5 Great Hikes You Can Reach by Public Transport From Glasgow
If you know me, you’ll know I love hiking. Or, as they call it in New Zealand, ‘tramping’. Green places are my escapes, walking is my go-to when city life becomes a little too much. Hiking is my meditation.
One of the things that drew me to Glasgow, and now, living here, is one of my favourite things about the city, is how easy it is to find a little wilderness. Scotland’s largest city is only a stone’s throw from throwing stones at Loch Lomond. On a sunny day (if such a thing exists in Scotland) it’s easy enough to escape down the coast to Ayr or across to bonny St Andrew. If you’re feeling adventurous, some of Scotland’s islands are easy to visit as a day trip from Glasgow.
And in each of these wild places there’s a hill to climb, munro to bag or scenery to admire.
Not having a car while I’ve been here has somewhat limited my adventuring. But getting around by public transport is definitely still possible. If you’re in the same boat, check out this guide for five top Glasgow day hikes (that you can reach by boat, train or bus).
Top 5 Glasgow Day Hikes (That You Can Reach By Public Transport)
1. Conic Hill, Balmaha
Venture only a short ways out of Glasgow and you’ll discover one of my favourite places in Scotland; Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. This beautiful loch offers everything from picturesque villages and quaint pubs, to wild landscapes and endless hills.
One of the most popular hikes at Loch Lomond is Conic Hill. Rising above Balmaha on the edge of Loch Lomond, Conic Hill is a short, sharp peak. The track starts in Balmaha car park (opposite the Oak Tree Inn) and rises gently through a short forested section before climbing steeply up the hill. Don’t worry; the incredible view below offers plenty of chances (*excuses) for you to catch your breath.
While the views the whole way up are stunning it really is worth making your way to the summit. From the peak the panorama of the loch and emerald islands below really is stunning.
The Conic Hill walk is 4km (2.5 miles) and can take between 1.5-3 hours to complete. The path is well-defined and despite the steepness it’s a manageable walk. However, do go prepared. I saw people climbing the hill in jandals (*flip flops) and flip flops are definitely not suitable for this walk. Wear good sneakers and pack layers, as the weather in Scotland can be changeable.
To reach Conic Hill from Glasgow catch the train from Glasgow Queen Street to Balloch. From Balloch catch the 309 bus to Balmaha. I went on a Sunday and even then both buses and trains were frequent, making this an easy Glasgow day hike to reach by public transport.
2. Goatfell, Isle of Arran
It’s said that the Isle of Arran is like Scotland in miniature. With everything from dramatic mountain peaks and beaches, to whiskey distilleries and stone circles, you could easily spend a few days exploring. If you’re short on time, however, or just looking to escape Glasgow for the day, Arran makes for a great Glasgow day trip.
For the ultimate hiking experience on Arran it’s time to conquer a mountain. While not quite a Munro (it’s classified as a Corbett), Goatfell is the highest of Arran’s peaks and offers spectacular views.
You can either start your hike from Brodick using the Fisherman’s walk along the seafront, or you can catch a bus to Cladach Visitor Centre. From there the path sets off uphill, and well, the climb never really stops until you reach the summit. In saying that, most of the hike is relatively gentle and the path is well-formed. It’s only when you reach the final ascent that the hike gets tough. With the path weaving steeply between granite boulders, you’ll probs be huffing and puffing your way to the top.
But that last climb is worth it. While the peak was surrounded by dense cloud on the day I went, that sense of accomplishment I got from reaching the top was a great feeling. And the views as we made our way back down the hill were pretty damn good too.
The Goatfell hike is 10.5km (6.5 miles) and takes around 4.5-6 hours to complete. Make sure to wear appropriate footwear (sneakers or hiking boots) as the last ascent is pretty strenuous. Wear layers and make sure to pack enough water.
Reaching the Isle of Arran from Glasgow is actually pretty easy. With ScotRail’s Rail and Sail passes you can travel directly from Glasgow Central to Ardrossan Harbour, and from there catch the ferry across to Brodick.
3. Greenock Cut, Inverclyde
Looking for something a little easier? But with the same stunning landscapes and views? Greenock Cut makes for an easy hike from Glasgow, and with gentle rolling moors instead of sharp Munros it’s great for those days when you’re not feeling quite as adventurous.
