Glasgow, Scotland’s second largest city after Edinburgh, long had a reputation as just an industrial sprawl, but recent years have seen it open up to tourism and reinvent itself completely.
Nowadays, the city has a lot to offer visitors, but there’s plenty to see outside of Glasgow too, making it the perfect base to explore the surrounding areas as you head out on day trips.
The nearby highlands are just begging to be discovered, with beautiful, wild scenery that can only be found in Scotland.
There are lochs, glens and high mountain landscapes just a short drive away.
Off the coast lie the Scottish Isles, many just a short boat ride away, while further afield it’s still easy to visit the historic cities of Edinburgh, Stirling and even Dundee to learn more about Scottish history and traditions.
Glasgow is the perfect base to stay for incredible day trips exploring the rest of Scotland and to have some unforgettable adventures in the highlands.
1 . Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond is a long, freshwater lake stretching for over 30 kilometers, but only ever spanning a few kilometers in width.
Loch is the local word for lake, and Loch Lomond is not just one of the most spectacular lakes in Scotland, but in the whole of the UK.
It’s not the lake itself that makes this loch so spectacular, it’s the islands, with around thirty or dotted along its length, a rarity in the British Isles.
Loch Lomond is a center for watersports in the region, offering kayaking, motor boating, and more along its waterways and channels.
Loch Lomond is a Scottish phenomenon and is a mere day trip away from Glasgow.
2. Loch Ness
Loch Ness is probably one of the most infamous places in Scotland.
It’s a good three hours north of Glasgow, high up near Inverness, but an early start and long travel time is worth it to see this legendary place.
There are plenty of companies offering day trips if you don’t fancy making the drive yourself.
It’s the second largest loch in the UK after Loch Lomond, and just as beautiful, but the real reason to visit is the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.
Unconfirmed sightings of this mystical beast have abounded for years, but the only way to find out if it’s real or not is to see Loch Ness for yourself, and muse upon the possibility of this giant beast lurking below the murky waters of Loch Ness.
The Scottish Burgh of Pitlochry is one of the most scenic parts of the country.
Just one and a half hours drive northeast of Glasgow, it is the beginning of the Highlands and the real outdoors of Scotland.
Pitlochry has been a tourist attraction ever since Queen Victoria visited in the mid 19th Century.
She fell in love with it, and since then the village has grown to be a sought after destination, right on the doorstep of Scotland’s wilderness but with all the comforts of home.
Glencoe is a national nature reserve two hours north of Glasgow; this is real Highland Country where clans once ruled and kilts were worn.
A mountainous area popular with hikers and climbers, it is also a marvelously scenic space that can be viewed from afar; in particular, from the main highway which stretches alongside it, making access to this wilderness relatively easy.
Suggested tour: Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands Tour
The small town of Oban is situated directly on the Scottish coast, looking out over the isles far out to sea.
It is a holiday resort first and foremost for good reason: because it is has such incredible surroundings.
The bay that Oban is built on is one of the most spectacular in Scotland and the coastal scenery is unlike anywhere else in the world.
Nearby there are old castles, glens and highland scenery to explore too.
Recommended tour: Oban, Glencoe & West Highland Castles Day Tour
Inveraray is famous for its castle; built by the Duke of Argyll in the mid 18th century.
It’s not really a castle as such, but more a huge, landed estate.
For tourists, this is one of the best places to experience Scottish nobility and get a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle they once lived.
Inveraray Castle is more of a large house with a few turrets; a style fashionable at the time of its construction, but hardly a castle in the medieval sense.
It’s in a gorgeous setting and still used by the current Duke of Argyle, who can trace his lineage back to the founders.
Kilmarnock has two claims to fame: this Scottish town is where Robert Burns, the famous poet, first published his work, and it’s the hometown of Jonnie Walker, the founder of the world famous Jonnie Walker Whiskey line, which was been bottled in Kilmarnock for almost three hundred years.
