Glasgow Days Out by Gavin Bell

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Last week ScotRail invited me to leave Edinburgh and head West to try out their Glasgow Days Out travel pass.

I jumped at the chance to explore some locations within an hour of Glasgow and, since we’re approaching Burns Night, I also decided to celebrate the life of Robert Burns by visiting the town he grew up in and indulging in a little whisky tasting along the way!

Day one – Ayr, Troon and the Clydeside Distillery

Straw bales in the Robert Burns Birthplace MuseumMy first stop was Ayr, where Rabbie Burns grew up and where you can learn more about his life and important part in Scottish history and culture by visiting his birthplace museum. The train to Ayr takes around 50 mins from Glasgow Central and from the train station you can either take a 30 minute walk to the museum, or grab a quick taxi from the rank outside.

On the site, you can visit Burns Cottage, Burns Monument and Gardens, Brig o’Doon (the setting for one of Burn’s most famous works), Poet’s Path and Alloway Auld Kirk.

The museum in particular was fantastic and provided a great way to learn about Burns and see some of his real possessions. After a stroll around and with my map of the museum in hand, I headed off through the memorial gardens and down ‘Poets Path’ to Burns Cottage - the actual cottage he grew up in! The small, thatched cottage with a byre and barn is preserved to show how it would have been when he lived there with his parents from his birth in 1759.

The beach at TroonAfter exploring the museum and local area, I headed back to Troon on the train. Troon’s a place I’ve heard a lot about but have never actually visited. I struck lucky with a nice day so got off the train and made the five-minute walk to the beach. It was chilly (as you’d expect at this time of year in Scotland) but I still had a lovely wee walk along the seaside. By this time however, I was a little peckish so I grabbed something to eat in Troon before getting back on the train to Glasgow.

During my time at the Burns Museum I discovered that the poet was quite the party animal – and loved a wee dram of whisky, so carrying on the Burns theme, I decided to visit the recently opened Clydeside Distillery which is situated at the Queens Dock on (not surprisingly) the Clyde.

The Clydeside Distillery copper stillsAdmittedly I’m not a huge fan of whisky but I decided to book myself on to a distillery tour anyway, I did not regret it! I had an excellent time being taken around the distillery learning not just about whisky, but also about Glasgow’s dockyard history. After a wee dram of some of the whiskies on offer and a quick stop in the Clydeside Cafe that was me done for the day. Bring on tomorrow!

Day two – Loch Lomond

I decided to head to one of my favorite parts of Scotland on day two: the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. Loch Lomond is the largest inland stretch of water (by surface area) in the UK and is part of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

Getting to Loch Lomond is surprisingly easy from Glasgow: hop on a lower level train from Glasgow Queen Street and you’re in Balloch within the hour. From there it’s just a very short walk to the Loch.

Gavin Bell at Loch LomondThere’s a lot to do out at Loch Lomond and I was sure to make the most of my time out there. First of all, I took a walk around the stunning Balloch Country Castle park. It’s a nice wee walk along the banks of Loch Lomond and features a stunning 19th century country house. Where the country house now sits there used to be an old castle but that was demolished by John Buchanan of Ardoch, who later built the current building. In the park you can also explore the Fairy Glen, Chinese Gardens, various woodlands and visit a loch-side kiosk to warm up with a cup of tea (from Easter – September).

During my walk the heavens opened (as they so often do in Scotland) so I headed to Loch Lomond Shores. Loch Lomond Shores has shops, cafes and restaurants as well as playing host to various events and food markets throughout the year. It’s also home to the Loch Lomond Sea Life Aquarium (ideal if the weather turns like it did for me). We just grabbed some food and had a wander around the shops before taking the train back into Glasgow but on a sunny day it would be great to get out on the loch in a boat, visit Tree Zone or hire a bike to explore a bit further around the loch.

I had a great couple of days exploring what Glasgow and the surrounding area has to offer and I loved having the opportunity to learn about Burns (cough cough drinking whisky). The Glasgow Day Out travel pass made it really easy to just hop on and off any train I wanted to, and for just £18 for two days it’s fantastic value. Highly recommended!

Gavin

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