Glasgow Days Out by Neil Robertson
We invited Scotland travel blogger, radio gabber and digital marketer, Neil Robertson, to use our Glasgow Days Out travel pass. Here he tells us all about his adventure…
As a Glasgow boy, I love the clamour and buzz of city life as much as anyone. But, as with most urban dwellers, the appeal of escaping the madness every now and then is strong and, with train travel, there’s no more convenient a way to do it.
From the big smoke, my exploration of west and central Scotland will see me head off to Stirling and Lochwinnoch courtesy of the new flexible Glasgow Days Out travel pass.
Day 1 – Stirling, 40 minutes from Glasgow
Stirling is a city with a fabulous diversity to it. While the city centre ticks the boxes we’ve come to expect from urban Britain, the Old Town holds a much more intriguing appeal. Beautiful cobbled streets and intricate architecture beam back at you on sunny days….and play havoc with your anxiety levels after dark.
Much like Edinburgh there is an eerie feel to the Old Town, exacerbated by the odd graveyard and grim back alleys. While working your way up the hill from the centre, look out for the atmospheric Church of the Holy Rood, the evocative ruins of Mar’s Wark and, of course, Stirling Castle itself.
Historically pivotal as a location, it was said that whomever held Stirling Castle held Scotland. It’s not hard to see why. Geographically prominent on its mound, there are panoramic views for miles over predominantly flat lands that were just made for a good scrap. And scrap we did. The legendary battles of Falkirk, Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn were all fought in these parts. Nowadays of course Stirling Castle is one of our most loved tourist attractions and makes for a fabulous day out for the whole family.
Reserve plenty of time to explore the recently refurbished Palace with its rich tapestries and authentic presentation, the vast Great Hall that would fit right in on Game of Thrones and the Regimental Museum, the stuff of dreams for lovers of military history.
The pull of Stirling as the epicentre of Scottish history does not end there either and, in the Wallace Monument and the Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre, two more top class tourism incentives are on our doorstep (via a bus trip from central Stirling). The former is a booming tribute to the Guardian of Scotland that offers something quite unique as you spiral your way upwards through this tower, all the way working your way through the timeline of William Wallace and his remarkable story. Hang onto your hat on the roof and enjoy the fabulous views over the Ochil Hills.
As for Bannockburn, the new Visitor Centre came into being in 2014 (700 years after the epic battle won by Robert the Bruce’s forces against all odds). Focussing on the interactive and making great use of 3D technology, this is great stuff for young would-be generals to get the full perspective of this particular conflict. Outside, the powerful statue of The Bruce stands guard over the now empty battlefield. If your hair is not standing on end after that I’ll be astonished.
Day 2 – Lochwinnoch, 25 minutes from Glasgow
While Glaswegians are very familiar with feeling the need to head to the likes of Loch Lomond, Glen Coe and Skye when seeking a change of scenery, many will be surprised to learn that natural serenity can be found in much closer proximity.
Lochwinnoch itself is a pretty little town and is surrounded by RSPB territory – where bird life has the run of the place. Take a walk around the Castle Semple Loch or on one of the many birdwatching trails and see what you can spot. Finches, woodpeckers, kingfishers, buzzards and more can be seen if you’re lucky.
Heading further afield, this little corner of the world suddenly becomes a haven for lovers of the outdoors. Cyclists take note – from the train station you are less than five miles from the Muirshiel Visitor Centre in the heart of the Country Park. From here, comes the option of a fabulous little walk. The thoughtfully named Windy Hill makes for a lonely stroll that’s perfect for some chill-out time. Remote, exposed to the elements and abundant in raw beauty it’s an easy stretch of the legs for almost all abilities. Look out for sparrowhawks overhead. It is a bit of a trek for walkers so ‘bike and hike’ is the best option for this one from Lochwinnoch station.
The super-flexible travel pass that makes all of the above possible is fantastic value for individuals and even better for families. Being able to leave the car behind, get a change of scenery and learn something new is never a bad idea. With the great outdoors, deep-rooted cultural attractions and centuries’ worth of history just a short trip away, the best of Scotland is closer than it seems.
Neil Robertson, based in Glasgow, loves nothing more than getting out and exploring his home country. You’ll likely find him up a Munro, poking around some ruins or chasing his drone around a loch. You can follow his Scottish travels here.