Take Me Out
From cycling, pirate ships, dolphin watching and woodland walks to face-painting, castles, beaches and alien designs, Anna Millar handpicks some of the finest days out and events this Easter, whether you’re a big or a little kid
South Plate Hill, Ratho, 0131 333 6333, www.eica-ratho.com
The Big Daddy of indoor climbing, Edinburgh’s indoor arena in Ratho is built within a former quarry, making it the world’s largest indoor climbing complex and a rock climber’s paradise. Located eight miles west of central Edinburgh, highlights include 50ft high overhangs, a sheer 90ft ascent and several 15ft high bouldering challenges. Adrenaline junkies can career 75ft off the ground for aerial assault course, the SkyRide.
Dumbreck Road, Glasgow, 0141 427 0558, www.houseforanartlover.co.uk/artpark-glasgow
Opportunities abound in this pretty park whether it’s wandering into the House for an Art Lover, or checking out the multitude of walking, cycling and orienteering routes. Green fingered visitors should make a beeline for the walled garden to take in the park’s breathtaking views of the city.
Blair Drummond Safari Park
Blair Drummond, by Stirling, 01786 841456, www.blairdrummond.com
Fun for both big and little kids, the animals are only part of this safari park’s charm with the funfair, wooden castle and pirate ship likely to take up more of your day than the lions and tigers. The sea lion show and giant astraglide are both included in the admission price.
The Burrell Collection
Pollok Country Park, 2060 Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow, 0141 287 2550, www.glasgowmuseums.com
Boasting over 9000 artworks, this purpose-built building, features reconstructions of rooms from Sir William Burrell’s home, alongside medieval art, tapestries and alabasters, as well as works by Degas and Cezanne plus a treasure trove of artefacts from ancient China, Egypt, Greece and Rome. The more creative little one can take part in the Flying Kites activity day on Tuesday 7 April, where visitors and invited to decorate and make their own kites for Easter.
Calton Hill, Waterloo Place, 0131 473 2000
Situated just east of Princes Street, Calton Hill boasts a handsome melee of buildings and statues, the most famous of which is Edinburgh’s Disgrace, the unfinished William Playfair-designed National Monument which, when funding dried up, was never finished. A gentle climb to the top offers incredible views of Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat. Year-round the more gregarious party animal shouldn’t miss the Beltane Fire Festival (pictured, right) on Thu 30 Apr, an infamous night of mayhem celebrating the arrival of summer at the top of the Hill.
Coupar Angus Road, near Dundee, 01382 431818, www.camperdownpark.com
From the cycling centre, family fun fair and adventure playground to the leisure park and stately Camperdown House, this park pretty much has something for everyone.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh Trail
0141 946 6600, www.crmsociety.com
The legacy of Glasgow artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh remains strikingly writ across the city’s skyline, museums and galleries. A CRM Trail Ticket includes entry to the Mackintosh House at the Hunterian Art Gallery, the Lighthouse, the Hill House in Helensburgh and the Mackintosh Church, headquarters of the CRM Society, plus unlimited travel on public transport. Hardcore fans should check out Mackintosh 100 at The Glasgow School of Art, a programme of exhibitions, talks and tours and activities at the school.
Clyde and Loch Lomond Cycleway
0845 113 0065, www.visitscotland.com
Beginning in the heart of Glasgow at Bell’s Bridge by the Exhibition Centre and finishing on the bonny banks of Loch Lomond, the Clyde and Loch Lomond Cycleway is a beautiful 20-mile ride. The route is almost traffic free and runs close to a railway all the way to Balloch, so there is ample opportunity to pick up your bike and hop on.
Four miles northeast of Edinburgh
Along with the River Almond, a golf course, a beach and a harbour, the picturesque Cramond boasts a 15th century church tower and the famous Cramond Inn. Explore the remains of a Roman Fort dating back to AD 142, or better still, when the tide is out walk to Cramond Island in the middle of the Forth Estuary.
Maybole, South Ayrshire, 01655 884455, www.culzeanexperience.org
Perched dramatically on a clifftop, the stunning location, interior and country park surroundings of Culzean (pronounced ‘cullane’) have made this not only a top tourist attraction but also the National Trust for Scotland’s most visited property. Dating back to the 12th century, it was converted in the 18th century by the architect Robert Adam as a bachelor residence for the tenth Earl of Cassillis.
Castle Road, near Stirling, 01786 841742
Doune Castle, one of Scotland’s best preserved medieval castles, can give you all the atmosphere of a Hieland ruin without the bother of driving to the Highlands. Fans of Monty Python’s Holy Grail will recognise the castle and surroundings instantly as the setting for the film and can spend a happy afternoon saying ‘Ni’ as they enjoy the castle and its grounds.
