Glasgow offers more than enough to keep you entertained without ever leaving the city limits. Read my 2 days in Glasgow itinerary if you don’t believe me! But there’s no doubt that its central location doubles as the perfect base for day trips around Scotland’s west coast and beyond. You can take almost any road out of Glasgow and fall upon glistening lochs, magnificent mountains, iconic castles and picturesque seaside villages, all waiting to be explored. So if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, here are 9 great day trips from Glasgow that you need to go on.
This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Catherine Taylor.
1. Loch Lomond
How far from Glasgow is Loch Lomond? 26mi (41km)
How to get there: Get to Balloch in 35 minutes by car or 50 minutes by train
We all know the song, but nothing quite beats seeing the ‘bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond’ with your own eyes. The loch (the Scottish word for ‘lake’) sits in the heart of the Trossachs National Park. And it’s a total beauty no matter how you choose to experience it.
You can see Loch Lomond from the sandy beaches, on the water itself or from way up in the clouds. Or how about all three? With 153 kilometres of shoreline, you’re truly spoiled for choice when deciding which of the many vibrant loch-side villages to put on the agenda. But here are a few of my favourites…
Places to visit in Loch Lomond: Balloch
The most southernly – and arguably the most popular – is Balloch. Known as the gateway to Loch Lomond, this bustling village is where you’ll find some of the top-rated experiences on the loch. Think open-top steamboat cruises, seaplane tours and pedalo rides.
It’s also where the loch’s only country park sits. Balloch Castle Country Park spans over 200 acres of forests, walled gardens and nature trails. There’s so many that it’s hard to do the same route twice! 5-star visitor attraction Loch Lomond Shores also offers an escape for a rainy day, where you can keep dry indoors by browsing Scottish brands and independent shops or visiting the Sea Life Aquarium.
Places to visit in Loch Lomond: Luss
Further up the western shore of Loch Lomond, you’ll find Luss, a medieval village made up of quaint little cottages and a sandy, pebbly beach. The pier becomes a popular place for a dip in the summer. But it’s the place to be all-year-round if you’re looking for water sports such as water-skiing, stand up paddle-boarding or canoeing.
Places to visit in Loch Lomond: Balmaha
Over on the eastern bank is Balmaha, a great place to pull your walking boots on and set off on one of many walking trails or hikes. The Balmaha Nature Trail Walk is an easy route for all ages. It takes you wandering from the picturesque little village through the flora and fauna of the surrounding forests. Or, for a bit more of a challenge, Conic Hill is a 4-kilometre hike that takes between two and three hours. The climb is fairly steady overall with a few steeper areas. But the breath-taking views over Loch Lomond and its many islands is a worthwhile reward.
2. The Trossachs National Park
How far from Glasgow is it? 41mi (66km)
How to get there: Get to Callander in 52 minutes by car or in ~2 hours by train then bus
Although it goes hand-in-hand with Loch Lomond itself, the rest of the Trossachs National Park deserves a mention of its own. Often called the ‘Highlands in miniature’, this wide area of natural beauty is home to a total of 21 Munros, 19 Corbetts, 22 large lochs and a scattering of lively little towns.
Places to visit in The Trossachs: Callander
One of the most active tourist towns in the Trossachs is Callander, positioned where the lowlands meet the highlands and set dramatically amongst woodland crags. The town is brimming with independent shops, Scottish delis and bakeries. So there’s plenty of spots to stop for lunch or a quick coffee.
Callander has some excellent cycling paths nearby and a specialist bike hire shop to get you kitted out for the ride. Or if you prefer to explore on foot, there are some great walking routes too. Check out circular walk Bracklinn Falls or go for a wander through Coilhallan Woods.
Places to visit in The Trossachs: Ben A’an and Loch Katrine
On a day trip, you might not always have the time or energy to hike a Munro or Corbett like the nearby Ben Lomond, Ben Vorlich or Ben Ledi. But if you’re an avid hiker, don’t let that put you off! This is definitely one of the best day trips from Glasgow for those who love hiking.
For a shorter climb that’s a little more suited to a day trip, head slightly west of Callander to Ben A’an, the mountain in miniature. Its recently upgraded 4-kilometre path leads you through forest and moorlands up to the summit with spectacular views over Loch Katrine. The route takes between 2 and 4 hours and, for such a small mountain, it’s certainly a huge experience.
