Glasgow offers so many opportunities for entertaining children for free. All the major museums and art galleries in the largest city of Scotland are free to visit, plus Glasgow really does live up to its Gaelic name. Meaning ‘Dear Green Place’, the city has a vast choice of parks for children to chill out in. As host to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow’s Legacy 2014 means many outdoor spaces have been transformed into much-loved family attractions.
Here are some of the fun and free highlights for families that Glasgow has to offer.
Culture And History To Capture Kids
Even the most keen bean child’s interest will wane when faced with room upon room of glass cases, so look for exhibits that will appeal to their latest obsessions, from armour to animals. The gothic red brick Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has 22 themed rooms and is Scotland’s most popular free museum. Stand-out exhibits include a Spitfire suspended from the ceiling, a huge 100-year-old stuffed Asian elephant known as Sir Roger, and Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross, bought by Glasgow City a year after it was painted in 1951 in which Jesus on the cross is seen from above.
Emma Wainwright, mum to Freddie, six, and Oscar, four, gives it their vote of approval: “We always go and visit Sir Roger and the boys love running around the park and the wooden castle in the kids’ playground. It’s a stunning building and location on the River Kelvin.”
The Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum on the banks of the River Clyde delivers a great family day out for free. The transport museum has won the European Museum of the Year award and houses some of the world’s most impressive vintage cars, alongside other intriguing moving objects including skateboards and bicycles. You can wander down an old cobbled Glasgow street from the 1880s and climb aboard a train, tram or bus and get a real feel for old public transport.
Kids love history brought to life, so there’s the excitement of helping put out a fire with and interactive fire engine, plus huge touch screen panels serve up images, memories and films that tell the fascinating stories behind the objects.
Also free to board and just opposite Riverside is the tall ship, Glenlee, the UK’s only floating Clyde-built sailing ship. In the cargo hold there’s an under 5s play area and there are free drop-in pirate activities and treasure hunts for older kids during the summer holidays.
As any parent whose child has gleefully clocked a Banksy knows, children do love graffiti and street art. If you simply fancy a wander around Glasgow, a good way to spice it up and captivate kids is by following the City Centre Mural Trail.
“We love the black cab being pulled into the air by lots of balloons [by street artist ‘Rogue One’],” says Charlotte Kelly, mum to three-year-old twins Alfie and Frankie.
Glasgow’s Green Spaces
Glasgow Botanic Gardens is in the heart of the city’s West End by the River Kelvin and is a much-loved picnic spot for families.
Sarah MacDonald, mum to two-year-old Flo, says: “It’s such a gorgeous setting with free grass space, place for picnics, a children’s play area and a great big greenhouse, which for some reason my daughter loves!” Kibble Palace is a famous glasshouse designed by John Kibble and houses the national collection of tree ferns and tropical rainforest plants.
Cuningar Loop used to be derelict land and has been transformed into a woodland park as part of Glasgow’s Legacy 2014 project. “It’s unbelievable how much it’s changed,” says local dad Stuart McBride. “My boys are nine and 11 and they love the adventure playground and the bouldering park.”
Further afield, Mugdock Country Park is 10 miles north of Glasgow and has a children’s play area and spectacular views of the Campsie Fells. Strathclyde Country Park was the main venue for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and this summer is hosting the rowing and triathlon competitions at the European Championships. Set in the stunning countryside in the valley of the River Cylde, the park offers paid activities like watersports but also free fun with outdoor adventure playgrounds and bike and walking trails to suit every age and energy level.