From gardens to arts centres, parkland to festivals, museums to hills, there are many things to see and do in Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders. Whether you're well acquainted with the area or not, discover some hidden gems below that are not to be missed. 

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Annan Harbour Festival 

Annan Harbour Festival on 24th August celebrates the Solway Firth and Annan Harbour’s pivotal role in connecting people with their unique coastal environment and maritime heritage. This year there is a focus on food and drink; heritage and culture offering an interesting and fun day out for everyone.

The food and drink theme focusses on the burgeoning community of local producers with more than 25 exhibitors occupying an all-weather facility to showcase their products. Food theatre will be a highlight with cookery demonstrations by chefs and young cooks, compared by Cat Frankitti, the well-known and highly respected champion of fish and seafood, who is guaranteed to present a lively and interesting show.

Celebrating Annan’s heritage and the crafts long associated with the town’s maritime past will also feature, along with the environmental riches of our river and coastline. These will be brought to life through displays and there will be hands-on activities for every member of the family. The centre piece being a special exhibition on haaf netting, the 1000-year old Viking method of catching salmon in shallow fast flowing water.

HeraldScotland:

Annan Harbour Festival is a free day out with plenty of family fun and entertainment, the organisers Annan Harbour Action Group are community activists who are leading the regeneration of the former trading, emigration and fishing port, to restore it as an economic driver for the town, a water sports venue and a community events space.

To find out more, visit the Facebook page. 

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Kailzie Gardens

Kailzie Gardens, located only two and a half miles from Peebles town centre, is a picture-perfect spot to visit year-round. Showcasing a rich variety of colour and charm whatever the season, the gardens provide an idyllic place to wander around for both keen gardeners and those who simply wish to appreciate the natural beauty.

The Wild Garden is at its best in the spring when Snowdrops are followed by massed Daffodils and Bluebells, providing a magnificent carpet of colour. Meanwhile in the Walled Garden, there are many shrubs and roses to marvel at, including Rosa Albas, Celestial and Great Maidens Blush, Rosa Centifolia and Fantin Latour.

Birdwatchers will also find much to see here. As Kailzie Gardens is a major partner in the successful Tweed Valley Osprey Project, there is the chance to spot one of these rare and beautiful birds. The project has encouraged and protected more of these specialist fish hunting raptors into the quiet forests, lochs and rivers nearby.

After a day spent wandering the gardens and spotting birds, Kailzie Courtyard Café is the ideal place to rest and refuel. Situated in the old stable square, the café has a cosy charm having retained many of the original features. Open seven days a week from 10am – 4.30pm, visitors can enjoy hot and cold drinks and snacks.

With beauty galore all year round, Kailzie Gardens has become a popular destination for weddings, both for religious and civil ceremonies. Offering a glorious location to tie the knot, they also provide flexibility in conjunction with the restaurant to host any size of gathering, able to accommodate the smallest or the largest of marquees. The chef can sit with couples and help organise a tasting of dishes and some of the finer details.  

For visitors coming from further afield planning a short break in the Scottish Borders, Kailzie Gardens can provide accommodation via their self-catering cottage, which sleeps six, and bunkhouse sleeping up to 24 people.

To find out more about visiting the gardens or planning a wedding, visit www.kailziegardens.com or call 01721 720 007.

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The Devil’s Porridge Museum

The Devil’s Porridge Museum is a 5 star, award winning museum. Located in Dumfries and Galloway, it tells the story of the greatest munitions factory in World War One. It spanned an area nine-miles long and two-miles wide and contained a state of the art factory along with 125 miles of railway track, 16 stations, two towns, a power station, two cinemas, hospitals, a dentists, a maternity unit and schools. 

HeraldScotland:

30,000 people worked here, 12,000 of them women. They mixed the devil’s porridge, which is a nickname for cordite, a propellant which was included within every single bullet and shell used in the First World War One. More than half of all the cordite used by the British armed forces was produced at this Anglo-Scottish site. People came from around the Empire to add their expertise: South African explosives experts, Australian chemists and Canadian engineers. They left their mark on the local area in the street names of Eastriggs (where the Devil’s Porridge Museum is based) such as Vancouver Avenue and Delhi Road. This had led to Eastriggs being known as ‘the Commonwealth village.’ 

The Gretna girls had a difficult life: they worked with chemicals which caused their teeth to fall out, which discoloured their skin and caused them to feint from the fumes.  Some young women suffered worse fates: an explosion killed one local girl, others lost arms and fingers or were severely burned due to the fires which could break out.  Their work and leisure lives were strictly monitored: everything came under the official secrets act and over 150 members of the Women’s Police Service monitored their movements and morals!

HeraldScotland:

The museum is set across two floors with interactive displays including films, games and oral testimonies of people from World War One and Two.  There is so much military history in this part of Scotland that it has been named ‘The Solway Military Coast’ and the upstairs in the museum the story continues into World War Two in this region and even includes a look at the start of the Cold War with a virtual reality headset experience to explore inside Chapelcross, Scotland’s first nuclear power station. 

The Devil’s Porridge Museum regularly tops Dumfries and Galloway’s things to do on Tripadvisor and has recently been shortlisted for the prestigious ‘Most Family Friendly Museum in the UK Award.’ 

Visit the website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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Philiphaugh Estate

Situated just to the North and West of the Royal Burgh of Selkirk lies Philiphaugh Estate, perhaps best known for the Civil War battle fought between the Marquis of Montrose for the Royalists (Charles 1) and General Leslie of the Covenanters (Cromwell) on 13 September 1645. Montrose with inferior forces was outflanked by the Covenanters and suffered total defeat thus ending the Royalist cause in Scotland.

