Whether you’re looking for live entertainment or just somewhere with lively nightlife, the south-west corner of Scotland can deliver a memorable night out. As you’d expect, most of the action is in the main town of Dumfries, so let’s start there.
The Theatre Royal is the oldest working theatre in Scotland, but its programme of entertainment is bang up-to-date, bringing an impressive line-up of theatre, music, talks and more to the town. It is also the place to see Guild of Players productions.
Easterbrook Hall, on the 85-acre Crichton estate, has a programme of live music throughout the year, including Easterbrook Live, giving the opportunity to enjoy performances in stunning surroundings.
The Venue stages national touring bands and gives plenty of opportunity for local talent, too. It’s spread over two floors, with the Ballroom down below – known as the Live Lounge when bands perform. It becomes a nightclub after 11pm with events such as Funktion and Dubsidence attracting top DJs to the venue. The SkyBar is on the floor above.
Chancers nightclub is the other main late, late spot – open every night of the year from 11pm until 3am, and offering a generous selection of drinks promotions. Dickies Bar is a great place to watch live sport on the screens, as is Deja Vu, which has also built up a reputation for fantastic nights of live music. The Cairndale Hotel puts on entertainment ranging from comedy nights to live bands, as does The Troqueer Arms, also building up a reputation for DJ nights.
The Venue stages national touring bands and gives plenty of opportunity for local talent, too. It’s spread over two floors, with the Ballroom down below – known as the Live Lounge when bands perform
Pubs and bars
There’s plenty of life across the town in the many pubs and bars. Check out the Waverley Bar for a traditional place to drink and eat, and The Globe Inn for a good night out surrounded by the memory of many more. The Globe retains many original features from the time when national poet Robert Burns named it as his ‘local’, including verses on the window panes and the chair on which he sat.
Other welcoming and vibrant venues in Dumfries include The White Hart Hotel, staging karaoke and band nights; The Pleuchie’s Howff, also regularly hosting live music; and The Granary, a modern bar popular for watching sports on the screens. And more pubs and bars featuring live music nights in Dumfries include The Queen Of The South Pub, The New Bazaar, The Coach & Horses, The Tam O’ Shanter Inn, The Riverside Bar, The Usual Place and The Five Arches.
For those more interested in the big screen, The Robert Burns Centre screens a diverse range of films including foreign language movies, low-budget and short films, animation and documentaries. You’ll find it in the centre of Dumfries, on the banks of the River Nith.
Away from the town, The Cinema in Newton Stewart, with its classic art-deco frontage, is a community venture open from Wednesday to Sunday. Live music and theatre is staged occasionally, as well as the usual film programme. The Buccleuch Centre in Langholm stages a wide range of touring bands, theatre productions and local talent. And it’s also earned a reputation for great food before showtime if you get down early.
The CatStrand at New Galloway puts on an eclectic mix of live shows and screenings, while The Fullarton in Castle Douglas shows most of the new film releases plus live screenings of major theatre productions from the likes of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Lonsdale City Cinema in Annan has two screens and the capability to show 3D films. It mixes both mainstream and independent releases. And The Ryan Centre and Theatre in Stranraer brings touring shows and movie screenings to the hammer-head peninsula known as The Rhins.
The Globe retains many original features from the time when national poet Robert Burns named it as his ‘local’, including verses on the window panes and the chair on which he sat
While you travel around, you’ll no doubt find yourself looking for the occasional lively place to unwind at night, so take note of some of the highlights. The Shed in Annan offers a wide range of drinks and a welcoming atmosphere you’d expect from a pub, but it ramps things up a few gears to become one of the town’s top nightspots with live music and a resident DJ. The Masonic Arms in Kirkcudbright is a popular haunt, with gin lovers spoilt for choice as more than 100 varieties are on offer from Scotland and across the world. The Coachman Bar is at the heart of the community in Moffat, celebrating the town’s history with huge murals. Every Saturday night it hosts live music from local bands and singers.
The Swan Inn and The Grapes are renowned in Stranraer for their live music and friendly welcome, while Stranraer Football Club’s Fitba’ Bar not only offers refreshment pre- or post-match, there’s live entertainment staged there every weekend.
The Crown Hotel in Lochmaben is one of Dumfries and Galloway’s most well-renowned pubs, but every May since 2016 it has also staged the Rock The Loch mini music festival, a great way to experience live music, in the large beer garden overlooking Kirk Loch.
Other venues across the region which occasionally feature live music for a vibrant nightlife include Colvend Public Hall, in Colvend, near Dalbeattie; The Royal Bar and The Black Bull Inn, Lockerbie; Annandale Arms Hotel, Moffat; The Kinmount Hotel, Carrutherstown; Craft Hotel, Wigtown and The Bailey Hall, Thornhill. Classical concerts, meanwhile, are staged at The Cochran Hall, Kirkcudbright and Holywood Village Hall, near Dumfries.
The Crown Hotel in Lochmaben is one of Dumfries & Galloway’s most well-renowned pubs, but every May since 2016 it has also staged the Rock The Loch mini music festival, a great way to experience live music
Festivals come thick and fast across the region, and these, too, provide some excellent night-time entertainment, with ceilidhs, traditional Gaelic music and dance events staged at many pubs and community halls. The village of Moniaive has staged so many festivals on its own in recent years that is was named the coolest village in Scotland. The main event is the annual Folk Festival in May, a four-day event that attracts a star line-up and more than 1,000 visitors.
The Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival is also popular, and as with any festival in the village, impromptu sessions are often held in The Craigdarroch Arms or The George Hotel. Thornhill Festival runs on the early May Bank Holiday Monday and brings more than 20 bands to The Thornhill Inn, The Farmer Arms, The Buccleuch & Queensberry Arms Hotel. Kirkcudbright Jazz Festival features musicians from across Europe and Portpatrick Folk Festival utilises the village hall and lively pubs in the seaside town.
Everything you need to know about Dumfries and Galloway
Where to eat in Dumfries and Galloway
The best things to do in Dumfries and Galloway
The best shopping in Dumfries and Galloway
Your guide to arts and culture in Dumfries and Galloway