Make the most of the season and get into the Christmas Spirit in the South of Scotland. Especially now, with the days getting shorter and everyone safely exploring close to home, it’s the perfect time to spread festive cheer. And there’s lots to discover locally! Across the Scottish Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, and Midlothian, plenty of adventures await that will sweeten the wait until Christmas. Read on for a small selection.
Please note: In light of the coronavirus pandemic, health and safety are of paramount importance. Stay safe and adhere to current government guidance. Do not travel to or from areas in Protection Levels 3 and 4. If you are going for walks or exercise, always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Closures and access restrictions may apply and will be lifted in line with government guidance. Always check with places directly for visiting guidelines and prebook where possible.
The season may be quieter in 2020, but it is by no means less cheery, with town centres across the South of Scotland illuminated. So why not head out on an evening walk in your nearest town! We have collated a small selection of this year’s glittering displays.
In Annan, the Town Hall once again lights the way with its dazzling display. And the rest of the town’s High Street is no different, with shops and houses decorated with festive displays.
You can also head to Moffat, where in addition to sparkling lights, you will find a hidden message from Santa in local shop windows. In the shop windows of Langholm, you’ll find festive decorations and lanterns to celebrate the season and local heroes.
Those looking for an after-dark adventure can head to Dalkeith Country Park. Here, the Spectacle of Light invites small and big kids alike to explore the illuminated trails. Embark on a breathtaking journey filled with twinkling lights, pixie lanterns and colourful installations that light up the cold winter nights.
In the Scottish Borders town of Selkirk, Christmas lights illuminate the historic town centre, perfect for a stroll around the local shops. And it’s similarly festive in Kelso, where a grand Christmas tree overlooks the market square, and colourful lights and baubles adorn shop facades as well as windows. Keep your eyes open: You might spot one of 24 winning tickets placed around the town to nab a prize from local businesses! Southern Scotland’s coast is equally festive, with Eyemouth’s streets and squares dressed with twinkling lights. Wherever you find yourself this December, you’ll be certain to get into the festive spirit.
Now more than ever, it is essential to show support to our local businesses, makers and creators. So, whether you’re looking for something special for your nearest and dearest or the last few stocking fillers, check out what’s on offer in the South of Scotland.
In Langholm, over 20 businesses have come together for a special festive campaign. Spend £10 in any one of the participating shops, and you’ll be in with a chance to win a £100 shopping voucher and a range of locally sourced goodies. And with two pop-up shops stocked by artisans and creatives, finding gifts for even the most difficult to please will be effortless.
Another pop-up shop filled to the brim with fantastic gift ideas can be found in Dumfries. The Guild’s Festive Pop-Up Shop champions indie designers, creatives and producers from around the region. Located in the Loreburne Shopping Centre, visitors can discover gift ideas ranging from foodie treats to jewellery, homeware and clothing.
If you’re after quality gifts from internationally renowned brands, make sure to pay a visit to Hawick. The town’s five textile mills have teamed up with the Borders Distillery for a luxurious Christmas Competition and Advent Calendar. Every day you’ll find special offers from some of the world’s most prestigious cashmere and Tweed producers on their social media channels and in-store.
Showing love for local businesses is also the message in Galashiels. Here, businesses have dressed up their shop windows to create a festive atmosphere around town. Shoppers will find lots of gift ideas and festive inspiration.
And don’t forget to have a look behind the doors of our Advent Calendar! You will find 24 gift ideas from businesses across the South of Scotland that are only available here and only this December.
Festive Days Out
Enchanting decorations, gardens glittering in the frosty temperatures and coffee breaks with mesmerizing views. The weeks before Christmas are the perfect opportunity for a family day out in the South of Scotland, with several of our best-loved attractions running special tours and open days that you won’t want to miss.
At Moat Brae, the fairies have lost their queen! Embark on a magical quest to help find her, then celebrate with a visit to the Neverland Discovery Garden afterwards.
At the historic home of novelist Sir Walter Scott, visitors can step back in time to the winter of 1842. The interiors of Abbotsford are dressed up for Christmas, while a special audio tour brings the season to life. And with a children’s Festive Treasure Hunt a visit promises an exciting day out for every member of the family.
Christmas splendour has also taken over Paxton House. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in festive traditions from the Victorian and Georgian era. Take your time and admire the magical Picture Gallery that has been decorated for the season, complete with a 12 foot glittering Christmas tree.
Those looking for seasonal outdoor fun can head to Floors Castle Gardens. Entry to the Walled Garden, Millennium Garden and Children’s Play Area is free until the end of the year. At the same time, the Terrace Café offers a range of treats. Sip on hot chocolates, alcohol-free mulled wine, or tuck into freshly made mince pies while you explore.
