Winter Wonders in Southern Scotland

by Sara Barton, 16th November 2022
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 so seek out your favourite spot to celebrate! And there are breweries and distilleries open for tours and tastings. What are you waiting for? Southern Scotland in winter awaits.

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 Pilgrimage.

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 and check out our blog on Winter Walks.

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 an 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 historic homes such as Floors Castle. The gardens and the Apple Shed Cafe, Deli & Gift shop are open daily from 10.30am -4pm. You can check out the more than 70 types of holly at the National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Gardens and pick up a Christmas tree in a pot on your way out! Glenwhan Gardens near Stranraer is open daily for a wander.

Logan Botanic Garden will re-open for Snowdrop weekends 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

Get ready for the festive season at one of the many Christmas markets and Pop-up shops taking place around the region. Historic parks and houses such as Dalkeith Country Park, Paxton House and Drumlanrig Castle host wonderfully atmospheric Christmas markets in beautifully decorated surroundings. Check out our Events page for full listings.

Drumlanrig Castle will be holding its annual Christmas Fair in December

Meet Santa and friends

Santa is a very busy man in the run up to the Big Day and he will make appearances at plenty of the regions markets, fairs and museums. Keep your eye out! He is even hosting breakfast at Abbotsford while at Beirhope Alpacas you can meet Santa and friends and all ages can jump aboard the Alpaca Express! At Moat Brae in Dumfries you’ll be able to hand over your letter to Santa and hear about life at the North Pole. At Paxton House after meeting Santa and his elf, you can hang a wish on the wishing tree and even make some reindeer food! And at Caledonia Park at Gretna you can visit Santa’s Grotto and make your own gingerbread themed decoration to hang on your tree! Find out more at our events page.

Santa is hosting breakfast at Abbotsford!

Christmas Shows

A night out is always a great way to celebrate the holidays and nothing says Christmas like a pantomime! Cinderella is playing for much of December at the Theatre Royal in Dumfries and at New Town Hall in Whithorn on 8th December. And Aladdin is on the 7th, 8th and 9th December at the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles.

Theatre Royal Dumfries, view from the stage, Andrew Jardine
Catch Cinderella at the Theatre Royal in Dumfries in December.

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. Do book in advance to be guaranteed a table!

Treat yourself to some artistic delights in the Artist’s Town of Kirkcudbright, then indulge in a little refreshment at the delightful Dark Art Distillery, home to Sky Garden Galloway Gin. Distillery Tour & Tastings available Thursday to Saturday through November and December.

Or 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!

Enjoy some post Christmas Shopping Refreshment
at Dark Art Distillery in Kirkcudbright.

Celebrate the Bard

Don’t miss your opportunity to celebrate Burn’s night on 25th of January. If you head to Dumfries be sure you take the time to visit the variety of sites associated with Burns. Keep your eyes on the social media channels of the Cairndale Hotel, the Globe Inn, and the Selkirk Arms in Kirkcudbright amongst others for Burns’ events and dinners. Before you embark on the local Burns Trail do take note of the winter month opening hours: Ellisland Farm is closed for the winter; the Robert Burns Centre and Robert Burns House open Tuesday to Saturday mornings and afternoons.

Robert Burns Dumfries
Visit Dumfries to pay special tribute to Scotland’s Bard.

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 weekends through November and December.

The night sky above Loch Trool and the Bruce’s Stone.