Even though I live in Edinburgh I’m not one of those Scots who think that you have to choose between the nation’s two largest cities. To me they are both world-class destinations that are brilliant for families. Join me now as I share with you my favourite seven family friendly attractions in Glasgow.
The Glasgow Science Centre
On our most recent visit we enjoyed staying at the SYHA Glasgow Youth Hostel. I like that they have a variety of room options. We booked their apartment, which has acres of space across two bedrooms, a proper kitchen and a big living room with sweeping views of the city through its big windows. We also found the generous and great value breakfasts here an ideal way to fuel up the family before a day exploring the city’s myriad attractions.
1. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum - Glasgow’s most visited attraction is brilliant and what’s more, it’s free! This epic museum and art gallery revolves around themes rather than static or chronological displays. It has old school exhibits like taxidermy animals and whalebones, through to works by Salvador Dali and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and on to lots of hands-on exhibits the kids can interact with. The surrounding park is great on a sunny day too.
Robin's daughter Tara at Kelvingrove
2. Riverside Museum – The new home of the Museum of Transport works on many levels for me. It is an award winning world-class temple to transportation in all its eclectic forms set in a landmark building designed by Zaha Hadid. It also neatly ties together Glasgow’s heritage as the world’s former shipbuilding hub of the River Clyde is currently being reinvented with the Riverside its shining star. My wee girls love rambling around the myriad exhibits at this free museum, such as old trains and buses, as well as twiddling knobs and playing games. Their favourite exhibit is the revolving display of model ships, which they love just watching go round and round. And round. And round!
The Riverside Museum
3. Glasgow Science Centre – This technological gem by the river is worth every penny of the entrance price. The kids get to be thoroughly entertained, but also educated by three floors of mind boggling, eye opening visual tricks and hands on exhibits that really set young minds whirring. As well as all the practical exhibits there are free classes. My girls, on their last visit, loved building a pair of ‘lungs’ that they could take home! I loved the new planetarium too, where we took in a half hour spectacular show that whizzed us off into the stars and on to the moon and even for a foray on Mars. Then there is Powering the Future, which ties in to the sort of things I think Scottish kids should be thinking about.
Emma and friend Jamie at Glasgow Science Centre
4. Glasgow Green – The city’s favourite green lung – and its oldest park - is a popular option with my girls. They love just running around the network of wee paths and trails that snake around its 136 acres. I also recommend popping into the People’s Palace, where the hot houses are the main attraction. You can hide way from a dreich day enjoying a little bit of subtropical vegetation, not to mention warmth!
5. Glasgow Botanical Gardens – These are some of my favourite botanic gardens in the world and they work really well for families. You can just ramble around here by the River Kelvin in this sprawling bucolic oasis right in the city. Entry to the gardens is free. Don’t miss the Glasshouses, with their exotic flora, too.
6. Hop on Hop Off Bus Tours – Glasgow’s city centre is easily navigable on foot, but a hop on hop off bus is a great way of getting around if you want to link up some of the other attractions outlined above. You could set off in a loop from George Square for example and spend time at both the Riverside Museum and Kelvingrove as you go. If it is your first time in the city or you have not been for a while I’d recommend doing a whole circuit to start your day and help get your bearings. Sit back, admire the views and listen to the commentary. Even as a travel writer who knows Glasgow fairly well I usually learn something!
Glasgow City Centre
7. Hamleys – Scotland’s only Hamleys store is a brilliant wet weather option. My girls love it, while I appreciate that it never seems to get as busy or anywhere near as stressful as the London HQ. The staff are great with the wee ones too, inviting them to try out games and toys. They are obviously trying to plug them, but you are under no obligation to buy and we’ve walked out without spending anything, as often as we’ve actually bought something.
Emma in Glasgow Youth Hostel
Book your family friendly break at Glasgow Youth Hostel: syha.org.uk/where-to-stay/lowlands/glasgow
Biography for Robin McKelvie
Robin McKelvie (www.robinmckelvie.com) is a Scottish travel writer, broadcaster and blogger who has been covering his native land since the 1990s. A member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, Robin is the author of a number of guidebooks, including National Geographic’s Scotland guide. He regularly contributes to a variety of newspapers and magazines across five continents, such as the Times and the Scotsman, as well as doing travel slots for BBC radio. Robin can be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/robinmckelvie.