I’m always on the hunt for adventure, but although I’ve lived in Glasgow for nearly 10 years now, it’s easy to forget that sometimes the best adventures are right on your doorstep. With that in mind, I set out to see how much I could pack into a long weekend exploring the city and the stunning wilderness that’s only a stone’s throw away in Loch Lomond.
After a bit of a lie on on Saturday morning, I headed over to the east end of the city. There, beside the majestic Glasgow Cathedral, lies the Necropolis . At first glance, it looks like an imposing graveyard, but after a guided tour with Ruth from Friends of the Necropolis I realised it’s so much more than that. Home to Glasgow’s late and great, it’s an architectural spectacle, with monuments to scientists, philanthropists and merchants designed by some of the world’s leading architects from Charles Rennie Mackintosh to Alexander Greek Thomson.
Only a stone's throw away is Drygate brewery. With a focus on quality craft ales, all brewed on site, Drygate is fast making a name for itself across the UK. While munching on a burger over lunch, one of their staff talked me through a selection of their beers, from an easy drinking apple ale to ‘breakfast stout’ brewed using coffee beans from the local roastery, Dear Green Coffee. Surrounded by artwork created by Glasgow School of Art
students, I could see right into the heart of the brewery from my table, and the fresh, modern interior made for an inspiring lunch.
Wandering back into the city, I decided to join a Glasgow Music City Tour. Led by music journalist Fiona, we walked through the city centre hearing the stories behind some of Glasgow’s favourite venues from the infamous King Tut’s (where Oasis made their big break) to Nice ‘n Sleazys, a local institution renowned for its raucous gigs and local bands. We were in safe hands though Fiona had all the inside stories from some of the city’s most famous gigs. Manic Street Preachers' first gig? She was there and she’s got the set list to prove it.
After freshening up at the Park Inn by Radisson, I met up with a friend and debated where to go for dinner. We settled on Riverhill, right in the heart of the city. This little indie is a real hidden gem, using fresh local produce to cook dishes with a global influence. Sat at our table, the walls around us were covered in family photos of the owners and staff, giving a friendly and intimate vibe. Perusing the carefully curated menu, we settled on Onglet Steak and Sea Bass and when the plates arrived, they were as beautifully presented as they were delicious.
Having paid our compliments to the chef, we took a short walk to my favourite bar in the city centre, Tabac. With its low lighting and continental vibe, it is the perfect place for a post dinner cocktail and if you want a truly unique experience, try knocking on the unmarked door at the back of the room. Behind it lies the Panther Milk Bar, a shabby chic speakeasy serving one drink, and one drink only - Leche de Pantera, a little known, milk based cocktail created by Spanish resistance fighters in World War Two. If you’re searching for the best of Glasgow’s infamous culture and nightlife, this is it.
Waking up in the enormous bed at the Park Inn the following morning, I rubbed my eyes, threw on some clothes and headed for the train station. Thirty minutes later, I was on the shores of Loch Lomond the largest body of water in the UK. It’s a stunning place, and there’s no better way to explore it than by canoe. With Callum from CanYouExperience as our expert guide we paddled along the shoreline and took in the wildlife, passing by a castle or two along the way. As we made our way back, a seaplane full of sightseers took off right over our heads and dipped its wings towards Ben Lomond before disappearing over the horizon.
Paddling is thirsty work, so back on dry land we stopped in at the Lodge on Loch Lomond for a drink and a bite to eat along the waterfront, taking in the views before jumping on a ferry to Inchcailloch Island. Weaving between the densely forested islands, we saw an Osprey nesting in a nearby tree, and, the skipper insisted, passed an island inhabited by wallabies! Before long, our home for the night came into view, and we hopped off the boat started exploring.
Inchcailloch is a beautiful place. Just beyond the pier, right by sandy beach, is a small campsite nestled in the trees. Unlike most campsites, it’s unmanned, and besides the composting toilets, there are no facilities. If you like the idea of wild camping, but want to build some confidence first, it’s an ideal spot. After a quick hike up to the highest point on the island, which offers unparalleled views across the loch, we stopped to explore the old cemetery perched on the hillside. Back at camp we fired up our stoves, prepared some dinner and ate by the fire, enjoying a wee nip of whisky before we hit the hay.
We woke up with the sun, brewed up some strong coffee and packed up our tent. We had an hour to kill before the ferry came to collect us, so we climbed some trees and skimmed stones across the loch. Before long, our transport arrived and we returned to the mainland in the howling wind. We weathered the worst of the storm in the Kilted Skirlie, another great shoreside restaurant down by the Loch, and then, inspired by our morning climbing trees, headed to Treezone, a highropes course suspended twenty feet above the ground. With our harnesses securely tightened, we navigated narrow rope bridges, suspended stepping stones and fast-flying ziplines for the next hour, attempting to complete the course nohanded to make things interesting.
Soon, it was time to catch the train home. Exhausted from a weekend of fun, we returned to Glasgow smelling of woodsmoke with aching arms, windswept hair and smiles on our faces, smug in the knowledge we’d had a weekend wellspent.
All images supplied by Alec Farmer of Trakke.