Did you know that the UK is an island? It’s true. If you look closely at the map you’ll see we’re surrounded by water on all sides—and that means that you’re never too far from the beach! Add in the picturesque seaside towns of Scotland and you end up with the ingredients of a traditional Scottish summer holiday. At least, you would have if I had written this post in a timely fashion! While there are plenty of things to do within the Glasgow city limits, when the sun is shining, it’s a Glaswegian tradition to take a trip doon the watter. And while summer took place on the third Wednesday of June this year, you don’t have to wait another year to experience this quintessential Glaswegian activity: now is the time to plan a trip—the weather is mild and the hordes of teenagers are back at school—so go on and explore a little, especially if you are new to the city. Where exactly is doon the watter? Follow me doon the page to find out.
Largs is always bustling with people. It’s a vibrant seaside town situated on the Firth of the Clyde, in North Ayrshire. It has a pebble beach, a promenade, a pier, a park, arcades and an abundance of places to buy fish & chips, or ice cream. In fact, if you a fan of Nardini’s on Byres Road then you’re in for a treat: the the original Nardini’s opened in Largs in 1935 and is housed in a beautiful art deco building on the waterfront.
Largs is doon the watter in every sense: it’s definitely down river from Glasgow, but it’s also where Glaswegians flocked to when Nardini’s was still new and the Glasgow Fair was an important holiday. Traditionally you’d cram onto a ferry and sail down the River Clyde but, today, you can catch a train directly to Largs from Glasgow Central Station in under an hour.
Although the beach at Largs isn’t sandy, you can hop on the ferry at the pier and head to the Isle of Cumbrae for walking, cycling, and the picturesque town of Millport (which has a small sandy beach where you can build as many sandcastles as you want).
Dunoon isn’t as busy as Largs, unless you make the trip during the annual Cowal Highland Games, when a crowd more than twice the population of this charming town descends on the area to experience the festival atmosphere. Outside of this, Dunoon is great for ice cream, fish & chips, and pirate-y pubs like Sinbads. There are some nice views across the water from the historic Castle Mound (you can probably see my house) and the promenade makes for some pretty decent photographs.
Dunoon and the surrounding areas are also fantastic if you like to go walking: from forest trails to proper munros, there are lots of places easily accessible from Dunoon. It’s easy to see why the area describes itself as the gateway to the Highlands.
Dunoon is accessed via ferry from Gourock. You can get the train directly to Gourock from Glasgow Central Station and even buy one ticket that covers both train and ferry.
If it’s sand you’re after then there are plenty of places on the West Coast that should satisfy. Any Glaswegian will be happy to give you directions to Ayr Beach or Troon, where the sand is soft and it’s easy to spend an entire weekend, on a deck chair or towel, soaking up the sun. Both beaches have vistas that incorporate several Islands, with Ayr Beach being particularly beautiful (having recently been awarded a Seaside Award from Keep Scotland Beautiful) as well as plenty of cafes and other amenities nearby to keep you going throughout the day. Both beaches are also easily accessible by rail and bus services from Glasgow.
The downside to all this beauty and ease of access is that both beaches tend to get quite busy during our three-day summer period. If you want somewhere a little less busy and a little more undiscovered, then I wholeheartedly suggest Ardrossan or Saltcoats which are a little further north. I spent a lot of time at Ardrossan South Beach as a child, when I had a dinghy instead of legs, and I still love the place. Saltcoats is a small harbour town within walking distance of Ardrossan South Beach. If it seems like there’s not much to do there, it’s because there isn’t (although I did buy my first skateboard in Saltcoats). But head west on Seaview Road and you’ll soon discover Sandylands: a small golden beach that’s great for relaxing and watching the water (if you don’t mind the train line directly behind the beach).
Both places have their own train stations which are reachable via Glasgow Central Station, but if you’re willing to travel by bus (or have access to a car) then Seamill should definitely be on your itinerary. A boy, his brother and dad spent many a night on this beach—sandcastles, stars, campfires, guitars and Hunger Breaks All Day Breakfast Meals (boak).
Glasgow is a great place to live and work: not only is the city a multicultural hive with lots to do and see, but the rest of Scotland is just a train journey away. I have only covered a handful of places which are easily accessible from Glasgow. There are plenty more that I haven’t even experienced myself. Do you know of any hidden gems that are worth sharing? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
A word of warning if you do plan on spending any time on the coastline, though: watch out for the seagulls. At this time of year they become almost militaristic and, yes, they’re after your chips.
All images provided by Stuart Wilson.