Glasgow’s Best Low Cost Family Activities: The Outdoor Edit


Buckle in folks. This is going to be a long one!

This is genuinely a difficult post to write because there are just so many outdoor places and activities in and around Glasgow that it’s difficult to even know where to begin. (Or to end!) I have to set a limit somewhere because there are loads more than I’ll be able to add into this list. So for the HUGE categories like parks etc I’m going to just choose a few of our favourites.

Most outdoor places are free, and we really do have a lot of them here in Glasgow. I wrote a list of all the parks in Glasgow last year and it was only then I really appreciated just how much green space we have here. Anyway, hope this useful for any upcoming days out, for filling in some future school holiday days or just making the most of a wee dry day here and there.

My main aim for this was to include places and things that are as close to Glasgow as possible. Between the cost of fuel going up and trying to use the car less I thought it would be good to have a bunch of stuff to do outdoors in the city that’s pretty much all totally free. As I said above this is not an exhaustive list. There are too many to list them all so these are just our favourites from each category I could think of. Here goes…

Favourite City Parks

I’ve written about tons of parks before on the blog; if you want to see them all just click here. However these are our top 5 for playing and having a wander in.

Bellahouston

Top of the list now that we’re southsiders and we live about 10 minutes from here. Bellahouston Park is a huge park, and coming from Finnieston where the always mobbed Kelvingrove was our local, Bellahouston is a hugely underused and waaaay underrated park. In here you’ll find lots of grassy areas around the outskirts of the park with a big hill in the middle covered in trees. At the top of the hill there’s what used to be the Sunken Garden, now containing 20 big concrete blocks each of which represent the foundations of Glasgow.

Most of the other stuff we like to do is down near the House for an Art Lover. There’s a lovely little sculpture garden with a big concrete foot, some giant jelly moulds and a few other things to explore. There’s a walled garden, a maze and the big Elephant for Glasgow sculpture sits out the front.

Just behind the House for an Art Lover you will find one of our favourite playparks in Glasgow. Most of the play equipment is like sculptures you’re allowed to play on, all sitting atop their own little teletubby hill. For the most part it’s well maintained and we love it here. There are slides and bits to climb and spin and swing on, but they’re all just a little bit different from your run of the mill playpark.

Kelvingrove Park

Kelvingrove Park will always have a special place with me because we lived next to it for a long time and used it almost every day for about 12 years. It’s a lovely park for a wee walk. There are 2 playparks, a skate park and An Clachan – a nice wee cafe. There are always plenty of squirrels to feed here, a duck pond and the fountain often has a swarm of children playing in it come summer time. The bandstand has events during summer, sometimes some family ones during the day and it hosts the Summer Nights festival in late July – early August too.

If you wanted to, you can walk along the Kelvin Walkway beside the River Kelvin which takes you all the walk along to the Botanic Gardens Arboretum and from there you can get to the Botanics. It’s a really lovely walk and generally it’s not too busy.

Botanic Gardens

Speaking of the Botanic Gardens… We love a wee trip into the botanics for a wander round the Kibble Palace (we like to see the fish and hunt for dinosaurs amongst all the plants – we always find one and never the other) and the winter gardens. A trip up to the wee playpark is fun too; it’s not huge but it’s not aimed at very small kids. (The play frame here is quite tricky for a toddler.) It’s just a lovely place for a wander. I thought it was a good place for scooting until I took my kamikaze boy and realised just how many hills there are. (Don’t take your 2 yr old who hasn’t quite mastered braking for a scoot here!)

Victoria Park

Victoria Park has another of our favourite playparks. A pirate ship, noisy toys, a big slide, roundabout, spinny things, swings, mini maze, bits to climb on. There’s lots here for younger and slightly older kids to play on too.

Victoria Park has lots of flat bits for scooting or biking on. You’ll also find Fossil Grove here, which is a pretty cool place to have a wander round. It’s not massive but the little man had a great time following the paths and “finding dinosaurs”. (We didn’t find any dinosaurs, in case you were wondering). There is a little pavilion in Fossil Grove which is open certain times for events during the summer. Both of mine always love a visit to the swans as well. Can’t go to Victoria Park without seeing the terrifying things.

