Bonnie Scotland is a veritable tapestry of scenic loveliness. In fact, it’s one of the most popular holiday destinations for nature and history lovers in the world.
Verdant glens are carpeted in purple heather where stags call out in the morning mist. Ancient forests flank tranquil lochs steeped in myths and legends. And along rugged coastlines, the wild sea roars – waves crashing on the rocks of islands, home to Celtic treasures and historic castles.
Cities are characterful, brimming with storied buildings, galleries, and museums. Some sit riverside like Dundee, known as the City of Discovery – home to ships that transported explorers to the ends of the Earth.
Others, like Falkirk, are relatively new to the visitor scene, with fascinating science tourism destinations and landmarks that spark the imagination of even the youngest visitors.
In this article, I want to transport you out of the city and to lesser-known corners on short trips from Glasgow. So, don your walking shoes, camera, and pack your hip flask of single malt, as I take you on a journey of Scotland, taking in the best day trips from Glasgow, Scotland, by car, tour, and public transportation.
Day trips from Glasgow by Bus Tours
There are dozens of day tours from Glasgow, with many different destinations to visit. From the sparkling waters of Loch Lomond and Loch Ness to the rolling hills of Glencoe, we’ll explore the magic of Scotland’s National Parks, while taking in a ‘wee dram’ or two at a distillery en route.
Loch Ness & The Highlands
There’s something about the Scottish Highlands that captivates your soul and lives long in your memory. Whether it’s the kaleidoscope of colours as the light changes, or the way the morning mist lingers on the glens, there’s a simple magic about this special place.
On this enchanting full-day tour from Glasgow you’ll explore Loch Lomond, the valley of the Great Glen and see Glencoe – stepping onto landscapes that tell stories of massacres and clan feuds.
Stop for lunch at Fort Augustus on the edge of Loch Ness, enjoying a leisurely feast waterside, then hop on a boat trip with your camera to try to spot ‘Nessie’ and the Urquhart Castle ruins.
On the return route, the tour takes in the forested Cairngorms National Park and Blair Castle dating back to the 13th century. Make a stop at the pretty town of Pitlochry – home of the famous fish ladder (salmon leap out of the water to head upstream), before returning back to Glasgow.
This trip is one of the best day tours from Glasgow (it’s the exact one we took) and I highly recommend it if you’re visiting Scotland. Book it here!
Insider Tip: Pack different camera lenses. There may be opportunities to spot wildlife and historic sites from afar.
If you’re going to sample whisky during your stay in Scotland, it’s advisable to let someone else do the driving! Fortunately, you can book Glasgow day trips to discover some of the finest whisky distilleries in the country.
Learn all about the whisky-making process while sampling a ‘wee dram’ (small whisky) on whisky tours. Listen to stories about how this potent beverage became one of Scotland’s biggest exports and discover why the Scots call whisky ‘the water of life’.
On this guided tour you’ll visit distilleries inside and outside the city including the iconic Glengoyne Distillery, set in a picturesque location amid glens and waterfalls.
You’ll also make a stop at Deanston Distillery and Visitor Centre, located in an old cotton mill (it was a filming location on the TV series Outlander) and Auchentoshan Distillery – the oldest in Glasgow.
Insider Tip: If short on time, you can combine some of the whisky distillery tours with a visit to Stirling Castle or a cruise on Loch Lomond. Book this option here.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs
One of the most popular places to go near Glasgow is Loch Lomond and The Trossachs. Less than an hour from the city, the area covers over 700 square miles – a vast sprawl of undulating Munros, scenic glens, ancient forests and charming lochside villages. Enjoy an eight-hour tour of Loch Lomond and enjoy an optional cruise on peaceful sparkling waters.
Explore local villages and travel through the Trossachs National Park – learning about the legendary Rob Roy before venturing to medieval Stirling Castle – once the home of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Insider Tip: You can also combine a Loch Lomond visit with a whisky distillery tour and scenic hike along the shores. A must-do for keen photographers. Book it here.
Day trips from Glasgow by Train / Public Transport
Glasgow has an enviable transport network making it easy to journey to other destinations in Scotland by train, bus, or ferry. In this section of the post, I’ll show you some of the best Glasgow day tours you can enjoy while travelling on public transport.
Edinburgh is one of the most enchanting cities to visit in Scotland. An eclectic mesh of history, art, culture and fabulous shopping and dining, it thrills visitors of all ages.
