10 Top-Rated Day Trips from Glasgow
You don't need to wander far from Glasgow to find a host of great attractions to visit. A short drive or ferry ride will take you to some of the area's most stunning scenery and interesting historical sites. From mountain ranges and castles, to beautiful islands and coastal areas, there is plenty to choose from. Pack a picnic, head for the hills, and explore some of the most spectacular scenery and sights in Scotland.
1 Stirling's Historic Battles and Castle
Located just 30 minutes by car from Glasgow (and about 45 minutes from Edinburgh), the town of Stirling is famous as the location of the Battle of Bannockburn of 1314 - when Robert the Bruce defeated the English invaders. It was also where legendary William Wallace beat the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, a victory for Scottish independence. (Both battles are commemorated at the excellent Bannockburn Heritage Centre). Between Stirling and the quaint village of Bridge of Allan stands the majestic Wallace Monument, a spectacular 246-step tower with incredible views of the area, as well as artifacts that belonged to Wallace. Then there's spectacular 12th century Stirling Castle built atop a 250 ft high volcanic crag, which has played a long-standing role in Scotland's rich history.
2 Isle of Arran: Little Scotland
Known as "Scotland in Miniature", the lovely Isle of Arran is only 166 sq mi in size, but contains examples of just about everything that makes Scotland one of the world's most popular tourist destinations. Arran is a one-hour ferry ride from Ardrossan, which itself is an easy train trip from Glasgow. Like the mainland, the island boasts magnificent mountains, moorland, sandy beaches, an abundance of wildlife, castles, fishing harbors and great golf. It's also a walker's paradise, and buses run regularly around the island from the ferry terminal at Brodick to various attractions.
Although its highlights - including Brodick Castle and Goat Fell Mountain (2,866 ft) - can be seen in a day (including the ferry ride), those in the know will spend at least a few days exploring this wonderful part of Scotland.
Address: Tourist Information Office, Brodick Pier, Isle of Arran
3 Benmore Botanic Garden
Benmore Botanic Garden, set amidst spectacularly rugged mountain scenery north of Glasgow at the southern end of Loch Eck, is part of Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden. The avenue of giant Californian redwoods planted in 1863 line the long driveway to the property, where you'll be rewarded with a chance to wander around more than 300 different species of rhododendron and azaleas.
Other highlights include Puck's Hut, a wooden memorial to Isaac Bayley Balfour who had the idea to create the gardens, and a bronze statue dating from 1875 (A boy with two dolphins) donated by the owner of adjacent Benmore House (now an outdoor learning center). Nearby Argyll Forest Park is also well worth checking out. Established in 1935, it was the first of its kind in Britain and boasts an impressive 186 mi network of footpaths.
Hours: Mar-Oct, 10am-5pm
Admission: Adults, £6; Children, Free
Location: Dunoon Argyll
4 Newark Castle
Situated in the industrial town of Port Glasgow (25 mi west of Glasgow's city center) stands 15th century Newark Castle. The mansion with a gatehouse and tower were once the seat of the (sometimes murderous) Maxwell family. In addition to the building's lovely Jacobean exterior, other highlights include exhibits relating to the working conditions and lives of the family's staff.
Another former industrial center not without its unique charms is Greenock, the birthplace of engineer James Watt, the man who made the Clyde navigable. It's also famous for being the final resting place of "Highland Mary", immortalized by Robbie Burns.
Hours: Apr-Sept - Daily, 9:30am-5:30pm
Admission: Adults, £4.50; Children, £2.70
Address: The Gilstrap Centre, Castlegate, Port Glasgow
5 Gourock: Granny Kempock's Stone
By the coast at Gourock (28 mi west of Glasgow) stands an interesting 6 ft tall slate monolith believed to have been a meeting place for Druids. Fishermen also used to make small offerings in return for fine weather and good catches, and it's still customary for local newlyweds to circle the stone to bring good luck to their marriage. The views across the Clyde Estuary toward the southwest Highlands make the journey to this seaside town worth the effort. If you can, try to time your visit to catch the fun Gourock Highland Games in May.
