Many visitors to Scotland opt to make Glasgow their home base, and while the vibrant Scottish city has a lot to see and do, there are also numerous day trips you can take, both to other urban centers or to nature-filled areas like the Trossachs. Glasgow has solid public transportation, with several train and bus stations in the city, so it's possible to explore the surrounding areas without a car (although a rental car can make things easier). Whether you want to head to the shores of Loch Lomond or to the mountains of Glencoe, there's a day trip for every type of traveler.
Loch Lomond: Hikes, Boating, and More
Cruise the scenic waters of Loch Lomond as part of a great day trip from Glasgow. The massive loch, located north of Glasgow, offers opportunities for boat cruises, fishing, walking, and cycling while the town of Balloch has Loch Lomond Shores: a center filled with restaurants, activities, and an aquarium. There's a lot to see and do, but you can squeeze a lot into a day, especially if you have a rental car. It's also very family-friendly, with nearby walks and hikes for travelers of all abilities and ages.
Getting There: Visitors can opt to drive (it takes about 25 minutes from Glasgow to the southern edge of Loch Lomond) or take a train from Glasgow Queen Street to Balloch, which is walking distance from the loch's shore. Trains run every 30 minutes.
Travel Tip: Don't miss a loch cruise, which departs from Balloch via Sweeney's Cruise Co. The cruises sail year-round, but times can vary, so consider booking tickets online in advance.
Stirling Castle: A Glimpse Into the Past
Located in Stirling, Stirling Castle is one of the most important castles in Scotland as it was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots. Today visitors can tour the castle rooms, which feature exhibitions on Scotland’s Renaissance kings and queens, and enjoy guided tours of the indoor and outdoor areas. There's also a cafe, gift shops, and a selection of special events. Make a day of your visit by also exploring Stirling's Old Town and other popular attractions like Doune Castle and the Old Bridge, as well as nearby towns like Bridge of Allan and Dunblane.
Getting There: Take a train from Glasgow to Stirling Station, and then arrive at the castle by taxi or bus. Parking can be tricky at the castle as it gets full during busy periods, so consider opting for public transportation instead. Look for the Stirling Land Train at the train station to access the castle in historic style.
Travel Tip: The castle is open throughout the year, but the opening hours change based on the season. Check online when planning your visit as the last entry time can be relatively early during the winter.
Inveraray: A Classic Scottish Town
Located on the edge of Loch Fyne, Inveraray is a traditional Scottish town with a castle and a nice town center. Inveraray Castle, the current home of the Dukes of Argyll, welcomes visitors to its rooms and expansive grounds and is open between April and October. Other attractions include Inveraray Jail, Inveraray Bell Tower, and Crarae Garden Argyll. There are also several nice local walks, including Dun Na Cuaiche Woodland Walk, which offers great views of the loch.
Getting There: Take a bus from Glasgow Buchanan Bus Stop via Luss Village to Inveraray (which takes about two hours) or elect to drive yourself. The drive can be very scenic as it passes by Loch Lomond, so give yourself enough time to make stops and see everything along the route.
Travel Tip: Those with extra time should include a visit to the nearby Auchindrain Township Open Air Museum on their itinerary. The museum features a preserved Scottish Highland farm township and is about a 10-minute drive from Inveraray.
Isle of Arran: Hiking, Golfing, and Whisky
Take a journey west to the Isle of Arran, the largest island in the Firth of Clyde. It's a beautiful destination, with rural trails and towns, as well as the Isle of Arran Distillery, where Scotch whisky is made. Many visitors come for outdoor activities like hiking, boating, and mountain biking, but it's also a great spot for food lovers. Don't miss Brodick Castle and Country Gardens, the Machrie Moor Stone Circles, and Arran Cheese Shop.
Getting There: Your best option is to drive to the Isle of Arran, but intrepid travelers can also take a train from Glasgow to Ardrossan Harbour, which connects with a ferry that reaches Brodick Isle of Arran Ferry Terminal (cars also travel over on the ferry). From there, travelers can either trek into town on foot or hail a taxi.
Travel Tip: Golfers will find a lot of options on the Isle of Arran, from the Brodick Golf Club to Shiskine Golf & Tennis Club, which overlooks the Mull of Kintyre.
Largs: A Resort Town
Head an hour west from Glasgow to discover Largs, a seaside resort town on the Firth of Clyde. The town boasts a pier, a Victorian promenade, and a rocky beach, making it especially popular during the summer. It's also home to the annual Largs Viking Festival. Don't miss the Kelburn Castle & Estate, the Largs Museum, and, of course, all the ice cream shops along the promenade. Look for the walking trails and picnic area near Greeto Falls when visiting during nice weather.
Getting There: Trains are available hourly via ScotRail from Glasgow Central, or you can drive. The drive is about 32 miles and will take up to an hour depending on traffic.