The city’s main highlights include Edinburgh Castle, built on top of a dormant volcano (it’s been asleep for thousands of years), the buzzing Royal Mile with its museums, whisky and shortbread shops and the Grassmarket, where you can delve into the city’s dark past.
If travelling to Edinburgh with kids, they’ll love discovering the Camera Obscura or Dynamic Earth, where the history of our planet can be unveiled in a day. Alternatively, to capture the best photos, head to Edinburgh’s majestic viewpoints – Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat.
It takes 45 minutes by train from Glasgow Queen Street to reach Edinburgh or around one hour and 20 minutes by coach from Buchanan Bus Station on the Citylink 900 service.
Insider Tip: Walk to Dean Village near Prince’s Street. This pretty residential neighbourhood harks back to a bygone era with waterside walks, and its photographer’s paradise.
Read More: One Day in Edinburgh, Scotland
The Isle of Bute is a surprising hidden gem off the west coast of Scotland. Often overlooked by visitors, this almost tropical island can be reached in less than two hours from Glasgow Central Station and includes jumping on a ferry from Wemyss Bay.
The main town on the island, Rothesay, has a distinctly exotic feel with floral displays along a beautiful esplanade, art deco structures and pastel-hued houses by the bay. Behind, forests and rolling hills provide a colourful contrast to the deep blues of the water.
There are many things to see on Bute Island, but if you’re only here for one day, I recommend taking a walk around Rothesay town to see 13th-century Rothesay Castle and St Mary’s Chapel. You can also take in Mount Stuart, a grand Gothic stately home with many historic artefacts and St. Colmac standing stones, both accessed via the number 490 bus from Rothesay.
Snap a selfie at the Highland Boundary Fault Line or head to The Serpentine – a winding road on Canada Hill for epic photos of the town.
Insider tip: Conclude your day trip with a delicious afternoon tea in the Glenburn Hotel with spectacular views across the bay.
New Lanark is a fabulous day out for families and is easily reached by train (plus a short bus ride or leisurely walk) from Glasgow Central Station in less than 1.5 hours. Set within a nature reserve by the Falls of Clyde, this impressive World Heritage Site is a recreation of an old cotton mill village from the 18th century.
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you walk around, popping into a historic classroom, the millworker’s housing, and the cotton mill. Take a guided tour to learn about the town’s interesting history regarding social reforms and visit exhibitions that show how locals used to live and work in the mill town.
Insider Tip: Make time to stroll by the riverside to see badgers and otters at the Wildlife Reserve.
Located between Perth and Inverness, the pretty Scottish town of Pitlochry can be reached by bus or train in less than two hours from Glasgow.
Among other things, the town is known for its dam and fish ladder, where each year thousands of salmon leap out of the water to make their way upstream. It’s an epic feat of nature, offering amazing photo opportunities.
While in the town, visit Blair Athol Distillery to learn about the whisky-making process before sampling a wee taster. Browse the bakeries, souvenir shops and tea rooms in town, or try the legendary whisky-flavoured ice cream at the Scotch Corner.
Hop on a bus for 15 minutes to the magnificent Queen’s Viewpoint. The vistas over Loch Tummel are outstanding, and with beautiful walking trails in the surrounding area and a café nearby for lunch, it all adds up to a memorable day.
Insider tip: If arriving in October/November, take the kids to Enchanted Forest. This sound and light show hidden deep in Faskally Forest is a magical installation set to music.
Dundee, on the shores of the river Tay, has undergone a revival in recent years. No longer the forgotten cousin of Edinburgh and Aberdeen, Dundee now stands proudly as a cultural and historic hub of Scotland. The city can be reached in under two hours by rail or bus from Glasgow.
Along the water’s edge, the V&A Dundee mesmerizes with exteriors inspired by dramatic Scottish cliffs. With a range of changing exhibitions held throughout the year, you can delve into the story of Scottish design, fashion and textiles.
The RRS Discovery is anchored next door. A tall, three-masted steamship built in Dundee for Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton to sail to Antarctica in. It was this expedition that coined the city’s nickname – The City of Discovery. While here, Discovery Point allows you to experience the life of the crew on their voyage south. It’s a worthwhile stop for intrepid adventurers.
If you enjoy all things art related, The McManus is Dundee’s premier Art Gallery and Museum, housed in a beautiful Victorian/Gothic structure in the centre. Alternatively, discover Dundee’s industrial heritage at Verdant Works and see a refurbished mill.
Insider Tip: If time permits, head to Dundee’s seaside resort Broughty Ferry a few miles east of the centre. An upscale suburb with independent shops, cafes, sandy beaches, and a promenade.
