Glasgow's not called The Dear Green Place for nothing.
Not only does it house over 70 parks, widespread woodland & inner-city heritage treks, and more trees that you could shake a branch at, it also has a deep and successful commitment to preserving the ecology & wildlife all throughout the City, despite the potentially damaging urban regeneration constantly biting at its ankles.
It stands magnificently with the Clyde Valley as without doubt the most important gateway to Scotland & our world famous Munros and Highlands. And more significantly, after generations of plain ignorance Glasgow finally woke up some time ago to the importance of encouraging its citizens and visitors to look after their health.
So what does all this have to do with the price of bread? Well, it all boils down to the fact that if you prefer walking, when you visit and set out on one of the unique walks Glasgow lays out for you, well, you're in for a treat!
Heading out on one of the superb walks Glasgow has hidden all over the place, or booking some popular Glasgow walking tours, will unlock for you a treasure vault of history, heritage and culture you'd simply miss out on if you weren't on foot, and the crackerjack fact about walking in Glasgow is that it's a pretty small city, in which everything you'll want to see is just a wee trek away.
The best walks Glasgow has dotted around the place can be completed in the City Centre, or can be started in Glasgow and finished elsewhere. For an example of the latter, I've included a wee bit below about the West Highland Way, one of Scotland's premier walks which attracts thousands of visitors here every year and which ends with an optional trek up the UK's highest mountain, Ben Nevis.
If you don't have the time for that kind of walk though, sticking to the confines of Glasgow should do you just fine, as there's a number of exhilarating walks Glasgow offers which focus on heritage, architecture & scenery, and which wind their way around the City (like the extremely popular walking tours of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh architecture, the Glasgow School of Art included), giving Glasgow walkers a far better opportunity to learn more than you would in a guide book, or by zooming past in a Glasgow tour bus with your eyes glazed in boredom. That said, if you do need a guide book, I've completed Wee Glesca, a pocket guide to the City that drills down the top ten things to do and see here, so feel free to download it before you visit.
So have a read of my little guide here to surviving walks Glasgow & beyond, get out that dusty walking equipment and set off for some outstanding walks Glasgow will never let you forget!
Whit? He who walks Glasgow walks history?!! Sounds like little Scotty's been on those happy pills again...
What I mean to say is that trekking the city walks Glasgow has available, or using Glasgow as a base for longer rural walks out of the City, will guide you adventurously through our historical timeline, from a Roman birth and Saint Mungo's settlement, to the University of Glasgow and the Second City of the British Empire, with all the battle scars & spoils, and the social deprivation and subsequent regeneration that's been left intact.
It really is an experience to behold, and the only way, the only way you can possibly get to grips with how all this industrial, heavy history has affected our place in the world, our way of life and our surroundings, is by taking a deep breath, closing the guide book for a while and roaming the walks Glasgow lays out for you.
So as the old saying goes, you can't really understand another person's experience until you've walked a mile in their shoes. First thing's first though - you've got to have the right shoes!
It might sound fairly obvious and boring, but having done a ferr few walks with the wrong kind of shoes, clothing, guides and equipment, I wouldn't recommend it. I'm pretty sure I only managed it without complaining like a little girl because at the time, it was more than likely I had student blood running through my veins (in other words, cheap beer!).
Now I'm old and crotchety therefore, I'd suggest that before you set out on any of the walks Glasgow invites you to try, make sure you've got the right walking gear. That means packing the following Glasgow walking equipment, some of which is optional of course if you'll just be walking in Glasgow for a few hours rather than trekking & camping:
Walking Equipment Checklist
Decent, broken-in pair of walking boots
Thick pair of socks & spares
Light trousers or shorts, with as many pockets as possible
Breathable layered tops to pull off (t-shirt, sweater & jacket)
If no hood on jacket, decent hat or balaclava for cold, wet days
Sunglasses & sunscreen for the off-chance that it shines
A good-sized waterproof backpack
First Aid Kit inc. plasters, bandages, antiseptic cream, sting relief, inset & midge repellant, needle, foot rub
Good roll-up tent, thermal sleeping bag & roll-up mat to sleep on
Map, compass, guidebook, torch, mobile (cell) phone & walking whistle
Basic food & water, gas stove, matches, utensils & plates etc if camping
Bags for rubbish (trash) & dirty clothes
Midge net if camping in dry summer
Ok, so you might think that taking all that'll make you look like nothing but a weary cart-horse, and maybe even a victim of the odd tourist joke from us know-it-all natives, but as my ol' Boy Scout Master always told me - Be prepared!