Travel Tip: From Largs, take a ferry to the island of Cumbrae. Bikes are available for rent in Millport, just off the ferry, and it's fun to explore the scenic island before heading back to Glasgow.
Loch Ness: Home of the Mysterious Monster
Most travelers put Loch Ness high on their Scotland bucket list and for good reason. The northern loch is incredibly beautiful, with historic sites and picturesque walks along the shore, as well as the possibility of spotting Nessie herself. While Loch Ness isn't close to Glasgow, savvy visitors can make a day trip of the loch by leaving early and staying late. Don't miss the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition, the ruins of Urquhart Castle, and the Clansman Centre, which showcases traditional Scottish culture.
Getting There: Hop a train from Glasgow Queen Street to Inverness, and then take a bus to Bunloit, located on Loch Ness. Alternatively, visitors can drive from Glasgow to Loch Ness, which takes between 3.5 and 4 hours. Some local travel companies also offer day tours from Glasgow with stops in the Highlands and Loch Ness.
Travel Tip: Loch Ness is quite vast, with lots of towns and sites along its shores. If you have limited time, pick one area to explore, focusing either on the western shore where you can find Urquhart Castle or the southern town of Fort Augustus.
Glencoe: Gateway to the Highlands
Glencoe, part of the Scottish Highlands, is a highlight of many visitors' trips to Scotland. It's often treated as its own destination, but it's a doable day trip from Glasgow, especially if you just want a taste of the picturesque scenery and the nearby town of Fort William. It's best for those who want to explore the outdoors by hiking or biking, or even kayaking on Loch Leven. In the winter, skiing and snowboarding is available at Glencoe Mountain resort.
Getting There: Glencoe is easily accessible from Glasgow by car (about two hours) or bus from Buchanan Bus Station. You can also take a train from Glasgow to Ardlui and then transfer to a bus to Glencoe, although that can take longer. Traveling by car is a good way to make stops to see the Trossachs and Loch Lomond along the way.
Travel Tip: There are numerous hikes in the area, but the walks around Glen Etive are especially nice. Bonus: the area was used in the James Bond film "Skyfall."
Kilmarnock: Experience Scottish City Life
Kilmarnock is a sprawling city located on the River Irvine and it can be found a short drive south of Glasgow. Immerse yourself in 400-year-old history at Dean Castle Country Park or explore the exhibitions at The Dick Institute, the largest museum in Ayrshire. The vibrant city also has great restaurants and pubs, extensive shopping, and an infectious soccer culture (fans can take in a game at Rugby Park). Look for Bank Street, a cobbled road in the town center, and don't skip the Burns Monument Centre.
Getting There: Drive 40 minutes from Glasgow, or avoid traffic and parking by taking a direct train from Glasgow Central. Buses are also available from Buchanan Bus Station with Stagecoach West Scotland. The city itself is walkable, but there are also local buses and taxis to get around.
Travel Tip: For a wild time, plan your visit to Kilmarnock on the day of a Kilmarnock Football Club home match. Even if you can't get tickets to the game, the town's pubs will be packed and lively.
The Trossachs: A Respite For Nature Lovers
Head north from Loch Lomond to experience the Trossachs, a forested area perfect for adventurous travelers who love the great outdoors. While Loch Lomond is often lumped together with the Trossachs, it's worth making a special day trip just for Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and the Great Trossachs Forest, where you'll find walks, longer hikes, and lots of wildlife viewing opportunities. There are also several scenic villages around the Trossachs, including Balquhidder and Aberfoyle.
Getting There: While visitors can take a series of trains to the Trossachs, it's best to have a car when exploring the area as many places can't be easily reached by public transportation. Be sure to bring a map or GPS as cell phone service can be spotty when driving through the more remote spots.
Travel Tip: "Outlander" fans should make a stop at Finnich Glen, a gorge with a memorable waterfall that stood in for the Liar's Spring on the TV series. The small parking lot can be found at the junction of A809 and B834 and then it's a short walk into the gorge.
Edinburgh: Castles, Museums, and More
It may seem obvious, but Edinburgh is a memorable day trip from Glasgow. The city is the center of Scotland's culture with sites like Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and the National Museum of Scotland. And, of course, no visit is complete without an ascent to Arthur's Seat, located in Holyrood Park. The city also has tons of restaurants, pubs, cocktail bars, and theaters, so try to extend your day trip into the evening if possible.
Getting There: Trains between the two cities are relatively inexpensive and quick, departing either from Glasgow Central or Glasgow Queen Street. Travelers on a tight budget can also opt to take a bus with one of several companies, including Scottish Citylink and National Express.
Travel Tip: Plan a visit around Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a three-week arts festival that takes place every summer. Travelers can score tickets to plays, comedy shows, and live music, or look for some of the free outdoor performances.