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.
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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
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.
Outlander Tour to film locations
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.
Day tour to Oban and Glen Coe
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.
Day tour to Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond
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.
Day tour to Culzean Castle and Burns Country
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.
Half-day tour to the Kelpies and Falkirk Wheel
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.
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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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.