Glasgow is not only a fun city to visit. It is also a great location to use as a home base and explore Scotland on day trips. Mountains in the Scottish Highlands, pristine west coast beaches, bustling small towns and numerous fairytale castles are all just a short drive away. Discover the best of Scotland with these fun day trips from Glasgow.
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Disclaimer: Always check local travel guidelines and restrictions, especially when it comes to visiting Scottish isles and other remote areas post-Coronavirus.
Glasgow is often overlooked on people’s itineraries – and that even though it is located so conveniently to some of Scotland’s most beautiful places to visit! Whether you are into big cities or not, Glasgow is a great place to base yourself and explore the country on day trips, especially if you have limited time.
2020 Update: Or maybe you live in Glasgow and you’re looking for things to do nearby, now that the end of lockdown is in sight? This post is full of family-friendly day trips ideas to enjoy once we are allowed to travel beyond our local area (from Phase 3).
From Glasgow, you can reach many beautiful places within a few hours by car or on public transport. From the dazzling peaks of the Southern Highlands near Loch Lomond to nearby beauty spots, heritage sites, castles and bustling towns. Even some islands are within easy reach for day trips from Glasgow!
This post contains 17 ideas for day trips from Glasgow, including:
- Self-drive day trips from Glasgow,
- Day trips on public transport,
- Days out on nearby Scottish islands,
- And even an easy west coast trip by plane!
The day trips on this itinerary are:
- Easy to reach: Most are within one hour by car from Glasgow (apart from the islands) and many are entirely accessible by public transport allowing you to leave the car at home if you wish.
- Family-friendly: The vast majority of the day trips suggested below are family-friendly and activities can be adjusted depending on the age of your kids.
- Budget-friendly: While some of the activities and attractions on the list incur a fee, the majority can be done on a shoestring budget.
If you are looking for organised bus trips, check out this post about guided day tours from Glasgow.
Are these also doable from Edinburgh?
Since Glasgow and Edinburgh are so close, most of the day trips on this list are just as easy to do from Edinburgh – just consider added travel times, especially on public transport.
For even more ideas, check out my post about day trips from Edinburgh (tbc).
In this post, I’m suggesting mostly trips in the west, while the Edinburgh day trip post focuses on places to visit in the east.
Should I drive by car or take public transport?
The majority of these suggestions are doable day trips by public transport, however, keep in mind that you have to carefully plan according to bus and train schedules. On rural bus lines, I recommend not relying on the last bus of the day to return to Glasgow, but am for 1 or 2 prior. That way, if you miss those, you can wait at the stop for the final bus. Also bear in mind that while buses attempt to be on time, they might sometimes be late (or early) depending on traffic. Aim to be at the stop well in time before!
Check my Travel Resources page for information on how to use local transport, where to find schedules and which tickets to buy in advance.
Some suggested places on this list are not accessible by public transport, so it’s necessary to drive by car.
Day Trips from Glasgow
1) Loch Lomond: Balloch + Luss
Located just 20 miles northwest of Glasgow, Loch Lomond is a popular day-trip destination year-round and there is a lot to do! Two villages on the banks of bonnie Loch Lomond are particularly great to visit for a day trip: Balloch and Luss. Both offer plenty to do, outdoor activities to try and some hidden gems.
Things to do in Balloch
Join a cruise on Loch Lomond, visit one of its beautiful islands or hire paddleboards/canoes to explore the loch on the water. TreeZone Loch Lomond offers family-friendly fun up in the treetops and while I don’t advocate to visit zoos of any kind, the cafe at the top floor of Sea Life Aquarium offers fantastic views of the loch (you don’t have to visit the aquarium, just ask for access to the cafe). There is even a castle in Balloch, and while the inside is not accessible to the public, Balloch Castle Country Park makes for a lovely green space to explore. You can even take a seaplane tour over Loch Lomond!
Things to do in Luss
Luss is a much smaller village about 9 miles up the loch shore. It is one of the most picturesque places to visit on Loch Lomond and popular stopover for road trippers and tour coaches on the way to the Highlands. It’s worth spending a full day here though. Like in Balloch, you can join a cruise on Loch Lomond, rent canoes for a paddle and join all sorts of water activities. One of my favourite things to do in Luss, is to sit down for lunch at the Lodge on Loch Lomond, a hotel/restaurant with fantastic views of the city. There is a beach, perfect for a picnic or even swimming and many shops and cafes to explore in the village.