Our Dynamic Earth
Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, 0131 550 7800, www.dynamicearth.co.uk
Opened for the millennium, Our Dynamic Earth charts the earth’s evolution from the Big Bang to the modern day though a series of interactive exhibitions, including an earthquake simulator and a tropical rainstorm. There are enough buttons to press to keep young children happy, while older kids will enjoy the quirkier aspects of the exhibition such as touching an iceberg and seeing models of the animals that have died out during the course of the earth’s evolution. See Edinburgh International Science Festival preview and listings.
Castle Hill, Edinburgh, 0131 225 9846, www.historic-scotland.gov.uk
From a medieval fortification to a temporary prison, seat of parliament, royal residence, and now world-renowned symbol of Scotland, the castle is pretty much a must-see whether you know the city or are just visiting. The views are spectacular, even if the viewpoints can be windy and, on a clear day, there’s a 360-degree panorama over the city. There’s also more to the castle than royal memorabilia, with a chance to see the Scottish Crown Jewels, the tiny St Margaret’s Chapel, the Scottish War Memorial and War Museum, as well as a slightly off the wall ‘dog cemetery’ for regimental mascots. Look out too for special events year-round.
near Corstorphine, Edinburgh, 0131 334 9171, www.edinburghzoo.org.uk
There’s plenty to while away an afternoon at Edinburgh’s Zoo and a slew of special events running month to month. Check out the Firewalk Challenge on Fri 24 Apr and help raise £150 for The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and have the pleasure of walking over a bed of hot cinders. Keep your eyes peeled too for special Edinburgh International Science Festival events.
A719, 8 miles south of Ayr
Everyone loves an optical illusion, and the Electric Brae is one in three dimensions – and a naturally occurring one to boot. Rounding the corner on the road winding south from Ayr, every instinct in your possession tells you that you are driving uphill. However, stop the car, take off the handbrake and behold as you roll ‘uphill’.
Lime Road, Tamfourhill, Falkirk, 08700 500208, www.thefalkirkwheel.co.uk
The Falkirk Wheel emerged in 2002 as a design solution to the problem of reconnecting two of Scotland’s long abandoned industrial arteries. The wheel raises and lowers boats 35 metres from the Union Canal above, to the Forth and Clyde below. It’s made of 7000 cubic metres of concrete and 1000 cubic metres of steel. Catch a boat from the visitor centre or simply wander along the banks of the canal and around the wheel itself. Over the holidays, check out Easter at the Falkirk Wheel from Sat 4–Sun 19 Apr, and enjoy the egg-decorating, colouring-in, face painting and an Easter treasure hunt.
Glamis, 20 mins north of Dundee, 01307 840393, www.glamis-castle.co.uk
A few miles north of Dundee through the village of Glamis lies Glamis Castle, perhaps better known as the childhood home of the late Queen Mother. The imposing structure is worth a visit, as much for the legends about the place and the architecture and history. Be warned though, ghostly sightings have been commonplace over the years …
Glasgow Botanic Gardens
730 Great Western Road, Glasgow, 0141 334 2422, www.glasgow.gov.uk
Commonly referred to as the Botanics, this is a West End institution and a year-round magnet for anyone looking for a little peace and quiet. The main entrance is on the corner of Byres Road and Great Western Road, and as well as numerous possible walking routes past its many trees, shrubs, themed gardens or along the River Kelvin, there are two sets of Victorian glasshouses. Take a picnic, sit back and enjoy.
Glasgow Climbing Centre
Ibrox Church, 534 Paisley Road West, 0141 427 9550, www.glasgowclimbingcentre.co.uk
While smaller than some of the new facilities elsewhere in Scotland, this centre in a converted church on the Southside of the city, boasts over 60 routes on walls up to 40ft high. Equipped for top-roping and leading with experts on hand to provide lessons for all standards of rock climber, those who crave the buzz of free-climbing will enjoy the 10ft-high bouldering cave. A novel addition is the dry-tooling area, which involves free climbing with ice axes.
Glasgow Science Centre
Pacific Quay, Clydeside, 0141 420 5000 www.glasgowsciencecentre.org
A shining titanium crescent overlooking the Clyde, the Science Mall offers three floors of live shows and over 300 hands-on exhibits, plus a planetarium and science communicators on hand to explain everything. The IMAX cinema boasts a 12,000 watt sound system and a screen bigger than a five-a-side football pitch, showing panoramic educational films and Hollywood blockbusters in 2 and 3D.