To get to the track via public transport catch one of the direct hourly trains from Glasgow Central to Drumfrochar Station. From Drumfrochar it’s a 10-minute walk to stage 3 of the trek, which doesn’t really matter as the walk is circular. If you’re driving you’d start the walk from the Cornalees Visitor Centre.
The directions on the Walk Highlands website as to how to join the trail from the station are a little confusing, but basically just head up the hill away from the station. Make your way to Overton Road and then at the Waterman’s Cottage either continue straight or take the path to your right. Ooh, it’s like a choose-your-own-adventure scenario.
Once you’ve found the path, the walk takes you in a circular route over gentle moorland and then along the Greenock Cut, an aqueduct which is now a Designated Ancient Monument. For me both sections of this track were equally enjoyable. I loved the romantic hilly landscapes of the moor, and then the views of the Clyde and surrounding countryside as you walk along the aqueduct are stunning too.
Greenock Cut is 11.5km (7.25 miles) and takes around 2.5-3 hours to complete. Although there are some gentle hills the trail has a well-defined path and is an easy walk.
4. Bein Dubh – Glen Striddle Horseshoe, Luss
Next up we’re headed back to Loch Lomond for one of my favourite walks in Scotland; the Glen Striddle Horseshoe.
Though Luss is pretty enough to deserve it’s own trip, this walk over the hills and plateaus is really something special. Start your hike in the Luss car park before heading over a footbridge to the other side of the A82. Snap a pic or two of the attractive house to your right then head through the kissing gate to its left to begin your hike.
The climb begins steadily enough, taking you across the grassy hill and offering fine views back towards Loch Lomond. After briefly levelling off (at which point I thought the climb was almost over), the hike continues steadily until you reach a small cairn at the highest peak of the circuit.
By now you’ve left behind any views of Loch Lomond, but the Arrochar Alps and nearby Doune Hill look stunning. Plus, the gently rolling plateaus are romantic in their own right.
The Glen Striddle horseshoe is 11.5km (7.25 miles) long and takes between 3.5-5 hours to complete. I’d recommend a reasonable level of fitness to complete this hike. While the distance isn’t too long, it does involve at least 1.5 hours of solid climbing to reach the ridge. Make sure to wear appropriate footwear and pack layers.
There are frequent Citylink buses between Glasgow and Luss, making it an easy Glasgow day hike.
5. Helensburgh and Rhu explorer, Helensburgh
For a hike that includes a splash of culture and dash of pretty gardens, let’s head to Helensburgh. A pretty town just outside of Glasgow, Helensburgh is a great place for an easy day hike.
Start your hike at the Hill House. Designed by renowned Glaswegian architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Hill House is considered his ‘domestic masterpiece’. Today, the house is undergoing a 10-year restoration project. The entire building has been encased in a protective steel and mesh frame to protect it from the elements. While you can no longer admire the exterior, you can still head inside to learn more about this Mackintosh icon.
From the Hill House head up through the car park and bear left until you come across the path signed Rhu Marina. This lovely path meanders gently through oaks and birches, and takes you through farmland with grazing sheep. (Dogs should be kept on a leash here). Continue along the path and head downhill until you come to Glenarn Gardens. Featuring beautiful rhododendrons, Glenarn Gardens is open to visitors for a small donation.
After exploring the gardens (it’d be a great place for a picnic) head onwards to Helensburgh and back to the Hill House.
The Helensburgh and Rhu explorer is 8.25km (5.25 miles) and takes around 2-2.5 hours to complete. This is an easy walk and with well-defined paths is suitable for people with moderate fitness levels.
The easiest way to get to Helensburgh from Glasgow is by train. Catch the train from Glasgow Queen Street to Helensburgh Upper, and go from there. An easy-peasy Glasgow day hike!
Things to Know About Hiking in Scotland
The best time for these Glasgow day hikes is during summer when the weather is better. Always remember to pack enough water, wear appropriate footwear (sneakers or hiking boots) and bring layers. Even in summer the weather in Scotland can be unpredictable and you should always have a light raincoat with you. If hiking in summer bring sunscreen. There is (very occasionally) sun in Scotland.
If you’re planning on doing these Glasgow day hikes in winter, note that the ground will be more difficult and there may be snowfall. The Glen Striddle horseshoe can be wet even in summer so I imagine the track gets pretty damn boggy in winter. Walk Highlands recommends that when hillwalking while snow is present you should have an ice-axe, crampons, and the knowledge, skills and experience to use them correctly.