View of Oban from McCaig's Tower.

Comparing the best day tours from Glasgow

Guided day tours are a great way to see more of Scotland, especially if you’re pressed for time or maybe a little nervous about driving yourself on the narrow roads of the Highlands. With its prime location at the west coast of Scotland, Glasgow makes for the ideal starting point for day trips to the Highlands and beyond. But because there are so many options to choose from, let me walk you through my favourite day tours from Glasgow.

The city of Glasgow should be on every Scotland itinerary and in my eyes, it is the best place to base yourself in if all you are looking for is a wee taste of Scotland for first-timers. Being so close to the Highlands and west coast, the drive to some of Scotland’s top attractions is much shorter than from Edinburgh, allowing tour companies to squeeze in even more into their one-day itineraries through Scotland.

Without further ado, here are some of my favourite guided day tours from Glasgow which will lead you all the way to Loch Ness, to beautiful castles like Stirling or Culzean, to natural wonders on the west coast or man-made structures like the Kelpies. Not sure which day tour is the right for you? This guide will help you decide!

Day tour to Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle on the shore of the loch is the absolute highlight of a day tour to Loch Ness.

From experience, I can tell that the day tour to Loch Ness is by far the most popular day tour in Scotland – no matter whether you start in Glasgow or Edinburgh. All the big tour operators offer an option to travel all the way to Loch Ness in one day, but I’ve done this tour with Rabbie’s.

Rabbie’s Loch Ness tour from Glasgow includes stops along Loch Lomond and in Glen Coe on the way up north, a break for lunch in Fort Augustus and a whole afternoon around Urquhart Castle with time to explore the castle ruins or take an hour-long cruise on Loch Ness. On the way back to Glasgow, your final stop is in the quaint small town of Pitlochry, before heading back to Glasgow.

Day tours to Loch Ness are long, but worth it – from Glasgow it is a 12-hour round-trip.

Read more about this tour and my personal experience with Rabbie’s in my review of the Loch Ness day tour

Book this tour if… visiting Loch Ness has been a life-long dream of yours! This is a wonderful tour, but you spend a lot of time on the bus. If you’re set on Loch Ness, DO IT; if you’re curious what else is out there, maybe try one of the other tours. From £41.

BOOK THIS TOUR with rabbie’s here!

 

Outlander Tour to film locations

The herb and flower garden behind Culross Palace in Scotland.

Outlander tours have been sprouting like crazy lately, and many tour operators offer multiple-day itineraries as well as bespoke tours to as many Outlander film locations in Scotland as possible.

Day tours to Outlander locations are still fairly new to the game, and as far as I know, only Timberbush Tours currently offers this from Glasgow. Many of the Outlander locations are admittedly closer to Edinburgh, but even from Glasgow a lot of them are in easy driving distance.

Timberbush’s Outlander day tour takes you to Doune Castle, home of Outlander’s MacKenzie Clan, the burgh of Culross, the location of Claire’s herb garden and the market cross of Cranesmuir Village, Callander House, Linlithgow Palace and Blackness Castle – and of course, plenty of other Outlander-inspired photo stops along the way.

Read more about my personal experience on a similar Outlander tour from Edinburgh in this review.

Book this tour if… you love the TV show Outlander and want to see some of the filming locations while going off the beaten track at the same time! From £39.

book this tour with timberbush tours here!

 

Day tour to Oban and Glen Coe

View of Oban from McCaig's Tower.

Oban is my favourite town on the west coast of Scotland and even though I could spend weeks exploring the town and its surroundings, a day tour to Oban is a great introduction to my favourite region of Scotland; Argyll.

This was the first tour I’ve ever tried with Timberbush Tours. After a beautiful drive along the Clyde and Loch Lomond, we stopped at the Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint and arrived for a first longer break in Inveraray. Here you have time to visit either the castle and its gardens, or Inveraray Jail to learn some of its history. From here it’s a spectacular drive towards Loch Awe and past the ruins of Kilchurn Castle to Oban, where the tour stops for lunch. You will have just enough time to climb up to McCaig’s Tower for great views or stroll along the harbour and watch the boats sail in and out.

