15 Things To See And Do In Helensburgh, Scotland

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There are a few reasons why you might want to visit Helensburgh, but here is two of them: first, if you love architecture and Art Nouveau, in particular, the designs of  Charles Renee Mackintosh, you’re in for a treat! Second, if you're traveling around Scotland then chances are that you’ll be passing by this little town, but is it worth stopping by and get exploring? See for yourself.

So let's begin exploring this little town,  but first coffee

Walk up Sinclair Street, the main street that divides the town into Western and Eastern parts. Grab a coffee at PJ's Kitchen and keep walking up the hill, on the right-hand side you'll see the grand Victoria Hall building, a community space built in late 19th century in Scottish Baronial style. In fact, that's when the Helensburgh was developed as we know it today. All thanks to the arrival of the railway which created an opportunity for the wealthy merchants of industrial Glasgow to escape the city and live in the beautiful countryside surrounded by the Highland hills with the views of the River Clyde and fresh air all in the 45min travel proximity from the city. 

Walk a bit further up the road and turn right to the Hermitage Park. On the sunny day it makes a lovely walk, however, originally it was the private garden of Robert Fulton Alexander's (the thread and cotton manufacturer in Glasgow) then it was sold to The Cramb Family and in 1911 the gardens have turned into the public park and the family house was demolished in the 1960s

As soon as you leave the park continue the walk up the hill along Sinclair Street. Just a few blocks away from the Helensburgh Upper Station turn right to the West Douglas Drive where you can find the Red Towers, A-listed mansion designed by William Leiper in Franco/Scottish Renaissance style with Shavian Old English details. It was Built in 1898 for James Allan, provision merchant and apparently, the building is currently in use as a drug rehabilitation centre.

The next Art-Nouveau gem-stop is the Hill House, one of the most popular villas in Helensburgh, designed by the world-renowned Scottish architect Charles R. Mackintosh. The building is currently closed and will be re-opened in Spring 2019 for visitors. I'd highly recommend paying a visit to all who loves the Arts and Crafts movement. 

Helensburgh is 45 min from Glasgow

Helensburgh is 45 min from Glasgow

 
 

Walk back to the town centre and stop by at The Tower- a cinema in the old church building that is run by volunteers, check what's on and get a ticket to reserve a seat for the evening screening- that will be an ideal wrap up of the day in Helensburgh.

 
 

Round the corner from the cinema, you'll see a Scottish Submarine Centre, an educational and cultural hub in Helensburgh operated solely by the volunteers and offers to see HMS Stickleback which was built for the Royal Navy during 1944. 

Colquhoun square is a great place to stop for a coffee or lunch break, the Sugar Boat is a perfect, cosy place to do just that!

 
 

It's time to discover the Western part of the town, but first, take a quick look at the original wood and glass counters in the Pharmacy on the corner of the square and then stop by the Plantation shop to get some serious interior plant inspiration.

 
 

A light tower is what's left from what once was the big Ardencaple Castle, the oldest building in the town dates back to 12 century and is very well hidden behind the residential houses built in the 1960s. On the way back to the town centre walk along the Esplanade and take note of the Cairndhu House, this villa was built in 1871 for a flour miller and merchant by a Scottish architect William Leiper. 'Grade A' listed building with a richly decorated interior, one of the finest of Anglo-Japanese in Scotland is currently vacant and up for sale. It is also on the list of buildings at risk.

 
 

As you continue to walk along the esplanade stop by at the 'The Olde Christmas Shoppe’ -a whimsical land dedicated to all things Christmas all year round and no matter what time of the year you visit Scotland here you'll get authentic Christmas presents and decorations. 

 
 

When I travel I always look for the vintage shops and this one is worth a visit-it's china merchants full of treasures both vintage and contemporary.

 
 

Since pizza is always good idea I suggest to try the Padrone Pizza, an Italian restaurant and try the wine and cocktail menu at the La Jupe wine bar.

 
 

Another Helensburgh's hidden gem is The Mackintosh Club, which is located above the shops, it's a gallery and creative hub for architecture, art and design as well as a tea rooms 

 
 

All places mentioned in this post are marked on the FREE to download travel guide

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