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 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, Drumlanrig and Traquair host wonderfully atmospheric Christmas markets in beautifully decorated surroundings. Check out our Events page for full listings.

Traquair House will be hosting Christmas activities this winter.

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. Keep your eye out! He is even hosting breakfasts at Abbotsford while at Beirhope Alpacas there are evenings with Santa, a bauble hunt and an Alpaca Express to be enjoyed by all ages. Moat Brae in Dumfries are offering children the chance to see Santa and Mrs Claus including Storytime!

Santa is hosting breakfast at Abbotsford as well as taking gift list requests!

Christmas Shows

A night out is always a great way to celebrate the holidays and nothing says Christmas like a pantomime! Rapunzel is playing throughout December at the Theatre Royal in Dumfries. And Cinderella is on for limited runs at the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles.

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

Great Days Out

This year’s Great Days Out scheme offers selected discounts at some visitor attractions. At Abbotsford, childen get a discount with a paying adult for entry to An 1820s Christmas throughout December.

At Gretna Green’s Famous Blacksmiths Shop Experience children pay just £1 with an accompanying adult until the end of March 2023, while at the The Globe in Dumfries, it’s also just a pound for children under 17 taking part in the Classic Burns Tour with a paying adult.

At Trimontium in Melrose, children’s tickets are just £3 for entry to the museum which is open Wednesday through Sundays. It will close from Monday 19th December to Friday 10th February 2023, reopening for half-term holidays.

Auxiliary Cavalry!, Trimontium Trust
Discounted entry at Trimontium Museum for children.

Whet your whistle

Crafty Distillery in Newton Stewart is hosting a Christmas nights with cocktails in early December with the shop open for you to do some sneaky Christmas shopping.

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!

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!

Enjoy Cocktails at the Crafty Distillery in December.

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, the Mercure Dumfries 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 opens Thursday to Sundays during term time and all week except Wednesday during holidays.

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