As the cultural capital of Scotland, Glasgow has so much to offer in terms of architecture, music, and art. However, the Glasgow Central train station is also an excellent base for exploring the stunning Scottish countryside. If you have an extra day or two, you can hop on the train to visit some of the country’s most picturesque sights, like coastal beaches, impressive castles you can stay in, or sparkling lakes.
What is the Best Day Trip from Glasgow by Train?
If you’re short on time, there are some great destinations that are under an hour from Glasgow, including the majestic capital of Edinburgh or the charming villages of Stirling, Ayr, or Troon.
Those interested in exploring the scenic landscape can also visit one of the lochs (which is Scottish Gaelic for lake) for a day of hiking or boating.
However, there is so much more to see and so many fascinating sites that you can reach by train.
To help you decide where to go on a Glasgow day trip, take a look at the following destinations (which are listed according to distance).
Under 1 Hour
As the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh has a vibrant city center packed full of historical treasures, cultural attractions, and fascinating museums to keep you busy. While it’ll be hard to see everything in just a day, the city’s easy-to-reach location just 50 minutes by train makes it a popular day trip for people visiting Glasgow.
The most famous site is Edinburgh Castle, which was built atop the cliffs of an extinct volcano. With its medieval gates, military buildings, and ornate palace rooms, it’s an impressive structure with over 900 years of history.
For more history, head to the National Museum of Scotland or the Museum of Edinburgh.
Or simply spend the day wandering through the compact city streets (namely around the Royal Mile), which are lined with impressive Gothic buildings, cozy cafes, and quirky shops.
The charming city of Stirling makes an excellent day trip for those interested in Scottish culture. Dominated by the 12th-century Stirling Castle, this medieval market town hasn’t changed much over the last few centuries.
As you walk through the winding streets, you’ll find remains of monasteries, prisons, stone townhouses, and historic churches (20 of them, to be exact).
A quick bus ride outside of town takes you to another important landmark of Stirling – the Wallace Monument. This tower stands 220 feet tall atop a large hill, boasting panoramic views from its observation area.
It’s a bit of a hike to the top of the monument (247 steps), but it’s worth the effort once you see the stunning landscape and city views.
There is a direct 25-minute train to Stirling that leaves Glasgow every 30 minutes.
As one of the six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland, the quiet village of New Lanark should be a stop on your train travels through Europe.
Built in the 18th century, New Lanark was originally a cotton mill town (its strategic location on the River Clyde allowed the mills to operate via hydropower).
Although the mills have been closed since the late 1960s, their heritage status has made them a popular attraction with tourists.
Most of the buildings have since been restored and preserved to showcase what life was like during the Industrial Revolution.
You can walk through the millworker’s houses, shop in the old village store, and tour the different water houses and mills. From Glasgow, you can take a 1-hour train ride to Lanark city center (which is just a mile from the old mill town).
Ayr is just one of the many picturesque seaside towns in Ayrshire, a country in the southwest of Scotland (and it’s only 45 minutes by train, making it an easy day trip from Glasgow).
And while many people come to Ayr for the long stretch of golden sand beach, there are also some fascinating landmarks and attractions in town also worth visiting.
Many of the top sights are dedicated to Rabbie Burns, Scotland’s most famous poet.
You can visit his family home in Burns Cottage and then explore his books and handwritten manuscripts at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. If you’re here on race day, then a visit to the Ayr Racecourse is a must.
This 16th-century racecourse hosts the Scottish Grand National and Ayr Gold Cup and remains one of the leading racecourses in the UK.
Troon is another gem along the Ayrshire coast, which is famous for its abundance of outdoor activities. Not only is it home to one of the most important golf courses in Scotland (the Royal Troon Golf Club), but it’s also located on a wide stretch of sandy beach.
Therefore, it’s a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, boating, or kitesurfing.
There are numerous seafood restaurants and cafes along the beach, although some of Troon’s best eateries sit on Portland Street.
You’ll find cozy cafes, local pubs, and tons of amazing restaurants where you can pretend you’re a local for the day.
To get here, take the train towards Ayr and get off at the Troon station. The entire journey from Glasgow should only take around 35 minutes.
Dotted with grand Victorian homes and perfectly manicured parks, Helensburgh is one of the most desirable towns in all of Scotland.
But even if you can’t afford to purchase a home here (it’s the second most expensive area in the country to buy property), you can still spend a lovely few hours strolling the wide, cherry blossom-lined streets.
If you are particularly interested in architecture, make a stop at the Hill House Conservation Area, the Red Towers on Douglas Drive West, and the White House on Upper Colquhoun Street.
There are also quite a few nature paths and walking trails that lead around town.
The 2-mile-long trek up to Ardmore Point in the Duchess Woods reserve is a nice and scenic way to explore the area.
If you have more time, you can also take the long-distance Three Lochs Way (which leads up to Loch Lomond) or the Clyde Sea Lochs Trail around the Rosneath Peninsula.
The train from Glasgow to Helensburgh leaves from Queen Street and takes around 40 minutes.
In 55 minutes, you can take a train from Glasgow to the coast to visit the small seaside town of Largs. It’s located on the Firth of Clyde and has a rich Viking heritage that is sure to impress any history lover.
It was here in 1263 where the Battle of Largs took place between Scotland and Norway. You can learn more about the war as well as the Vikings in general at the Vikingar Center
And if you happen to be in town in September, you’ll also have the chance to attend the annual Largs Viking Festival, which features live music, axe throwing, and a food and craft market.
However, Largs is also a prominent seaside resort town with a pebble shoreline and pristine water views. From the ferry terminal in town, you can take an 8-minute boat ride over to the Isle of Cumbrae.
