Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens are renowned internationally for their significant collections of temperate and tropical plants, as well as their impressive glasshouses.
The main entrance to the gardens is at the top of Byres Road on Great Western Road.
When you cross at the lights on Great Western Road and go through the main entrance, you’re transported into a lush, green world. The dense planting along the road means that you’ll never know just how close you are to the bustle of one of Glasgow’s busiest streets.
On your right, you’ll see the famous Kibble Palace, and further up the hill, you’ll find the main glasshouses and the main lawn along with some gorgeous floral displays.
There are several pathways through the gardens, and it’s worth leaving some time for a wander through. Overall the site covers 20 hectares from Great Western Road right up to, and across, the banks of the River Kelvin.
At the top of the hill, there are several gardens laid out including the World Rose Garden, the Poetry Garden and the All Year Round Border. Attached to these are the Uncommon Vegetable Garden, the Scented Border and the Herbaceous Borders.
For younger visitors, there is a Children's Garden and play area.
Over the top of the hill by the Ford Road Entrance, you’ll find the Arboretum. It is the newest part of the garden if you can call a forty-year-old garden new. It is the quietest part of the gardens, well away from the main roads and running by the banks of the River Kelvin. There are several stands of trees, including a collection of trees first introduced to the UK by David Douglas, the famous plant collector who worked in the first gardens in the 1820s.
Down the hill, in front of the main lawn, there are several connected glasshouses. The glasshouses are split into several zones with conditions appropriate to each kind of plant. You step from the hot, dry atmosphere set up for the Cacti into the hot humidity of the Tropical plants. There are lots to see, and the plant groups all have cards explaining what they are and where they’re found.
The Kibble Palace houses the National Tree Fern Collection and a variety of plants from around the world.
The Botanic Gardens were founded in 1817 by Thomas Hopkirk in conjunction with the University of Glasgow.
When they were first set up, they were based at the end of Sauchiehall Street, but their popularity quickly meant that a new site was required and they moved to their present location in the West End in 1842.
At the time, the gardens were only open to members of the Royal Botanical Institution and their families. Members of the public were allowed in on selected weekends for a fee of one penny. That all changed in 1891 when Glasgow Corporation took over the gardens and opened them free-of-charge to everyone.
The Gardens is a member of the Botanic Garden Conservation International and has several significant plant collections, including The National Collection of Begonias; The National Collection of Dendrobium Orchids and The National Collection of Tree Ferns.
The extensive collection of trees has also allowed the Botanic Gardens entry into the National Tree Collections of Scotland.
The gardens hold a variety of events throughout the year, including book fairs, art events and, as you would expect, garden shows and botanical events. These are also quite often hands-on events where you can learn more about the plants and their various uses.
The Friends of Glasgow Botanic Gardens run tours occasionally for specific plant collections, see their website and news pages for details. If you can’t get on to one of their tours, then there is a Heritage Trail leaflet available in the Kibble Palace which tells you about the history of the gardens and leads you around the sights. You can also download it from here (pdf).
The tearoom at the gardens is in the former Curator’s House by the Kibble Palace. It is open from 10am to 6pm (4pm in winter). It offers an extensive menu with options for breakfast, lunch and traditional afternoon teas.
Inside there is a comfortable seating area, or if the weather’s decent, then you can take advantage of the outdoor area and enjoy your food amongst the garden’s plants.
There are also a couple of food stands near the park’s entrance on Great Western Road. On a sunny day, it can be well worth it to visit one of these and enjoy your snack on one of the many benches that are dotted around.
Tel: +44 141 276 1614
Official Website: www.glasgow.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=16586
Friends Website: www.glasgowbotanicgardens.com
Gardens: 7am until dusk.
Glasshouses: 10am to 6pm / 4:15pm in winter
Free entry to the gardens and glasshouses, but some special events may have an entry fee.
At the northern end of Byres Road, just off Great Western Road. The two nearest subways are Hillhead and Kelvinbridge. Hillhead is closer, but it's an uphill walk. Kelvinbridge is slightly further, but a bit flatter.
The closest railway stations are Hyndland and Partick, but they're both a 20-minute walk away.
Buses stop just outside the gardens on Great Western Road and Queen Margaret Drive. The 6, 6A and 6B stop on Great Western Road and routes 8, 10A, 89 and 90 stop on Queen Margaret Drive.
Parking near here is difficult. There are public car parks on University Avenue and just off Great George Street, but these can be quite busy, especially during university term time. There is also metered on-street parking nearby.