My complete guide to all the free museums in Glasgow
When I was growing up in Glasgow, I didn't always appreciate how privileged I was to have so many fantastic museums to visit on my doorstep. The fact that many of them cost nothing to enter made them accessible to working class families like mine and I spent many a happy hour learning about everything from dinosaurs to tram cars.
When I'm back in the city I still love popping in and out of these varied venues and I can't recommend them highly enough if you are visiting Glasgow. No matter what your interests, there is a museum for you.
I've put together this guide to the free museums in Glasgow which should give you plenty of indoor inspiration suitable for all ages and ideal for rainy days.
Although these attractions cost nothing to visit, many of them rely on financial support from the public to remain open, so consider leaving a donation if you can.
KELVINGROVE ART GALLERY AND MUSEUM
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has long been a favourite with both Glaswegians and visitors to the city. It is not only the top attraction to visit in Glasgow, but one of the most popular in Scotland.
With 22 themed galleries you can expect to find a wide range of exhibits from dinosaurs to suits of armour. There are actually over 8000 eclectic objects on display, including items of local interest and international significance.
The art collection is said to be one of the greatest In Europe, with 'Christ of St John of the Cross' by Salvador Dali being one of the most famous paintings.
Although the galleries are the main appeal for visitors, the grand building is an attraction in its own right. Officially opened in 1901 it is a striking piece of architecture.
The museum is situated in the west end of Glasgow and can easily be reached by public transport from the city centre. Expect to easily lose a couple of hours wandering around the exhibits and gift shop.
If the weather is nice then a walk around the adjacent Kelvingrove Park makes for a pleasant way to finish off your visit or enjoy a cup of tea in the cafe.
THE RIVERSIDE MUSEUM OF TRANSPORT
The Riverside Museum is home to a wide variety of modes of transport and is a great place to visit for all ages. Expect to see everything from prams and skateboards to vintage cars and buses, there is even a wall of motorbikes.
Over 3000 objects and 90 touch screen panels with films and stories will keep you entertained for hours. There is even the opportunity to climb on board some of the vehicles and walk down recreated cobbled Glasgow streets with period shops you can explore. It is this interactive element that makes the attraction lots of fun.
The Glasgow Museum of Transport has been my favourite museum since I was a wee girl. It first opened in 1964 and has actually moved location twice since then. My earliest memories date back to when it was originally housed in a former tram depot on the south side of the city. After that it moved to the Kelvin Hall in the west end of Glasgow before relocating again to its current home on the banks of the River Clyde.
The new statement building was designed by the renowned architect, Zaha Hadid, and the museum has won several awards since it reopened in 2011, including European Museum of the Year. It is situated next to The Tall Ship at the Riverside (see below) which is also free to visit and it makes sense to combine a trip to both attractions.
For a full day out in the city, you can also take the free Govan Ferry across the River Clyde during the summer months. On the opposite bank you can visit the Govan Stones and Fairfield Heritage Centre (see below). Another option for a longer day out is to visit the nearby Clydeside Distillery and join a whisky tour.
Back in 2016 I spent a fantastic week in Ullapool and always promised myself I would go back for another stay. When I first visited some of the attractions were closed for the winter so I decided that my return visit should be during the summer.
This year I finally managed to return for another week long stay. So many people quickly pass through the village on their way around the North Coast 500 or make a short stop before boarding the ferry to the Hebrides. I think this is a real shame as there are so many things to do in and around Ullapool that it makes a great base for exploring this part of the North West Highlands.
Below I've put together a list of all my favourite attractions, walks and activities in the area. I've also listed a few things that I've not managed to do yet but are on my list for next time. If you are visiting Ullapool for a day, a week or longer and looking for things to do, then this blog post should give you plenty of inspiration.
I always find museums a good starting point when you are visiting a place as they give you an insight in to the local history and culture. Ullapool Museum is housed within the old Thomas Telford church and there are some interesting original features inside.
The collections include agricultural and fishing exhibits, two of the main industries that existed after Ullapool was founded as a fishing station back in 1788. You can also research through local archives and genealogy records.
There is a small fee to enter and the museum is currently open on Monday to Saturday from April to October.
Summer Isles Cruise
One of my highlights from this year's trip was a cruise around the Summer Isles on the M.V Shearwater. We were lucky enough to sail on a sunny albeit choppy day but the boat felt very stable and comfortable.
There are plenty of outdoor options to sit and take in the views as you sail down Loch Broom, around the Summer Isles and back along the Coigach Peninsula. There is also live commentary so you know exactly what you are looking at on your tour. At the start we were told we might be lucky enough to see some nesting white-tailed eagles and to be honest, I was slightly sceptical. However, sure enough we did see one of the pair of eagles flying overhead which was pretty exciting and we passed plenty of seals too.
Although we didn't stop at any of the islands, we did sail to the mouth of Cathedral Cave on Tanera Beag. It is quite a dramatic feature and the captain had a chance to show off his skills as he manoeuvred around the bouncing waves at the entrance.
The cruise departs from Ullapool Pier and lasts just over 2 hours. At the time of writing payment had to be made in cash and the tours run through late spring and summer.
