Glasgow Days Out by Susanne Arbuckle
We invited Susanne Arbuckle, Scottish travel blogger and writer, to experience our Glasgow Days Out Travel Pass. Here's how she got on…
When I was growing up in Glasgow, I lived for the days when my parents would take us on a family day out, away from the bustle of urban life. Due to their close proximity to the city, our adventures inevitably involved a sea-side jaunt to Ayrshire or a ramble around the more rugged landscape of Loch Lomond.
My love of exploring the Scottish outdoors developed at a young age thanks to our regular excursions to these diverse areas. Recently I got the chance to relive my carefree childhood thanks to an invite from ScotRail to experience their Glasgow Days Out travel pass.
The pass allows you to escape the city with two consecutive days of unlimited off-peak travel within a designated zone. The ability to hop on and off as you wish allows for all sorts of fun day out possibilities to a range of locations within an hour of the city.
Although I could have visited the Kelpies in Falkirk or wandered the historic streets of Lanark, I decided to embark on a trip down memory lane to not one but two of my previously mentioned favourite childhood destinations, Ayrshire and Loch Lomond.
Mr Adventures Around Scotland joined me as I reminisced and discovered some new outdoor adventures.
Day 1 - Balloch
As our train pulled away from Glasgow heading for Balloch, we were able to relax and watch the world go by. The journey gave us an opportunity to read through various leaflets we had collected and chat about ideas for the day ahead. A mere 50 minutes later we were departing the train at Balloch and already feeling a million miles away from the city.
Within another 10 minutes we were standing on the shores of Loch Lomond getting measured up for mountain bikes from Can You Experience. Although they offer many water based activities, we wanted to explore some of the cycle paths that surround the loch and their three hour bike hire option seemed ideal.
The designated cycle pathways meant we didn't have to negotiate traffic and allowed us to trundle along at a leisurely pace, stopping now and again to soak up the mountain and loch views. There are miles of traffic-free paths to choose from, making it the perfect location for cycling and hiring a bike is a great way to explore the area.
Having worked up a hunger we headed to the cafe at the PS Maid of the Loch. Currently undergoing renovation, this paddle steamer is free to visit and we enjoyed having a look around its restored interior. As it was a nice day we spent some time sitting on deck enjoying the views to Ben Lomond and despite being stationary on the loch it still felt like we were about to set sail on a historic nautical adventure. The cafe was a unique setting for our lunch with a view and just added to the feeling we had stepped into a bygone era.
Our visit to the Maid of the Loch may have inspired our next decision to get out on the water and we opted to join a one hour boat tour with Sweeney's Cruises based in Balloch. After grabbing a coffee on board, we headed to the open air top deck to make the most of the afternoon sunshine. As we sailed around the southern end of the loch, we were immersed in the picturesque Highland scenery. One of the best ways to appreciate Loch Lomond has to be from on the loch itself.
With the good weather still holding out, we ended our day with a stroll around the pretty Balloch Country Park, passing Balloch Castle, before heading for the train back to Glasgow. This was the perfect end to our first day of outdoor adventures and we couldn't wait for a very different experience the following day.
Day 2 - Largs
Day two was all about sea-side fun and it was time for Mr Adventures Around Scotland and I to head south along the west coast to Largs. Famous for ice-cream and Vikings, it is also a great starting point for some fantastic hill walks. Castle Hill is one of the most popular local viewpoints and we opted to tackle the 600ft climb on our arrival in the town.
One of the most surprising things we discovered near the start of the walk was the 5000 year old Haylie Chambered Tomb. In Scotland you often find historic gems in the most unexpected places!
The uphill trail was steep in parts with quite a few stairs to climb but as we got higher, the stunning view opening up behind us was all the motivation we needed to reach the top. When we did get there we were completely blown away by the breath-taking views across the Firth of Clyde, including the islands of Arran, Bute and the Cumbraes. Castle Hill gets top points from me for effort to reward ratio.
We had taken a picnic with us and found a spot on the grass overlooking the toy sized buildings of Largs below and as we relaxed in the sun I did wonder if life could get any better.
As we made our way back to the town centre, we noticed the Cumbrae ferry approaching and took the spontaneous decision to pop over to Millport. Getting on a ferry and travelling to a Scottish island always feels adventurous and despite the short crossing, we both excitedly stood on deck as we left Largs behind and pulled up to the pier at Cumbrae. A short bus ride later and we were having fun playing crazy golf on the promenade. It did get a little competitive and I might have lost but the less said about that the better!
Only one thing was going to fix my bruised ego and that was a trip to The Dancing Midge Café for tea and scones with jam and clotted cream. Feeling much better after consuming cake, we walked off some calories while taking in the peaceful island views.
After hopping on the ferry back to Largs it was time to replace any calories we had just burned off by joining other day trippers on a pilgrimage to Nardini's for an ice-cream cone. Is there any better way to finish a day at the sea-side than that? Nope, didn’t think so.
Thanks to the ScotRail Glasgow Days Out travel pass I was able to explore two long-time favourite destinations in new ways and add to my collection of happy memories.
Susanne Arbuckle, Scottish travel blogger and writer, is passionate about exploring Scotland's lesser known gems and showing a different side of the country away from the typical tourist trail. You can read her blog 'Adventures Around Scotland' here.