And that's exactly what you should be, no matter whether you're planning one of the walks Glasgow offers or walking from Glasgow to elsewhere. If you've not got any of the above walking gear, there's plenty of shops in Glasgow to help you out. Have a look in Millets on Union Street just down from Glasgow Central Station, in Tiso on Buchanan Street, or in Blacks on Sauchiehall Street for starters. If you're having any problems though, just let me know and I'll point you in the right direction (possibly with a compass!).
Once you've got the proper equipment and clothing for your walks Glasgow will also expect you to make sure you know where you're going. First up, if you're walking Glasgow or beyond in a group, check out the guidebooks (eg. Chalmers' 100 Hill Walks Around Glasgow, available at Amazon when I wrote this), and select a walk suitable for the slowest & least experienced walker in your group. For example, it might sound obvious, but kids can't walk as far as adults in a day or afternoon, and unfit folks tend to have more difficulty with hills than with a wee walk around Glasgow City Centre!
Next, given the constant change of weather here, make sure you have an idea about the conditions facing you and how they're likely to impact on your walking trail. If you're planning on coming just to do nothing but walking Scotland rather than just dabbling with a few walks Glasgow has to offer while you're here, the best time of year to visit will likely be between April and October. This is because during that time, you'll get the best of the scenery, and at its worst the weather won't ruin your trip unless it's exceptionally bad. In other words, don't come here in the winter just to walk, as it's just too dangerous for those of you inexperienced with the hills & climbs around Glasgow & Scotland.
If you're heading out on a long walk, even if not overnight, my advice is that you should learn how to navigate, and make sure you let someone not with you know where you're headed. For shorter walks around the City, have a read of my public transport guides for getting you to the start & from the end of your walks, and pick up a copy of the Highway Code (or just read it online) which covers the rules and guidelines followed by drivers, cyclists and pedestrians throughout the UK. Following that should ensure that your safety around the City will be more secure, and when you plan your walks Glasgow will look after you.
All in all, as I say just plan your walk & be prepared, stay in groups where you can, watch out for yourself and you'll end up having a Glasgow walking experience you'll want to repeat again & again.
Please note that I've taken the links off to these trails, because for some reason the sites kept going down and I don't want to ruin your online experience! If you don't know about any of these walks Glasgow lays out for you but are interested in them, I'd suggest you pick up a good walking guidebook in the Waterstones on Sauchiehall or Argyle Streets, and if you don't find what you're looking for just let me know.
Of course, if you'd like to review any of these walks, just send me your stories and photos using my Photo Box page and I'll link them from here.
1. Merchant City Trail and High Street
2. Hielanman's Umbrella and the Teuchter Trail
3. The Whangie
4. Sounds of a Music Capital iToor
5. Life & Works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh
6. Dumgoyne and Dungoil
7. Mugdock Country Park and Carbeth Loch
8. Spirit of Glasgow Tour
9. The West End of Glasgow
10. Alang the watter - the Clyde Walkway
Now those are just a few Glasgow walking tours and routes to try out, but also bear in mind that as I say, Glasgow has many parks and attractions which you could spend hours walking around aimlessly, simply taking in the experience, so don't just listen to me. If you see an attraction or park you think will perk your interest, clear a few hours and spend some time there.
Alternatively, if you'd really like to see specific buildings and so on in and around Glasgow, just find them on the map and plan your own route between them (I might have got you lost anyway!). If at any point during your walks Glasgow does get you lost somewhere, either ask a friendly face for directions or ask the happy guys in red jackets & hats who stroll about no matter the weather, as they're paid by the Council to help you on your way to enjoy the walks Glasgow wants you to enjoy.
The fantastic thing to get your head around however, is that Scotland ain't that big! As I said before, Glasgow is a central gateway to the Highlands and Munros, and my favourite ten walks Glasgow can offer lie only in or around the City. If you're looking for a longer rural walk therefore, the sky's the limit.
In Scotland, you can jump a Glasgow bus or train to the starting point of some of the most scenic & breathtaking walks in the world, whether it's up on the mountains, along the sea fronts & lochs, immersed in deciduous woodlands, or in and around the thousands of historic and preserved towns & villages around the Country.