How far from Glasgow is it? 92mi (148.6km)
How to get there: 2 hours by car or ~3 hours by bus
The spectacular valley of Glencoe is one of my favourite day trips from Glasgow. The dramatic landscape, carved out by glaciers and ancient volcanoes, is other-worldly at times. In fact, some of the famous peaks of Glencoe have even featured on the big screen in James Bond’s Skyfall and several of the Harry Potter films.
Places to visit in Glencoe: Buachaille Etive Mor and Glen Etive Road
A guardian at the entrance to the glen, the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor is a picture-perfect mountain. It’s known for its impeccable pyramidal shape and a ridge that stretches for almost five miles. There are various spots on the A82 where you can pause to admire this beauty or even park up and explore a stretch of it for yourself. Or, if you’re looking for a more residential pitstop to find a spot for food, head to Glencoe village or Ballachulish nearby.
Take a turn down the almost-hidden (blink and you’ll miss the sign) Glen Etive Road. One of the most beautiful scenic drives in Scotland, it is sometimes colloquially referred to as the Skyfall Road. The single-track road twists and hairpins between mountain ridges Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag (the ‘Herdsmen of Etive’) for 12 miles, before reaching Loch Etive itself.
Be ready to pull over into a passing place if you meet another vehicle. And, if you want to stop to recreate the iconic shot of Bond and M next to the Aston Martin, make sure you pull off the road and avoid blocking passing places. It’s a tricky wee road to manoeuvre, but it’s more than worth it.
Places to visit in Glencoe: Glenfinnan Viaduct and Fort William
You might recognise some of the peaks in the valley of Glencoe from the Harry Potter films. But you can experience even more of the magic by heading up through Fort William (with a quick break at a cosy Scottish pub, if you need one) and on to the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
This 1000ft long and 100ft high arching viaduct is one of the best day trips from Glasgow for Harry Potter fans. Famous for its Jacobite steam train crossing, it is better known to some as the Hogwarts Express. And if you time your visit just right, you might catch a glimpse of it chugging along the tracks. The railway line sits just off the mouth of beautiful Loch Shiel. So be sure to allow time for a quick visit there before you go.
How far from Glasgow is it? 97mi (157km)
How to get there: 2 hours and 15 minutes by car or 3 hours by train or bus
Located a little further to the west of Glasgow you’ll find Oban, the seafood capital of Scotland and the gateway to the Hebridian Islands. Meaning ‘little bay’ in Gaelic, this beautiful harbour town is packed with award-winning seafood eateries and quaint Victorian streets. It’s safe to say they feel a world away from the city of Glasgow.
Places to visit in Oban: McCaig’s Tower and Dunollie Castle
Perhaps the most prominent landmark in Oban is McCaig’s Tower. Based on the Colosseum in Rome, it’s a striking monument that offers perfect views across the water to islands Mull and Kerrera. From there, take a walk along the coast to the ruins of Dunollie Castle. Surrounded by woodlands and steeped with Scottish history, this spot is like something straight out of a fairytale.
The views from Oban’s seafront are certainly impressive, but if you fancy a more unique look at the Hebridian Islands, you can catch a 30-minute scenic flight from Oban Airport to explore the wider area from overhead.
Places to visit in Oban: Oban Distillery and Town Centre
Oban Distillery is a must-do for any whisky lovers visiting the area, as it’s one of Scotland’s oldest sources of single malt scotch whisky. In fact, the distillery pre-dates the town itself and much of the original building has been preserved. Daily tours show visitors around the traditional venue.
Oban is a fantastic place for foodies to conduct their own food and drink tour around the town centre. Take a walk around and find hidden gems with delicious, locally-sourced seafood, whisky, chocolate, ice cream, fish and chips. And even a Michelin star meal at Etive Restaurant! Whatever ‘scran’ you’re in the mood for, Oban won’t disappoint.
How far from Glasgow is it? 26mi (42km)
How to get there: 35 minutes by car or train, 50 minutes by bus
Once the capital of Scotland, Stirling is a city alive with history and heritage. Not only is it the location of the famous Battle of Bannockburn where Robert the Bruce defeated English invaders, but it’s also the location of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, where William Wallace was victorious in one of the early Wars for Scottish Independence. These battles are commemorated at Bannockburn Heritage Centre. But the city centre is scattered with other monuments and historical sites too.
