From historic museums, stunning views, family days out at various parks and farms and some of the best castles in Scotland, there’s so much to see and do in Dumfries.
Activities in Dumfries
Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura
Spanning prehistoric fossil footprints, local wildlife, stone carvings and an in-depth look at the region’s history, including farming, religion and culture, the Dumfries Museum is a fascinating space with plenty of rotating exhibitions. It’s also home to the Camera Obscura on the top floor, offering panoramic views across Dumfries and the countryside. The museum is located on the western bank of the River Nith and a short walk from the Robert Burns Centre.
Robert Burns Centre
A genuine Scottish hero – and said by some to be the world’s first celebrity – Robert Burns looms large over Scotland, with Dumfries’ claim to fame being that the noted poet and author lived much of his later life in the town. Housed in a restored 18th-century watermill on the River Nith, the Robert Burns Centre is a must-visit for any literature fans as it includes original manuscripts and artefacts from Burns, as well as an interactive, audio/visual exhibitions detailing his amazing life and works.
With bowling, mini golf, trampolines and a 19th-century bandstand overlooking the River Nith, Dock Park is the perfect way for the little ones to burn off some energy. The Peter Pan-themed mini golf has been designed by a local artist, and the bandstand has been restored to its former glory. You can hire bowls and golf equipment from the information hub, and there are toilets and a café onsite, with the activities open until 5pm during the week and until 7pm on summer weekends.
Mabie Farm Park
Another popular family day out, Mabie Farm Park is a converted 77-hectare dairy farm that’s now home to a wide range of animals, including horses, alpaca, llamas, pigs and goats, alongside a play barn with a climbing frame and ride-on tractors, a boating pond, quad bikes, zipline and adventure playground. Handily located around two miles south of the town centre and a 10-minute drive from our Dumfries hotel, the park is spread indoors and outdoors meaning guaranteed fun whatever the weather.
Dumfries & Galloway Aviation Museum
Founded in 1977, this flying museum is a must for any plane spotters and aviation nuts, thanks to its immaculate collection of aircraft, memorabilia and artefacts. Housed in a World War II-era control tower at the former RAF Dumfries, the volunteer-run museum collection features several Spitfires, including their Loch Doon Spitfire, which was recovered from the bottom of a nearby loch and lovingly restored. Dumfries & Galloway Aviation Museum isn’t open daily, so check ahead for their seasonal opening times.
With dozens of castles spread across the region, Dumfries is home to some amazing ruins and historic medieval fortresses.
An impressive 13th-century moated fortress, Caerlaverock Castle is eight miles south of Dumfries and one of Scotland’s truly great strongholds. A well-preserved ruin, the Caerlaverock is made up of a large moat, twin-towered gatehouse and striking battlements which have seen plenty of action during cross-border conflicts through the years. The castle has an excellent tearoom open during the summer and on weekends during winter, as well as a nature trail and a themed adventure playground.
To the north of Dumfries lies one of the most gorgeous strongholds and grounds in the UK, the striking Drumlanrig Castle. Set in over 120,000 acres of land, the 17th-century Renaissance castle is home to some amazing rooms and an incredible array of art and furniture. There’s plenty to see outdoors, too, with bike tracks ranging from quiet woodland paths to furious downhill trails, nature walks, Land Rover tours, an adventure playground, magnificent gardens and a café and shop. The gardens and estate are open from the end of March to the end of September, while the castle itself is only open a few days each month, so check in advance for the opening times.
Just 30 minutes southwest from Dumfries, Threave Garden, House & Estate dates back to the 19th century and makes for a wonderful day out. The National Trust property is packed full of nature, including the UK’s only bat reserve and an amazing osprey viewing platform, while the gardens, trails, woodlands and playground are perfect for exploring all the way to the River Dee. The ruined Threave Castle is well worth a visit, if only for the boat trip that takes you out to the middle of the river and the small island it’s located on.