The last leg of the day tour leads to Glen Coe and all of a sudden the open views across the sea make way for the narrow valleys and high peaks of the Highlands. On the way back to Glasgow there is a final stop in Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond.

Read more about this tour and my personal experience with Timberbush Tours in my review of the Oban day tour.

Book this tour if… you want to visit my favourite part of Scotland. You’ll see the dramatic contrast between the high peaks in the Highlands and the quaint romantic harbour towns along the west coast. From £40.

book this tour with timberbush tours here!

 

Day tour to Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond

The majestic Stirling Castle in Scotland.

Every day tour in Scotland combines a few different aspects of Scottish culture, history, and landscapes, but if you ask me, the day tour to Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond is the best to get a taste of almost everything Scotland has to offer.

This was actually the first-day tour I ever tried with Rabbie’s. Our tour started with a drive to Stirling where we had enough time to visit the Castle – if you’re fast you might be able to squeeze in a stroll to Holy Rude church for the best views of the castle too. After a quick photo stop at Doune Castle, the tour took us to the beautiful Trossachs national park. Surrounded by hills and lochs, we stopped for lunch at the busy village of Aberfoyle before making our way to the eastern shore of Loch Lomond for a little walk. The last stop of the day tour was at Glengoyne Distillery, where we joined a tour of the distillery and finished the day with a nice dram.

Castles, Highlands, Whisky – for me this tour ticks all the boxes!

Read more about this tour and my personal experience with Rabbie’s in my review of the Stirling Castle day tour.

Book this tour if… you want to see a little bit of everything Scotland has to offer – a gorgeous medieval castle (my favourite), stunning nature and mountain views, and of course a whisky distillery! From £33.

book this tour with rabbie’s here!

 

Day tour to Culzean Castle and Burns Country

The romantic Culzean Castle by the coast of Ayrshire in Scotland.

To be honest, I had never really considered taking a day trip to Ayrshire, but Rabbie’s covered the same route of this day tour to Culzean Castle on the first day of our 3-day Arran tour. Now, I know that Ayrshire deserves a lot more of my attention.

The first stop of the tour is Whitelee Windfarm, Europe’s largest wind farm, which is big enough to produce energy for over 180,000 homes. From here it is smooth sailing into Ayrshire, where the first stop is the magnificent Culzean Castle – don’t try to pronounce that… You can either visit the castle and surrounding gardens or simply go for a walk in the gardens and woodlands. After a photo stop at the seaside ruins of Dunure Castle (on a clear day you will be able to see the Isle of Arran across the water), you enter Burns Country, in and around the village of Alloway. The Scottish bard Robert Burns was from here and you will have the option to visit the cottage he was born in and the newly built Robert Burns visitor centre. After this, you return to Glasgow,

Fun fact: Rabbie’s is in fact named after Robert – Rabbie – Burns! Who better to take this tour with?

Read more about this tour and my personal experience with Rabbie’s in my review of the 3-day Arran day tour which covers Ayrshire on the first day.

Book this tour if… you are a history and literature buff who always wanted to see where Robert Burns was born and play princess or prince at a romantic seaside castle. From £31.

book this tour with rabbie’s here!

 

Half-day tour to the Kelpies and Falkirk Wheel

The Kelpies sculpture in Falkirk in Scotland.

The Kelpies are one of the modern wonders of Scottish engineering – not quite as large as the Unesco World Heritage Site at the Forth Railway Bridge, but mesmerising in their own way.

Rabbie’s offers half-day tours to the Kelpies from Glasgow with an additional stop at the Falkirk Wheel, another example of top-notch engineering in Scotland.