There’s a small harbor-side town with an impressive Gothic cathedral and several restaurants and cafes. If you want to explore the island, you can rent a bike to cycle on the 11-mile-long coastline.
An hour outside of Glasgow sits one of the most unique attractions in all of Scotland. The Kelpies is an outdoor art installation that features 98-foot tall horse head sculptures made from structural steel.
According to Scottish folklore, kelpies are mythical shape-shifting creatures that live in the water that takes the form of a horse when on land.
The statues are the largest equestrian structures in the world, weighing over 3,300 tons each. The easiest way to get here is to take the train to the nearby town of Falkirk High, which is only 20 minutes from Glasgow. From here, you can take a bus or a 10-minute taxi ride to the river, where you’ll find the Kelpies waiting for you.
Under 2 Hours
If you’re craving a bit of outdoor fun, then head to Loch Lomond. This beautiful freshwater lake is the largest in all of Britain and one of the best places in Scotland for water sports.
Rent a kayak, canoe, paddleboard, or motorboat to explore the breathtaking landscape by water, or spend the day water skiing or jet skiing for a more thrilling adventure.
Boat cruises are also offered throughout the year to visit the lake’s islands or to other villages around the shore.
Nature lovers will also have miles of natural coastline to explore. The forested trails and coastal paths are perfect for a leisurely walk or bike ride.
Families can also visit the SEA LIFE
Aquarium and the Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre to see some of the area’s wildlife up close and personal.
To reach the loch from Glasgow, you can take a direct train to the nearby town of Balloch or transfer to a bus to take you further up the shore.
Situated on the coast just 1 hour and 40 minutes by train from Glasgow is the scenic town of St. Andrews.
Home to the oldest English-speaking university in the world and the oldest golf course in the world, St. Andrews has quite a few historical landmarks to explore.
Start with a tour (or round of golf) at the Old Course, which dates back more than 470 years.
It’s one of the ten golf courses in town. Then continue your exploration to the University of St. Andrews (there’s a free museum on campus), where you can learn more about the school’s history, alumni, and accomplishments.
Other must-see highlights include the St. Andrew’s Cathedral, the St. Andrews Aquarium, and St. Andrews Castle.
On a sunny day, you can also head to West Sands Beach, a 2-mile stretch of white sand located adjacent to the St. Andrew’s Link Golf Course.
Scotland’s 4th largest city is slowly becoming one of the country’s most influential cultural hubs.
It’s undergone quite a transformation over the past few decades, which is mostly tied to the redevelopment of the city’s waterfront.
With modern architecture, world-class museums, and a hip town center, it’s easy to see why Dundee was the first UK city to become a designated UNESCO City of Design.
Start your visit with a trip to the V&A Dundee, the first design museum in Scotland and the first Victoria and Albert museum to be built outside of London.
If you’re more interested in historic art, the McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum is guaranteed to delight with pieces that span back 400 million years.
Dundee is only 1.5 hours by train, making it the perfect city trip for art and history lovers.
When Queen Elizabeth and Prince Albert bought a home in the quiet town of Pitlochry in 1842, little did its residents know that it would soon become an enticing destination for tourists.
Now, people from all over the world come here to admire the historic Victorian houses.
However, there’s so much more to Pitlochry than its awe-inspiring architecture.
The town also has two famous distilleries – Edradour (the smallest distillery in the country) and Blair Athol Distillery (one of the oldest working distilleries in the country). You can also venture outside of town for outdoor adventure.
The Killiecrankie Gorge, the Faskally Woods, and Loch Tummel are just a few natural wonders worth exploring during your visit.
The train ride from Glasgow to Pitlochry clocks in around 1 hour and 45 minutes and requires a transfer in the town of Stirling. You can also take a direct bus which will get you there in the same amount of time.
Over 2 Hours
Oban is a bustling resort town and a beloved summer destination for the Scotts. It’s located on the coast in the Firth of Lorn (an inlet of the sea), making it a great jumping-off point for exploring the rugged landscapes of idyllic villages of the Hebridean Isles.
However, Oban itself is full of charm, with little boutique shops and fresh seafood restaurants dotted along the bay.
In fact, the town is known as the “Seafood Capital of Scotland,” so it also attracts a number of foodies in addition to vacation goers.
For the best water views, head to McCaig’s Tower, which sits on a small hill overlooking the town. At first glance, you might mistake the tower for the Roman Colosseum – but it’s actually just a granite monument built by a local banker.
While there are direct trains from Glasgow to Oban, they do take a little over 3 hours. If you’re planning to spend the day there, it’s recommended that you leave as early as possible to give yourself enough time to explore.
As one of the most iconic places in Scotland, Loch Ness is a bucket-list destination for anyone visiting the country.
Although it’s a bit far from Glasgow (3.5 hours away by train), it’s still a worthwhile trip for those hoping to catch a glimpse of the legendary Loch Ness Monster. But even if she doesn’t make an appearance during your visit, you can still learn all about this mythical creature at the Loch Ness Center and Exhibition.
Besides searching for Nessie, visitors can also visit the ruins of the 12th-century Urquhart Castle or the stunning Fort Augustus fortress.
There are also some pretty Scottish villages scattered around the shore where you can enjoy picturesque views of the lake.
Drumnadrochit, Abriachan, Invermoriston, and Whitebridge are just a couple of stops where you can grab a coffee or a quick bite to eat.
Although Scotland is best explored by car (there are so many far-to-reach destinations that public transportation can’t reach), it’s still possible to tick off a few iconic attractions by taking the train.
So make sure to save at least one day on your Glasgow vacation to make a day trip. There are so many villages, towns, and historical sites that you won’t want to miss!