music at the Multiverse festival features a weekend of music at the other worldly Crawick Multiverse.
Music at the Multiverse – experience out of this world sound in a stunning location

Knockengorroch Festival (May)- Celebrate 25 years of this ceilidh festival, one of the first greenfield festivals of its kind in Scotland. Music from across the Celtic diaspora will be belting out beside the glittering Water of Deugh with the rolling hills of southwest Scotland providing a backdrop for the multitudes to listen, dance and enjoy. Acts from Chile, France, England and Scotland are already signed up for this year offering a diverse and eclectic range of music. If small festivals with huge sounds are your thing, this is one not to be missed.

Doonhame Festival (Jul) – This newest of music festivals makes its home on the stunning grounds of the Crichton Estate in Dumfries. Early bird tickets are now on sale with the possibilities of securing pitches for camping or caravan/campervan available.

Music at the Multiverse (Sep) – Experience the other worldly Crawick Multiverse at this growing festival – this will be its third year and for the chance to sit among the amazing land sculptures and listen to excellent music, this should be at the top of any festival goers list.

Uniquely South of Scotland events

Naturally, the South of Scotland has its own unique events that make it a special place and attract visitors from across the world. From art to heritage, walking to food, these events will give you a real feel of what makes the South of Scotland such a Must Visit Destination.

Must See in 23: The Coldstream Common Riding is popular as it celebrates the Battle of Flodden.
The Coldstream common riding is popular with a special ride out to commorate the Battle of Flodden.

Spring Fling (May)- Specially selected artists and makers across Dumfries and Galloway throw open their studio doors to welcome the public. Visitors can follow specially designed routes taking them round studios throughout the region, with some artists holding special evening openings or offering demonstrations. Associated art exhibitions will be on offer at the larger exhibition spaces throughout the region.

WalkFest (May) – The Newton Stewart Walking Festival might have a new name but it still offers a week long opportunity to get up into the Galloway Hills with those who know the routes, terrain and hidden gems best of all, the local walkers. Why not start your exploration of the this part of the South of Scotland with a walking holiday?

Common Ridings (Jun-Aug) – Don’t miss the opportunity to see the annual Common Ridings, where protecting the land from encroachment and raiders was vital in days gone by. Start in Hawick, the oldest equestrian festival in the world! Selkirk, Peebles, Melrose and Galashiels in the Borders follow suit throughout June. Over in Dumfries there is Guid Nychburris Day, usually the third weekend of June where riders leave Midsteeple and ride the marches before returning to a parade, musicians and dances in the town centre. Throughout July the towns of Annan, Jedburgh, Duns and Langholm all host ceremonies and associated events, picnics, parades and festivities to celebrate this time-honoured tradition. And one not to miss in August is the Coldstream Common Riding, which attracts riders from many of the other Common Ridings as it commemorates the Battle of Flodden with a special ride out.

Stranraer Oyster Festival (Sep) – Three days of festivities, flavour and fun, this festival celebrates the native oysters which flourish in beautiful Loch Ryan, on the southwest coast. There are kitchen demonstrations and audiences with celebrity chefs, live music, family fun, artisan producers and thousands upon thousands of delicious oysters to sample. This community-led festival goes from strength to strength and guarantees visitors a fantastic warm welcome.

Must See in 23 - Don't miss the Stranraer Oyster Festival taking place in Stranraer in September.
The Stranraer Oyster Festival takes place in September.