Cuningar Loop

This is one of Glasgow’s newer parks and it’s absolutely brilliant. It’s one of our favourites for scootering in, mainly because it’s not really hilly at all. There’s also a brilliant wee pump track there for scooting and cycling round.

We really enjoy the playpark here too. Cuningar Loop playpark is almost entirely made out of wood and big huge logs. There’s climbing frames and balancing bits, there’s a wee (steep) hill in the middle with a bridge to go across and a slide at the other end. There’s a dinosaur nest for climbing on with big eggs in the middle. There is a tunnel made out of bushes, there are a few different swings, a hollow tree tunnel, loads of sand for playing in and a big giant chair with little toadstools around it.

The big climbing boulders are great. A fave of both my husband and my kids. The pump track is great for bikes/scooters. And then there are trees to climb and a wooden walkway along the river that’s really nice too.

Favourite Country Parks

I could add a ton of country parks to this list. I don’t think we’ve ever been to any that we haven’t enjoyed. The few I’ve added to the list here are all free and are probably the closest ones to Glasgow.

Pollok Country Park

Pollok Park is less than 3 miles from Glasgow city centre, situated in the south side of the city. It’s pretty expansive for being in the middle of a city. There are some really lovely walks through here but to be honest we always end up doing the same thing when we get here. We walk along the river in front of Pollok House, play at the bridge for a bit and under it through the little tunnel. We head over the bridge to see if the Clydesdales are there, and then we head alongside the river to the walled gardens beside Pollok House, behind the stables. This is where you can find the dinosaur bones and the fairy village, and a scarecrow in amongst all the veggies that are being grown.

Our other favourite things in Pollok Park are having a play in the walled garden – there’s a little pagoda in the middle where I always get a show from the kids. And of course wandering round to see the highland cattle. I’m also a fan of having a cuppa in the cafe at Pollok House; it has an outdoor seating area where the pup can also sit with us.

Pollok Park is all paved so it seems to be a pretty good park for cycling (and for buggies). There’s a wee playpark too (it’s not the best but it does the job for a little while) just near the Burrell Collection. Speaking of which, the Burrell Collection should reopen next year in 2020.

The nearest train station is Pollokshaws West, which is just outside Pollok Park. Several buses pass by Pollok Park from Buchanan Bus Station.

Chatelherault Country Park

Chatelherault Park is just park Hamilton, at Ferniegair. I absolutely love this park. There are so many great walks though the forest here and it’s absolutely beautiful. One of our favourite walks is to head down across the Duke’s Bridge to the Cadzow Oaks. This is a favourite spot to have our picnic – and a climb on the big fallen oak tree there. It’s not very far at all to the oaks and you can of course walk much farther, but with a play in the playpark here when we arrive and before we leave this is usually enough for little toddler legs.

You can also head down the path that takes you along by the river at the bottom. The kids particularly like this one as there’s lots of opportunity for stone and stick throwing, and a bit of welly splashing in the water too.

The playpark is pretty good in Chatelherault. There’s enough to keep little and big kids going in there for a while. The cafe in the visitor centre is nice. It has a badgers den and some toys for kids in there too. There’s also some sheep down the hill too that the kids like to have a baa at.

Chatelherault train station is just outside the entrance to the park. Several buses pass by Chatelherault from Hamilton bus station (250, 255 and 253).

Mugdock Country Park

Mugdock is a lovely park as well. There’s a little playpark with a nice ‘wild woodland’ play area just behind it. It has a few little wooden bits to play on, like a bridge and a see saw and a den. Both my kids love it in here. It’s a lovely wee place to do some imagining!

There are loads of different walks at Mugdock as well. The kids love exploring Mugdock Castle so we usually meander towards there over the wooden walkway, with a wander round the pond en route.

The courtyard has the visitor centre and cafe. Honestly the cafe here isn’t my favourite (mainly due to ever so slightly grumpy staff) but on a freezing day it does the job of warming up the toes.

I’m not sure if there’s a good way to get to Mugdock by public transport but according to google maps it’s a 38 minute walk from Milngavie.

Drumpellier Country Park

This is one of our favourite places to go scooting. To get all the way round the loch it probably takes us about 20 minutes, give or take 10. (All dependent on how both the kids are cooperating!) The new playpark here is a big wooden fort and it’s excellent. When you’ve scooted clockwise round almost to the cafe building you’ll find another playpark that, if you’re like us, you’ll also have to have a play in!

