Life in Glasgow getting you down? Take a trip down the Firth of Clyde and see what life’s like beside the seaside.
Before I pen some quirky listicle about the most Instagrammable spots in Inverclyde, I feel like I should be candid – I’ve lived here my whole life, and I know this wee constituency like the back of my hand. It’s not gentrified. It doesn’t have cute little fairy lights dangling between buildings that you can take a Fuji of and post on your story to make your friends think, “Wow, she’s SO cultured”. But it has heart, and character, and genuinely sound folk. And, with a half hour train journey from Glasgow Central, it could have you.
Inverclyde sits nestled between the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park to the north, and the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park to the south. It therefore has the lovely benefit of being surrounded by a ton of scenic nature. If hillwalking is your thing, bring yer boots and give the Greenock Cut a try - it’s a 6.5km long path through the Clyde Murshiel, beginning at the east in Greenock and finishing at the west in Inverkip. You’ll encounter lochs and braes on your hike, and it’s a wonderful way to get to see Scotland’s natural landscapes if you can’t quite justify a quick nip to Aviemore.
Greenock is also home to a lot of art institutions, like the Beacon Arts Centre at the riverside. The building has some funky architectural design – by which I mean it looks like someone plonked a big grey rectangle down at the waterfront and then dipped; but the centre hosts an array of acts, from Elvis tribute bands to comedians like Janey Godley, so there’s something for everybody. And in Greenock town centre, there’s the McLean Art Museum. Built in the 19th century, the museum features a host of items, displaying art and possessions that once belonged to famed engineer James Watt – a Greenock native – and often hosts showcases for local high school student artwork. Admission is free, and it’s a nice wee alternative if you’re somewhat over Kelvingrove.
Going slightly further west down the Clyde, we arrive at Gourock, a traditional seaside town which is home to one of only two heated outdoor pools in Scotland. Though it’s closed for the winter now, the pool is a real treat, what with its sweeping views of the mountains across the river and newly-renovated design. I would definitely recommend a visit when it opens back up again in the spring. Next to the pool is the quaint Kempock Street, with its boutiques and independently-run businesses. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stretch of road, but each shop has such genuine character, and it’s most definitely worth a stop (once you’ve dried off a bit at the pool, obvs). Gourock also boasts two separate ferry services across the Clyde to Dunoon, the self-proclaimed “gateway to the Highlands”. So, if you have a bit more time on your hands and feel like seeing some stunning mountaintops, hop on a boat and enjoy the windy ride.
Towards the western edge of Inverclyde lies Lunderston Bay, probably my favourite place in the region. There’s a sandy beach (genuinely!), a backdrop of conifers on the hillslope behind you, and a stunning view of Argyll, Bute, and – on a clear day – Arran’s peaks down the Clyde. It’s a hotspot for barbecues, dog walks and comically underage drinking when the sun’s out. Lunderston Bay does a great job at encapsulating everything that keeps me tied to this part of the world.
Inverclyde is a friendly place, and – thanks to some first-class transport links – is really accessible from Glasgow; McGill’s buses run from the city centre to Inverclyde every 15 minutes during peak hours. Scotrail’s train schedule is equally as frequent and, with day return tickets starting from as low as £7.80 off-peak, you can easily get a taste for why the west coast genuinely is the best coast.