How to get to Balloch and Luss
You could drive (40 minutes to Balloch, 50 minutes to Luss), but both towns are also accessible by public transport.
Catch the train from Glasgow Queen Street to Balloch or the Citylink bus from Buchanan Bus Station to Luss (no. 915).
2) Hiking in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park stretches from the Cowal Peninsula in the west to the Trossachs in the east and includes popular day trips areas like Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine and the Arrochar Alps.
There are many great hikes in the park from challenging mountain days to family-friendly loch circuits and woodland walks. Their website is a great resource for trail descriptions, but here are some of my favourites:
- Conic Hill: a small hill near Balmaha on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. The trail is part of the West Highland Way and takes 2-3 hours in total.
- Ben A’an: a short, but steep ascent leads up this “mountain in miniature”. What it doesn’t have in elevation, it makes up in sweeping views over Loch Katrine from the top. Plan 3-4 hours.
- Arrochar Alps: a mountain range north of Arrochar. Prominent peaks include The Boccler (Ben Arthur), Beinn Ime, Beinn Narnain and Ben Vorlich, but there are also many easier walks in the area.
- Ben Lomond: the southernmost Munro in Scotland and also one of the most popular ones (that’s any mountain over 3,000 ft). It’s a challenging day out – expect to spend 5-6 hours on the mountain.
How to get to the Loch Lomond & Trossachs hikes
Many of these trailheads can only be reached by car.
The Arrochar Alps are a great exception as they are accessible by train from Glasgow Queen Street station (get off at Arrochar & Tarbet), but consider that it’s a 40-minute walk from the station to Succoth car park, where most of the mountain routes start.
3) Go Ape Aberfoyle
Ever wanted to swing from tree to tree or dangle several meters above the forest floor? I’ve got something for you!
Go Ape Aberfoyle is a fun tree-top course in the Trossachs that really makes the most of the woodland glens in the area. There are many Go Ape locations all over the UK (others in Scotland can be found in Glentress Forest near Peebles and at Crathes Castle near Aberdeen), but the one in Aberfoyle is arguably one of the best.
The course begins with a 323-metre zip line across a glen and with dramatic views of a stunning waterfall. Your small group will then climb high up to the tree-tops and tackle a couple of obstacle challenges, including a Tarzan swing. Before you know it, you’ll zip back across the glen.
Make a day of it and combine your tree-top adventure with a hike up Ben Aan, a cruise on Loch Katrine or a leisurely stroll through Aberfoyle.
How to get to Go Ape Aberfoyle
It is possible to reach Go Ape Aberfoyle and the nearby village of Aberfoyle by public transport (train from Glasgow to Stirling and on by bus no. X10A), but it takes twice as long as driving by car.
4) Loch Lomond: Inveruglas + Inversnaid
Inveruglas on Loch Lomond is a very special place and one of my favourite stopovers on the way to Glencoe. At first glance, there is just a car park with a cafe and facilities – but there is more than meets the eye.
At the very least, take a walk down the woodland trails to Inveruglas Pyramid (An Ceann Mòr) which offers stunning views of Loch Lomond. My friend Ksenia from For All Things Creative (watch my interview with Ksenia here) however, recommends spending a full day here for the following activities:
- Walk up to Loch Sloy to see the impressive dam which is part of the hydro-electric power station. The hike is very easy – you just have to follow a small tarmac road up from the A82. Read Ksenia’s blog post describing this hike here.
- Take the waterbus from Inveruglas across to Inversnaid on the other side of Loch Lomond. From there, the short but steep Arklet Trail climbs up through the woodlands and offers spectacular views of the Arrochar Alps across the water.
How to get to Inveruglas
There is a generous car park at Inveruglas Visitor Centre and there is ample parking.
The Citylink bus from Glasgow (no 915) also stops at Inveruglas and Sloy Power Station.
5) Glengoyne Distillery + Dumgoyne
Dumgoyne is a small but steep hill behind the famous Glengoyne Distillery. The ascent across moorland and sheep tracks is challenging, but hikers can reward themselves with a dram or a distillery tour upon their return. I highly recommend doing the hike before the whisky tour, rather than the other way around.
How to get to Glengoyne Distillery
There is a direct bus from Glasgow Buchanan Bus Station to Glengoyne Distillery (no. X10, X10A), so it is not only possible but also advisable to plan your distillery visit by public transport.
If you have a designated driver or plan only to hike to Dumgoyne without a whisky tour, there is some parking in lay bys near the distillery – the distillery car park is for visitors only.