The Kelpies combine ancient mythology with contemporary history. They are partly inspired by Gaelic mythological shapeshifting creatures, who are as strong as ten horses but appear as human to lure people into their dens. However, the two giant horse head sculptures are also a nod to the strong Clydesdale horses and their significant role in Scottish agriculture and industry as tow horses.

The Falkirk Wheel is a unique experience – a rotating boat lift that connects the Forth & Clyde Canal with the Union Canal, and during the tour, you will have the chance to see it in action or even get a spot on one of the boat tours traveling through the lift.

Read more about this tour and my personal experience with Rabbie’s in my review of the Kelpies half-day tour.

Book this tour if… you only have half a day, want to see two of the man-made Scottish wonders of engineering and learn more about Gaelic mythology. From £20.

book this tour with rabbie’s here!

 

There are many day tours from Glasgow and each offers a different window onto all the things Scotland has to offer.

Has this post helped you find the best day tour for you? I’d love to hear which one is your favourite!

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Planning a trip to Scotland?

Find accommodation, book your rental car or a guided tour with Rabbie’s.

Book day trips to explore the country or get advance tickets for attractions.

Read up in a travel guide and prepare for hikes with the OS Explorer maps.

Get your rain gear in place and browse my packing list.

Book your Glasgow tour with me or let me plan your itinerary.

 

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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.

15 comments on “Comparing the best day tours from Glasgow

  1. I’ve spent minimal time in Scotland and Loch Ness is still high on my list. Would love to see the Kelpies some day as well!

    • Come back, will you? There’s so much to see, even if you only have a few days 😀

  2. I think I already said that last time I read something of yours but I will say it again – I do think it is time for me to come back to Scotland very soon 😉 At least I would experience some of what you kids call summer over there.

    I do love a good day tour, perfect to get an intro to the area though you are not stuck for too long with people you potentially don’t like. Mind you, I think any Outlander tour without a tour guide who resembles Jaimie at least a wee bit is somewhat pointless 😉

    And – where can I buy a neon sign like this? Love!!

    • Do you mean the “Hola Glasgow” neon sign? It’s part of a burrito restaurant chain – they have it in both of their restaurants here! So cool, ey?

  3. These all sound fabulous, there is just so much to see in Scotland. I think Stirling Castle is top of my list. Pinning this post for future reference.

    • It’s definitely my favourite castle to visit in Scotland – a good choice!!

  4. I enjoy doing day tours too because I wouldn’t be confident driving in another country. They all look really fun, especially the castle and, of course, Loch Ness.

    • Yeah, I think that’s one of the main reasons why I love them! I don’t always mind driving, but it’s tiring, so I’d rather have someone else do it 😀

  5. I’ve always based myself out of Edinburgh (and by always, I mean the 2 times I’ve been to Scotland!!) but I think I need to give Glasgow a try next time. These day-tours all look fantastic!!

    • Glasgow is such a great city – doesn’t get the cred it deserves!! Definitely base yourself here next time, for day tours, but also just to see the city!! 🙂

  6. ohh! love these day trip ideas. I did a tour of the Scottish highlands and went to some of those places, just so amazing!

  7. Geez – I’m cranky after reading this that we missed Glasgow. A nay-sayer talked us out of it when we were in Scotland for 2 months and now seeing and reading this I wish we went! On the list for next time for sure.

    • Say what?!? Never listen to people who say no to Glasgow – it’s such an amazing g city!!! Check out some of my other posts about it, but even just as a home base for day tours, it’s brilliant!!

  8. I did a very similar tour from Glasgow to Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle and Deanston Distillery (Doune Castle was an alternative option to visiting the distillery). It felt very rushed and I wished the driver had been more personable. I definitely need to tick off Loch Ness next time I’m in Scotland! Lochs and Castles all the way!

    • That’s such a shame! But I agree, a lot of these tours really depend on the driver guides! I’ve always had fantastic guides with Rabbie’s (different ones on every tour I tried, but always very nice and knowledgable), and our guide with Timberbush Tours to Oban was also great!! Hope you give one of them another shot 🙂

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