The Cairngorms, the stunning Buachaille Etive Mòr (one of Scotland's highest peaks and believe me, one hell of a view from the top!), the leg-wearying Southern Uplands walk, Loch Lomond & the Trossachs, the ancient Caledonian Pine forests of Glen Affric, Speyside & Deeside, the list really is endless. Get yourself a few guidebooks and a good map, set aside some time as often as you can, and of the hundreds of spectacular walks Glasgow and Scotland will seduce you with when you get here, I'm sure at least one of them will make you fall in love with our little Country, as it has done with myself and the thousands of walkers who return here every year.
Have you ever heard about the crazy world of Munro Bagging? If you don't know already, a Munro is a Scottish mountain of over 3000 feet. There's 284 of them, and you can climb or hillwalk each of them. I saw a list online somewhere that indicated that at the time I wrote this, over 3,000 people had registered to confirm that they'd bagged every single one of them. I've seen people do it all in the one go, or over their lifetime, even some who run up and down them (for fun, apparently!). Have a look at Munro Magic for starters, and if you're into walking, I'll give you a million pounds if you're not completely hooked after bagging your first!
This one gets a special mention.
Of all the walks Glasgow opens up for you, the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Fort William absolutely beats them all. Using a selection of drove roads, military roads & disused railway tracks, it runs for about 95 miles and takes you from the outskirts of Glasgow, along the shores of Loch Lomond, across the Highland Boundary Fault, and into the Highlands to the foot of Ben Nevis. Take a look at the official site and also the Undiscovered Scotland site to get a feel for the route.
The best way to do it is all in the one go, which takes about 4 or 5 days at a leisurely pace, and by camping along the route. If you're camping, try to ensure that you're allowed to pitch your tent where you intend to (I've been chased by a few angry farmers in my time, something which led us to camping on a beach one time, only to wake up & see someone else's tent floating past us in the morning, a very quick getaway that morning I tell you!). So pick up a guide which shows you the camping sites, so you can plan how far to walk each day.
That said, you can plan to walk it any way you like, really. I remember walking it once during the World Cup, and we planned it so that we could stop at certain pubs & hotels along the way to catch all the games. At one point we were behind schedule for a France game (I think it was France v Norway), so trundled with all our gear down the extremely steep hill into a pub in Strathblane. After the game & a few beers later, we simply couldn't face trekking all the way up the hill and back onto the route, so yes, we ended up phoning a taxi. Ah, just like the Highlanders intended!
Highlights to watch out for? Conic Hill, unforgettable views which vary extensively along the route, brilliant pubs & food stops, and of course, the Devil's Staircase (as bad as it sounds if you're not fit, although one time we did it, we'd met this guy the day before who promised he'd hidden a bottle of whiskey behind a certain rock at the top, which to our delight we actually found!). More than anything though, it's more fulfilling to do it with your mates, a real bonding experience, because after you've done it, when you reach the sign at Fort William and see the mighty Ben Nevis loom over you, you'll all feel a sense of achievement that you'll carry with you for the rest of your life, even if you're mad enough to do it all again!
So my advice is that you plan it well, head out and learn for yourself why of all the walks Glasgow sets you out on, the West Highland Way is the bomb!
And if you've enough energy having gone the distance, why not give Ben Nevis a try? You'll see all shapes & sizes heading up the 'donkey trail' path up the mountain, so as long as you take plenty of breaks if you need to, the achievement you've already generated after breaking the Way will be doubled & tripled when you take your weary legs to the top of the Ben. The view will just mess with your mind - have you ever been higher than everything else surrounding you? It's like standing on a flat picture of what's below, as there's no perspective whatsoever. But I won't go on about it, as you'll just need to experience it all yourself...
Below you'll see a few photos we took when Tracey and I walked it. Apologies for the quality, as we didn't have a digital camera with us at the time. And apologies for my hair cut as well!
So I hope you'll find that my little starting guide on the various walks Glasgow has to offer, helps you to plan and enjoy walking in Glasgow and beyond when you come to visit, or encourages you to come back if you've already been here & worn the t-shirt. Either way, let me know if you'd like me to mention anything you learned or enjoyed yourself when you were here.
Base Camp: Base Camp Ben Nevis Scotland
View from the top - hope you don't have vertigo!
The point of no return...
Me, dodgy hair, conquering Ben Nevis Scotland