6) Kilpatrick Hills
One of my favourite hiking experiences near Glasgow is the area around Kilpatrick Hills. The trail first climbs up to Loch Humphreys, on to the dome-shaped summits of Duncolm and finally with an option to descend via the Slacks viewpoint.
As soon as the trail starts climbing up from the village, you can enjoy stunning views of the River Clyde and Dumbarton Rock, a dome-shaped volcanic hill by the river which marks the location of Dumbarton Castle.
Within a short amount of time, you will be immersed in vast moorlands and reach the shore of Loch Humphreys. Once you reach the summits of Duncolm which offer views towards Loch Lomond. And from the Slacks the hills give way to views of Glasgow and the Erskine Bridge.
How to get to the Kilpatrick Hills
You can drive, but I recommend taking the direct train from Glasgow Queen Street to Old Kilpatrick, the trail starts just behind the train station.
7) Bothwell Castle
Glasgow might not have castles within its city limits, but you don’t have to go far to find one after all. Located just a few miles east in the small town to Uddingston, the ruins of Bothwell Castle overlook the banks of the River Clyde (£3, FREE for Historic Environment Scotland members & Explorer Pass holders).
The castle was built in the 1200s and fought over fiercely by the English and Scottish during the Wars of Independence The circular keep tower (also called donjon) is one of the most impressive of its kind all over Scotland.
On the meadows surrounding the castle, there is plenty of space for a picnic. Make a day out of the castle visit and explore the woodland trails along the River Clyde.
How to get to Bothwell Castle
You could drive and park near the ruins, but Bothwell Castle is also very easy to reach on public transport. Take the train from Glasgow Central Station to Uddingston. From there it takes around 30 minutes to walk to the castle.
8) City Trip to Stirling
The historic town of Stirling is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the bustling centre of Glasgow and there is plenty to do to fill a day.
Explore the historic heart of Stirling, tour the castle (£17.50, visit the famous Wallace Monument (£10.75) or learn everything about the Battle of Bannockburn (£11.50, FREE for National Trust for Scotland members. Join here!).
If you are looking for more budget-friendly things to do, visit the Church of the Holy Rude, wander along the riverside to Cambuskenneth Abbey or the Old Stirling Bridge and learn about the conservation of historic sites at The Engine Shed (all free).
How to get to Stirling
Leave your car at home and get the train from Glasgow Queen Street Station to Stirling. Most sites in Stirling are within walking distance, but places like the Wallace Monument or the Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre are serviced by local buses (no. 52 for the monument, no. 51, X36 to Bannockburn).
9) Wonders of engineering in Falkirk
Falkirk is a town located about halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh which makes it a very popular place to live and it’s pretty densely populated. It is famous for two sites that showcase the finesse of Scottish engineering and art: the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel.
The Kelpies at the Helix
The Kelpies are 30-metre-high sculptures of horse heads at the Helix Park. They represent the mythological creatures called Kelpies – shapeshifting water spirits that would take on the shape of beautiful horses to lure humans into dangerous waters. However, they are also a nod to the powerful Clydesdale horses which were used as tow horses along Scotland’s canals. (£3 car park, £7.50 Kelpies tour – not required to visit)
The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift that connects two canals that were significant in the industrial development of Scotland: the Forth and Clyde Canal (coming from Glasgow) and the Union Canal (coming from Edinburgh). The wheel raises boats up 24 metres into the air – a spectacular experience whether you board one of the tour boats (£13.50) or just stand by the side.
How to get to Falkirk
There is a direct train from Glasgow Queen Street Station to Falkirk, but the main attractions of Falkirk (incl. The Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel) are slightly out of town and you’d have to continue your journey by bus.
It might be easier to visit Falkirk by car.
10) Cultural heritage at New Lanark
New Lanark is a former cotton spinning mill surrounded by a purpose-built village and a lush national nature reserve. The mill was founded in 1786 by David Dale, a merchant and industrialist who – like practically anyone who made their money in the cotton industry – benefitted from the slave trade and used cotton from plantations built by slave labour. In 1791, Dale became the chair of The Glasgow Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade and took a public stand against slavery.
Once the epi-centre of cotton spinning in Scotland, today, it offers an interesting visitor experience, guided tours and interactive ways of engaging with the fascinating history of Scotland’s industrial heritage. It is also one of six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland.
How to get to New Lanark
There is a train from Glasgow Central Station to Lanark (approx. 1 hour) and from there it is a short bus ride (no. 135) or a half-hour walk to the New Lanark mill.
