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A literary tour of Scotland

Robert Burns, JM Barrie, James Hogg, Walter Scott… Southwest Scotland has attracted plenty of literary names over the years.

Find out more on a literary tour – all within easy reach of Queensberry House.

Get close to Burns

Scotland’s national poet ‘Rabbie’ Burns famously wrote Auld Lang Syne.

Why not take the Burns tour or visit the Robert Burns Centre both in Dumfries?

Find Neverland

JM Barrie was inspired to write his beloved character Peter Pan at Moat Brae, a friend’s house he visited in his childhood. Now you can too.

The garden on the River Nith especially is a delight.

Get to the great Scott

Known as the ‘Father of Scottish Tourism, Walter Scott wrote some of his best-known novels at his home: Abbotsford.

It’s now one of the most famous mansions in the world with a Regency garden designed by Scott himself.

A must-visit is the beauty spot St Mary’s Loch where you’ll see a monument to James Hogg.

But it’s not all about the giants in literature such as Burns and Barrie.

DE Stevenson deserves a place on Scotland’s literary map, too.

Did you know…

Southwest Scotland – Moffat in fact – was home for the Scottish author Dorothy Emily Stevenson, or DE Stevenson (DES) as she was known, for 30 years, where she was very much part of the community.

DE Stevenson: the top ten facts

How much do you know about the author?

1. Her fans are known as ‘Dessies’.

They’re a faithful lot and consider her a goddess.

2. She was related to Robert Louis Stevenson.

The author of Kidnapped and Treasure Island was her father’s cousin.

3. She made Moffat her home.

She was born in Edinburgh on 18 November 1892 and lived in Scotland her whole life.

She moved to Moffat in 1940, where she wrote most of her bestseller novels, one a year between 1952 and 1969.

Here, she also sang in the church choir and worked with the Girl Guides.

6. A commemorative plaque marks her house.

She lived in one of Moffat’s grandest houses (pictured above) until her death in 1973 aged 81.

Some fans make a pilgrimage to see it.

She is buried in Moffat Cemetery on the A701.

7. She didn’t just write…

She was also a successful golfer.

8. And she had a personal life.

In 1916 she married James Reid Peploe, a young army officer, and they had four children.

9 Her art imitated her life.

Her first novel Peter West was published in 1923.

But her success started with Mrs Tim of the Regiment (1932) which was said to be based on her own diary as a British Army wife.

She went on to publish more than 40 novels described – depending on your point of view – as ‘light romantic’, ‘domestic fiction’ or a ‘comfort read’.

They sold in their millions, were translated in many languages worldwide and are still sought after in the secondhand market.

Perhaps you’ll find one in the Moffat Bookshop…

Her characters were known to make a second appearance as a cameo or secondary character in a sequel.

After her death, five more books were found in a family attic and published to much excitement.

10. Join the pilgrimage to Moffat.

Want to make a pilgrimage – just like the diedhard Dessies – to DE Stevenson’s former home?

We can show you where to find her former home.

Discover more gems of Moffat’s history on the Heritage Trail during the Moffat Walking Weekend (29 September-1 October).

Read more on Moffat here.

While you’re in town, seek out its independent shops on the unique double high street. You can browse here.

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Tour Southwest Scotland’s distilleries

One of Scotland’s big draws is its national tipple.

The country has the greatest concentration of whisky production globally.

And everyone loves a distillery tour.

Get the measure of Southwest Scotland’s unique distillery map – all the distilleries are within easy distance of Moffat – and meet the people who’ve made spirits their passion.

Moffat’s first legal distillery

Finally open, the Moffat Distillery is almost on our doorstep… within walking distance of Queensberry House.

What’s so special about it?

  • It’s run by independent producer Dark Sky Spirits (named after Moffat’s dark sky status), boutique blenders of Scotch whisky
  • The only wood-fired still in Scotland for whisky and gin. And the wood is collected from a sustainable source.
  • The smallest whisky producer in Scotland with a visitor centre.
  • There is an otter in its pond.
  • In its grounds is the darkest spot in the dark sky town of Moffat.

Read more here.

Get the five star experience

The award-winning Annandale Distillery is located on a historic site.

It was one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland: established in 1836 and then reborn in 2014.

Its tours include an ‘Annandale snifter’ and five tastings plus one to take home for the driver.

It’s a joy to visit even for those who are not whisky connoisseurs.

Look around the grounds for quirky artwork while the on-site Maltings Coffee Shop is a relaxing stop for lunch and afternoon tea.

And it’s not just whisky…

Take a shot at rum at the Ninefold Distillery, the first and only rum distillery in Southwest Scotland.

Located in two converted cattle byres, the award-winning rum is made from scratch in Scottish-made copper pot stills.

Choose from unaged, cask aged and spiced rum.

The perfect rum to create a magical cocktail – recipes on Ninefold’s website.

Of all the gin joints…

Opened in 2021, the Dark Arts Distillery is located in the Artists’ Town Kirkcudbright, next to the Galloway Park, the first dark sky park in the UK and western Europe.

