Day trip from Glasgow: Helensburgh

We couldn’t wait for the 5-mile travel limit to be lifted, leave Glasgow and start to explore Scotland again! Welcome on board, today’s destination is Helensburgh.

Helensburgh is a small town in Western Scotland in Argyll county. Located on the north bank of Firth of Clyde, east of Loch Gare, it’s a perfect destination for a day trip away from Glasgow.

About Helensburgh

Helensburgh was founded at the end of the 18th century by Sir James Colquhoun, who named it after his wife.

Ferry service running between Helensburgh and Greenock allowed Glasgow rich merchants and manufacturers to live on the north bank of the River Clyde and work on the other bank. Their prosperity gave them the opportunity to build the gorgeous houses we can still admire today.

The creation of the railway linking Helensburgh to Glasgow and Dumbarton to Helensburgh in 1858 enabled the small town to become one of the most popular seaside resorts in Western Scotland.

View from Helensburgh Pier

Go to Helensburgh from Glasgow

It takes around 45min from Queen Street Station to go to Helensburgh. We went on a Saturday and there were trains every 30 minutes.

The off-peak return journey costs £7.20. Don’t forget your face mask if you travel by train!

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Things to do in Helensburgh

Helensburgh depuis le ponton

No sooner had we arrived in Central Helensburgh Station than we went to see the Firth of Clyde. From the north bank, the view over the hills and the River Clyde is amazing. We could catch sight of Greenock on the opposite bank.

We spent time looking at a family fishing crabs from the pier and then we went on exploring the town towards the marketplace.

Helensburgh Market

Helensburgh Market in the Square
Helensburgh Market in the Square ©

Every second Saturday of the month, you can find Helensburgh Market in the Square. Producers vary by the season but you can usually find freshly baked bread, homemade pastries, seasonal veg, fish and fresh and smoked seafood, butcher’s meat, cooked meats, cheese and crafts stalls.

We recharged our batteries with cinnamon scones before going back by the sea. We carried on our walk on the promenade along the Firth of Clyde to Rhu.

Cairndhu House

 Cairndhu House in Helensburgh
Cairndhu House ©

On our way, we stopped to admire the deserted Cairndhu House.

This house was built in 1871 by the architect William Leiper for John Ure, a prosperous merchant who also was Glasgow Lord Provost. 

 Cairndhu House Tower
Cairndhu House Tower ©

Leiper built Cairndhu in a French castle style, with beautiful stained-glass windows designed by Daniel Cottier. The house, deserted since 2010, should be redeveloped soon into flats.

The Hill House

After our walk by the sea, we went back towards the town centre. For lunch, we ate a traditional fish n’ chips. Then, we climbed the hill to go to The Hill House, the most famous tourist site in Helensburgh.

Red Towers Helensburgh
Red Towers ©

On our way, we spotted Red Towers, another house built by the architect William Leiper in 1898. This gorgeous two-storey house with extravagant style looks like a small castle.

The Hill House Helensburgh
The Hill House ©

We took around 20 minutes to arrive at The Hill House, considered by some as the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece. The house is now protected by a steel frame structure covered in a chainmail mesh to allow walls to dry (they are not waterproof anymore) and prevent further damage (such as interior space being threatened).

Due to Covid-19, we couldn’t visit The Hill House. Instead, we had a wee walk in the woods behind the house.

Going back down to the town centre, we took a break at Hermitage park before taking our train back around 7pm.

Other attractions in Helensburgh

We will certainly go back to Helensburgh because the town has many more attractions to visit. Here is a small selection:

Find other travel ideas in our Glasgow section

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