That means you can easily leave your car at home and visit New Lanark by public transport.
11) Grey Mare’s Tail National Nature Reserve
If you want to find one of Scotland’s spectacular and tallest waterfalls, you just have to drive south into the Southern Upland Hills and make your way to Grey Mare’s Tail National Nature Reserve.
The waterfall is tucked away in a magical glen surrounded by sheep farms and rolling hills. The waterfall can be seen from two different viewpoints near the car park, but the best views require a little more effort. Hike up the trail beside the waterfall (to the right) and continue your walk all the way to Loch Skeen, the mountain loch that feeds the cascading waterfall. The trail is steep and narrow, to begin with, but flattens out once you reach the top of the waterfall.
If this sounds too challenging for your kids, there are lovely woodland trails nearby, for example at Carrifran Wildwood or Craigieburn Forest (both near Moffat).
How to get to Grey Mare’s Tail
It is not possible to reach the Grey Mare’s Tail National Nature Reserve in the Scottish Borders by public transport. The drive from Glasgow takes around 1.5 hours.
12) Explore the Ayrshire Coast
Dotted with beautiful beaches and lively seaside towns, the Ayrshire coast has been a popular getaway for people from Glasgow for many centuries.
Pick and choose from the following locations for a fun day trip to the Ayrshire coast:
- Get a cone of iconic ice cream at Nardini’s and walk along the waterfront in Largs.
- Visit the Vikingar! Leisure Centre in largs to learn about the Viking history of the area (£.
- Go for a walk at the colourfully painted Kelburn Castle & Estate near Largs (£7).
- Visit the ruins of Ardrossan Castle and sunbathe at Ardrossan South Beach.
- Go for a wander along Stevenston Beach in Saltcoats and out to Stevenston Point.
- Learn about Ayrshire’s maritime history at the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine (£8.50).
- Spend a day on the beaches of Irvine (Irvine Beach, South Beach).
- Explore the small town of Troon, play at its famous golf course and indulge in local seafood.
- Try windsurfing or kitesurfing at the beaches of Troon.
How to get to towns on the Ayrshire Coast
Largs, Ardrossan, Irvine and Troon are all accessible from Glasgow via train, but if you want to visit several of them in one day, you have more flexibility if you drive by car.
13) Visit Alloway and Culzean Castle
The area around Alloway and Ayr is also known as Burns Country, where Scottish national poet Robert Burns was born and spent the early years of his life.
Visit the Cottage where Robert Burns was born in 1759 and learn more about his life, literature and legacy at the nearby Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (£7.50, FREE for National Trust for Scotland members. Join here!). Don’t miss a walk around the Burns Memorial Garden behind the museum to visit the Burns Monument and Brig o’ Doon.
Did you know that Robert Burns once accepted a job to help manage a slave plantation in the West Indies? Read more about Burns’ relationship with slavery and abolition here.
While you are in the area, I highly recommend visiting Culzean Castle & Country Park (£17 Castle + Park, £3 Park only, FREE for National Trust for Scotland members. Join here!). The glorious palace sits on a cliff top with views of the sea and the Isle of Arran. The enormous country park and beautiful flower garden make for a fun day out.
How to get to Alloway and Culzean Castle
The nearest train station to Alloway and Culzean Castle is Ayr. Glasgow and Ayr are connected by train (1 hour) and there is a bus from Ayr to Alloway (no. 358 and 360, 10 minutes) and to Culzean Castle (no. 360, 1 hour).
However, I recommend visiting the castle by car in order to take in other nearby sites like Dunure Castle or Greenan Castle.
The Scottish Isles might not follow the same timelines for re-opening after the Coronavirus lockdown as the Scottish mainland.
If you are planning to visit an island, make sure to check local travel guidelines and restrictions.
14) Isle of Bute
I bet you didn’t expect to see an island on this list, but there are actually several islands within easy reach from Glasgow. The Isle of Bute is one of them.
The island is most famous for the majestic Mount Stuart House, but there is a lot more to see. Start your day on Bute in Rothesay with a visit to the ruins of Rothesay Castle, Bute Museum and a walk along the seaside gardens.
Bute’s west coast is dotted with beautiful beaches that are worth a visit. Ettrick Bay is connected by bus, but if you have a car, I recommend stopping by Scalpsie Bay to see the local seals sunbathing at low tide.
