What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a city trip to Glasgow? I bet it’s neither wakeboarding nor abseiling off a shipyard crane! And yet, this is a post all about playing hard in the city – a city trip for outdoor lovers. Read on for the most exciting adventure and outdoor activities in Glasgow!
This post is part of the paid campaign The Heart and Soul of Scotland with Wild About Argyll and People Make Glasgow. Argyll and Glasgow have joined forces to show how easily you can combine a visit to both areas in one trip! I’m stoked to be a part of the campaign since Argyll is my favourite place to escape for micro-adventures from Glasgow. Find out about my Play Hard outdoor itinerary through Argyll here, or browse my other stories from Argyll & the Isles here!
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I love living in a city like Glasgow. It is big and feels urban, there is a lot of stuff to do and always something going on. I can cycle everywhere or take public transport and have lots of shops, restaurants and cafes in walking distance to my home.
However, it is also close to nature. Glasgow means “Dear Green Place” in Gaelic and it lives up to this name until this very day. There are tons of parks and gardens in the city and on a sunny day you are never far away from a green meadow to lay out your picnic blanket. There are beautiful Victorian parks with flower gardens and boating ponds, and country parks with rewilded woodlands and uncut grass for local wildlife to thrive in.
If you climb a viewpoint like the Lighthouse in town or the Queen’s Park flag pole in the Southside, you can see the expanse of the greenery in the city, but also how close the mountains are just north of Glasgow. In just a few hours by car, bus, train, plane or boat you can find yourself at Loch Lomond, the Trossachs National Park or even a Scottish islands like Bute or Tiree. Nature is never far when you live in Glasgow.
But really, you don’t have to leave the city for a dose of adventure. Glasgow offers many options for activities to make every adventure traveller’s heart beat faster during a city trip. This post rounds up some of my favourite outdoor and adventure activities in Glasgow.
Wakeboarding at Glasgow Wake Park
Yes, you read correctly – you can go wakeboarding in Glasgow!
Glasgow Wake Park runs a System 2.0 system wakeboard park in the north of Glasgow – if you don’t know what that means, don’t worry – I didn’t either! A System 2.0 means that a cable is spanned between two large poles but in a way that it offers a continuous loop experience on the board – once you get the hack of standing corners, you could theoretically wakeboard back and forth the cable endlessly.
System 2.0s are the easiest to learn wakeboarding at and I can speak from experience – it’s actually not as hard as it looks! A 1-on-1 wakeboarding session at the Wake Park includes an introduction session on land where your professional trainer shows you how to move your body in the water and on the board. You then get about 15 minutes in the water, learning to stand up on the board and how to make it round corners without getting dunked.
I was surprised by how easily and quickly I improved during that time. I’m terrible at surfing and snowboarding (anything that involves balance), but wakeboarding was completely different for me and I really enjoyed it!
More advanced wakeboarders can also do tricks and jumps using the obstacles in the park – apparently, it only takes 3-5 sessions until you are ready for your first tricks!
A beginner session at Glasgow Wake Park costs £25 and can be booked online.
Climbing at The Climbing Academy
I started climbing when I moved to Glasgow and even though I had to take a break for a while because of an injury, I am slowly getting back on track with my top-rope and bouldering skills.
The Climbing Academy runs two bouldering centres in Glasgow – the Newsroom in the Southside and the newly opened Prop Store in Maryhill (since 2018). Both focus on outstanding bouldering experiences, but the Prop Store also has a section of top-rope and auto-belay routes.
If you are new to climbing you will be happy to hear that it is a very easy sport to get started with. Anyone can sign up as a new member at the TCA and start climbing after watching a video of safety instructions. The TCA uses a colour coded system for its routes – purple is the easiest, so start with those and work your way through the rainbow.
You can also book coaching sessions at the Newsroom or join a climbing club, such as the weekly Women’s Climbing Club at the Prop Store (every Monday evening). Personally, I love to learn by watching and chatting to other climbers – you will be surprised how quickly you can progress.