It crafts a luxurious spirit using a custom-built still 450l Carl – which is called Peggy.

Sky Garden Gin is a classic to delight the purists: fresh and crisp notes, balanced with juniper with a hint of citrus.

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And if whisky isn’t your cup of tea, seek out the best tea rooms in Southwest Scotland here.

Find out more about Moffat here.

 

The best things to do in Peebles

Peebles is one of many attractive towns on the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders – and one of our favourites.

Author of The Thirty-Nine Steps John Buchan was once a resident here.

From independent shops and fascinating heritage to a rich landscape to walk upon and lush gardens to lose yourself in… Peebles has much to offer the discerning visitor.

We have 7 magnificent reasons to call in.

1 Find your type at a Victorian printers

Robert Smail’s Printing Works (pictured above) is a commercial letterpress printers dating back to 1866 – the oldest of its kind and still operational.

This impressive piece of heritage is now looked after by the National Trust of Scotland.

Its archive, fully intact, is there to be marvelled at.

Every print job ever undertaken has been kept: all tickets, posters, letterheads and newspapers printed by this family firm are available to be viewed.

And you can try a bit of typesetting as part of the tour – simple jobs only! – and learn how some common terms we use today came from this industry.

There’s a shop, too, with unusual gifts and quirky cards.

2 See the whole of Scotland in one go

The Polish Map of Scotland was created by two men from Krakow who had a mission to design a map with a difference.

This became the world’s largest 3D terrain relief model of one nation.

It is surrounded by water to represent the sea.

Built in the 70s as a thank you to the people of Scotland for hosting Polish troops during WWII, it now has Historic Scotland Category B listed status.

3 Tour a house with history

Traquair House is Scotland’s oldest inhabited house – it dates back to 1107 – and has been owned by the same family since 1491.

The tour is a fascinating history lesson – hear the heart-breaking and heroic stories about the family and their well-known visitors.

Mary Queen of Scots stayed here – see the bed she slept in.

Plus there’s a maze, as well as a family chapel, brewery, priest’s room and much more.

4 Wander in famous gardens

From fine tree collections to the oldest trees in Britain – and the tallest – species from Nepal, Chile, Japan and America… Dawyck Botanic Gardens has 65 acres of exquisite lush green spaces for when you want to feast on nature.

Pick a season – any season – and you’re sure to find captivating displays of flowers from blowsy Himalayan poppies to the humble bluebell.

A woodland trail will lead you to discover plant explorers and themed gardens.

5 Be a glutton for (chocolate) punishment

Peebles is blessed with Cocoa Black, Scotland’s Chocolate Capital.

This café/shop/school is an homage to all things chocolate thanks to Ruth Hinks, UK Confectioner of the Year and winner of the World Chocolate Masters.

There’s a wealth of luxury handmade chocolates, cakes and patisserie to salivate over.

Get your fill from a stylish edible handbag to delicious vegan chocolate and a terrific truffle tasting collection.

Rest awhile at the bright café and take some tea with your chocolate.

6 Seek out natural heritage

Some of the best hillwalking in the Scottish Borders is right here in Peebles – it’s a rich landscape of heather moors, rolling green hills plus the celebrated salmon river, the Tweed, one of Scotland’s best.

Nearby there’s Glentress Forest, well known for its walking trails and its splendid views of the Tweed Valley.

And there’s a Wildlife Room with live osprey cams.

See if you can also spot red squirrels, herons and bats.

Close by is the Scottish National Trail – a must for long-distance walking.

7 Go niche shopping

Peebles has an attractive and bustling high street full of independent shops including swish furniture store Manse Furnishings (one also in Moffat) and a theatre in a converted church.

Plenty of eateries can be found including a superb lunch spot: the Oven Door.

Find more towns to explore in Southwest Scotland from Dumfries to Kirkcudbright and not forgetting the jewel in Southwest Scotland’s crown Moffat.

Ready to book a break away? Read our reviews here.

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Dumfries and Galloway ghost tours

Explore the darker side of history on a spine-chilling story-telling tour

Ghost walks and ghost stories, dark tales and local history tours… Dumfries & Galloway’s first paranormal investigation team Mostly Ghostly lead the way round hidden corners, historic buildings and roads less travelled telling their spooky tales.

Nocturnal wanderings and wonderings

The Mostly Ghostly team have celebrated more than ten years in the business and won Dumfries and Galloway Life Tourism Champion Awards many times for their ever-popular tours.

So you’ll be in good hands with Kathleen, Mary and John. And you’ll spot them a mile off as they’re always dressed in their customary black costumes of top hats and cloaks.

Be brave, be curious

Prepare yourself for… a trip on Scotland’s most haunted road, a vampire legend from the 12th century, a saunter around curious castles and crypts – and the story of Scotland’s last public execution.

The perfect backdrop for horrible hauntings

Dumfries and Galloway is just the place for tales of witchcraft and ghoulish mayhem with its wealth of historical buildings, landmarks and graveyards.

Explore a life less ordinary in Moffat

Walk around Moffat’s atmospheric streets and hear all about the town’s dark history and rich assets.

