What to see & do this winter

by Sara Barton, 14th December 2023
Berwickshire Coastal Path | Scottish Borders
What to see & do this winter

Discover a myriad of experiences in the South of Scotland this winter, from museums and historic sites to cozy retreats and romantic escapes for Valentine’s Day. You can browse art galleries & bookshops and sip cappucinos in our cafés. Head out on an enchanting hike (or on a bike) amidst the scenic beauty of our captivating coastlines and rolling hills. And finish it all off with an excellent meal and perhaps a little something warming!

Something for the spirit lovers

Those purists wanting a wee dram can indulge their passion at the Annandale Distillery or the Bladnoch Distillery, both open for pre-booked tours through the winter, do check dates and times as Bladnoch does shut for two weeks over Christmas. If gin is your thing, then the Dark Art Distillery will be running pre-booked tours Thursdays through Saturdays while at Crafty Distillery, there are tours Wednesday through Saturday. If you think you can master the art of gin making, try making your very own concoction at the 1881 Distillery and Gin School at Peebles Hydro, which is running courses and tours through the winter from Thursday to Sunday.

10 reasons to visit Dumfries and Galloway: Annandale Distillery; Robin McKelvie
Do some spirit sampling during your stay – try whisky at the Annandale Distillery.

For the adventurers

Winter shouldn’t put the brakes on your outdoor adventures! The South of Scotland has some stunning landscapes regardless of the seasons – just make sure you’re dressed for the weather when you head out! Head out for a bracing walk along the coast or into the forests and hear the twigs snapping underfoot. For cycling enthusiasts, the Breakpad Bike Shop in Newton Stewart is open from Wednesday to Sunday during January and from Tuesday in February and March. Kirroughtree 7 stanes visitor centre is open seven days a week offering mountain bikers excellent trails and tea and cakes at the end of it! And, of course, you can always rely on our bike guiding companies such as Ridelines and Galloway Cycling Holidays to ensure you find routes that match your abilities too.

If you decide that the wet weather is just too much, then head inside at the Bouldover Climbing Centre in Dumfries for a fantastic session of wall climbing for all ages and abilities. For smaller adventurers the indoor play area and café at Dalscone Farm in Dumfries is open Monday to Saturday. Or you can rock up at Ernespie Farm with no pre-bookings required for the soft play areas, which is open daily.

Head out on the trails with an experienced guide, such as Ridelines, this winter.

For the history buffs

Immerse yourself in the South of Scotland’s history this season: Pay a visit to Britain’s only triangular castle at Caerverlock Castle, near Dumfries or learn about the role HM Gretna had making ammunitions during the world wars at the Devil’s Porridge Museum, Eastriggs, which are both open daily. Glimpses into local life and artefacts are available at the Dumfries Museum, open Tuesday to Saturdays until the end of March and the Tweedale Museum and Art Gallery, Peebles, which is open except for Sundays and Wednesdays.

Inside the Devil's Porridge Museum, SSDA and Duncan Ireland
There is plenty to discover at the Devil’s Porridge Museum in Eastriggs.

The perfect day trip by train

How about an atmospheric day trip setting off to the Scottish Borders on the train from Edinburgh’s Waverley Station? Hop off at Galashiels and take in the wonderous Great Tapestry of Scotland, open Tuesdays to Saturdays throughout the winter months, then lunch on scrumptious sandwiches or take tea and scones before a browse through the local shops in Galashiels and jumping back on board.

Main Gallery, GTOS
The Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels makes a great day trip out.

For the love of Burns

Anyone wanting to explore the life and times of Robert Burns will enjoy delving into the exhibits of the Robert Burns Centre and Burns House in Dumfries. Both are open Tuesday – Saturday with a pause for lunch throughout the winter. Indeed, you can time your visit to include a trip to Robert Burns’ favourite pub, the Globe Inn. Dine at the renowned 1610 restaurant, and, once replete, you can take a tour of the Globe and see where Burns once sat, drank and made merry!

Celebrate Burns in Dumfries with a tour and food at the Globe Inn where he ate and made merry!

Indulge in café and culture

Winter is the perfect time to wander in the creative spaces of our towns without the crowds and distractions. The Catstrand , New Galloway offers a vibrant arts centre with theatre, exhibition space and café which is open through the winter from Tuesday to Saturday. A’the Arts in Sanquhar offers community spaces with exhibition, crafting and a café Monday through Saturdays. At Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries there are ever changing exhibits from international, national and local artists from Tuesdays to Saturdays. Kirkcudbright Galleries offer the chance to see the works of some of the town’s famous inhabitants and a rotation of temporary exhibits. The Galleries are open Tuesday – Sunday with the café open Tuesday – Saturday. And in Peebles the Eastgate Theatre has a mix of classical performances, films, events and workshops to choose from as well as a café open daily except Sundays.

Eastgate Theatre, Peebles, Eastgate Theatre
The Eastgate Theatre & Cafe are open with a variety of events taking place through the winter.

Perfect for gardeners

Any horticulturist will know that while winter is the time for many plants to lie low and rebuild their strength, it is also the time that some plants shine brightest. Find out what you may have missed with a visit to Glenwhan Gardens (tea room closed but gardens open). Threave Gardens nature reserve is open year-round and the garden, café, visitor centre and shop open daily from 8th January following a two week break over Christmas/New Year. You can also still access the Walled Garden and Terrace Café at Floors Castle daily through the winter months.

Snow on garden art, Glenwhan Gardens
Get a different perspective on gardens this winter at Glenwhan Gardens.

Outer space adventurers

This is an ideal time to check out the dark skies across the South of Scotland. At eight different Forestry & Land Scotland car parks their Stay the Night offer is still in place, so park up and drink in the celestial feast on a clear night. Or check out the amazing Stargazing packages on offer at various accommodation providers across the region. On the weekends the Dark Space Planetarium in Kirkcudbright opens for indoor explorations into space! It is also hosting talks about space, like the Birth, Life and Death of Stars so have a look and see what takes your fancy.

Everyone can enjoy an afternoon at the Dark Space Planetarium on the weekends this winter.

For lovers and dreamers

Visit a true testament to love – that of Lady Devorgilla of Galloway to her beloved husband John Balliol. She had Sweetheart Abbey, near New Abbey constructed in memory of him and the cloister is open Saturdays – Wednesdays. Or perhaps you prefer a more modern love story – visit the Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Experience which is open daily except for Christmas. A love of Scotland drove Robert the Bruce to request his heart be returned upon his death and it is widely thought it now lies at Melrose Abbey. The abbey grounds, cloister and museum are all open daily through the winter season.

Melrose Abbey , ScottishFood&Drink Trails
Melrose Abbey where the heart of Robert the Bruce is thought to be buried.