More Glasgow or Edinburgh days out for less £
ScotRail asked us to try out their Glasgow City Days Out travel pass (there's also an Edinburgh version for east coast days out) where you can enjoy two days of unlimited off-peak travel within around an hour of Scotland’s two biggest cities.
Perfect for a city break or, as we have used it, weekend trips. They are priced at £18 for an adult ticket (so £9 per day), or £34 for a family pass (two adults and two children). That's the price for two consecutive days on the one ticket.
As you can see from the map, the Glasgow ticket covers the greater Glasgow area encompassing Inverclyde, Ayrshire and Lanarkshire etc., allowing for travel to Balloch for Loch Lomond and as far north as Stirling, as far east as Falkirk and as far south as Ayr.
So where did we go on day 1 with our pass? First stop was Gordon Street Coffee at Central Station. Apart from great coffee, it's handy that they have train departure screens here so you don't have to panic about being late for your train!
But our train was actually leaving from Queen St so we grabbed a takeaway breakfast of a flat white, ginger and pineapple tea plus a granola yoghurt and a roll with bacon and tattle scone!
Then we took the short walk to Queen Street Railway Station (low-level) for the 48-minute train ride to Balloch.
Balloch station is just across the road from the tourist information centre and Sweeney's Cruises - our next stop.
It's £10.50 for a 1-hour cruise around Loch Lomond with commentary provided by the BBC's Neil Oliver. Longer cruises are also available.
Sometimes we forget how many beautiful places are within reach of our doorstep. This was well worth the money for a different view of the Loch. There's inside and outside seating (well you know Scotland's weather!) and a cash beer serving alcohol, soft drinks and hot drinks.
After our boat trip it was time for lunch! Cucina is just along the road from Sweeney's Cruises. They have a budget-friendly lunch menu (1 course £7.50, 2 courses £9.95 or 3 courses £12.50), as well as a full a la carte menu.
We devoured 2 courses from the lunch menu before taking the train to Dalreoch to change for Helensburgh Central for the 30 min uphill walk to Hill House. Unfortunately the use of City Days Out Glasgow pass cuts off just before Helensburgh Upper train station (on the Oban/Fort William line), which would be more convenient for Hill House but if you don't want to walk, the local 302, 306, 316 and 340 buses take you up Sinclair St and Hill House is a 2-minute walk from the bus stop at West Dhuhill Drive.
Hill House is looked after by The National Trust for Scotland. Open daily from 11:30 to 5pm. Entry is £10.50 per adult or free for NTS members.
The building and grounds are stunning so well worth visit. The hallway below reminds me of the Shōji, the delicate paper-thin framed walls used in traditional Japanese dwellings.
We walked back down the hill to the centre of Helensburgh admiring not only the view but the surrounding houses - some are absolutely enormous!
Dining in Helensburgh has been hit and miss in the past but there's been a renaissance in recent years with a number of recent openings and one of these is Sugar Boat, a wine bar and bistro with a cafe vibe during the day, which is named after the overturned sugar boat which can be seen in the Clyde estuary!
The menu has a wide mix of modern Scottish food with a French twist. We had 3 lovely courses here.
A thoroughly enjoyable meal and relaxing end to a busy day. Stand out dishes were the bouillabaisse and clafoutis.
If we'd paid for our tickets separately the cost would've been £16.30 each instead of £9 for a day's travel on the City Days Out ticket. Tune in tomorrow to find out where we travelled on day two!
City Days Out ticket details
Flexible: use on ScotRail services to many destinations within around one hour of each city*
No need to book in advance, the City Days Out ticket can be purchased from any manned station
Free travel for under 5s, half price for 5 - 15s
Hop on-hop off as much as you like
Only valid for Standard Class and off-peak travel
Your travel is flexible, but the validity period is not: the 2-day period starts on the first day of travel
No Railcard discounts apply
There’s a £10 admin fee for changes or refunds
*See route maps for where you can travel on each travel pass.
Disclaimer: Many thanks to ScotRail for providing free tickets to test them out!
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