Last Updated on 26th August 2022
No matter if you’re an adventurous explorer with no more than a tent and a pair of boots to accompany you on hikes or a B&B aficionado wanting more of a catered experience, there’s plenty of hidden gems to discover in the Highlands and rugged coastline on the west coast of Scotland.
When you’re planning a holiday to west Scotland, the first thing you’ll notice is the sea lochs which criss-cross the region. The climate here is milder and wetter than the east coast, due to prevailing winds and the Gulf Stream. This makes the area green and lush, full of enchanting woodlands and rolling fog over craggy mountains; so make sure you pack a waterproof jacket and a spare pair of socks.
In this article, we’ve tried to bring you some of west Scotland’s hidden gems as well as the most popular destinations. Read on to discover a few of the most interesting things to do in the west of Scotland.
See the Sights of Glasgow
You won’t be able to fit in all the amazing things to do in Glasgow in just one day, but Scotland’s second city is well worth a visit. If you enjoy a good sightseeing session, you can hop on and be whisked around the city on a 21-stop open bus tour. You’ll discover the University of Glasgow (famous for being J. K. Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts), the beautiful Cathedral and spooky nearby Necropolis, and find out where scenes from Hollywood blockbusters such as the Batman and World War Z were filmed.
If you’d rather explore solo, places not to miss include the People’s Palace, which houses fascinating exhibits about Glasgow’s industrial and social history. Museums are free in Glasgow, so make sure you check out the exhibits at the magnificent Kelvingrove Museum (which is close to the wonderful Botanic Gardens) and the Gallery of Modern Art.
Glasgow also has a thriving food scene, including plenty of vegan options, so be sure to refuel at some of the most beloved spots. Tantrum Doughnuts serves mouth watering creations for your sweet tooth. If you love good music and good food, Mono houses vegan food, great beer, and vinyl records on sale. And if you love barbecue, the Raven is the best place for amazing beers, burgers and banter.
Marvel at The Devil’s Pulpit
This enchanting destination is close to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, which is a short ride away from Glasgow. The Devil’s Pulpit is an otherworldly geological phenomenon, a gorge which cuts through the sandstone which gives the unpredictable and dangerous waters their blood-red hue.
A prominent location in the Detective Pikachu movie as well as featuring in Outlander, the Pulpit is better known than it used to be, but do be careful as the terrain can be slippery and parking on-site is limited. For the best experience, book a walk with a provider such as Activity Scotland.
Visit Inchmurrin on Loch Lomond
This is one of the many islands in the popular Loch Lomond nature reserve, which is accessible by ferry from the nearby jetty at Arden. It’s the largest of the islands – in fact, it’s the largest island in Britain – and boasts many historical sites such as the ruins of Lennox Castle. Built in 1393 by Duncan the Eighth Earl of Lennox, the family took up residence on the island to escape the plague in the 14th century.
The island also has the ruins of a 7th century monastery and self-catered accommodation if you’d like to stay a while and relax in the ideal retreat for tranquillity.
Eat Oysters and Seafood at Loch Fyne
This isn’t the national restaurant chain – this is the real deal. Visit the real Loch Fyne, just off the A83 on the Cowal peninsula, and you’ll be stunned at the array of fresh oceanic treats on offer.
A must for all seafood fans and adventurous eaters, the menu at Loch Fyne is always changing with the seasons. Depending on when you visit you’ll discover langoustines, oysters, salmon, haddock, lobster, crab and more. Burgers and steak are also on offer for the non-seafood-lovers in the party, and the venue also boasts a deli full of sumptuous delights like oatcakes, cheeses and more from local sources.
There’s limited parking for motorhomes, a takeaway service, and they even have an online shop so you can enjoy a taste of your visit even after you get home.
Wild Swimming at Glencoe
One of the most breath-taking views in Scotland is to be had while driving on the A82 road through Glencoe, plus the stunning scenery is perfect for hill walkers. A deep valley carved by glacial movement thousands of years ago, the sheer size of the valley ridges will send shivers down your spine as you watch the fog slide over the mountainous landscape.
There’s a dark history to be discovered here, which you can find at the Glencoe Visitor Centre before heading out for a short walk to the location of the infamous Massacre of Glencoe in 1692. The area of outstanding natural beauty is rich in wildlife, so keep an eye out for red deer, ptarmigans and mountain hares.
If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the famous Jacobite steam train as it chugs over the Glenfinnan viaduct – a scene you’ll recognise from the Harry Potter movies.
Take a dip in the pools of River Etive or the shallows of Loch Etive.
Star-gazing at Galloway Night Sky Park
A dark sky park is a place that is recognised for having exceptionally dark night skies, and where the locals have committed to reducing light pollution, where you can come to stargaze. Galloway night sky park is the UK’s first dark sky park, and only the fourth in the world.
You’ll be able to see over 7,000 stars and planets visible with the naked eye, and even glimpse the bright band of the Milky Way as it stretches across the uniquely black sky. Sadly, the Dark Sky Observatory was destroyed by fire in 2021, but you can still support the park by dropping in to the Kirroughtree Visitor Centre.
Even in the daytime, the park has a lot to offer, including mountain biking trails, red deer spotting, excellent fishing and tranquil views over lochs. The Raider’s Road Drive offers some of the best views of the entire park, from the comfort of your vehicle.
If you have the time, the beautiful sandy beaches and hidden coves of the outer Hebrides have to be seen to be believed. No matter what you choose to see and do in the west of Scotland, there are unforgettable memories to be made.