Family Vacations to Glasgow, Scotland

Family Overview - Glasgow, Scotland
CLIMB ABOARD: Glasgow's harbor contains historic ships that have been restored and offer tours (courtesy, Glasgow City Marketing Bureau)

Glasgow Highlights

  • Enjoy the hands-on exhibits at the Science Centre.
  • Board a restored 1896 sailing ship in the harbor.
  • Stroll the beautiful gardens at Bellahouston Park.
  • Browse the trendy shops along Buchanan Street and in Princes Square.
  • Take a day trip to Stirling Castle.

No longer dependent on heavy industry, despite the few remaining shipyards, Glasgow now has a reputation as a technological, academic, and cultural center, and is home to four universities—University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde, the Glasgow Caledonian University, and the University of Paisley.

Glasgow's signature red sandstone Victorian buildings add to the city's character and offer glimpses of its vast history. Tour Glasgow Cathedral, which dates to 1136, and the Burrell Collection—an art museum with 9,000 objects that span centuries and include Chinese ceramics, medieval tapestries, and paintings by Degas and Cezanne. Take the kids to the Glasgow Science Center, with more than 300 interactive exhibits including a planetarium and Scotland's only IMAX theater.

Visit the harbor, where you'll board the SV Glenlee. Built in 1896, the restored ship is one of only five Clydebuilt sailing ships still afloat. The Museum of Transport displays more vessels, including 250 model ships, along with massive Scottish locomotives and early cars.

'Tweens and teens enjoy browsing the shops along Buchanan Street and in trendy Princes Square. The nearby Rogano, one of the oldest restaurants in Glasgow, is famous for its seafood and its Art Deco décor, fashioned after that on the liner Queen Mary, built in Glasgow. The menu downstairs offers less expensive options—the fish sandwiches are tasty.

Visit Bellahouston Park, about three miles from Glasgow's city center. In season, the Victorian garden blooms with hundreds of pink carnations, yellow dahlias, red roses, geraniums and other vivid flora. Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh's House for an Art Lover, adjacent to the garden, was built after Mackintosh's death but according to his plans. The airy and elegant home showcases Mackintosh's Art Nouveau style and his attention to detail.

If you have young children, consider a show at the Biggar Puppet Theatre, Lanarkshire, and a visit to the New Lanark World Heritage Village, a restored 18th-century cotton mill. Visit the school and restored millworkers' house and hear about life in the village from the ghost of Annie McLeod, a ten-year-old girl.

Be sure to allow enough time to visit Stirling Castle, about 40 minutes from Glasgow. High on a hill, the massive fortress built for defense dates to the 12th century and served as a home to kings and queens for centuries. Standing outside its walls, admiring the sweeping valley views, you'll be impressed by the thick fortifications, drawbridge, inner courtyards, and myriad buildings. The Great Hall, built between 1501 and 1504, is Scotland's largest medieval banqueting hall. Barren of furniture, the structure still feels imperial and one can easily imagine the elaborate feasts and balls held here.

As a baby, Mary Queen of Scots was crowned at Stirling on September 9, 1543, and her son James was baptized at the castle on December 17, 1566. When Queen Mary was forced to abdicate, her infant son James VI succeeded her, becoming king on July 24, 1567. Because of rival factions promoting an English king, James lived at Stirling almost as a prisoner. Mary was later beheaded by her cousin Queen Elizabeth. With cobbled courtyards and stories of royal intrigue and jealousy, Stirling Castle holds a vivid sense of the privileges and liabilities of royal life.

Tip: Edinburgh is about 40 miles or one hour away's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 7 Apr 2008 | Last Updated: 6 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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