Discovering the best gardens an parks in Glasgow

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 08.12.2022

Despite its industrial heritage Glasgow is actually one of the greenest cities in Europe. In this guide we will introduce you to the parks in Glasgow.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Scotland, your essential guide for visiting Scotland.

Clip clop. I am travelling at nineteenth-century speeds along the main road of a country estate. On one side are formal gardens, planted with shaped hedges in lush greens, on the other, open fields dotted with dun-coloured Highland cattle.

As two tall Clydesdale horses, Baron and Duke, pull my cart through the bucolic scenery I feel a million miles away from anything remotely urban – and yet we are just three miles outside of what was once the UK’s greatest industrial city.

1. Pollok Park - the biggest park in Glasgow

Pollok Park is the biggest park in Glasgow, at 360 acres, and the horse and cart rides are the best way to take in its vast scale. The park was gifted to the city in 1966 by Anne Maxwell MacDonald and represents the core of what was once an extensive family estate.

Visitors can explore the Category B listed walled garden, laid out 250 years ago as a kitchen garden and orchard, and see plants discovered in the Himalayas by Sir John Stirling Maxwell in the woodland garden. But the highlight of Pollok Park is its “fold” (group) of Highland cattle – the most accessible in Scotland.

The Maxwell family bred prizewinning cattle on the estate in the nineteenth century and today the tradition continues. I am thrilled to meet the newest addition in the cattle shed, although his older stablemate’s long curved horns put me off getting too close. These are animals bred to endure the hardy conditions of Highland Scotland and I wouldn’t mess with them.

Pollok Country Park, Glasgow, Scotland © Shutterstock

Pollok Country Park, Glasgow, Scotland © Shutterstock

2. Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Back in the city centre, I find myself actively encouraged to mess with nature. I am spending the afternoon exploring the Botanic Gardens – but not just to look at the wide variety of plantlife found here.

I am here to find dinner. Chris Charalambous, head chef of Cail Bruich restaurant, has been using foraged food in his dishes for about three years. He tells me that in Scotland there is the right to roam and that anything found growing wild can be picked, as long as it is for your own consumption.

Glasgow Bontanical Gardens

Glasgow Botanic Gardens - a real example of the stunning greenery amongst the parks in Glasgow @ photo by Helen Ochyra.

I am a little sceptical but within just a few minutes of walking through the shaded woodland alongside the Kelvin River, Chris is rustling through the undergrowth and handing me leaves that have the unmistakable smell of garlic. I find myself gingerly nibbling one minute, happily munching the next, and by the time we return to the restaurant, I am converted.

Chris brings out trays groaning with produce foraged from right here in Glasgow. We try nettles, scurvy grass, wild chervil and gorse flowers. Every ingredient has a different flavour, from those reminiscent of fresh grass to those that shock with wasabi, and I am already thinking up ways to use Scotland’s bounty in my cooking at home.

I return to the Botanic Gardens to walk it all off and find myself immediately swallowed up by greenery. The gardens cover a whopping 42 acres and link the city to the West Highland Way. I explore the arboretum and stroll past blooming herbaceous borders arranged in chronological order of when the plants were introduced to Britain. It is highly educational, but also simply beautiful and again I forget that I am in the heart of a city.

3. Victoria Park - one of the prettiest parks in Glasgow

Victoria Park in Glasgow © Shutterstock

Victoria Park in Glasgow © Shutterstock

Victoria Park is located in the west of Glasgow, near the areas of Scotstoun, Whitinch, Jordanhill and Broomhill. The park was created and named after Queen Victoria's jubilee and is considered one of the most attractive parks in Glasgow. The main attractions of the park are:

  • A memorial honouring the local residents who died in World War I and World War II;
  • A children's playpark;
  • A pond, with two small islands;
  • The Jubilee Gates situated at the Victoria Park North Drive entrance were erected and funded by the 'Ladies of Partick' in 1887;
  • The Fossil Grove;
  • Monument to SS Daphne.

Parks in Glasgow are a joy to behold, read our guide of another beautiful places in Scotland to discover what places you might want to visit next.

4. Linn Park

Lynn Park is Glasgow's second largest park, and its combination of diverse activities and vast grounds make it an attractive place to visit.

The park is located in the southern part of the city, and has an outstanding variety of wildlife, habitats and flora. It is home to around sixty species of birds, both resident and seasonal. Despite its close proximity to the city - the diversity of fauna and flora in the park is truly outstanding.