Near Peebles, 01721 721736, www.hubintheforest.co.uk
With 400,000 annual visitors, this high octane, thrill-seekers mountain-biking centre is one of Scotland’s most popular attractions. Boasting some of the country’s best single-track riding, routes are graded according to difficulty. The green beginner run is where to test your balance on timber obstacles; blue offers a challenging 8km ride and black is for those kitted out with a suspension bike, sufficient padding and nerve to tackle the energy-sapping, 29km-long trail.
At the foot of the High Street and Holyrood Road, Edinburgh.
For one of the best views over the Old Town climb Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park. On a clear day you can see all the way to the jagged coastline of the Forth Estuary and beyond. After you’ve had an eyeful, head back down the Radical Road to the bottom of Salisbury Crags.
South Queensferry, 0131 331 2451, www.hopetounhouse.com
With rolling parkland looking towards the Forth, this palatial home to the earls of Hopetoun since 1699 is generally considered Scotland’s finest stately home. Its fine Georgian architecture and grand interior was designed by Robert Adam, the 17th-century Scottish architect. King George IV once feasted in the state dining room and at every turn antique ceramics, tapestries and original Masters add to the breathtaking opulence.
0131 331 5000, www.maidoftheforth.co.uk
Nicknamed the Iona of the East, wildlife lovers and history buffs alike will enjoy this three hour round-trip sailing to Inchcolm Island with Maid of the Forth. Lying over a mile off-shore, the 12th century monastic buildings of Inchcolm Abbey, a small visitor centre, gardens and delightful sandy beach all wait to be explored while the viewpoint provides a stunning panorama of Edinburgh and Fife.
Runs from Kelvingrove Park – Dawsholm Park
The Kelvin Walkway extends the West Highland Way south to the centre of Glasgow, and meanders through some of the best parts of the city’s northwest area. It follows the River Kelvin from Kelvingrove Park through the northwest to Dawsholm Park about three miles away. Starting at Kelvingrove Park at the University, you can then head through the Botanic Gardens, under the Forth and Clyde Canal and all the way to Kirkintilloch should you have the time and energy.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Argyle Street, 0141 287 2699 www.glasgowmuseums.com/kelvingrove
Not for nothing is this one of the most visited museums in Europe. Recently refurbished it is bursting at the seams with something for everyone. As well as their slew of paintings and sculptures, check out the Arty Weekend on Sat 25 and Sun 26 April, where the whole family is invited to roll up their sleeves and get stuck into some arty activities, which take place alongside talks and demonstrations. Alternatively, check out the Love Your Museum Weekend. Inspired by the new Dr Who exhibition the theme for the weekend is ‘Reality vs Imagination’. Visitors can find out the fables of the mythical unicorn and discover the real animals that inspired this creature and others, design their own armour, explore Scottish wildlife, and create their own alien to match an imaginary world.
Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park
Loch Lomond Gateway Centre, Loch Lomond Shores, Balloch, 0845 345 4978, www.lochlomond-trossachs.org
The town of Balloch, situated at the tip of Loch Lomond, is a 40-minute drive or train journey from Glasgow. On its doorstep is the magnificent Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, which incorporates one of Scotland’s most famous stretches of water with the peaks and forested glens of the rugged Trossachs. An easy escape from the city, there are all sorts of opportunities for gentle shore-side walks, serious hill-walking, mountain-biking and watersports.
Mugdock Country Park
Craigallian Road, near Milngavie, 0141 956 6100, www.mugdock-country-park.org.uk
Home to the first section of the West Highland Way, this park is just north of the Milngavie suburb and south of the Campsie Fells. There’s a shuttle bus to the park from Milngavie train station every half hour in the summer, and entry is free. It has various walks along marked trails through its 260 hectares of unspoilt grounds and ancient woodlands to explore either on foot, horse or bicycle, and there’s also a restaurant, tea room, farm shop, Victorian walled garden and picnic area.
Museum of Flight
East Fortune Airfield, East Lothian, 01620 897 240
If you’ve always dreamed of stepping aboard Concorde, standing beside a WWII Spitfire or a tooled-up Typhoon fighter, the winged occupants of the four hangars at East Fortune Museum of Flight provide a fascinating insight into the history of aviation. For many, the highlight of the trip to this former WWII airfield is the Concorde Experience. Imagine that you are Joan Collins, climb aboard, peer inside the cockpit and, armed with your audio-guide, listen to a former pilot describe his experience of flying supersonic at 60,000ft. There’s also a café and gift shop.
