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The Out About Scotland complete guide to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Category: Animals, Forest or woodland, Park, Religious site
Suitable for ages: 0 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 7 out of 10
About the Glasgow Botanic Gardens
If you’ve ever visited Glasgow you’ll know there are a huge number of tourist attractions to enjoy in the city, most of which are free and most of which are either in or surrounding the noisy hubbub of Scotland’s biggest metropolis.
While these attractions are generally very good, if you’re after a bit of relaxation you’ll know that a visit to Glasgow isn’t really going to be much help to you. Or is it? Thankfully there’s at least one attraction that offers a chance to get outdoors and enjoy nature, and that attraction is the city’s botanic gardens.
The gardens showcase a huge variety of plant species from across the globe and amongst the immaculately manicured lawns you’ll find great swathes of flower beds, herbs, tropical fauna, and ornamental plants, all surrounded by hundreds of trees and ferns in a setting that begs to be explored.
The highlight of this attraction is the magnificent glasshouse that dominates the entrance and it’s here in Kibble Palace where you’ll find an enormous collection of tree ferns as well as a selection of statues and water features.
The wrought-iron framed glasshouse underwent a £7 million restoration in the mid-2000s to prolong the life of the plants inside it – some of which have lived in the 19th-century glasshouse for over 120 years – so it’s no surprise the Glasgow Botanic Gardens have been awarded a coveted Green Flag Award.
I think the Glasgow Botanic Gardens are a first-class urban attraction, and they’re highly recommended if you want to get away from the usual museums and shopping malls that feature so heavily in the city centre.
Things to do at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens
You’re not going to experience high-octane adrenaline action at this attraction – it’s a garden after all – but what you’re going to get instead is an enormous expanse of peaceful flora and fauna that offers an oasis of calm right in the heart of Scotland’s biggest (and busiest) city.
The garden is laid out in an informal style with meandering paths zig-zagging their way through each area and there are plenty of quiet areas set to lawn that are perfect for sitting down with a picnic on those rare Scottish days when the sun is blazing.
But you can be assured of a good time at this site even if you visit in wet weather because there are two really good glasshouses to wander around that are warm and toasty inside no mattter what the skies are doing outside.
The first of these – the previously mentioned Kibble Palace – is an ornate Victorian masterpiece that’s well worth exploring.
It’s surprisingly big inside and very airy, and with so many ferns on display it feels like you’re outside even though there’s a glass roof towering overhead. With a giant pool of tropical fish to watch and a mini-maze of plants to walk through you should be kept well-occupied before you head outside to investigate the rest of the gardens.
The second, much newer, steel-framed glasshouse isn’t anywhere near as pretty to look at from the outside but it houses a surprising amount of rare and beautiful flowers as well as a tropical pond and a copse of exotic trees.
The rest of the site is laid out informally and covers quite a large area between Great Western Road and the River Kelvin and there are benches dotted about if you want to just sit down and enjoy the plant life.
But if you’re after a cuppa and a slice of really good cake (really, really good cake), you can always head over to the former Curator’s house near the Kibble Palace which has been turned into a first-rate tea room.
The history of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens celebrated their 200-year anniversary in 2017, which is quite an achievement, although they’re quite different today from when they were founded by Thomas Hopkirk all the way back in 1817.
Hopkirk – a distinguished botanist – originally created the gardens on an 8-acre site at the western end of Sauchiehall Street with the aim of providing the city university with plants for medicinal and botanical classes.
As the gardens flourished and new varieties were donated the number of plant collections quickly grew from their initial 3,000 to an impressive 12,000 specimens, and in 1839 it was decided to move the entire garden to a new site on the banks of the River Kelvin.
The Royal Botanic Institution of Glasgow opened the gardens to the general public in 1842 (with an entrance fee of one penny) and they’ve been enjoyed by the public ever since.
The last major addition to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens was the installation of Kibble Palace which had originally been used as a private conservatory, but was moved to it’s present location in 1873 where it was used as a concert hall until being converted to house the national collection of tree ferns in 1879.
What I liked about this attraction
- The gardens are lovely and big enough that you can spend a good couple of hours exploring them
- The glasshouses are impressive too
- Both the gardens and glasshouses are free to visit
My top tips
- When the weather is nice the gardens get crowded so go early in summer
- The gardens are quite a walk from the city centre so take the bus (number 6 simpliCITY towards Anniesland)
Photos and video
Address and map
730 Great Western Rd,
Prices and opening times
There’s free entry to all areas of the gardens and glasshouses.
Winter: Oct-Mar. Summer: Apr-Sep
- Grounds: 7am – dusk (all year)
- Glasshouses: 10am – 6pm except for winter (10am – 4.15pm)
- Tearooms: 10am – 6pm except for winter (10am – 4pm)
- Telephone: Tearooms
- email: General Manager, Friends of Glasgow Botanic Gardens
- Website: The Friends of Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Getting there: Bus stop nearby, Train station nearby
Getting around: Easy-access paths, Disabled access, Pushchair access
On-site conveniences: Gift shop, Hot drinks, Picnic area, Restaurant, Snacks, Toilets
Planning a trip to Scotland?
- Find hotels in Scotland and book your rental car.
- Explore the country with Rabbies small group coach tours and get cheap advance tickets for attractions.
- Learn about Scotland with a range of Amazon books and prepare for hikes with
Ordnance Survey maps.
- Before you explore the great outdoors get your rain gear in place and don’t forget to buy Smidge anti-midge repellent!