UPDATED FOR 2019
I originally started this list of recommended places for tea and cake around Ullapool when I spent a lovely week there with my mum at the end of 2016. Our days out always seems to include a sugary refreshment stop, which we justify to ourselves as a well-earned break from a busy schedule of exploring.
During our trip to the Ullapool area we came across some cute tearooms in the most unexpected of places. Since then we have been back to stay in the village and tested out even more cake stops, just for research purposes of course! They haven't always lived up to our high standards and therefore only a few have made this list so far. One of my original recommendations has sadly closed but happily I've managed to find a new addition to replace it. I'll keep adding to this blog post if and when I come across any more.
Ullapool is well positioned for memorable road-trips around the North West of Scotland and we did plenty of exploring during our holiday so these recommendations are quite spread out. Those of you undertaking the North Coast 500 Route might also find this guide useful as you pass most of these stops on the way. I've added a handy map of the locations at the bottom of this page.
I think it is important to contribute to the local economy of any place you visit and even if you only stop for a coffee, you are helping to support a local business. I think this is especially important to mention during a time when camper van and self-catering holidays in Scotland are booming. Although you could easily make your own brew on these types of vacations, spending a few pounds at independent businesses, especially in rural areas, really does make a difference. Tearooms and cafes in quieter places are also great for meeting locals and swapping tips with fellow travellers.
I should add that my mum and I do consider ourselves to be Scotland tea and cake stop aficionados so hopefully you won't be disappointed in our choices which have all met with our expert approval...
The Elphin Tearooms, Elphin
This is a new addition to my blog as we first visited Elphin Tearooms earlier this year. It was so good we went back twice within a week. It is an ideal stopping point on the North Coast 500 as you travel north from Ullapool or south towards the village depending on which direction you are driving. It has a large car park and as it states on the website, it welcomes everyone including bikers, campervans and dogs.
We visited with Willow and although we could have sat inside, the weather was just too glorious. The views of the surrounding mountains are also just so pretty that we opted for one of the outdoor picnic tables. It really is the kind of place that you can sit and relax in to holiday mode. There is no feeling of being rushed and the service is super friendly. We ended up chatting to our picnic table neighbours and it was nice to exchange some travel stories among such scenic surroundings.
Both times we visited, our cakes were fresh and delicious which is perhaps the most important thing when that is your main purpose for visiting. The tearoom sits on its own and would be easy to drive by as you head to somewhere else. Personally, I think a stop here should be part of your travel itinerary and you will also have the satisfaction of supporting a local business.
Tea by the Sea, Ullapool
We walked past this gift shop come cafe a couple of times before we finally succumbed to temptation. Our willpower was eroded away by the list of delicious sounding daily desserts on the notice board outside which we just had to investigate for ourselves.
This is a quirky little place inside with a few tables adjoining a new age type gift shop. The friendly owners were more than happy to explain what delights were on offer that day and the counter was stuffed with enticing choices.
I opted for a creamy slice of bannoffee pie and my mum opted for the apple pie topped with caramel sauce and cream just for good calorific measure! A generous amount of tea and an extra pot of hot water to wash everything down completed our sweet, sticky feast and we both agreed that a cake stop at Tea By The Sea deserved a big thumbs up.
Update - we returned again on our most recent trip and enjoyed more cake. It was just as good and this time it was even warm enough to sit on one of the pavement tables out the front and enjoy the waterfront view.
Visit Denmark's youngest city, oldest town and prettiest village all on a short break from Aberdeen...
Recently I was invited over to Denmark as part of a business partnership with Danish Air Transport and Business Esbjerg to check out their new air route between Aberdeen and Esbjerg.
I'll be honest, I had never heard of this part of Denmark before my invite and had no idea what to expect. However, my trip turned out to be completely fantastic and I just had to publish this blog post about it. I wasn't asked to write this article but I honestly think that this is a part of Denmark worth sharing. It is definitely a Danish hidden gem and is perfect for anyone looking for a unique long weekend escape from Scotland.
Esbjerg is a harbour city which sits on the North Sea on the west coast of Denmark. It actually has a lot in common with Aberdeen as it is a large fishing port and an important base for oil and gas offshore industries.
During my trip I was joined by Mr Adventures Around Scotland and we didn't just visit Esbjerg, we also went over to the beautiful island of Fanø which we both fell in love with, before completing our trip in Ribe, Denmark's oldest town. Three very different locations in three days and if you want to follow in our footsteps, I've put all my itinerary details below.
DAY 1 - ABERDEEN TO ESBJERG
We took a lunchtime flight from Aberdeen with Danish Air Transport and I've never been fed and watered so well on a short plane journey - more on that below. Just over an hour later we arrived at Esbjerg airport and picked up our hire car from the Europcar desk and made the 15 minute journey to our hotel.
Its not necessary to have a car, however if you want to explore beyond Esbjerg as we did, it provides a bit more freedom and flexibility. The roads in this part of Denmark are fairly quiet and we found driving on the right hand side to be easy enough as the road systems here are also quite straightforward.
On our first night we stayed in Hotel Britannia which is very central and ideally located for exploring the city. We had a Business Double Room which had nice green views over a little pond area opposite. The hotel has a cool, Scandi vibe and we had no complaints during our stay.
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