Day Trips from Glasgow by Car
Most Scottish destinations, particularly on the mainland, are accessible by car. On most Glasgow day trips, you can drive to them in an hour or two along straight, easily navigable roads. Here are a few of my favourite places to visit.
Falkirk is one of those cities that often flies under the radar for Scottish visitors, but they’re missing out. Falkirk has a huge range of indoor & outdoor activities for young and older adventurers.
See the famous Kelpies, the world’s largest equine structures. The epic sculptures can be found in The Helix parkland and were designed with the intent of highlighting Scotland’s horse-powered heritage.
Hop onto a canal boat to experience The Falkirk Wheel, a marvellous feat of engineering and the world’s only rotating boat lift. It was built to connect two canals – the Forth and Clyde – and is now one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions.
Alternatively jump on a steam train, chugging along the scenic Bo’ness and Kinneil railway. The ten-mile journey transports you across the Avon Viaduct and through waterfall-sprinkled forests.
Insider Tip: Bo’ness and Kinneil railway station featured as a WWII London train station in the Outlander TV series.
Once the capital of Scotland, Stirling has consistently been at the forefront of Scottish history.
If you’ve ever seen the movie Braveheart, the National Wallace Monument is the perfect place to begin your exploration. Here, you’ll learn how William Wallace led the army to victory in 1297 at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
Climb the 246 steps to the observation point for panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside. Or, if you want to know more about Scottish military history, head to the Battle of Bannockburn Experience and learn all about medieval combat – 3D style.
Also, no visit to Stirling would be complete without a trip to the splendid hillside castle. Stirling Castle, much like Edinburgh’s, is built on a volcanic plug, and it’s the place where Mary became Queen of Scots. While here, walk in the footsteps of royalty, discover medieval cuisine, learn about painters, musicians and court jesters, and uncover the deep, dark secrets of the castle…
Insider Tip: Take a tour of Old Stirling Jail and book the family-friendly Escape Room experience. You’ll have 60 minutes to break out by solving mysterious clues!
Journey to wild coastlines, beautiful beaches, and historic castles in Ayrshire along the west coast of Scotland. A short distance from Glasgow by car, literary enthusiasts can visit Robert Burns’ Birthplace Museum in Ayr which houses over 5,000 manuscripts and artefacts from the great Scottish bard.
While in Ayrshire, drive to the crumbling ruins of Dunure Castle by the sea, visit majestic Culzean Castle or see colourful Kelburn Castle with its exterior walls painted with street art murals.
Tee off in Troon, on championship golf courses, or stroll along sandy beaches while watching kitesurfers and sailboats. Alternatively, take a trip to Largs, known for its Viking heritage and quaint cafes. From here you can hop on a 15-minute ferry to the Isle of Cumbrae.
Insider Tip: Watch the sunset at either Culzean Castle or Dunure Castle ruins for incredible photo opportunities.
Isle of Arran
The Isle of Arran offers a great day out for history lovers, hikers, cyclists and foodies. If driving from Glasgow, head west in the direction of Ardrossan and hop on the ferry to Brodick, Arran’s main town. The scenic ferry crossing takes 55 minutes.
Once on the island, I recommend spending time at Brodick Castle and Gardens and joining in with interactive Victorian-style games. Walking around, you can explore stately quarters, beautiful gardens and woodlands with waterfalls.
Afterwards, make a stop at the Blue Pools at Glen Rosa for a spot of wild swimming or hike Goatfell, an 874-metre high peak with incredible island views.
For a whisky-tasting extravaganza, the Isle of Arran Distillery ticks all the boxes. It’s the island’s only working distillery and dates back to the 1800s. Don’t leave Brodick without spending time at the Arran Heritage Museum, then head to a local café to sample delicious ice cream, artisan cheese and oatcakes for which the isle is famous.
Insider Tip: If you plan to take a rental car with you on the ferry it’s wise to book well in advance.
Oban & West Highlands
The drive from Glasgow to Oban is possibly one of the most beautiful you’ll encounter in Scotland. Travelling along the A82, it passes along the entire length of Loch Lomond, heading north to Crianlarich, before joining the A85 past Loch Awe’s northern shores to Oban.
Oban is a pretty town next to the sea and a popular holiday spot for Glaswegians. There are fantastic eateries and visitors can follow different foodie trails ranging from seafood to vegan, beer and spirits to coffee and cake.
While in Oban I recommend climbing to McCaig’s Tower. It looks a bit like the Roman Colosseum from the outset and it boasts some of the best views of Oban and the islands.