Today there is a battlefield walk from Selkirk to the Waterwheel Café (1.5 miles West of Selkirk), parallel to the A708, Selkirk-Moffat road. Signboards describing the combatants and explaining how the battle unfolded are placed along the field where musket balls, lead shot and belt buckles have been recovered.

The Waterwheel Café (Open 10am- 4pm seven days a week) provides good value meals, tea coffee and delicious home baking. There is a car park and children’s play area. The café overlooks the ground where Montrose cut his way through the melee of soldiers to escape up the Yarrow Valley and over the Minchmoor to safety.

Close by you may visit the Salmon Viewing Centre, housed in an old threshing mill. You will learn of the amazing life cycle of the Atlantic salmon. Ideal for children with a tunnel representing the riverbed, to crawl through and emerge as salmon fry! There is a computer game about the journey the salmon makes when returning to the river to spawn.

An underwater camera can be selected by pressing a button on the display panel and you may see fish live on the main screen. If you fail to spot anything there are recorded highlights showing salmon and sea trout and other creatures underwater. In addition, there are video clips of the major native wildlife species in Scotland.

There is also a working model of an Archimedes Screw turbine, which enables visitors to appreciate the workings of the Hydro station where two massive 11 tons Archimedes Screw Turbines are situated on the River Ettrick and generate electricity. In a year some 900,000 kwh are generated, which is enough electricity to power 200 houses. Salmon may be seen jumping at the cauld in high water.

Pick up a pamphlet in the café or at the Salmon Viewing Centre and you will find a map showing walks: the longest leads to Harehead Hill, 1036 feet with magnificent views to the Ettrick and Yarrow valleys and to the Cheviot and Eildon Hills. Visitors can also see the old Victorian Walled Garden where fresh fruit, vegetables, cut flowers and bedding plants may be purchased.

A new attraction is a craft gin distillery. Selkirk Distillers make a delicious ‘Reiver’ gin and ‘Bannock’ gin from the internationally famous Selkirk bannock. The distillery and gardens can be accessed either by car or on foot.

Set in the beautiful Borders landscape with field and woodlands carefully designed with the land form, a visit to Philiphaugh Estate will be memorable for the beauty of the countryside and the many visitor attractions grouped around the café, Hydro Station and Salmon Viewing Centre.

Visit www.salmonviewingcentre.com to find out more. 

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CatStrand

CatStrand is an award-winning arts and visitor centre in New Galloway, Scotland’s smallest Royal Burgh. Ideally located within the Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere Reserve and adjacent to Galloway Forest Park and Europe’s first designated Dark Sky Park, a visit to CatStrand is a must.

The café, shop and gallery are open seven days throughout the year, selling local produce and showcasing the work of local artists and makers. A high quality programme of music, theatre, cinema, comedy, dance and visual arts is also presented in the CatStrand’s own auditorium and in partnership with other local venues. The popular venue has hosted many famous performers from Scotland and throughout the world such as Ricky Ross, Kiki Dee, Fred MacAulay, Judie Tzuke, Kris Drever, Ross Noble and Juan Martin.        

HeraldScotland:

The wonderfully adaptable and fully accessible facilities are available for hire and are perfect for meetings, conferences, exhibitions, rehearsal space and celebrations.

Visit Scotland awarded CatStrand 5 Star Arts Venue status in 2015 and the staff are always happy to help visitors to get the very best out of this beautiful corner of Scotland with local information and advice.

For more information visit www.catstrand.com, call 01644 20374 or email info@catstrand.com.

Regular opening hours: Monday to Friday 10am - 5pm, Saturdays 10am-4pm, Sundays 11am - 4pm.

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Traquair

Traquair is Scotland’s oldest, continually inhabited house set amidst the beautiful rolling hills of the Scottish Borders. Its history spans over 900 years from when it was originally built as a hunting lodge for the kings and queens of Scotland. Amongst the animals they hunted were bears, which are now a strong emblem at Traquair.

Traquair also played host to Mary Queen of Scots in 1566 when she visited with her husband Darnley. Traquair still has the bed where she slept and the cradle where she rocked her baby, later James V1 of Scotland and I England.

The Stuarts of Traquair have been in residence since 1491 and the house remains a family home today. They were strong Catholics and Jacobites and maintained a constant loyalty to the Stuart monarchs without counting the cost. In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie visited Traquair and as he left the house the Earl of Traquair closed the famous Bear Gates at the top of the avenue, promising they would remain closed until a Stuart returned to the throne. They remain closed to this day.

As Catholics the family would have to practise in secret and at the top of the house a small Priest’s Room can be found with a secret staircase hidden behind a bookcase that could be used for a speedy escape if a raid took place.

In one of the wings of the house lying under the Chapel is a brew house which is now producing the world famous Traquair House Ales. Built in the 1700’s to service the family and the estate it was disused in the early 1800’s and lay dormant as the family junk room until it was rediscovered in the mid 1960’s by the 20th Laird, Peter Maxwell Stuart. He started brewing again in 1965 and beers continued to be brewed here using the original equipment, fermented in the ancient oak tuns and are exported worldwide. There is also, of course the chance to try them when you visit.

As well as the house and the brewery Traquair also boasts the largest hedged maze in Scotland. Get lost if you dare!

The grounds which stretch down to the River Tweed contain some stunning ancient woodlands. You can also explore four craft workshops contained in some of the old outbuildings including jewellery and leatherwork, pottery, driftwood sculpture and a range of hand made personalised fabrics.

In the Old Walled Garden there is a lovely Café in the 1745 Cottage which has won plaudits for its superb range of home baking, light lunches and snacks.

The house is open to the public every day during the summer months from 11am – 5pm and in July and August from 10am – 5pm and also offers accommodation in three luxurious rooms on a bed and breakfast basis.