Planning a trip to Scotland? Your next break shouldn’t cost a fortune. Save your cash and go all out with our insider guide. We have selected our top 20 free things to do in the southwest corner.

1. See stars in truly dark skies

Moffat is the first dark sky town in Europe.

Its community observatory has an enormous telescope with enthusiastic volunteers happy to show you around the darkness.

2. Conquer a Corbett

Hart Fell is a wonderful walk – all 808M of it – and is part of the Southern Uplands with the famous Merlin Trail en route.

We’ll help you find Merlin’s Cave.

3. Take on the Merlin Trail – without the effort

The Moffat Museum, a former bakehouse, has the lowdown on the real story on the real Merlin.

What’s fact and what’s fake?

Find out at the museum.

4. Lap up live music

The Moffat Rammy (pictured above) is a music festival that takes over the town every spring.

Many venues take part and many participants too.

It’s free for anyone from professional musicians to beginners and everyone in between.

Any instrument is welcome too.

Or just come and watch.

5. Go birdwatching at the eagle festival

Moffat is the first eagle town in Scotland with its successful eagle festival taking place in September.

See if you can spot a golden eagle – they’re here.

Did you know… there are more eagles in the South of Scotland than there are in the Highlands?

6. Cheer on a car rally

In June, watch the Moffat Car Rally gear up for its road run to St Mary’s Loch.

A piper usually kicks things off.

7. Marvel at museum in a bridge

The Old Bridge House Museum in Dumfries is right on the River Nith reached by crossing the 15th-century Devorgilla Bridge, one of the oldest in Scotland.

Dating back to 1660, the museum, Dumfries’s oldest house, showcases an everyday home from Victorian times – and includes an early dentist’s surgery.

8. Walk a ‘way’

If you don’t want to tackle the Annandale Way, all 56 miles of it, try an easy section.

Join the Moffat Walking Weekend in autumn for the free (of charge) and easy guided riverside walk.

It’s mainly flat and very pleasant alongside the River Annan.

Plenty of birdwatching opportunities here too.

9. Relax at a loch with a lot

St Mary’s Loch is the place for kayaking, wild swimming, paddle boarding – but also for a gentle walk or simply sitting on a bench to soak up the scenery.

10. Trek up a waterfall

Grab your walking boots for a proper hike up the Grey Mare’s Tail, one of the tallest waterfalls in the UK and a nature reserve with peregrine falcons, sparrow hawk and feral goats.

Loch Skein at the top is irresistible for wild swimming.

11. Discover an antique knitting pattern

The Sanquhar Tolbooth Museum has all you need to know on Scotland’s fascinating knitting traditions and how the 17th-century Sanquhar Pattern is having a renaissance.

Stop for a bite at A’ the Airts Community Arts Centre.

12. Tour the Artists’ Town

Kirkcudbright Galleries is worth the trip for the building alone.

The exhibitions are an added bonus.

Or try The Wicker Man trail of the iconic film’s locations.

13. Gaze at a unique castle

Dating back to the 13th century, Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfries is the only triangular fortress in the UK.

Recognise it?

It’s regularly called on for films.

This impressive monument can be explored on a short walk around the grounds. There’s now a small charge to go in but you can see plenty from the outside.

14. Get up close to the Bard

Scotland’s national poet had such a connection with this area.

The Robert Burns Centre on the banks of the River Nith in Dumfries showcases his life and works including original manuscripts and his belongings.

Why not walk the Burns Trail while you’re in Dumfries?

15. Take off to the Forest of Ae

Ae is the shortest place name in the UK and its forest is a haven for walkers, mountain bikers and wildlife watchers.

See if you can spot a red squirrel.

16. Chill out at a tranquil temple

The first of its kind in the West, the Samye Ling Buddhist Centre stands in a quiet corner of Southern Scotland near the River Esk.

Stroll about the temple and its grounds, and marvel at the splendour and the gold Buddha statues.

17. Dip into the dark side of history

Set in an 18th-century windmill, Dumfries Museum is packed with intriguing and dark historical artefacts, from Robert the Bruce’s cast skull to a ‘secret stones’ room and a collection of eerie dolls.

18. Make for an abbey that’s all heart

Looked after by Historic Environment Scotland and set in the tiny village of New Abbey, this 700-year-old church was founded by Lady Dervorguilla as a loving tribute to her husband.

Delightful tea room next door.

19. Lose yourself in artefacts

The Stewartry Museum in the Artists’ Town of Kirkcudbright is a charming Victorian venue dating back to the 19th century.

It is home to an eclectic mix including works by renowned artists such as Glasgow Girl Jessie M King, cases of stuffed birds and playful dinosaur heads for those of us who like to dress up.

20. Bring in the new year with a bang

Be wowed by Moffat’s seriously spectacular fireworks, the highlight of Hogmanay.

It’s always a blast.

Read more on Moffat, Dumfries and Kirkcudbright.

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