6 Dumbarton Castle
Dumbarton Castle perches dramatically on a basalt rock on the north bank of the Clyde facing Port Glasgow. This strategically important stronghold was started in the 6th century and was central to the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde's rule over the surrounding area until 1018. Only the dungeon and 12th century gateway remain of this medieval edifice where Mary Stuart embarked for France at age five. Other highlights include the wonderful views, the Georgian artillery fortifications, and the Governor's House with its interesting artifacts from the castle.
Hours: Apr-Sept - Daily, 9:30am-5:30pm
Admission: Adults, £4.50; Children, £2.70
Address: Castle Rd, Dumbarton, Dunbartonshire
7 The Hill House, Helensburgh
Lovers of Art Nouveau won't be disappointed by a visit to Hill House in Helensburgh. Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh after plans were drawn up for his Art Lover's House, Hill House was built in 1904 overlooking the Firth of Clyde. Surrounded by a delightful garden, there are similarities to a Scottish castle, while the figural elements, rounded edges, oriel windows and small chimneystacks bear all the hallmarks of the gifted designer (he also designed most of the furniture). In the wide hall, the dark wooden panels contrast with the light wallpaper, supplemented with abstract patterns and delicate pastel shades, while Art Nouveau patterns in pink and light green soften the effect of the walls, windows and lamps. The bedroom on the first floor above the lounge is regarded as the most successful of Mackintosh's "White Rooms".
Hours: Apr-Oct - Daily, 1:30-5:30pm
Admission: Adults, £10.50; Families, £24.50
Address: Upper Colquhoun St, Helensburgh, Greater Glasgow and Clyde Valley
8 The Forth and Clyde Canal and the Falkirk Wheel
The Forth and Clyde Canal, built in 1790, winds its way through the Strathkelvin District to the north of Glasgow. The fully restored 35 mi waterway was an important link for seagoing vessels between the Firths of Clyde and Forth, joining the River Clyde at Bowling and the River Forth at Grangemouth. Today, a very pleasant outing can be had aboard one of the vessels operated by the Forth and Clyde Canal Society from Kirkintilloch. Be sure to allow time to explore the spectacular Falkirk Wheel at the eastern end of the canal. This unique piece of modern engineering - part sculpture, part boatlift - connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal near the important industrial town of Falkirk. Capable of carrying up to eight boats, visitors can experience the hour-long journey aboard special boats and afterwards visit the Visitor Centre.
9 Summerlee - The Museum of Scottish Industrial Life
The museum of Scottish industrial life is based around the site of 19th century Summerlee Ironworks - opened in 1836 and once one of the region's biggest employers. The sightseeing trip is a fun getaway for kids as well as adults. Highlights include Scotland's only still operating vintage tramway, a recreated mine, workers cottages, as well as a variety of Victorian steam engines. Guided tours of the abandoned mines are also available.
Hours: Daily, 10am-5pm
Address: Heritage Way, Coatbridge
10 Paisley Abbey and the Thomas Coats Memorial Church
Some surviving parts of Paisley Abbey date from its construction in 1163. Highlights of a visit include the choir stalls, a walk up 197 steps to the Tower. Another Paisley landmark is the ornate Thomas Coats Memorial Church. Funded by one of Scotland's leading textile manufacturers and completed in 1894, its intricate stonework was the product of numerous apprentice stonemasons. While in the area, pay a visit to Paisley Museum and Art Gallery with its interesting displays relating to the development of the textile industry and the story of the distinctive "drop motif" on the world-famous Paisley pattern. Exhibits include the old looms on which the best-selling designs were produced, as well as original woven and embroidered shawls from Kashmir, the inspiration for the Scottish production.
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-3:30pm; Sunday, Services only
Address: Abbey Close, Paisley, Renfrewshire