On top of that, it’s the town where Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, was educated, and where the British rock band Biffy Clyro formed.
If that’s not reason enough to visit, then the fact that it’s a quintessential Scottish town with a unique history and heritage should have you on the first train out of Glasgow.
8. Ayrshire Coast
The Ayrshire Coast encompasses Kilmarnock and much more.
This is the countryside where Robert Burns gained the inspiration for his poetry, amongst the rugged cliffs and wild landscape of the southwest Scottish coastline.
There are islands here to explore, villages to meander around, and mile upon mile of coastal hiking paths to walk.
Easy to reach from Glasgow, this is the Scottish coast at its best and most accessible.
Available tour: Culzean Castle, Robert Burns Country & the Ayrshire Coast
9. Culzean Castle
One of the most significant landmarks found on the Ayrshire Coast, and within easy striking distance of Glasgow, is Culzean Castle.
Built over the Firth of Clyde, this castle is perched precariously on a high cliff top.
It is open to the public and offers an insight into Scottish history dating back to the early days of its construction in the late 18th century.
It’s such an iconic castle that it appeared on the reverse of the Scottish five pound note, and is an essential point of interest to visit when coming to Glasgow.
Available tour: Culzean Castle, Robert Burns Country & the Ayrshire Coast
The Trossachs are a wild area of forested glens north of Glasgow, where the scenery is rugged and the atmosphere is as Scottish as it gets.
The area is full of lochs and woodland.
It is great for hiking, experiencing the outdoors, and seeing Scottish nature at its gloomiest and most spectacular.
The Trossachs were made famous by the poet Walter Scott when he wrote ‘The Lady on the Lake,’ a haunting piece describing the lochs and scenery that make this place so surreal.
Nothing has changed in the hundred years or so since the poem was first published; the area is still as raw and wild as it ever was.
11. St Andrews
St Andrews is home to the oldest University in Scotland, and is reportedly the city where the game of golf was invented.
Located northeast of Glasgow on the coast above Edinburgh, this is one of the most important places in Scottish history, and a location that plays an integral role in contemporary Scotland too, with its huge and popular University still in action to this day.
In St Andrews there are museums, universities and Scottish history to explore and discover.
Dundee is two hours northeast of Glasgow, and it’s worth the ride just to see the strange statue of Desperate Dan from the British comic books, which takes center stage in the city.
Desperate Dan is Dundee’s hero and the city prides itself on being the home of this comic book character.
More than this though, Dundee has an intriguing nautical history within the British Isles.
There is a museum dedicated to Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition; just one of many thousands of ships built here during the heyday of boat construction on this Scottish coast.
Located on the River Tay in central Scotland, Perth has been around since ancient times.
It’s known for being the capital of many a Scottish Kingdom; a place where the Scottish Scone granted leadership to kings, and where royalty held court at many points in history.
Today, its importance has lessened in comparison to Edinburgh and Glasgow, but Perth still has a huge amount of history to tempt tourists, as well as a modern cultural scene that’s a bit off the beaten track in comparison to its rival cities.
Stirling, like Perth, is centrally located in the middle of Scotland, and is where the highlands meet the lowlands.
Just as historically important, Stirling is the birthplace of many Scottish Kings throughout the ages, including King David I.
This is Braveheart territory too.
The Battle of Stirling Bridge took place nearby, and fierce battles were fought in the area during the wars of Scottish Independence led by Robert the Bruce and William Wallace.
If there’s anywhere to visit to gain an understanding of Scottish history, it’s Stirling.
Recommended tour: Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and Whisky Tour
No trip to Scotland can be complete without a visit to Edinburgh, the nation’s capital and seat of government.
Just an hour away by bus, train or car, Edinburgh is a beautiful, historic city with a huge amount of local culture that is ever growing.
Edinburgh Castle is perched high above the city on volcanic rock, and the market streets below are full of pubs, great food and Scottish daily life.
It’s a great city to visit from Glasgow.