Boats, trains and no automobiles

Jocelyn Spottiswoode

Having just arrived in Glasgow you’re probably wondering why you’d ever want to leave.  However, just in case the fancy takes you to leave the big city life and venture out into the great Scottish wilderness, I’ve written a three-part series of the best places to visit. And all are easy to get to on public transport.

Stirling

Sterling

Getting there: Train is the fastest way to Stirling, although buses are also possible.

Why: Stirling is a relatively young city being granted the status as recently as 2002.  That said, it is still one of Scotland’s oldest towns and is considered by many to be at the heart of Scotland with its central location and various attractions to recommend it.  The city is an easy distance from Glasgow and boasts many a thing to see and do as well as plenty of watering holes to keep you going on a day out.

What to do: Stirling’s old town is an excellent and well preserved example of traditional Scottish architecture with turret stairs and gables.  It’s also situated at the foot of castle rock, where Stirling Castle is located.  Many of my friends argue that Stirling Castle is the best in Scotland and at £11 for a student it’s a steal compared to Edinburgh.  Next to the castle is The Old Cemetery.  This may seem an odd addition to a tourist itinerary but for those of you out there with a literary side it was this cemetery that featured in a Wordsworth poem.   For the movie buffs out there Stirling also has the Wallace Monument, home to the real sword of Braveheart.

The Isle of Bute

Getting there: Trains leave from Glasgow Central to Wemyss Bay where you can then catch the Ferry to Rothesay.  The trains and ferries are timed so you arrive at the ferry with enough time to catch your breath, get a coffee and hop across the high seas for a day on the island.  

Why: The island is not only stunning and easy to reach, it also lies along the Highland fault line, splitting the island pretty much into two.  This means that the northern half is largely hilly and uncultivated and the southern half is smooth.

What to do: One of the main attractions of Bute is cycling.  Taking your own bicycle with you or renting one there allows you to see the island at your own pace.  On a sunny autumn day there really is nothing better.  Be prepared for some steep climbs!  If physical exertion is not really your thing you can use the bus, or your feet, to get around.  The island has one town, Rothesay, and a few outlying villages.  The main attractions on the island are the ruined Rothesay Castle and Mount Stuart House, still the home of the Marquess of Bute.  The island also boasts some of the finest beaches on Scotland – on a clear day you can see across to the Isle of Arran in the west and the mainland in the east.

Oxenholme and Kendal

Oxenholme and Kendal

Getting there: Express train services leave from Glasgow Central (usually bound for London Euston) to Oxenholme Train Station.  Once at the train station you can either do the forty minute walk into the centre of Kendal or take one of the hourly buses.

Why:  Apart from being where Kendal Mint Cake was invented, Kendal is also known as the gateway to the lakes, arguably England’s (not Scotland’s) most beautiful area.

What to do:  If you’re looking for high end fashionable shopping and a place to be seen, do not come here.  This is a place for those who enjoy poking around funny little shops that seem to sell everything and nothing, for those that want to see something quintessentially English and for those who like to walk up steep hills and aren’t afraid of the weather.