Winter Wonders in southern Scotland

by Sara Barton, 25th November 2021
Drumlanrig Castle |Thornhill Credit: VisitScotland; Paul Tomkins
Winter Wonders in southern Scotland

Crisp forecasts in southern Scotland mean scenic strolls through majestic, breathtaking scenery. It is an ideal time to celebrate clear skies, day or night — the lack of light pollution makes star gazing a real treat here. Add a dusting of the white stuff, and hey presto, your perfect winter wonderland. If the weather is just a tad too dreich then head inside – historic houses decorate for Christmas and host winter markets. January is all about Robert Burns with a two-week fringe style festival taking place in Dumfries to celebrate. And there are breweries and distilleries open for tours and tastings. There’s even a reduced price entry offer this winter for some attractions. What are you waiting for? Southern Scotland in winter awaits.

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. Most events for children require an adult entry as well.


Winter walks

Now is the time to enjoy the most beautiful winter walks. Why not test out a trail from some of the longer treks that trace through the countryside. You can dip into any of Scotland’s Great Trails or longer routes for a shorter day walk. Could this be the inspiration for a longer hike next spring or summer?

For stunning coastal scenes why not try part of the Berwickshire Coastal on the eastern coast? On a clear day head up a hill for the reward of a stunning view. Or tread in the steps of Scotland’s royalty on a walk along the Whithorn Way Pilgrimmage.

Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere

See the beauty of the winter on the hills and forests of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere.  Encompassing the Galloway Forest Park, the Machars Peninsula and stretching up into Ayrshire, the Biosphere offers you the perfect opportunity to be at one with nature whether you walk, cycle or go on horseback.

For more ideas and a full run down on the walking routes in the south of Scotland read our blog on Walking Trails in the South.

Take a walk with the white stuff crunching under your feet – like this spectacular view of the Eildon Hills.

Garden walks

Frosty mornings can make for gorgeous garden landscapes. You can embark on on icy escapade in several of the regions’ gardens this winter. For a grand setting try the estate walks at Drumlanrig Castle or the grounds of a historic homes such as Floors Castle. The National Trust for Scotland Threave Gardens remains open as is Glenwhan Gardens near Stranraer.

Logan Botanic Garden will open for Snowdrop Sundays throughout February and then for the season on 1 March. Dawyck Botanic Garden stays open till the end of November and then reopens with its stunning snowdrop display on the Scrape Burn at the beginning of February.

Garden art in snow at Glenwhan Gardens, Glenwhan Gardens
Glenwhan Gardens is open through the winter and an ideal place to blow away the winter blues.

Christmas Markets at Historic Houses

Get ready for the festive season at one of the many Christmas markets and Pop-up shops taking place around the region. Historic houses such as Abbotsford host wonderfully atmospheric Christmas markets in beautifully decorated surroundings.

Or there are more ad-hoc Pop Up Christmas shops such as that being offered at Station House Cookery School in November and December.

Winter Wonders: Abbotsford Christmas 1823
Abbotsford offers a day to see what it would be like celebrating Christmas in 1823.

Meet Santa and friends

Santa is a very busy man in the run up to the Big Day and he will make apprearances at plenty of the regions markets, fairs and museums. The Museum of Lead Mining at Wanlockhead is hosting Santa and encouraging youngsters to go on a treasure hunt for a reward. At Beirhope Alpacas there are evenings with Santa, and an Alpaca Express to be enjoyed by all ages.

Alpacas in the snow, Beirhope 2019
Santa and the alpacas at Beirhope Alpacas will provide a twist to the usual Santa’s grotto.

Christmas Shows

A night out is always a great way to celebrate the holidays and there are plenty of events in the run up to Christmas this year. At Moat Brae, it is a Bleak Winter – a Victorian ghost story unfolds for older children and adults (+12 recommended). Over in Langholm there is a Pantomime of Rapunzel, so you can let down your hair while you are entertained by the local theatre community group.

For a night out, try a Victorian ghost story at Moat Brae this December

Great Days Out

There is a fabulous opportunity to experience the best of the south this winter with the Great Days Out discounted entry scheme. There are 10 attractions open through the winter offering up to 50% off entry tickets so you can discover something new. Want to know more about Scottish history from a unique perspective? Head for the Great Tapesty of Scotland – you will be amazed. Or would you like to know more about the 12,000 women who contributed a vital role in the war effort during WWI? Head for the Devil’s Porridge Museum. Or are you looking for inspiration for your garden – look no further than National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Garden near Castle Douglas.

Read more about those taking part in the Great Days Out scheme. (LINK HERE)

Winter wonders: Great Tapestry of Scotland
Great Tapestry of Scotland is participating in the Great Days Out scheme offering up to 50% off entry fees

Whet your whistle

With a little careful planning you could combine a gorgeous winter walk in the Tweed Valley, take in the sites of Abbotsford and then head over for a Tap Session at The Tempest Brewing Co to slake your thirst. With sessions throughout November, December, Christmas and into the New Year, the brewery has opened up its Tap Room for tastings and booked local caterers to supply food. The Penny Bun will be bringing their festive food truck along. And to keep the good vibes going, there’ll be live DJs on Friday and Saturday nights (except Dec 24th and Jan 1st)

On the other side of the country, you could combine a winter walk with a tasting of the Five Kingdom Breweries ales at the Steam Packet Inn in the Isle of Whithorn. If you book ahead you could get lunch too!

If you are more interested in the hard stuff, why not take a tour at the Dark Art Distillery in Kirkcudbright or Crafty Distillery in Newton Stewart. Both are offering tours with insights into their unique products and supply a tasting at the end to help warm you from the inside out!

winter wonders: walk up an appetite and slake your thirst at Tempest Brewing Co
Walk up a thirst and then whet your whistle at the Tempest Brewing Co on Fridays and Saturdays this winter.

Celebrate the Bard

Don’t miss your opportunity to celebrate Burn’s night on 25 January. The Big Burns Supper Festival is a winter music festival that runs from the 14-30 January with a multitude of events and shows taking place in and around Dumfries. While in town be sure you take the time to visit the variety of sites associated with Burns. Part of the festival includes free tours by Solway Tours around some of these historic sites along with stories of the Bard. If you are visiting on your own, for the winter months openings are as follows: Ellisland Farm will be open for pre-booked guided tours on Monday and Wednesday mornings; the Robert Burns Centre opens Tues- Sat mornings and afternoons; and Robert Burns House can be visited on the same days by prior arrangement.

Robert Burns Dumfries
The Big Burns Supper Festival takes part the last two weeks of January to celebrate Scotland’s Bard.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen….

Travel back in time to see what the Romans left behind. Exhibits at the Trimontium Museum offer an insight into the lives of the Romans who had a large presence in southern Scotland. The museum is open Wed-Sunday until just before Christmas and then again for the February half-term break.

winter wonder: Trimontium museum
Excavations from a Roman fort dating to 80AD are on display at the Trimontium Museum in Melrose.

Out of this World

Throughout the winter the skies above the Galloway Forest give the most wonderful show and there are tour guides to help you distinguish the Big Dipper from Cassiopea! The Northern Lights are visible in these parts and so you could see some amazing dancing skies if you head outside. If you need something a wee bit warmer, head to Kirkcudbright and the Dark Space Planetarium which opens Thurs- Sun during term time and all week except Wed during holidays.

The night sky above Clatteringshaws