Unmissable Highlights for 2021

by Sara Barton, 7th October 2021
Clatteringshaws Loch in Galloway Forest Park
Unmissable Highlights for 2021

Planning your trip to Scotland but want to be sure you don’t miss out on the latest things to see and do? Been to the South of Scotland before and want to experience something new? This year has seen a variety of attractions and experiences opening their doors for the first time to offer visitors a new perspective on Scotland’s varied history. And you definitely won’t want to miss out on the 250th birthday celebrations of one of Scotland’s literary giants, Sir Walter Scott.


Please note: In light of the coronavirus pandemic, health and safety are of paramount importance. Stay safe and adhere to current government guidance. Closures and access restrictions may apply and will be lifted in line with government guidance. Always check with places directly and prebook where possible.


Where: Galashiels

The brain-child of beloved Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith, The Great Tapestry of Scotland tells the story of Scotland from 8,500 BC to present in 160 linen panels, lovingly stitched by 1,000 people. Its narrative was written by the award-winning writer and historian Alistair Moffat. The 300 miles of wool used would stretch from the Scottish-English border in the south to the northern most tip of Shetland in the North Atlantic. This amazing artistic creation is housed in a purpose-built visitor centre in the heart of the UK’s premier textile region.

The Welcome Panels in the New Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre, Great Tapestry of Scotland/Phil Wilkinson
The Great Tapestry of Scotland, opened to the public in August in Galashiels

Where: Melrose

The Romans established a major fort just east of modern day Melrose in AD80 and it is one of the UK’s most significant archaelogical sites from that period. The newly opened Trimontium Museum contains artefacts excavated from the dig site and helps to tell the story of Roman occupation of Caledonia, as they referred to Scotland. Of signficant size, the Fort was also the depository of an incredible cache of a military arsenal, which historians are still struggling to explain. Visit the museum and find out about life in the Roman army over 2000 years ago and what they left behind!

timontium museum display melrose
Armour wall displaying the regalia of a Roman army soldier

The Galloway Hoard

Where: Kirkcudbright

In 2014, a metal detecting enthusiast in Dumfries and Galloway unearthed a collection of Viking-age objects unlike anything found in Britain or Ireland. The Galloway Hoard, as it came to be known, includes over 100 diverse artefacts from silver, gold and jewelled treasures to rarely surviving textiles, including wool, linen and Scotland’s earliest examples of silk. Lying buried since 900 AD, the objects have been cleaned and conserved allowing for a glimpse of the intricate decorations. Innovative research using modern techniques such as CT scans, 3D models and X-rays have already revealed further hidden details and there is more to discover. This exhibition is definitely a highlight for autumn and opens on October 9th for six months.

galloway hoard cross
Unearthing the Galloway Hoard cross in 2014. Credit: A. Nicholson

Where: Melrose

The iconic home of the famous Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott has been welcoming visitors since his death in 1833. Even if you have been once before, the gothic architecture, stunning gardens and interiors packed with artefacts, curios and books galore merit another exploration. In 2021, celebrations to commerate 250 years since his birth began and are due to run into 2022. At Abbotsford itself there are inside tours, outside walks and a rolling calendar of events celebrating WalterScott250, which include online events and exhibitions, concerts and readings around Scotland and the UK.

Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott, is an unmissable example of 19th century Scottish Baronial style

Where: Kirkcudbright

Not far from the Dark Skies park in the Galloway Forest you can get an even closer look at the stars, the International Space Station and take a virtual trip to the edge of our universe at the newly opened Dark Space Planetarium. The immersive Planetarium domed cinema screen gives visitors the chance to feel like space is all around them. There are interactive exhibits such as trying on an astronaut’s gloves to understand the complexity of trying to work while wearing this protective equipment. A great place to explore space, while keeping your feet on the ground!

Dark Space Planetarium
Dark Space Planetarium, opened in August in Kirkcudbright

Dark Art Distillery

Where: Kirkcudbright

The gin craze of recent years has definitely reached Scotland and the latest distillery to open its doors for tours and visitors is the Dark Art Distillery. An hour-long tour around the distillery delves into the history of gin and includes the custom-built still, Peggy. At the end you get to taste the distillery’s premium product, Sky Garden Gin. Taking inspiration from the dark night sky, the gin includes botanicals that are active (in flower or scent) primarily at night and are grown locally specially to order.

Known as Peggy, this still is at the heart of Dark Art Distillery