Linn Park - Glasgow - Scotland © Shutterstock

Linn Park - Glasgow - Scotland © Shutterstock

5. Kelvingrove Park

The main sights straddle the banks of the River Kelvin, which meanders through the gracious acres of the Botanic Gardens and the slopes, trees and statues of Kelvingrove Park. Overlooked by the Gothic towers and turrets of the University of Glasgow, which also houses the marvellous Hunterian Museum, Kelvingrove Park is home to the pride of Glasgow’s civic collection of art and artefacts, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Statue of Lord Kelvin in Kelvingrove Park - Glasgow, Scotland © Shutterstock

Statue of Lord Kelvin in Kelvingrove Park - Glasgow, Scotland © Shutterstock

6. Mugdock Country Park

Whether you want to observe wildlife, admire the stunning countryside, visit historic sites or go camping, Magdok Country Park has it all. It's open all year round and varies from season to season.

Magdock Country Park is situated 10 miles north of Glasgow and was declared a Country Park in 1987. It incorporates woodland, heathland, swamps and moorland, as well as walking trails, a lake, castles and gunnery sites left over from the Second World War. The area has a long and fascinating history and an exceptional natural environment.

A gated path through the park woodland in Mugdock near Glasgow © Shutterstock

A gated path through the park woodland in Mugdock near Glasgow © Shutterstock

7. Loch Lomond

The following day I take the short hop out to Glasgow’s loch, Loch Lomond. It is just 30 minutes by car, travelling alongside the river Clyde, and I am out of the city and into the countryside within minutes. At the loch all is quiet. In the distance the Highlands rise up, climbing into the sky as far as the eye can see. It is hard to take it all in from ground level and so I board a seaplane to take a flight over one of Scotland’s most famous landscapes.

Explore the land and legends of Scottish heroes William Wallace and Rob Roy and experience the natural beauty of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs on this tour from Glasgow.

Seaplane, Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond @ photo by Helen Ochyra.

It is truly spectacular. Take off is smooth and suddenly we are sailing over the water looking down on the islands and hills below. This is the Highland Boundary Fault, the fault line that divides the Lowlands from the Highlands, and it is immediately obvious. On one side there are rolling hills, on the other rugged mountains.

And then I realize that that is Glasgow in the distance. A vast urban centre planted right in the middle of some of the world’s most dazzling scenery. The Gaelic translation of Glasgow is “Dear Green Place” and finally I can see why. Glasgow is competing to be crowned European Green Capital for 2015, and it’s certainly got my vote.

Glasgow can attract you with more than just parks, find out why Glasgow should be your next weekend break.

    Where to stay in Glasgow:

  • ABode Glasgow
  • A classy hotel that delights on many levels, from the warm welcome and original cage lift, to the rooms themselves, of which there are four categories, ranging from ‘Comfortable’ to ‘Fabulous’; the main difference between them is size and the odd extra.

  • citizenM
  • European chain offers a luxury experience that won’t break the bank; check in via computer then head to your room to enjoy the innovative mood lighting, hip decor and rain shower. After that, you could do a lot worse than hang around in the cool canteenM, a homely breakfast barmeets-lounge area that’s open round the clock – indeed,you’re quite likely to spend more time in this hotel than out of it.

  • The Alamo Guest House
  • Good-value, family-run boarding house next to Kelvingrove Park, with ten rooms, each one completely different in size and character, variously featuring stucco plasterwork, French oak beds, slate-tile sinks and cast-iron chandeliers, or perhaps a freestanding tub.

  • Babbity Bowsters
  • Best known as a pub, Babbity Bowster also features five plain but serviceable rooms (singles and doubles) that provide visitors with a great, and decently priced, Merchant City location; a simple breakfast is included.

  • Moxy
  • Playful and energetic, this place would score highly on a budgetsavvy millennial-traveller’s checklist: flat-screen TVs, ultrafast wi-fi and an edgy, urban location – it’s just east of the city centre.

When choosing travel destinations in Scotland, explore our list of 5 fantastic Scottish routes to take this summer.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Scotland without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

Ready for a trip to Scotland? Check out the snapshot The Rough Guide to Scotland or The Rough Guide to Great Britain. If you travel further in Scotland, read more about the best time to go, the best places to visit and best things to do in Scotland. For inspiration use itineraries from The Rough Guide to Scotland and our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.

We may earn commission from some of the external websites linked in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Top image: Palmhouse, Glasgow Botanical Gardens © Helen Ochyra

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 08.12.2022

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