On a sunny day, there seems to be no better place to escape from the city than Kelvingrove Park or the Botanics, with the river and the rustle of leaves, colourful flowers everywhere you look, and soft grass beneath your feet. Yet Scotland is a beautiful country, and with hills, seaside, lochs and islands not more than a train journey away, here are some suggestions if the park gets too crowded or you simply want to feel adventurous & explore.
Arran [45 min train + 55 min ferry]
Arran is a beautiful island in the Firth of Clyde, reached by taking a train to Ardrossan Harbour then the ferry from there. The island is famous for its highest peak, Goatfell, well-known for charity climbs or for those wanting to attempt a relatively easy top. You can start the walk to Goatfell from Brodrick, where the ferry arrives, getting on a sandy path with big bushes of bright-yellow gorse on both sides, which turns into a shady trail through woods followed by a more scrambled climb over rocks until you reach a brilliant view over other mountain-ranges, the town where you started out far down and the glorious sea spreading out far and wide underneath an endless sky. Yet there is much more to Arran: a bus-service, that I must note doesn’t run frequently, takes you all the way round the island, allowing you to hop off for a walk into a glen or photo at the Lochranza castle any time.
Oban [3 hour train or bus]
Oban is the furthest place on this list, but a scenic sea-side town that serves as the perfect starting point for some island-hopping if you can stay for more than one day. In Scottish Gaelic, Oban means The Little Bay, and that’s exactly what gives the town its feeling of freedom and summer holidays. When walking or sitting on the lovely boulevard, watching ferries passing by in the bay will make you want to visit an island, and there’s plenty to go to. The closest island is Kerrera, which you can reach by taking a small ferry just down the road from Oban. The incredible vistas on this island are something else: think secluded bays, cliffs, views of islands in the distance and a super cute tea-house to top it all off.
Note: travelling by bus takes you through Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, meaning you could add a stop at Luss if you have time.
Loch Lomond [50 min train]
The easy connection from Glasgow to Balloch by train is a perfect way to get introduced to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. Yet there are a lot more wonderful villages on the shores, Luss on the western and Balmaha on the eastern side being just two of them, easily reached by bus from Balloch. Here you can find cafes and places to eat, cute shops full of nick-nacks and, of course, the always beautiful, shimmering loch. Or, if you’re looking for something more adventurous, you can hike up the relatively small Conic Hill from Balmaha car park. Expect lots of steps and stunning views.
Largs & Millport [45 min train & 10 min ferry + 10 min bus]
A tad bit smaller than Oban, Largs has the same atmosphere: the perfect place for an ice cream or fish and chips (or both, obviously) while smelling the salty air and hearing screaming gulls flying overhead. Just off the coast is the Isle of Cumbrae, 10 miles round which means you can do a full circle if you bring your bike, or are an enthusiastic walker. You can stop at Fintray bay, where there’s a café that all the cyclists on the island take a break. In the charming town of Millport itself you can visit a great place to get pancakes (Dancing Midge café) or Garrison House, if you’re interested in the history of Cumbrae.
Walks in the Glasgow area
If you just want to have a quick get-a-way from the city that doesn’t involve too much planning or travelling, walkinghighlands.co.uk is your best pal. On this website, you can find well-described walks of varying length and difficulty all around Scotland, including Glasgow and the area surrounding it. Whether it’s a short walk in Pollok Park, at Strathclyde Loch or along the Kelvin walking in the direction of Milngavie, who knew there was so much beauty just a bus ride away?