Places to visit in Stirling: Stirling Castle
Easily seen on your approach into the city, Stirling Castle is a magnificent 12th-century castle situated atop a 76-meter-high volcanic rock. Though it’s often overlooked due to the neighbouring Edinburgh Castle, the high positioning and incredible architecture of Stirling Castle makes it one of the grandest buildings in the whole of Scotland.
It’s a fun spot to visit if you happen to be travelling with family, as the visitor attractions are a real interactive experience. Costumed characters from the past greet you at the Royal Palace and lead you through the historical and cultural experience of life in the castle.
Places to visit in Stirling: National Wallace Monument
An equally imposing sight on the hilltop of Abbey Craig is the National Wallace Monument, a gothic tower commemorating William Wallace. The 246 step climb is broken up by displays on every floor, including Wallace’s sword in the Hall of Arms.
When you reach The Crown at the top, you’ll have a unique 360 degree, panoramic view of Stirling and its surroundings. You can even see as far west as the Trossachs and Ben Lomond! You might feel compelled to roar ‘FREEDOM!!!’ at the top of your longs a la Mel Gibson in Braveheart when you see the wide-open Scottish surroundings. But, just a warning, you won’t be very popular with the locals afterwards…
How far from Glasgow is it? 24mi (39km)
How to get there: 35 minutes by car or 20 minutes by train
Nestled between Glasgow and Edinburgh you’ll find the town of Falkirk, home to two of the country’s most famous architectural builds, the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies. Set in the Forth Valley, the area boasts outdoor attractions and sculptures that contrast beautifully with the rural countryside around it.
Places to visit in Falkirk: The Falkirk Wheel
Perhaps the most well-known attraction in Falkirk is the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift. It sounds a little bizarre, I know. But it’s a truly spectacular piece of engineering which connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. Standing at 115 feet tall, the wheel essentially lifts boats through the air to transfer them between canals, using the power equivalent to just eight domestic kettles.
This iconic Scottish landmark attracts over 500,000 visitors per year. You can take a boat trip on the canal and onto the wheel itself. Or simply observe and learn more at the free visitor centre on-site. Either way, it’s a pretty unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world!
Places to visit in Falkirk: The Kelpies
A more recent addition to Falkirk is The Kelpies. These two 100 foot tall horse head sculptures are located in the Helix Community Park, a reclaimed parkland with over 500 kilometres of connected cycle paths and walking routes. Weighing more than 300 tonnes each, they are the largest equine sculptures in the world.
Created by Andy Scott and inspired by the mythological creatures of the same name, the sculptures are an incredible feat of design and engineering. They look spectacular from afar, and even better up close and inside on a guided tour. After dark, the Kelpies illuminate in everchanging colours, truly encompassing the ethereality of the mythical shape-shifting water spirits of the same name. It’s a magical way to end one of the best day trips from Glasgow!
7. The Ayrshire Coast
How far from Glasgow is it? 38mi (60km)
How to get there: 45 minutes by car or 1 hour by train or bus
Birthplace of Scotland’s beloved National Poet, Robert Burns, the Ayrshire coast is a scenic little place with a whole lot of Scottish cultural history. It’s the birthplace of Auld Lang Syne, the Scots-language poem now sung across the world on New Year’s Eve. (Or Hogmanay, to us Scots!) The countryside has been immortalised by Burns’ beautiful prose.
Places to visit on the Ayrshire Coast: Robert Burns Country
Whether you’re familiar with Burns’ poetry or not, the Burns Heritage Trail is not only a fascinating look at his life and work, but it also gives you a great tour of the area. Start at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and Burns Cottage, the wonderfully preserved thatched house where he was born and raised.
From there, follow the trail and immerse yourself in the world of his words. Relive tales such as Tam O’Shanter by visiting the Alloway Auld Kirk, the cobbled Brig o’ Doon and other medieval spots home to countless stories of witchcraft and folklore that were so beloved in Burns’ work. You’ll feel his heritage all around.