50 Cathedral Square, 0141 552 3145
Literally a city of the dead, this vast burial ground behind Glasgow Cathedral pays tribute to Glasgow’s wealthier 19th-century inhabitants. Established with a view to being a kind of Scottish equivalent of Père Lachaise in Paris, it may not have the likes of Jim Morrison, but memorials include a 62m high obelisk to John Knox and plenty of spectacularly ornate gravestones and mausoleums.
East of Stirling, www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/areastir/
Cast a glance from Stirling Castle in the direction of the Wallace Monument and you will see behind it Dumyat, as good a hill as any to introduce you to the Ochils. It can be reached by walking or driving up the Sherrifmuir Road behind Stirling University and striking out from the clearly marked layby. Ben Cleuch, the highest point, is only 721m high, and although it is hardly stunning in itself it provides a sweeping view of the Forth Estuary and Kincardine Bridge.
Pentland Hills Regional Park
Edinburgh, 0131 445 3383, www.edinburgh.gov.uk/phrp
Just 20 minutes drive or a 50-minute cycle from Edinburgh city centre, the Pentland Hills Regional Park offers stunning views and over 60 square miles of woodland and cross-country paths, huge reservoirs and even an ancient hill fort. With well signposted walking and cycle routes, it’s perfect for leg stretching and getting close to nature. Though busy, Flotterstone (off the A702) provides ample car-parking to begin a hike.
Glasgow Green, 0141 271 2962, www.glasgowmuseums.com
Alongside temporary exhibitions, this Clydeside museum relates the story of Glasgow and its citizens from 1750 to the present day, a richly evocative social portrait of a tough, humorous city surviving poverty and war to emerge as a forward-thinking European conurbation of culture and opportunity. The photographs, artefacts and interactive displays pull few punches about darker chapters in the city’s history, but overall it’s a fun educational experience. Attached are the Winter Gardens, an elegant Victorian glasshouse of tropical plants.
Pollok Country Park
Pollok Country Park, 2060 Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow, 0141 616 6410
The Burrell Collection (see page 19) may get a hefty load of the attention, but its home, Pollok Country Park, is worthy of attention itself for its many walks and extensive wildlife. It is Glasgow’s largest park and the only country park within reach of the city and can be reached by train from Central Station to either Shawlands or Pollokshaws West.
River Clyde Walk
Runs from Glasgow to New Lanark
This 40-mile walking and cycle route was completed in 2005, and follows the River Clyde from Glasgow to the Falls of Clyde at New Lanark. The river was the basis of Glasgow’s prosperity when it became the second city of the Victorian Empire, and the journey encompasses Glasgow’s past and present, from Broomielaw Quay, the scene of many an immigration to America, to the popular Science Centre. The central part between Victoria Bridge and the SECC is of particular interest, taking in some of the more distinguished bridges and a great vantage point to ponder the city’s maritime heritage.
Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Midlothian, www.rosslynchapel.org.uk
According to some Holy Grailers and bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code, the chapel walls of this ancient church hold clues to the whereabouts of the Holy Grail. Truth or bunkum, Rosslyn’s role in the ancient mystery has gripped imaginations worldwide.
Royal Yacht Britannia
Ocean Drive, Edinburgh, 0131 555 8800, www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk
Jump onboard at Leith Docks this Easter, and enjoy a whistle-stop tour of the Queen’s bedroom, or the royal honeymoon suite used by Charles and Diana, before going below deck and seeing the crew’s cramped living quarters. The self-guided audio tour lets you determine the length of your visit, but don’t miss the ‘wombat tennis’, and impressive artefact collection in the State Dining Room.
Westburn Road, Cambuslang, www.scotkart.co.uk
With two separate indoor circuits on the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotkart offers some of the most exciting go-kart racing in Scotland. Beginners or Formula One aspirants can book into practice sessions or sign up for a ‘grand prix’ series which involves a minimum of five heats of five laps each, culminating in a ten-lap grand finale. Smooth concrete tracks, plenty of overtaking room, decent straights and even a bridge (on the Cambuslang circuit) help make the racing fast and dramatic. Phone in advance for booking.
The Scottish Football Museum
Hampden Park, Letherby Drive, Mount Florida, 0141 616 6139, www.scottishfootballmuseum.org.uk
Glasgow is a football city and this proudly maintained shrine is located at Hampden, Scotland’s national stadium, which is located two miles due south of the city centre. Scotland was as important as any nation in establishing the modern sport, reflected by the memorabilia on display, including a ticket from the first international, played against England in 1872, and the world’s first national trophy, 1873’s SFA Challenge Cup. Inductions to the Hall of Fame include legends like Jimmy Johnstone and Jim Baxter and there’s even a section about Scotland’s colourful ‘Tartan Army’ of supporters. Behind the scenes tours of the stadium are also available.
