Winter Family Days Out in Dumfries and Galloway

There are a great many things to see and do in and around Dumfries & Galloway throughout the year whilst taking a short break at our luxury Portpatrick holiday house for 8. Faced with so many choices, it can be tricky to choose, so I’ve picked our current favourites for winter:

Dumfries House, Cumnock

Confusingly named Dumfries House as it is actually located near Cumnock in Ayrshire, this wonderful visitor attraction is about a 90-minute drive from our luxury Portpatrick holiday house for 8. The house and gardens, owned by King Charles, are open to the public all year round. Children will love the woodland adventure playground. There’s a good café, which is right beside the playground, so when the weather allows, you can sit outside and enjoy a coffee while the children burn off energy clambering about.

Three children playing on a wooden tractor and trailer

Children Enjoying the Adventure Playground at Dumfries House

There’s a maze with a Japanese pagoda at the centre. Various tours of the house during the winter run at the weekends. With its terraces, glasshouses, formal gardens and an educational garden, the walled garden is inspirational for anyone keen gardener or not. It’s incredible to think that just 10 years ago the site was a derelict dumping ground.

Cross over the Adam Avenue Bridge and you’ll find the arboretum.  This was created from marshy wasteland and is planted with over 500 shrubs and woodland flowers.  It has two small lochs and a specially commissioned woodland shelter, created for Dumfries House by students of the Prince’s Foundation.

Children Enjoying Tree Climbing at Dumfries House

Children Enjoying Tree Climbing at Dumfries House


As a family we take off for Belfast on the ferry at least once a year. If you catch the 7.30am Stena Line sailing from Cairnryan, which is just 20 minutes from our luxury Portpatrick holiday house for 8, you’ll be in Belfast city centre for just after 10am.

There’s lots to do to fill the day out – a spot of culture, shopping, sightseeing and lunch. Culture-wise we tend to visit either the Titanic Museum or the Ulster Museum. Given the Titanic Museum has undergone a major refurbishment since we were last there, we now have another reason to revisit it. This fascinating museum tells the story of the Titanic from where she was designed, built and launched. I certainly look forward to returning to seeing what’s new.

photo of the City Hall building in Belfast

Belfast City Hall

The Ulster Museum is in the heart of Queens University quarter and has five floors dedicated to art, natural science and history. It’s beside the Botanic Gardens, so do take a moment to enjoy this beautiful green space in the heart of Belfast.

If you’ve worked up an appetite, there’s a great pizzeria just opposite – Orto on Stranmillis Road – which is a firm favourite with our children.

Do take a tour on one of the hop on hop off buses that show you all the wonderful sites of Belfast – from the Titanic quarter and the Albert Clock, Belfast’s very own leaning tower, to the Crumlin Road Jail.

View of the Albert Clock and the yellow Harland & Wolff crane

View of the Albert Clock and the yellow Harland & Wolff crane

If you have any spare time, then Belfast is a mecca for shopping – it has all the best shops from Anthropologie to Avoca.  Avoca has a wonderful café upstairs serving delicious cakes, scones and salads amongst other tempting goodies. Victoria Square is extremely upmarket and has all the best shops. It’s a good place at which to end the day as you can grab something to eat in one of the many restaurants before catching the 7.30pm ferry back to Cairnryan.

Cocoabean Company, Twynholm

The Cocobean Company at Twynholm is Dumfries and Galloway’s very own Willy Wonka chocolate factory and is about an hour’s drive from our luxury Portpatrick holiday house for 8. It doesn’t offer factory tours, so no need to worry about your little one being sucked into a chocolate river.  Cocoabean does however run a series of chocolate-making workshops from dawn to dusk every weekend and on weekdays too during the February half term.

A family with three children enjoying the workshop at Cocoabean.

A Family Workshop at Cocoabean

Lasting about 45 minutes, children and grown-ups have the opportunity to make three wonderful creations out of chocolate. There are also extensive indoor and outdoor play areas to work off all the sugar highs.

A pirate ship with a red slide in the adventure playground at the Cocoabean

The Outdoor Playground at the Cocoabean

Gem Rock Museum, Creetown

When our girls were younger, this was one of their all-time favourite museums to visit.
Here at the Gem Rock in Creetown, a 50-minute drive from our luxury Portpatrick holiday house for 8, you will discover a museum that has one of finest and rarest crystals collections in Britain and showcases lots of fascinating specimens from around the world. Children will love the ‘crystal cave’ which features wonderful displays of crystals and minerals. Highlights range from a 4.5 billion year old, 3 kilogram meteorite and the fossilised egg and dung of a dinosaur to the ‘Maverick’ gold nugget, which is one of the largest natural gold specimens on display in the UK.

A trip to the Gem Rock Museum at Creetown never fails to disappoint and we found this was the perfect thing to do on a cold and damp winter’s day.

Luxury Portpatrick Holiday House for 8

Cedar Lodge, our luxury Portpatrick holiday house for 8, has availability for short breaks in February with a 10% discount – prices from £508.37 for a 3-night stay.