If you are more interested in top-rope climbing, also check out the Glasgow Climbing Centre in Ibrox. It is located in an old church and offers a variety of walls for beginners as well as pros. They also have a small bouldering area and a great cafe.
Renting a nextbike city bike
Glasgow is a great city to hire a bike and explore on two wheels. You can cycle along the Clyde to easily combine sightseeing in the city centre and the West End without having to figure out public transport or choose one of the many cycle routes in and around Glasgow to explore off the beaten path.
The nextbike bike sharing scheme has many stations all over the city and it is super easy to sign up. Just download the app, sign up for an account and choose a bike to hire. You can pay by card and it’s just £1 per 30 minutes (max. £10 per day).
The cycle charity Bike for Good offers free cycle training in the Southside and often arranges meet-ups for cyclists in the area. If you are confident to head out by yourself, check out these cycle routes. I recommend the cycle to Balloch on Loch Lomond or out to Uddingston to visit Bothwell Castle.
If you’d like to combine cycling with sightseeing, check out Glasgow Bike Tours!
Walking in a Country Park
I love that Glasgow has so many parks! Many of them are fairly small – you’d spend an hour or two walking about and bring a picnic blanket to enjoy the tranquillity. Many of them are landscaped parks, some have re-wilded areas, but mostly they are well-kept city parks as you’d imagine in an urban area like Glasgow.
However, Glasgow also has some wilder parks that are more expansive and take you far away from the buzz of the city – at least in your mind. Pollok Park is a huge park in the southside, the only Country Park within the city limits, but others are not much further. You could visit Cathkin Brae Country Park in the south-east or Drumpellier Country Park in the north-east, Mugdock Country Park in the north near Milngavie or the Seven Lochs Wetland Park near Easterhouse.
These parks are great for full-day walks and exploring, many have natural features such as waterfalls or hidden glens. Pollok Park even has a local herd of Highland cows! You won’t necessarily have to strap on your hiking boots for a walk in these parks, but bring sturdy trainers, a day bag with snacks and water and your camera and you are good to go!
Hiking the Kelvin Walkway
Did you know you could start the West Highland Way in Glasgow?
The Kelvin Walkway from Partick to Milngavie is an easy day hike that links up perfectly with Scotland’s most popular long-distance hike. It starts near the Riverside Museum and winds along the River Kelvin through Kelvingrove Park and along the Glasgow Botanic Garden. The path is mostly paved until you reach the Maryhill Locks but becomes wilder and more secluded as you continue towards Milngavie.
The hike is mostly flat and fairly well marked. It is useful though to save the walk description to your phone just in case. It can get muddy at times, so I do recommend wearing actual hiking boots or shoes you don’t mind getting wet and dirty. It’s not the most scenic walk, but it’s a great warm-up for more adventures and illustrates how quickly you can go from bustling town to tranquil farmland.
It takes around 4 to 5 hours to walk from Glasgow to Milngavie and from there you can either connect onto the WHW or jump on a train back to the city.
Trampolining at Ryze Glasgow
Trampolines are not just for kids clubs at old-fashioned all-inclusive resorts, and they are certainly not only for children either! Ryze Glasgow is an indoor trampoline park with a massive field of interconnected trampolines, waterfall trampolines with foam pits to jump into and super trampolines which combine various levels of heights and angles to make it even more fun. They also have all sorts of obstacles and arrange games of dodgeball on trampolines.
It’s a fun activity to get your muscles working – especially on a rainy day!
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It just goes to show that city trips don’t have to be purely about sightseeing and cultural experiences. A green city like Glasgow is a paradise for adventure seekers and there are many indoor and outdoor activities to experience the city from a different perspective.
And if the inner-city adventures are not enough for you, check out how easy it is to go on a micro adventure in the nearby region of Argyll!
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.