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Things to Do in Southern Scotland

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Melrose Abbey
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12 Tours and Activities

Even in its ruined state Melrose Abbey exudes an air of authority. The site, a product of the 12th-century ecclesiastical building boom, was built for the Cistercian order during the reign of King David I. The graceful arched window frames are a product of later rebuilding in the Gothic style, and the intricate stone carvings of that era are still very much in evidence.

As well as its spiritual role, this is an important historic location as the burial place of Robert the Bruce’s heart. The site was much envied by the English who attacked it repeatedly over the centuries, and you can still see marks left by Oliver Cromwell’s cannons during the English Civil Wars.

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Scott's View
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9 Tours and Activities

Named for Scotland's greatest Romantic novelist of the late 18th century, Sir Walter Scott, Scott's View affords travelers an epic panorama that spans southern Scotland's green landscape. The writer lived nearby while completing his greatest works, includingRob Roy andIvanhoe, and his favorite spot in nature (of many) was at the top of Bemersyde Hill above a meander in the river.

From here, travelers can see the three peaks of the Eildon Hills, the sparkling water of the River Tweed and the heather-clad hills, as well as the rolling Tweed Valley laid out below. In spring, the foreground is covered in jasmine-colored gorse, while in fall the view glows russet and brown. Sir Walter Scott so loved this view that his hearse pulled up here one final time on the way to his funeral.

These days a simple stone plinth and plaque marks the spot, which is included on a range of cycling and walking routes, plus many day trips from Edinburgh into the Borders area. Scott's View is a favorite local spot for newly married couples to be photographed.

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Isle of Arran
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The Isle of Arran sits off the western coast of Scotland. Since the line the divides the Scottish Highlands from the Lowlands runs through the island, its landscape reflects this, and the island is often referred to as Scotland in miniature. The northern part of the island is more rugged and mountainous and sparsely populated. The southern part of the island has more rolling hills, and the majority of the island's population reside here.

The island boasts many attractions for visitors. Castles, such as Brodick Castle and Lochranza Castle, are located on the Isle of Arran. There is also a heritage museum where you can learn some of the island's history. Some people come to climb Arran's highest peak, Goatfell, which stands at 2,866 feet, while others choose to hike the more leisurely Coastal Way. Nature lovers will enjoy the beautiful scenery on the island, including waterfalls, rocky coastlines, and wildlife. It's also a popular place for water activities such as sea kayaking.

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Lochranza Castle
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Lochranza Castle is a medieval castle on the Isle of Arran in southwestern Scotland. It sits on a narrow strip of land that juts out into Loch Ranza, and even though it is in ruins, it is still a fascinating castle to visit. Originally the castle was an old hall house built in the 1200s, but in the late 1500s it was incorporated into a newer tower house. The older castle had its main entrance one level up from the ground level. It was accessed by wooden stairs that could be removed if the castle was under attack. When the castle was rebuilt, the entrance was moved to the ground level.

Lochranza Castle was most likely owned by the MacSween family at one time, though ownership changed around the time of its reconstruction. When the tower house was built, the tower stood five stories tall. Today it is possible to access the ground level at the north and south ends of the castle as well as parts of the upper level.

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Machrie Moor Standing Stones (Machrie Moor Stone Circles)
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Machrie Moor Standing Stones (Machrie Moor Stone Circles) is a collection of six prehistoric monuments dating back to the Neolithic period and the early Bronze Age. They were found and first recorded in 1861 by Irish naturalist James Bryce, who numbered them from 1 to 5. In addition to the standing stones, there are hut circles, ancient cisterns and burial cairns on site. It is believed that the most prominent stone circles were strategically placed so as to be as widely visible from every vantage point nearby. Rising starkly from the middle of rural fields, the three tallest pillars are made of red sandstone with the tallest at 18 meters. It is estimated that the stones were used for astrological purposes, often representing legendary figures in ancient folklore. The mystery and ancient history surrounding these stone structures makes for them particularly fascinating to visit. Summer Solstice is a notable time to see them, as they are specifically lit at sunrise at this time — which historians claim may point to their significance.

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The Devil's Porridge Museum

The award-winning Devil’s Porridge Museum pays homage to HM Factory Gretna, also known as the Greatest Munitions Factory on Earth. Experience the work of this important wartime site with interactive exhibits and virtual reality headsets, and learn about the history of this area of Scotland.

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