Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, is the gateway to Scotland. It’s the stepping-off point for countless adventures, from mountaineering in the Highlands to visiting ancient castles. You can walk in heart-stopping scenery, relax on deserted beaches, eat in traditional loch-side villages or soak up the atmosphere on historic battle fields. With some of Scotland’s most romantic spots right on the doorstep, Glasgow makes the ultimate base for exploring.
The route to Hogwarts
J.K. Rowling famously set her school of witchcraft and wizardry in the Scottish Highlands and scenes from the films were shot all over Scotland. One stunning spot that any Potter fan will recognise is the Glenfinnan viaduct - the ‘bridge to Hogwarts’ – which appeared in both the Chamber of Secrets and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Today it’s a magnet for Potter fans, who come to marvel at the magical landscapes or ride the Jacobite Express across the viaduct en-route to Mallaig. You’ll find plenty more familiar spots from the movies within striking distance of Glasgow, including Dumbledore’s grave at Loch Eilit and Hagrid’s hut at Glencoe.
A licence to thrill
Harry Potter isn’t the only famous movie series to have used dramatic Scotland as a scenic backdrop. Glencoe, a mountain-fringed glen, was used in Skyfall as the location of James Bond’s ancestral home – driving sequences from the movie were filmed on the A82 near the peak of Buachaille Etive Mor, as well as in nearby Glen Etive. Of course, you don’t have to be a Bond fan to appreciate the outstanding beauty of Glencoe. Walk up to the Lost Valley (Coire Gabhail) where the MacDonald clan once hid their rustled cattle, or soak up the atmosphere at legendary walkers’ pub the Clachaig Inn. Mountaineers and experienced walkers can tickle their adrenal glands on the soaring mountain ridges that surround the glen.
Turrets and battlements
Step into a magical world of knights, noblemen and courtly intrigue at one of Scotland’s fairytale castles. Majestic Stirling Castle, once a favoured residence of Stewart kings and queens, is within easy day tripping distance of Glasgow. Marvel at the Great Hall and Chapel Royal, brush up on local history at the Castle Exhibition and meet costumed characters dressed as 16th-century courtiers. Further south you’ll find Culzean Castle, swathed in a 260-hectare estate, where visitors can combine a visit to the dramatic castle with exploring the surrounding woods, beaches and gardens.
Beaches and lochs
If you’re looking for wildly photogenic coastlines, then make a beeline for Scotland. While the Hebrides are famous for their tropical-style butterscotch sands and blue waters, you can also find some stunning coastal spots without leaving the mainland. Try Ayr Beach, an hour’s drive from Glasgow, for soft sand and picturesque views; or take the long drive to Scotland’s northernmost tip to see legendary Sandwood Bay. There are stunning beaches along the fringes of Loch Lomond as well, including Luss Beach which is just an hour’s drive from Glasgow. With so much to see and do, the gateway to Scotland really should be on your bucket list.