The cafe is average, but not too expensive. You get a good baked tottie in here.

You can get there by public transport. There are a couple of options but you’ll need to get a train to Coatbridge and then a bus to the park. Once you’re on the bus it’s less than 10 minutes to the park.

Favourite playparks

I’ve already written a whole post about our favourite playparks (you can find that here) but I thought I’d do a quick rundown of our current favourites here since I’m writing a post all about outdoor stuff!

Rouken Glen: A great playpark here with loads to do. Loads of swings, quite a few slides, loads to climb, roundabouts, noisy toys… It’s a really good playpark for toddlers as well as older kids. Both of mine could play here for hours.

Cuningar Loop: This playpark is almost entirely made out of wood and huge logs. There’s climbing frames and balancing bits, there’s a hill in the middle with a bridge to go across and a slide at the other end. There’s a dinosaur nest for climbing on with big eggs in the middle. There is a tunnel made out of bushes, there are a few different swings, a hollow tree tunnel, and half the playpark is a big sand pit.

Victoria Park: A pirate ship, swings, climbing frames, spinny things, seesaws… It has a maze in the middle with some musical toys hidden amongst it. Great playpark for pre-schoolers.

Bellahouston: Our fave. It’s located just behind the House For An Art Lover and it’s full of structures and bits to play on that are really different to any other playpark. They’re more like sculptures that kids can climb and play on. There are also swings & spinny things & a zipline & slides. The rainbow bridge is a fave.

Glasgow Green: The big sandy playpark here has a couple of big slides & good climbing frames. Great for older kids. The little kids have a play area next to this with sand play, swings, roundabout and various other wee bits.

Drumpellier: A wooden fort styled playpark. The upper level has wooden bridges, rope bridges, slides, tunnels, assault courses, a zip slide and a few swings too.

Calderglen: There’s tons to do in this playpark. Various climbing frames with slides to suit all ages. Loads of musical toys, a couple of trampolines, some spinny things and swings of varying designs. Really good slides. (WARNING: don’t send your toddler down them on a wet day with their waterproofs on. 💨💨💨)

Risky & Adventure Play

I know that people have different ideas of what adventure play is. But for me it’s a place to play that is just a bit different to your run of the mill metal and plastic climbing frame, swings and slide; it might be because it’s in the woods, or it’s using different equipment. It’s kids making up their own playthings and using whatever is around them, whether that’s tyres and bit of plastic tubes, or cut up tree trunks and bits of stick.

Playgroups (or just a play) at The Children’s Wood (Playgroup costs £2. You can play at other times for free.)

The Children’s Wood at Kelvinside Meadow in the west end is a great little spot for having some outdoor fun. There’s a great wee mud kitchen here and lots of rustic

Baltic Street adventure playground

I’ve posted about Baltic Street a few times on my social media pages. The team here are absolutely amazing. They have created a space down in Dalmarnock for kids to play where the kids run the show. These guys have built some climbing frames (and one high jump for kids to do) and tyre swings, a little sand pit and created a little space for rabbits and chickens. They give out food for kids and adults while you’re there and maybe an ice lolly in the summer. Whatever you think this place is going to be, it’s probably not that. But it won’t disappoint.

Linn park adventure playground

This is a playpark run by Glasgow Life specifically for children with additional support needs and their families. On Saturdays and Sundays it is open to the public. Sessions must be booked in advance through Glasgow Life.

Reidvale Adventure Play Area (50p per child)

This play area in Dennistoun is a great space to take kids to play. RAPA has swings, climbing frames, sandpits, trampolines, swings, trikes and just loads of space to run and play freely. It’s a fantastic wee place.

The Bowling Green

The Bowling Green in Pollokshields is an accessible to all community common and play space. It has a little climbing frame, a tent, chickens and space to play and explore. There are regular events in this super active little community space, and it’s free to play in when there are no events on.

Animals & Wildlife

Tollcross children’s farm

The children’s farm at Tollcross is small, but has pigs, sheep, goats, ponies, chickens, ducks and a few other farm animals. It also has a little education centre with information and activities like colouring in etc.

