Explore Scotland

Thinking of making a full vacation out of your conference trip? Alistair Wylie, lifelong native Scot and member of the 2022 conference planning team has provided a list of travel recommendations.

Scotland has a rich history and a varied landscape which is home to a wide variety of towns, cities and areas of special interest. Although there is much to explore in Glasgow and the immediate area, you may wish to consider visiting some other parts of the country, particularly if you are extending your stay beyond the conference. Here's some ideas to get you started: 

Edinburgh – Scotland's capital city lies on the east of the Central Belt, some 50 miles from Glasgow in the west. Edinburgh provides a different culture and experience from Glasgow and is one of the top tourist destinations in Scotland. There are some obvious highlights in Edinburgh including Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish Parliament Building (which famously had a budget for construction of 4 million pounds and ended up costing 44 million pounds to build between 1999-2004). Edinburgh is easily accessible from Glasgow via a frequent train service which operates from Queen Street Station in the city centre. The journey takes around 45 minutes making it the perfect destination for a day trip. More Information

St Andrews – Famous for its university, and accompanying high percentage of overseas students (many Americans), this pretty seaside town is steeped in history and lies to the east of the country in the county of Fife, north of Edinburgh. It is connected to the area known as the East Neuk which is famous for its pretty seaside villages, many of which have a long connection to the fishing industry. Nowadays, although fishing is still an important industry, the East Neuk is also a top tourist destination and a hub for creative arts. Although it is possible to travel to St Andrews using public transport, the easiest way to travel there is by car. More Information

Ayr (South Ayrshire) – A pretty seaside town which is less than one hour by car from Glasgow. There is also a frequent train service which runs from Central Station in Glasgow. Ayr is the historic home to Scotland's national poet, Robert (Rabbie) Burns, and the town sits on the west coast with a large beachfront dominating its location. Nowadays, Ayr is a popular place to live for people of all ages and it also attracts many day-trippers when the weather is fair with many historic tourist attractions to offer as well. Approximately 30 minutes drive south of Ayr you will find Culzean Castle and Country Park. This is a National Trust for Scotland property (https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/culzean) which sits atop a cliff with stunning views out to sea and the rocky protrusion of Ailsa Craig. For those who like to explore outdoors, Culzean offers something for everyone. Another 15 minute drive from Culzean heading south takes you to the world famous Turnberry Golf Course and the local jewel which is the Trump Turnberry Hotel occupying a majestic position looking out to sea (you can see the coast of Ireland on a clear day). More Information

Fort William – This town sits in the West Highlands on the shores of Loch Linnhe and is a couple of hours drive by car from Glasgow. It is often referred to as the outdoor capital of Scotland due to its strategic access to the nearby hills and mountains. The most famous is Ben Nevis which towers above the town and attracts walkers and climbers year round. It is also a popular stopping point for tourists travelling on to the Isle of Skye which is easily accessible by car/road since the opening of the Skye road bridge in 1995. 

Loch Lomond – The loch and surrounding area lies around a one hour drive from Glasgow and is part of the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. Loch Lomond itself is only part of a much larger area that is designated as one of Scotland's two national parks (the other being the Cairngorms). There are lots of activities to do on the loch as well as the surrounding area. Close to Loch Lomond itself and to the west, the coastal town of Helensburgh sits on the Firth of Clyde and is an historic seaside destination. It is also home to The Hill House (owned by the National Trust for Scotland) which was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. A short drive north of Helensburgh and past the pretty (and expensive) coastal residential area of Rhu you will find the Faslane Naval Base which is home to the only nuclear submarine fleet in the UK. More Information

Dark Sky Park – Dumfries & Galloway is an area of Scotland to the south of the Central Belt and close to the border with England. It houses Galloway Forest Park and within the forest park you will find the UK's only dark sky park which is one of only 4 in the entire Western world. From this location (there is a visitor centre), you can view the night sky in almost total darkness. The levels of light pollution are extremely low. If you have access to a car during your stay, this is a unique experience and only a couple of hours drive from Glasgow. More Information

Inverness – The capital of the Scottish Highlands and generally regarded as the gateway to the Highlands, Inverness sit on the north east coast where the River Ness meets the Moray Firth. Compared to Glasgow and Edinburgh, Inverness is a mini city with a big personality and the River Ness cuts a path through the city providing pretty vistas. Steeped in history, this city also gives access to Loch Ness. Will you see Nessie, the Loch Ness monster? You never know! More Information

Islands On the West Coast – Scotland has many groups of islands on its west coast. Most of the islands are inhabited and accessible by ferry. Many of the islands are in close proximity to Glasgow can be visited as a day trip. The islands can be grouped as follows (this list is not exhaustive!):

  • Clyde coast islands – includes Great Cumbrae, Little Cumbrae, Bute, Arran 
  • Inner Hebrides – Coll, Tiree, Mull, Skye, Islay, Jura 
  • Small Isles – Rhum, Isle of Eigg, Muck 
  • Outer Hebrides – Lewis, Harris, South Uist, North Uist, Barra, Eriskay, Sandray 

Islands Off the North Coast – Scotland also has a collection of islands off the north east coast. These include:

  • Orkney Islands – Only a one hour ferry trip from the mainland, the Orkney Islands are steeped in history and maintain a strong identity of their own. Those native to the Orkney Islands always maintain their distinctive lilt. 
  • Shetland Islands – The Shetland Islands lie much further north and are over 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland. This places the islands almost as close to Norway as they are to Scotland. They represent the most northerly part of the United Kingdom and have a strong Norse as well as Scottish past and influence. An interesting fact is that no trees grow on the islands due to their position, climate, exposed location and high winds.
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