For more seasonal days out, check out our festive Events Guide.
Christmas and food go together perfectly, there’s no doubt about it! So, why not head out to one of the amazing restaurants, cafés and artisans in the South of Scotland to enjoy their festive specials. And if visiting your favourite locales isn’t on the table, many of them offer delivery and takeaway services to bring the Christmas magic to you.
The Christmas menu at the Allanton Inn features popular classics such as roast turkey as well as owner Katrina Reynold’s special homemade Christmas Pudding. As always, the award-winning inn brings a strong focus on local provenance to every dish on the menu.
A range of sweet treats is available to enjoy and to order at Cocoa Black Chocolate Boutique in the heart of Peebles. Christmassy treats on offer include delicious Yule logs and chocolate snowmen, as well as themed patisserie.
Those with a sweet tooth will also be delighted by Born in Scotland’s Christmas Afternoon Tea. So, head to their Jedburgh café for a taste. Indulge with savoury sandwiches, haggis bonbons and sweet options including trifle. And why not upgrade the experience with a festive cocktail?
At the Tontine Hotel in Peebles, festive drinks also feature on the menu. Gingerbread Lattes, Spiced Mull Wine and Cranberry Gin Fizz are certain to bring a festive flair to the table. Then enjoy festive fare, including locally sourced beef casserole or turkey.
A full Christmas dinner experience is available at the Paper Mill in Lasswade. The mouth-watering menu includes a range of classic meat and veggie options, perfect for celebrating the season.
For Christmas-themed Afternoon Tea in a picturesque location, head to the Abbey Cottage Tearoom. Set right across from atmospheric Sweetheart Abbey, the tearoom has put together a delectable spread of homemade shortbread, mince pies and seasonal sandwiches.
Families will enjoy a day out at the Cocoa Bean’s Christmas events. In addition to enjoying a delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner, kids will get to take part in a range of festive activities. Meet Santa and his elves, take part in a mini chocolate workshop and more.
Winter Walks & Trails
Snow dusted hillsides, the crunch of frozen grass underfoot, and our lochs and rivers sparkling in the winter sunshine. ‘Tis the season to wrap up warm and embrace the sights and sounds of South Scotland. Whether you’re looking to work up an appetite for the holidays or heading out for a post-Christmas lunch walk along the meandering Tweed, there’s plenty of options to choose from.
Families will enjoy the range of trails available at Dalkeith Country Park, as well as Vogrie Country Park. The new path along the River Tweed to the Union Chain Bridge and Paxton House also makes for a great walk for little legs. Alternatively, head to Harestanes, where fun discoveries await along the Christmas Trail.
Those in favour of a longer outing might enjoy a ramble around Threave Garden and Estate or even the Galloway Forest Park. Britain’s largest forest park offers a mixture of forest and lochside walking trails to suit various fitness levels.
Looking for even more breathtaking views? The trails of the Tweed Valley offer scenic lookout points galore. The Three Brethren near Selkirk, Neidpath Circuit in Peebles and the surrounding forest walks are fantastic options, as are the Pentland Peaks in Midlothian – just remember to dress for the weather!
Prefer to blow away the cobwebs along the coast? Keep your eyes open. You may spot grey seal pups along the Berwickshire Coastal Path.
Wherever you decide to roam, always remember to respect, protect, enjoy: Keep a safe distance from animals and follow the Outdoor Access Code. And for more information on the wildlife at home in the area, check out this blog post.
Cosy up at home
If you don’t want to venture out, you can still connect with the South of Scotland. Whether due to the weather or because you’re keeping safe at home, here are a few virtual options for you.
Get comfortable on the sofa and watch The Princess Switch – Switched Again on Netflix. The sequel of the popular Christmas film The Princess Switch sees Duchess Margaret (Vanessa Hudgens) unexpectedly inheriting the throne to Montenaro. She needs the support of friend and double Stacy (also played by Hudgens), but a third lookalike could ruin their plans. The movie was filmed mainly at grand Manderston House near Duns. The ballroom, drawing room and morning room stand in for Margaret’s royal apartments. Additionally, the stunning marble hall, silver staircase and old kitchen make an appearance, covered in sparkling Christmas decorations. Look closely; you might even spot that Santa’s Magical Village is set in the extensive stables at Manderston.
If it is a new twist on a classic you’re looking for, tune in to Heart of Hawick’s Scottish Christmas Carol. It’s a truly joyous, rumbustious and distinctly Scottish retelling of Dickens’ much loved Christmas story. The live-streamed one-man show features a glittering array of characters, with evening and afternoon performances available.