Calderglen Children’s Zoo (£1.10 for adults; free for kids)

Calderglen Children’s Zoo has an indoor space with fish, a few reptiles, marmosets, and for the plant fans it has the biggest monstera I’ve ever seen, trailing right up a whole wall of the building (exciting for me – if you know, you know). The outdoor part of the zoo has otters, coati, rabbits, skunk, field mice, marmosets, wallabies, a few different types of birds and Scottish wildcats.

Lamont Farm Project (Free but donations welcome)

Lamont Farm is a small and rustic animal welfare centre in Erskine. They rescue animals and rehome them here, including pigs, sheep, llamas, horses, ponies and ducks, plus rabbits, a few friendly kitty cats and some reptiles too. It’s a pretty small place but little kids will like seeing all the animals.

Feed the ducks

Our fave places to feed the ducks are in Queens Park, Victoria Park, Hogganfield Loch and Alexandra Park. Flinging a loaf of bread at them (in small pieces) is something I always did as a kid, but that’s not very good for them. So instead, if you have any leftover corn, peas, oats or bits of fruit and veg that’s better for them. Bonus that it uses up your scraps.

Feed the squirrels

This is one of my go to activities if we’re around the West End and it’s not raining. I mean, if you’re in a park around here you’re never that far from a squirrel, but we know a few spots around Kelvingrove that are guaranteed squirrel territory so we tend to head there to feed them. I usually take some monkey nuts with me for the squirrels; the kids love watching them nibble the shells open and take the nuts out. (I might not have had to carry a change bag around with me for a long time; but I now have a rucksack full of random stuff including a stash of monkey nuts for the squirrels.)

Gardens

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

We all know about the Glasgow Botanics. Well worth a visit to explore. Good for wheels for the most part.

Greenbank Garden

Greenbank Garden is a beautiful walled garden in Clarkston operated by National Trust for Scotland. It is a lovely space for picnics, a play and a wander around, and there is a nice little courtyard cafe here too.

Hidden Gardens

The Hidden Gardens is part of Tramway, located in Pollokshields. It is a lovely wee garden in summer, it’s pretty much fully enclosed, and a great space for a picnic while the kids explore. You get to it through Tramway where there is a cafe serving up hot food & drinks, cakes etc. Great space for a meet up.

Cycling or scooting

Play On Pedals treasure hunt

To do something slightly different on their bikes in the park, check out the Play On Pedals treasure hunts. There is one for Kelvingrove Park in the west end and one for Bellahouston Park in the south side. Find the link here. http://playonpedals.scot/2019/02/13/play-together-on-pedals-treasure-hunts/

Free Wheel North (£1 per person for a 15 minute session. £2 for 30mins & £3 for 45mins.)

Free Wheel North is a fantastic charity run cycling centre down at Glasgow Green, next to the big sandy playpark at Templeton, with a big outdoor track and a ton of bikes. They have trikes and bikes in every shape and size; single seaters, 2 seaters and more. And you can try any of them. The track is easy to get round. It has one nice flat area with wide ‘roads’, roundabouts, etc., and another longer, more hilly section that kids will have great fun racing round!

Cuningar Loop pump track

A great wee pump track in Cuningar Loop park in Dalmarnock. There is a small up and down hilly bit that my kids go round and round and round, and a longer section that’s a bit more ‘off road’. The pump track is best for bikes as it can be a bit stony, but my pair will give it a good go with scooters as well if that’s what they have with them. This whole park is fantastic for wheels actually. It’s pretty flat and has wide paths.

Adventures and fairytales

Find the Gruffalo at Kilmardinny Loch

This wee walk around Kilmardinny Loch has lots of carvings of all the characters from The Gruffalo; the mouse, the snake, the owl, the fox, the Gruffalo himself and loads of woodland animals. The walk itself isn’t long which is great for little legs. And the loch is pretty, with some ducks and swans too.

The Gruffalo play area at Mount Vernon Park

This place in Mount Vernon Park is a wee hidden gem. Head up the wee path behind the community centre into the woods behind you and you’ll find the Gruffalo, owl, fox and a bunch of other lovely wooden carvings of characters from the book. There’s also a wooden train station, and a wooden play area with climbing bits and assault course style stuff.

Find the fairies & dinosaur bones in Pollok Park

Located in the walled gardens beside Pollok House within Pollok Park, we’ve spent so many happy days here wandering around the wee fairy village and checking out the sleeping dragon. And finding the dinosaur bones up the top of the hill within the gardens.

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