As you head off the beaten track, marvel at unsettling accounts of strange experiences.

The Dark Tales of Old Moffat tour is one of the highlights of the Moffat Walking Weekend (29/30 September,1 October).

Book early as this walk always sells out and attracts many locals who get to see their town in a new light.

Dramatic moments on the haunted theatre tour

Come, if you dare, to the Theatre Royal Dumfries – Scotland’s oldest working theatre – and, some say, Scotland’s most haunted theatre.

Robert Burns, Edmund Kean and JM Barrie have all played their part in this splendid 230-year-old building.

You’ll be heading backstage to delve into dark corners and seek out, amongst other things, poltergeist activity.

It’s sure to send a delicious shiver down your spine.

Dress warm – it’s bound to be a chilling evening!

The sensory tour of a National Trust home

Join the candlelit exploration of Broughton House, former home of artist and ‘Glasgow Boy’ EA Hornel – now looked after by the National Trust for Scotland – in Kirkcudbright.

There are plenty of thoroughly thrilling stories about the famous Artists’ Town and Old Galloway.

Mostly Ghostly Tours run throughout the year.

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Read more on Moffat.

Ready to book your next break to Southwest Scotland?

Check out our reviews.

Photograph: Allan Devlin, courtesy of Mostly Ghostly

 

 

Scotland’s history & heritage

Scotland’s history and heritage is a huge attraction – one of the reasons visitors flock to the country.

And the southwest corner has plenty to offer.

Take a walk or a short drive out of Moffat and feast your eyes on castles, stately homes, monuments, ruins…

Each landmark has a unique story to tell.

And here are some of our favourites.

Seek out Moffat’s fine heritage

Its oldest houses date back to 1723 and 1751, and its Town Hall, once the bath house, is where people flocked when Moffat became a spa town in the 17th century.

There’s plenty more.

Join the heritage trail – part of the annual Moffat Walking Weekend – in autumn to find out more.

Walk to a lonely ruin

Frenchland’s Tower (above) is a 16-century ruin but a fine looking one still and one of the many highlights you’ll spot on a walk about the Moffat hills.

Swoon over Sweetheart Abbey

The 700-year-old abbey church stands proud in the village of New Abbey in Dumfries and is now cared for by Historic Scotland.

As the name suggests there’s a tale of romance behind the building.

It’s a tribute by Lady Devorgilla, Lady of Galloway (1210-1290), to her adored husband.

Delve into Dumfries’s historical treasures

Dumfries Museum (the largest in the region) is full of fascinating finds and located in an 18th-century windmill.

Next door is the Camera Obscura (the world’s oldest).

Theatre Royal Dumfries is Scotland’s Oldest Working Theatre (1792).

Robert Burns and JM Barrie are just two of the famous names associated with it.

Prepared to be spooked?

The theatre is said to be haunted.

Join Mostly Ghostly – the paranormal investigation team and storytellers of the darker side of history – for a spooky tour to find out….

Linger at lochs and landmarks

A gentle circular walk of Castle Loch Nature Reserve in Lochmaben offers not just a slice of heritage with castle ruins but tree sculptures, outdoor classrooms and the Annandale Way.

Discover a riches-to-rags story

MacLellan’s Castle in Kirkcudbright was once a 16th-century tower house and home to a powerful family.

Venture inside and seek out the ‘laird’s lug’, a spy hole, and find out about the castle’s eventual descent into ruin.

Be king of an unusual castle

The triangular fortress Caerlaverock Castle – the only one of its kind in the UK – dates back to the 1270s.

It has a moat, a gatehouse and many carvings depicting its turbulent history.

Now it’s a peaceful place within ancient woodland.

Follow in royal footsteps

Traquair House, Scotland’s oldest inhabited house, has been the home of the Stuart family since 1107.

One famous visitor was Mary Queen of Scots – marvel at the tiny bed she slept in.

Plus: there’s an amazing maze – don’t get lost!

Come on in… to the home of a great Scot, Walter Scott

Abbotsford is one of the world’s most famous mansions set on the banks of the River Tweed in the beautiful Scottish Borders.

It is full of antique treasures once owned by the literary giant Walter Scott.

Its picturesque and fragrant Regency gardens were designed by the man himself.

Get involved in a ‘living museum’

Dating back to 1866, Robert Smail’s Printing Works in Innerleithen, in the Scottish Borders, won Regional Winner of Historic Environment Scotland (HES) Best Heritage Tourism Experience – and no wonder.

It’s the oldest letterpress printers in the UK.

See how the printing press worked back in 1866, pore over its vast but perfectly preserved archive of print jobs and get first-hand experience of typesetting at this piece of Victorian history.

See a famous home in the Artists’ Town

Owned by the National Trust for Scotland, Broughton House in Kirkcudbright, once belonged to Scottish artist and Glasgow Boy EA Hornel.

Naturally there’s an exquisite art collection, but also an impressive Japanese garden.

Take the Kirkcudbright Art Tour to get the full experience.

Read more on Moffat.

Ready to book your next break to Southwest Scotland?

Check out our special offers and reviews.

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