Scottish Gallery of Modern Art Sculpture Walk
Belford Road, 0131 624 6200 www.nationalgalleries.org
The gardens of the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art are well worth a visit even if you don’t venture inside the building. The grounds host displays of modern sculpture including the famous fusion of turf and art that is Charles Jenkes’ ‘Landform’. This gigantic piece takes up most of the area in front of the gallery, while across the road by the Dean Gallery local and international artists compete for you attention. Check out Dan Graham’s crazy interactive ‘Two Way Mirror’. Tactile works in bronze, stone, wood and steel are interactive in a way that interior sculpture at this level daren’t be.
Scottish Grand National
Ayr Racecourse, 2–4 Whitletts Road, Ayr, 0870 850 5666
The premiere event on the Scottish National Hunt calendar, on Fri 17 Apr, the Grand National always attracts a quality field, with the north’s top chasers taking on their counterparts from the big stables in the south.
Scottish Seabird Centre
The Harbour, North Berwick, 01620 890 202, www.seabird.org
A popular visitor’s haunt, the Bass Rock, a mile off shore in the Firth of Forth can be visited by boat from the Seabird Centre and observed through one of two live-cams which show the 100,000 gannets who nest on the cliffs spectacularly dive-bombing into the sea. The award-winning centre has a total of five live-cams showing puffins, gannets and other birds in their natural habitats on islands in the Forth. Check out The Big Picnic on Tuesday 21 April, where children are invited to take part in a ‘Get Back To Nature’ treasure trail in celebration of John Muir’s birthday. Alternatively the more active might enjoy The Great Scots Walking Festival on Fri 24 Apr, where visitors are invited to follow in the footsteps of some of our great Scots, such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, and John Muir, crossing through woodland, historic landmarks, and villages.
SS Sir Walter Scott
Trossachs Pier, Loch Katrine, www.lochlomond-trossachs.org
The stately Victorian passenger steamer Sir Walter Scott has been making leisurely trips from Trossachs Pier across Loch Katrine for more than a century. Ellen’s Isle, a more modern 20-seat passenger boat, is less romantic but ensures that visitors can still make the trip out of high season. The return journey can be broken up by disembarking at Stronachlachar and searching for Rob Roy’s birthplace. Unbroken 45-minute trips are also made from the pier.
Castle Wynd, 01786 450000, www.historic-scotland.gov.uk
As castles formerly capable of putting up a garrison go, Stirling is compact and bijou. More homely than Edinburgh Castle it has royal apartments, a rose garden and kitchens furnished with life-sized models of people, food and even a cookery book from the castle’s Medieval era. Gaze west from the ramparts at the awe-inspiring view along the Carse of Stirling past Ben Vorlich and Ben Ledi to Ben Lomond. Modern comforts are there too – there is a Costa Coffee within the castle walls.
Strathclyde Country Park
Hamilton Road, Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, 01698 266155, www.northlan.gov.uk
It may lack the scenic qualities of Loch Lomond to the north but this famous country park beyond Glasgow’s southern boundary packs an impressive number of activities into its 200-acre loch and surrounding parkland. The council-run water-sports facility at the edge of the loch is perfect for hiring a small dinghy, canoe or windsurf equipment. Alternatively, water-ski or find your sea legs with a one-hour dinghy taster session. You can hire wetsuits or rent a bike to make the four-mile loop around the loch.
The Tall Ship
Glasgow Harbour, 100 Stobcross Road, 0141 222 2513
A popular hangout on the Glasgow permanent attractions roster, this year’s Easter fun includes Sail the South Seas complete with mask-making and scrimshaw carving. Book in advance.
TranSgression Skate Park
Transgression Skate Park, Ocean Terminal, Leith, 0131 555 3755, www.transgressionsessions.co.uk
Check out the Transgression Sessions on Sat 25 Apr complete with live music and skating sessions. Doors open at 8pm, and the evening should be all wrapped up before midnight. Ages 8+.
Water of Leith Walkway
Visitor Centre, 24 Lanark Road, 0131 455 7367, www.waterofleith.org.uk
Forget Trainspotting. Leith has done an amazing job of transforming itself from less than salubrious port to stylish waterfront residential area in a remarkably short time. The Water of Leith Walkway is a perfect example of this and starts 12 miles out of town in Balerno with a well-equipped visitor centre. Visual highlights are Colinton Village, the Dean Village and Stockbridge. The path is generally well signposted but don’t get discouraged if the odd sign appears to be pointing in the wrong direction, it probably is – there’s no jokes like the old jokes.