Places to visit on the Ayrshire Coast: Culzean Castle & Country Park
The coast of Ayrshire is lined with wind-swept beaches. Perched on top of the seaside cliffs you’ll find Culzean Castle & Country Park. You can easily spend an entire afternoon wandering around the woods, swan pond, deer park and walled garden of this beautiful 18th-century estate. The castle’s prime spot on the coastline offers excellent views of the nearby iconic island Ailsa Craig. There are even daily boat trips available to take you over to the uninhabited, volcanic island to spot birds and other wildlife.
8. Isle of Arran
How far from Glasgow is it? 51mi (82km)
How to get there: 2 hours and 25 minutes by car followed by a ferry, or 2 hours and 50 minutes by train followed by a ferry
If you fancy a quick trip off the Scottish mainland and onto one of the many little isles that line the west coast, look no further than the Isle of Arran. It might seem small in size at only 432 square kilometres. But it’s actually the largest in the Firth of Clyde.
Fondly nicknamed ‘Scotland in Miniature’, Arran is a microcosm of everything that makes Scotland so beautiful. This makes it one of the best day trips from Glasgow for variety! You’ll find dramatic mountain peaks, fishing harbours, green forests, castles, sandy beaches and plenty of tasty local produce. There’s also an abundance of local wildlife to spot on land and out at sea throughout the year.
Places to visit on the Isle of Arran: Brodick
Brodick is the main village on the island. The ferry from Glasgow pulls into this bustling port on the east side, with impressive views of Goatfell, the highest of the mountains on Arran. As the main commercial centre, you can find a range of cafes, restaurants and shops on the main road of the village, as well as hubs for outdoor activities including horse riding, cycling, golfing, walking and climbing. You can also visit Brodick Castle & Country Gardens, a Victorian island castle with over 10 miles of trails and wildlife to explore in its grounds.
Places to visit on the Isle of Arran: Lochranza
Pass through dramatic hills and mountains scattered with livestock and local wildlife to reach the northernmost village on Arran, Lochranza. A somewhat sleepy town, this village feels much less tourist-centred than some of the others, despite it being home to the Arran Distillery, one of the island’s biggest industries. Join in with tours and tastings at the Distillery. Or if pints are more your kind of thing, stop by the Arran Brewery on your way back to the port at Brodick.
How far from Glasgow is it? 11mi (18km)
How to get there: 20 minutes by car or 15 minutes by train
The town of Paisley is one of the closest day trips from Glasgow. So if you’re looking for something shorter, Paisley’s your best bet! The town is home to some big names: Paolo Nutini, Gerard Butler and David Tennant, to name a few. (Although I have to admit, your chances of running into any of them on your day trip is pretty slim!) But more than that, Paisley is home to a rich heritage – particularly in textiles – and a lively cultural scene.
Places to visit in Paisley: Paisley Museum & Art Gallery
If you’ve heard of Paisley before, it’s more than likely in terms of the Paisley Pattern. This world-famous teardrop-shaped bohemian pattern has featured everywhere from high street fashion to haute couture. It’s even been worn by both Queen Victoria and the Beatles.
Paisley Museum & Art Gallery showcases a collection of Paisley shawls, looms and patterns that lead you through Paisley’s textile history, and how its cotton and silk thread mills transformed the town into an economic powerhouse. Don’t leave the museum without taking a tour of the Coats Observatory. Coats is Scotland’s oldest observatory with a high-tech digital planetarium and year-round stargazing opportunities.
Places to visit in Paisley: Paisley Abbey
Paisley town centre boasts the highest number of listed buildings in Scotland outside of Edinburgh. This makes it one of the best day trips from Glasgow for fans of architecture and design. The 12th century medieval Paisley Abbey stands in the heart of the town, with Gothic towers and mysterious gargoyles (including one ‘Alien’ gargoyle with a striking resemblance to the 1979 film) overlooking the people below. The Abbey has links with Scottish history, too, as it’s thought to be where William Wallace was educated.
For something a little more contemporary, head along Abbey Close to the Anchor Mill and the Hammils waterfall. This famous sight is synonymous with the town’s history of textiles.
Whether you’re looking for dramatic highland landscapes, quaint seaside villages, modern architecture or ancient Scottish history, there are amazing day trips from Glasgow to suit every taste. Which of these day trips from Glasgow will you be adding to your list?
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