Take a walk along Corran Esplanade with its monuments, shops and cafes or take a short drive just outside Oban to see Castle Stalker. The 14th-century castle, located on an island in Loch Linnhe, is breathtaking, particularly eerie if captured as the mist lingers over the loch.
Insider Tip: If you can extend your stay, hop on a boat to the Isle of Mull and drive to Tobermory. The picture-postcard village is delightful with pastel houses, museums and a distillery set in a horseshoe bay.
Outlander Filming locations near Glasgow
If you’re a fan of the romantic, time-travelling, historical drama Outlander, you may be aware that many of the episodes’ filming locations are in Scotland.
There are a few to check out in Glasgow, including Glasgow Cathedral, University of Glasgow and Kelvingrove Park. Alternatively, fans of the TV show may also be delighted to learn that many more landmarks from the show are accessible on a one day trip from Glasgow!
Calderglen Country Park, East Kilbride
In episode four, Calderglen Country Park in East Kilbride south of Glasgow was used for scenes in the Outlander episode “Blood of my Blood”. Recreate the camping trip that Jamie and Willie took near Horseshoe Falls or simply take a walk around the ornamental gardens and see the wildlife.
Troon Beach, Ayrshire
If you remember at the end of season one when Claire, Jamie and Murtagh depart for France by boat, you may have been fooled into thinking that these scenes were filmed in the south of England. They were actually filmed on the beach at Troon! The seaside town in Ayrshire, a 40 minute train ride from Glasgow Central Station has views of the Isle of Arran and is home to a famous golf course.
Dunure Harbour, Ayrshire
This lovely seaside village in southeast Ayrshire has been a recurring feature of the Outlander series with the harbour and other locations near Dunure Castle being used in the show.
Insider Tip: Hardcore Outlander fans can make the trip to 14th-century Doune Castle near Stirling. It doubled as Castle Leoch in the series and the audio guide is narrated by Sam Heughan a.k.a Jamie Fraser in the show!
Things to know about travelling around Scotland
Travelling around Scotland by public transportation can be fairly straightforward. The train and bus networks connect all the major cities and many interesting towns and villages along the way.
However, to reach sparkling lochs and rolling glens, a car or dedicated tour will be necessary, and if you wish to cross the water to visit the beautiful islands, expect to spend time on a ferry too!
Below, I’ll detail the best ways to get around this beautiful country, and what to expect when you travel.
Travelling By Car in Scotland
Travelling in Scotland by car can be a great option, although as with any journey, it’s always good to be prepared. If you’re not from the UK, in Scotland they drive on the left-hand side – handy to know, especially when giving way at roundabouts!
Another thing you may need to get used to is the signposts. They are written in miles, not kilometres. Also, brown signposts depict a tourist route, usually leading to interesting places.
Let’s get into the speed limits. On motorways, the maximum speed is 70mph, 60mph on single-carriageways and 30mph in residential zones and cities. There are often speed cameras lurking, particularly when entering towns and cities, so remember to stick to the limits.
The good news is, there are no tolls in Scotland, so you don’t have to pay to use the motorways, unlike in many European countries.
It’s definitely worth noting that in the Highlands and islands, you may not see a petrol (gas) station for miles, and many are not open 24/7. Always be prepared and fuel up when you’re in a town or city so you don’t get stranded.
Insider Tip: Avoid driving in Glasgow and Edinburgh city centre. It’s difficult to park and with one-way systems, it can be challenging to get around. Save hiring your car for days you are leaving the city.
Travelling By Train in Scotland
Rail tickets can be purchased on the day of travel in Scotland, but they are usually a bit more expensive. I recommend booking in advance whenever possible as you can save up to 60% in some cases.
Flexibility is also key to achieving a good deal on rail tickets. If you can avoid peak work times for travel, choosing off-peak tickets equals cheaper prices. Trains that aren’t direct with one or more changes often have cheaper tickets too if you’re on a budget.
The website I use to check fares and book tickets for day train trips from Glasgow is Trainline. It’s easy to use, and your ticket is emailed to you on confirmation of booking. You can also download their app to use a QR code instead.
Insider Tip: If you plan to travel from Glasgow to Edinburgh during the August Fringe Festival or around Hogmanay (New Year), be sure to book tickets well in advance as the route can be super busy.
If you’re searching for day trips near Glasgow, I hope this list has provided inspiration for your upcoming visit to Scotland. Glasgow is a great base for seeing all of the country’s highlights from lochs and mountains to historic castles and beaches. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!