Quick Adventures: The Botanic Gardens

The often overlooked Botanic Gardens have a lot to offer in summertime.

The Kibble Palace in Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Photo by Jan Zeschky. Licensed under CC-BY-2.0.

If you’re time rich and money poor then Glasgow in summertime is for you. There’s so much free/cheap things for you to do in the city. From world class galleries, to 500 year old houses, to Highland Coos wandering open areas, Glasgow has a lot to offer. First up is our lovely Botanic Gardens. It used to be used for cultivating plants for the University. Despite being right on the University’s doorstep, few students fully utilise this dear green place, unless they live in halls at Queen Margaret or Winton Drive. The main entrance is located at the top of Byres Road, at the cross with Queen Margaret Drive and Great Western Road. This Glasgow institution is almost 200 years old now. From this impressive entrance you can see the various large glasshouses, a wide open grass area, plenty of flower borders and lots of individual trees. Lots of the plants are tagged so that you can learn about the species.

Continuing up to just before the main promenade is the Kibble Palace glasshouse. A few of our Rectors, including Benjamin Disraeli, were inaugurated inside the Palace instead of the now traditional Bute Hall. Inside is really quite nice, with a carp pool and fountain, plenty of small exotic plants in the wings, various beautifully carved marble statues (some with cool little stories) and a huge near-tropical arboretum in middle. You have to visit if you like statues.

Back outside the Palace you can either continue along the promenade or take the left which leads on to the toilets. Walk left down the steps to the river Kelvin to look at the ducks, herons and kingfishers that live on the river. You can jump the fence before the bridge and wander through the brush for no real reason other than you like exploring fenced off areas because you’re a rebel. Or you can cross the bridge and go right for some nice views of the river, including a little man-made weir and an abandoned mill. If you take the left you will end up at the Ha’penny Bridge, which is always absolutely stinking. Ignore the smell, cross and take the right to get to the proper arboretum side of the Gardens. There are some cool rare trees here. One is so rare it is the only one outside of Arran. If you cross and continue left you will be able to re-enter the main Gardens. If you do not cross you will end up on an adventure through some lovely plants before you end up in deep, dark Maryhill.

Now, this is a build your own adventure so if you didn’t go down the steps to the Kelvin you would go left through the main promenade, which gives you access to the main Garden rather than exiting to the Arboretum. There’s a sundial, which is just hilarious being in Glasgow. The large open grass area is less crowded than Kelvingrove when it is sunny and is more family-friendly. There’s some food stalls as well if you get hungry, thirsty or the sun actually shows up and you want an ice cream.

Off to the side of the promenade are 2 large greenhouses. Inside are a range of tropical plants and fish tanks. There’s cool carnivorous plants, don’t tempt them by sticking your fingers in their mouths.

Back outside, if you continue wandering about there’s an incredible smelling rose garden, a herb garden and a bit explaining cereal crops. These plants are all tagged. So lots to learn about, especially with culinary plants – you should really understand what you’re eating. As you move about you will notice many of the trees and bushes are tagged as well. Watch out for the legions of Grey Squirrels running about!

If you walk up and over the slight hill you will find the exit that connects with the Ha’penny/Stinky Bridge. But don’t exit just yet, there’s an abandoned railway station under the Gardens! Be careful getting to it though, it’s off the path. As you walk toward the exit near the bridge, on your right is lots of bushes. Now that’s not unusual for a botanical garden. Carefully sneak through the bushes and you will soon see an overgrown railway platform. Climb down on to the tracks (the only time we’ll ever endorse doing so) and walk about. Notice how nature has reclaimed it. There is a tunnel that has been closed over. The reason for this is that it is sometimes used for raves. You can see for yourself. Just don’t get trapped in here at night because it looks super scary.

Enjoy the carefully cultivated nature. #UofGsummer

Alternatively, if you want a guided tour of the University they run Thursday to Sunday at 2pm leaving from the University Visitor Centre. You can find more information and how to book here.

Photo: Jan Zeschky licensed under CC-BY-2.0