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Six epic road trips that start from Glasgow

Ready to hit the road? Get out of town and discover awe-inspiring landscapes, postcard-perfect towns and delicious local food

Arusa Qureshi
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Arusa Qureshi
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Spending too much time in one city will naturally give anyone itchy feet. Thankfully, though, this is a problem that can be easily fixed, especially if you’re on a budget and hoping to stay fairly local. Whether you’re looking to plan a fun summer road trip or just a short weekend break out of Glasgow, there are numerous options you can explore that are only a short train, bus or car journey away. To give you some inspiration, we’ve found some epic UK getaways that will have you enjoying a beer in a hidden gem of a pub, hiking up a mountain or spending a night under some of the darkest skies in no time.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best Glasgow attractions

Best road trips from Glasgow

Loch Tay

How far? One hour, 40 minutes.

Why go? Loch Tay is the largest loch in Perthshire. The dark stretch of water runs from Kenmore to Killin, with tiny hamlets and lush woodlands along its shores.

Do this: Pretty Killin is home to scenic waterfalls known as the Falls of Dochart. Pull over and jump out for the obligatory selfie on the rocks. Then head off along the edge of the water to the Scottish Crannog Centre to discover what life was like on the loch thousands of years ago – there’s a reconstruction of a crannog, an ancient dwelling, to explore. Then, head next door to Taymouth Marina to sweat it out in the lochside sauna or float out onto the water itself in a kayak, paddleboard or pedalo.

Eat this: Try Three Lemons in nearby Aberfeldy for tasty and elegantly presented dishes in lovely surroundings. Thyme at Errichel Restaurant serves up local delicacies with a field-to-fork ethos.

How far? One hour.

Why go? Twinkly in the winter, raucous for Hogmanay and buzzing with creativity during the summer’s festival season, the Scottish capital is a stellar spot for a quick trip whatever time of year you visit.

Do this: Start by wandering around Edinburgh’s historic centre. Explore Edinburgh Castle and potter around the indie shops that line Grassmarket and Victoria Street, before heading out of town through the wide grasslands of Holyrood Park to climb Arthur’s Seat. Once you’ve reached the top of this extinct volcano your reward is an incredible view of the city, the coast and the countryside beyond. Finish your trip with a play at one of Edinburgh’s best and biggest theatrical spaces, the Festival Theatre, or dance the night away at buzzy live music venue Sneaky Pete’s.

Eat this: The Gardener’s Cottage is a leader in slow, sustainable cooking. It serves up super-high-quality seasonal produce, with no printed menu to speak of. Don’t wait for a sunny day to indulge in weird and wonderful gelato flavours from Mary’s Milk Bar in the shadow of the castle. For an old-school blowout dinner in spectacularly gothic surroundings, eat at The Witchery.

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Fort William

How far? Two hours, 25 minutes.

Why go? Swap the concrete of the city for wide skies, sweeping horizons and a whole lot of history. From Fort William, the town in the shadow of Ben Nevis, you can explore the area’s fascinating history, climb the UK’s highest mountain and encounter some of the world’s most stunning scenery.

Do this: Learn about the history of the area, the Jacobites and the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie at the fascinating West Highland Museum in the heart of town. If you’ve got the energy and the enthusiasm, you can’t beat the feeling of having hiked to the summit of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. During the winter months you might even get to ski down its snowy slopes. Got time on your side? Get back in the car and take the ‘Road to the Isles’, which leads west out of Fort William towards Glenfinnan (where you’ll find the stunning viaduct used in the ‘Harry Potter’ movies) and ends up at Mallaig fishing port.

Eat this: Settle down beside picturesque Loch Linnhe for a seafood feast at Crannog, on the Town Pier in Fort William. Order fresher-than-fresh crab cakes and a steaming bowl of West Coast mussels, swimming in white wine, garlic and cream.

Best weekend getaways from Glasgow

How far? Three hours, 40 minutes.

Why go? Famous for cream teas and Turkish baths, Harrogate is a classic English spa town with quaint streets, independent shops, glorious antique stores and cosy pubs, all surrounded by rolling green hills. It’s a total treat for anyone visiting.

Do this: Peruse brilliant nineteenth and twentieth-century art in the beautiful Mercer Art Gallery before exploring RHS Garden Harlow Carr, a 58-acre garden at the foot of the Yorkshire Dales. Next up, soothe yourself into serenity at the Turkish Baths Harrogate. Visit the colourful and decoratively designed spa, mosaicked steam room and plunge pool, or indulge in a massage with warmed Himalayan salt stones.

Eat this: A trip to Harrogate would be incomplete without a mid-afternoon stop at Bettys. The Yorkshire institution has been serving up fat rascals (that’s fruit-studded scones) with jam and clotted cream since 1919. If you’re still hungry, order a generous Sunday lunch from The Fat Badger.

Stay here: Got a taste for that spa life? Stay at Rudding Park on the outskirts of Harrogate. The grand country house is home to a luxe rooftop spa, indoor pool and log sauna. It also has 300 acres of parkland to explore, complete with a kitchen garden that supplies the chef with herbs and salads.

How far? Three hours to Inverness; five hours, 30 minutes to Duncansby Head.

Why go? There’s no better antidote to urban living than deserted beaches and long, expansive horizons – and the Scottish Highlands are as remote and awe-inspiring as it gets in the UK. Shake off the city with a road trip along the North Coast 500 from Inverness to what seems like the edge of the world.

Do this: Stop off for a little monster-hunting at Loch Ness before heading north on the NC500 out of Inverness. Chanonry Point is your next pitstop, where you can spot bottlenose dolphins from the edge of the peninsula. Pull over to see one of the route’s brochs: iron-age fortifications found only in Scotland. Eventually, you’ll arrive at John O’Groats, the northernmost inhabited spot in mainland Britain. Take the blustery walk out to see the fang-like stacks at Duncansby Head.

Stay here: Bed down for the night in one of The Crofter’s Snug Glamping Pods, with fields, cliffs and the ocean as your only neighbours. The tiny, simple structure contains everything you need for a relaxing and cosy stay, as well as a little campfire to keep you warm while stargazing. You might even see the Northern Lights if you’re lucky.

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Northumberland National Park

How far? Two hours, 50 minutes.

Why go? One of the downsides of city living is the constant light – and that means no stargazing opportunities. For stellar star-spotting, head to Northumberland National Park, which has been internationally recognised as a Dark Sky Park.

Do this: During daylight you can spot red squirrels in the trees, hire boats or bikes, or get lost in The Minotaur Maze at Kielder Water and Forest Park. Walk the route of Hadrian’s Wall, hike the Cheviot Hills or wander through a free exhibition at The Sill. As soon as night falls, look up to see glittering star clusters, the Milky Way, distant galaxies and meteor showers. Not sure what you’re looking at? Visit Kielder Observatory for one of their evening events to learn about the Northern Lights or take a Night Sky Safari.

Eat this: Order hearty homemade pies and warming puddings at The Pheasant Inn, near Kielder Water. For something fancier, head to nearby Langley Castle for French-inspired cuisine in a grand, candlelit dining room.

Stay here: Stargaze from the comfort of your bed in the Sky Den: an architectural masterpiece in Kielder Water and Forest Park. In good weather, you can open the entire roof of the treehouse for unobstructed views of those spectacular skies.

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