Some small towns and villages near Glasgow don’t have to work too hard to attract visitors since their stretch of countryside is an iconic destination in its own right. Others conjure up annual festivals or visceral adventures. Alternatively you could opt for a day in Edinburgh, or a jaunt on a paddle steamer round the sea lochs of Argyll.
Fancy a whisky-themed trip? Check out these nearby distilleries.
Go Ape! has 28 tree top adventure sites across Britain but only three in Scotland. The Aberfoyle venue, less than 30 miles north of Glasgow, boasts two of the longest and most thrilling zip wire rides anywhere – 150 feet up – as well as jump nets, Tarzan swings and wobbly walkways high in the forest canopy. And safety harnesses.
Excluding London, Edinburgh is Britain’s most popular city (which is why Time Out has a website dedicated to its top attractions, bars, events, nightlife and restaurants). Trains from Glasgow take around 50 minutes, on average, and run regularly – the last one back departs at 11.30pm daily. Thanks to the trains, you can spend the whole day in Edinburgh but still be back in Glasgow in time to go clubbing for a couple of hours.
Running for a week at the end of August, this annual community festival takes place in the small town of Kirkintilloch on the Forth & Clyde Canal, less than 10 miles northeast of Glasgow. Monday to Friday there are evening boat trips; Saturday is Get Active Day with canoeing, a climbing wall, fun runs, a concert and fireworks; Sunday is Gala Day with a fayre and theatre show.
It’s the biggest stretch of fresh water in Britain, by surface area, surrounded by beautiful mountains, and the village of Balloch on its southern shore is just over 45 minutes from central Glasgow by train. At Balloch the leisure and shopping complex, Loch Lomond Shores, can guide you whether you want a scenic boat trip, kayak hire, or just to chow down on a plate of pasta and a glass of wine.
Scotland’s only hot air balloon festival attracts enthusiasts from all over the UK to this small town 17 miles southeast of Glasgow. Held annually over three days, Friday to Sunday, on the last weekend of August, it gives locals and thousands of visitors the chance to see colourful craft floating over the South Lanarkshire countryside. Birds of prey, dancing, a fun fair, music and stalls add to the occasion.
The Waverley is sea-going paddle steamer, built on the Clyde in 1947 to replace the original that was lost off Dunkirk in 1940. It offers various trips in coastal waters but from May to August there are a number departing from Glasgow and environs, showing off the Firth of Clyde to its best advantage. Facilities on board include bars, a dining saloon and tea room.