If you had told me when I was a girl growing up in Glasgow that one day I would sail into my home city on the biggest flotilla ever seen on the river to the cheer of thousands of people it would have sounded like a fantastical story. In fact until a couple of months ago I would still never have believed it, yet this week it actually happened and I am still wondering if it was all just an amazing nautical dream.
The Commonwealth Flotilla was timed to coincide with another huge event happening in Glasgow, the Commonwealth Games. Although sailing isn't one of the sporting events in the Games it is one of the events that make up the Olympics and it was a good way of reminding people that sailing is another of the many sports that people can get involved in.
As Saturday morning arrived and my train pulled into Greenock I was almost bursting with excitement. I was soon shown to my transport for the day, the Clyde Clipper, one of two boats run by Clyde Cruises that were taking part.
I had very kindly been invited along by James Stuart, CEO of RYA Scotland to not only experience this once in a lifetime event but to learn more about the opportunities available for people in Scotland to get on the water. I was joined by other excited guests, many of them RYA Gold members and representatives from other agencies looking to promote water based activities available in the country.
With the sound of boat horns and the musical strains of a piper drifting from the quayside we started to move into position.
We were one of the leading boats with the new hybrid CalMac ferry, Lochinvar, guiding us up the Clyde.
The Commonwealth Flotilla was making history as this was the biggest flotilla ever to have sailed up the river with over 250 boats of all shapes and sizes taking part. As we left Greenock behind and boat after boat appeared on the horizon I started to get my first real visual understanding of the scale of the event.
One of the reasons I love Glasgow is the vast amount of free things to do. From attractions to tours, there is always something to do and it is the perfect city for those on a budget
Widely advertised are the big museums and parks which offer amazing experiences and there is a reason that they are so popular. However, there are also plenty of lesser known gems in the city that are equally deserving of a visit and offer a more unique experience.
If you are looking for something alternative to do in Glasgow, then this guide lists ten places and tours that are free and in my opinion worthwhile. As with everything in my travel blog I have visited them all and I'm happy to provide any more information you need although I've included all the links to the appropriate websites.
Although everything listed here are free things to do in Glasgow, I've noted ones that are grateful for donations to help maintain their attraction so please consider this if you enjoyed your visit. I could easily have included another ten so maybe I'll have to work on part 2!
If you're looking for something different to do in the city this is a good place to start.
1. Go on a free walking tour of the Necropolis
Friends of the Necropolis run free walking tours around Glasgow's most famous graveyard. Pointing out monuments of interest and telling the real stories of some of the people that are buried here brings this city of the dead to life. The views at the top are some of the best in Glasgow.
The volunteer guides are very knowledgeable and passionate which really adds to the experience. Tours last approx 2 hrs (mine was almost 2 1/2), wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. The walking tours are free but donations welcome which help towards restoration projects, you also need to book in advance.
2. Visit the Glasgow Gurdwara
The Glasgow Gurdwara serves the Sikh community in the city and beyond. However, it also extends a warm welcome to anyone wishing to visit and free tours can be booked.
Lasting approx 45 mins, tours take in the various areas of the Gurdwara, explain about the Sikh faith and there is the opportunity to enjoy a free meal from the community kitchen.
Glasgow is a mulitcultural city and a visit here helps you understand more about one of the many faiths that make up modern day Scotland.
Shoes should be removed within the Gurdwara and scarves are provided to cover your head.
3. Take a free tour of Glasgow City Chambers
Glasgow City Chambers is the headquarters of Glasgow City Council. Free public tours take place weekdays at 10.30am and 2.30pm, there is no need to book just arrive at the reception.
Tours last approx 40 mins and take in the working area, opulent banqueting hall, marble staircase and portrait gallery. There is even the opportunity to sit in the Lord Provost's chair, an ideal photo!
As the City Chambers is a working building access to some areas may be restricted at certain times.
I highly recommend a visit here as the architecture, artwork and decor are pretty impressive, and in my opinion it is the best free tour in Glasgow!
An hour by train from Glasgow Central and a 35 minute connecting ferry ride will bring you into the centre of Rothesay, the main town on the Isle of Bute.
A perfect day trip from Glasgow, this little Scottish island has plenty to offer and provides a pretty and peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. It may not have the mountains of Skye or the brightly painted houses of Mull but Bute has a charm all of it's own
Although a day won't be enough to take in all the history, wildlife and activities on offer it will certainly give you a flavour and a reason to return.
Bute is the little island oasis I currently call home and knowing all that it has to offer has made it difficult to narrow down a list of places you can visit in a day. I could easily have provided a week long itinerary but I feel that coming to an island should be about relaxation and I think my suggested things to do find a balance between visiting some interesting attractions and taking it at an easy pace. Hopefully you will leave feeling not only chilled out but with a little bit of knowledge about this historical Scottish island and a yearning to come back.
First stop should be The Discovery Centre in Rothesay, here you will find tourist information and a great free multi-media exhibition telling you a bit more about The Isle of Bute. It is only a few minutes walk from the ferry terminal and a fantastic introduction to the island.
Then take a stroll along the promenade and admire the beautiful flower displays, if the weather is nice why not enjoy a shot on the putting green and take a seat by the fountain. Admire the boats in the harbour and the views over the Firth of Clyde to the mainland.
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