Fancy exploring beyond the city? Glasgow is lucky enough to have the biggest of back gardens, with brilliant attractions, beautiful outdoor spots and spectacular events all less than the average daily commute away!
Here is our pick of the top 20 things to do in surrounding Glasgow.
Less than an hour from Glasgow, New Lanark Visitor Centre tells the interesting story of the 18th century cotton mill village and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of only six in Scotland. Learn about the lives of people who lived there by visiting reconstructed homes, a village shop and a school.
Paisley is rich in architectural history and heritage with the town centre enjoying the second highest concentration of listed buildings in Scotland. One of its most magnificent buildings is Paisley Abbey, which offers informative guided tours and has a café and shop too.
Spanning approximately 37 miles from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde and built by the Roman Empire, the remains of the historic Antonine Wall can still be seen today. Visit the New Kilpatrick Cemetery in Bearsden where you can see two visible sections of the stone base of the rampart, or the remains of the Bar Hill Fort near Twechar to take in some great views.
Auchentoshan Distillery is a Lowland Distillery that sits on the banks of the River Clyde and is only a short journey from Glasgow's city centre. Offering tours and whisky masterclasses, it's where you can discover all you need to know about Scotland’s national drink.
A brilliant (and free!) day out for all the family, the Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life has fascinating exhibits with working machinery, electric trams, guided tours of an underground mine, miner’s cottages and a super play park.
Aquatic fun for big and little kids alike, the waterpark at the Time Capsule is jam-packed with flumes, waterslides, a wave pool and areas for toddlers and babies. It’s a brilliant day out for the family – especially if it’s raining!
Situated on a remarkable volcanic rock, Dumbarton Castle overlooks the Firth of Clyde and was an important royal refuge, once sheltering Mary Queen of Scots. Whilst you’re there, climb to the top the White Tower Crag for spectacular views.
Explore over 130km of trails and admire over 200 wind turbines at Whitelee Windfarm. The largest onshore windfarm in the UK, Whitelee also has an onsite visitor centre and is only 20 minutes from Glasgow. Lots of activities are available too, including mountain biking, cycle hire and bus tours.
The West Highland Way is one of Scotland’s most iconic long-distance walking routes. At 96 miles, stretching from Fort William to Milngavie, it’s quite a challenge and can take around a week to complete. But if you’re looking for a day trip closer to Glasgow, how about walking the first section from Milngavie to Drymen? It’s around 12 miles and is relatively flat with a footpath.
Interestingly, the West Highland Way crosses through Mugdock Country Park, which is an expansive green space containing no less than two castles, a loch, stables and a walled garden. The park also has some gift shops and eateries, so it’s the perfect place to while away an afternoon.
Climb to the top of Lyle Hill and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views over the River Clyde, the Cowal Hills and on a clear day, even the Isle of Arran!
Not far from the lochside village of Balmaha, climb 361m to the summit of Conic Hill for beautiful views over Loch Lomond and the surrounding National Park. A steep but short ascent, it’s a great option if you don’t have a full day but want to enjoy a morning or an afternoon in the great outdoors.
Just next to the New Lanark Visitor Centre, the Falls of Clyde is a lovely spot for a stroll along the River Clyde. Keep an eye out for lots of wildlife – including badgers, otters and even kingfishers – and enjoy the natural beauty of woodland and waterfalls.
Visit Balloch Castle Country Park which spans over 200 acres of woodland and offers gardens, nature trails and a great vantage point for views over Loch Lomond. See if you can spot some of the fairy houses in the park’s very own fairy trail which features mini sculptures carved from stumps of fallen trees.
From small beginnings in 1999, the Strathaven Balloon Festival has become an annual spectacular and is the only balloon festival in Scotland. Spend the day admiring colourful hot air balloons in the sky and enjoying family fun entertainment on the ground. And best of all, the event is free to attend.
Celebrating the heritage of the canal capital of Scotland, Kirkintilloch Canal Festival is a week-long event taking place around the Southbank Marina. Expect family-friendly storytelling, a Sunday gala and lots of boat trips on, you guessed it – the Forth and Clyde canal!
If you’re a fan of open water swimming then Go Swim Loch Lomond is for you! Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or would like to try open water swimming for the first time, you can choose between various distances, from a 250m family-friendly dip to 'The Big One' – a 10,000m marathon distance swim. And what’s more, if you don’t feel like getting in the water, the event makes for a great spectator sport too.
Stalwarts of the traditional Scottish music scene, head to the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock for an evening of top-tapping tunes with fiddle player Aly Bain and accordionist Phil Cunningham.
A spectacular light and projection show at New Lanark Visitor Centre, Shining Lives: Fortunes of Fate tells the story of the Fortune Ship Highlanders as they begin a new life at the 230 year old cotton mill buildings.
Paisley’s annual spooktacular event is back - the Paisley Halloween Festival. A free event with fun for all the family, last year saw witches flying around the town hall and a terrifyingly brilliant parade through the town centre.
For more inspiration on things to see and do near Glasgow, check out some unmissable day trips from the city.
Article last updated: August, 2019