A bird's eye view of Stirling castle
Credit: Neostalgic via Unsplash

Mapping your way through Scotland

By Zein Al-Maha Oweis

Online Editor Zein offers her top five must-see spots within hours of Glasgow

As COVID restrictions begin to ease and normality is at our fingertips, the itch to travel and explore the unknown returns. As an international student, I made it my mission to learn more about Scotland’s beautiful culture and explore some of its most scenic places when I have the chance to. As my first year of my PhD ended and summer began, I printed off a Google Map of Scotland and began to map my way across some of the places I could visit which were close enough to Glasgow by public transport.

Loch Lomond
One of the best lochs to visit in central Scotland, Loch Lomond is home to red deer and woodlands. It is part of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, so if you love to hike as much as I do, then this is one of the most beautiful places to visit, and super easy to get to from Glasgow. There is no better way to spend your time than sitting by the pier with a good book, engulfed by nature, calming ripples and wildlife. If you’re feeling brave, you can even go for a dip in the loch.  The best way to get there is by train from Queen Street Station in the City Center to Balloch, which is usually less than an hour. 

One of my favourite places to visit in Scotland, the capital houses many cafés, pubs, museums and historical sites to explore. You can get to this beautiful city via train from Queen Street in 45 minutes. When visiting, I suggest a stroll through the Royal Mile, a stop to say hello to Greyfriars Bobby (make sure to rub his nose for good luck). A trip to the castle is a must! If you’re a history buff, take some time to enjoy one of the city’s many art galleries and museums, such as the National Gallery of Scotland, The Writer’s Museum, National War Museum, or Camera Obscura. Or, why not jump on a hop-on hop-off bus for an all-in-one tour? For a more relaxed visit, grab yourself a tea or coffee and explore the colourful Victoria Street, or relax on the grass in Edinburgh’s beautiful Botanical Gardens.

Stirling is a lovely little city in the central belt, and a must-see place in Scotland, only 45 minutes away from Glasgow via train. When walking along the path towards Stirling Castle, keep an eye out for some boutique cafés that serve some of the best Scottish coffee and treats to fuel your quest. It’s easy to spend a whole day at the castle, rich with history, and learn more about former resident Mary Queen of Scots, but there are a number of other exciting spots to visit, like the Stirling Old Bridge, the Wallace Monument, and Cambuskenneth Abbey. Although, be aware you will have to climb 290 steps to reach the top of the Monument, but fear not – the panoramic views are worth it!

Fife and St Andrews
Known as The Kingdom of Fife, Fife is a quaint area only one hour away, famous for its beautiful coastlines. When I visited in my first semester, it was covered in snow and black ice. Being the clumsy person that I am, I ended up skidding and scaring off some squirrels in Pittencrieff Park. I also met some very lively swans and geese at Townhill Country Park. The best way to get to Fife is by train via Edinburgh or by direct bus. 
If you love the seaside and have the time, visit St Andrews while exploring Fife. Famous as the birthplace of golf, it houses the Museum of Golf where you can travel back in time and witness the sport’s evolution. Locals will tell you that you always get rain when you visit, as was the case for me, but if you happen to witness a miracle, be sure to enjoy some fish and chips on the beach. If you can, make a weekend of it and plan ahead for a few changes. You can catch a bus from Buchanan Bus Station towards Aberdeen, changing at Seagate to St. Andrews. If you decide to take a train, you take the train from Queen Street Station to Edinburgh Haymarket, change to the Arbroath service, and getting off at Leuchars for the final bus. It’s a lengthy trip, but so worth it for the beach, beauty and history.


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