There are several historic sites near Garrochty (St Blane’s Church, Dunagoil Fort, Blackpark Stone Circle) as well as a WWII bunker with stunning views at the northern end of the island.
My favourite hike on Bute is the loop trail from Kilchattan Bay to Glencallum Bay, which is also part of the West Island Way.
How to get to the Isle of Bute
Bring your car or get a Rail & Sail ticket at Glasgow Central Station. It is a one-hour train ride to Wemyss Bay where you can catch the ferry across to Rothesay on Bute.
On Bute, either use local buses or follow the West Island Way for a scenic hike around the island. I recommend the southern loop to Kilchattan Bay for a day trip.
15) Great Cumbrae
Great Cumbrae is another one of the Firth of Clyde islands near Glasgow. Since it’s largely flat, it is particularly popular for cycling trips. The road around the island is only 10.5 miles long and so, extremely family- and beginner-friendly.
Millport is the main village on the island. It is home to the smallest cathedral in Britain and a colourful row of houses along the waterfront, which has become synonymous for Scottish seaside villages.
The circular cycle loop follows the stunning coastline of the island, offers views of Bute, Arran and the Ayrshire coast, and even Ailsa Craig in the distance. There are also an activity centre on Great Cumbrae that arranges a wide range of water activities from yachting to stand-up paddleboarding.
How to get to Great Cumbrae
You could bring your car, but there is really no reason for that. Take the train from Glasgow to Largs, set over to Great Cumbrae on a short ferry ride and continue to Millport by bus. There, pick up your rental bikes and explore the island by bike!
Of course, you can also bring your own bicycles across and start cycling from the ferry pier.
16) Isle of Arran
The Isle of Arran is the largest island in the Firth of Clyde. A day trip really doesn’t do it justice (it’s best to stay at least 2-3 nights), but it is so easy to get to from Glasgow, it would be a shame not to mention it here.
My favourite way to spend a day on Arran is to hike Goatfell, the tallest mountain on the island which offers magnificent views of the Ayrshire coast, the Kintyre peninsula and even the Paps of Jura in the distance. Even though Goatfell is only 874m in elevation, the rough terrain of the range gives the illusion of ore Alpine mountaineering.
Top tip for families:
Goatfell is generally family-friendly, but it is pretty steep and exposed towards the top.
With young kids, you could also choose an easier hike down Glen Rosa at the foot of Goatfell.
Back in Brodick, enjoy a local ale from Isle of Arran Brewery, shop for locally made cheese, ice cream or soaps and stop for a bite to eat at Little Rock Cafe before returning to the mainland on the last ferry.
How to get to the Isle of Arran
You could drive by car which would make it easier to whisk around the sites of Arran in a day, but Arran can also be reached by public transport. With a Rail & Sail ticket, take the train to Ardrossan and the Calmac ferry over to Brodick.
From the pier, it is easy to get to the trailhead for Goatfell and sites around Brodick. There are also local buses to reach other locations around Arran.
17) Isle of Tiree
This final idea for day trips from Glasgow is a bit of a wild card. One look at a map will show that the Isle of Tiree is nowhere near Glasgow. In fact, it takes almost four hours by boat to reach Tiree from Oban on the west coast. How are you supposed to get there and back in a day? The answer awaits at Glasgow airport.
Loganair offers 2 daily flights from Glasgow to Tiree (approx. one hour) so that you can conveniently fly to Tiree in the morning and return in the evening, after a day on the island.
Like Great Cumbrea, Tiree is extremely flat and thus a prime location for cycle trips. However it is also known as one of the sunniest places in Scotland, its coast is dotted with paradise beaches and the consistent wind makes it a perfect destination to try (wind-)surfing.
Local tour operators can meet you at the airport to take you for a surf lesson or equip you with bikes to explore the island independently.
How to get to the Isle of Tiree
Book a return flight for the same day with Loganair.
PS: Flying is obviously not the most environmentally friendly mode of transport (quite the opposite), but these small planes are a lifeline for remote islands like Tiree. They enable islanders to access essential services (like hospitals) much quicker than by ferry and bring a significant boost to the local tourism economy.
Where to Stay in Glasgow
There is no shortage of accommodation options in Glasgow and there is something for every type of traveller and any budget.
Check out my favourite places to stay in Glasgow.
I hope by now you are convinced that Glasgow is more than just a bustling destination for a city trip – it opens up a whole range of experiences and places to visit in Scotland.
Take this list of suggested day trips from Glasgow and start exploring!
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