After more than a decade living in Glasgow, Pollok Country Park to me is still a gem in the city. Before I had a child, I had my allotment there, went running in the large expanse of this urban park with a real country feel to it, or visited the Burrell collection, one of the finest museums of Scotland and possibly the UK. Now, with child, the park still has a magic spell, and never more so than in winter.
Today was a dreich and foggy day, the leafleass trees reaching into the cold and humid winter air. It was one of these Scottish Days where it doesn't truly get light, the dusky feel to the park made it look a little bit mysterious and even exciting. Pollok Country Park is the largest of Glasgow's many parks and, as the name suggest, has a real country feel to it. It's set in the southern edge of the city, about 3 miles from the centre, with the river Cart winding its slow path through it. It is part of the former Pollok estate and thankfully, the family bequeathed the park to the people of Glasgow, and as a consequence, like many museums and attractions in Glasgow, is free of charge.
It is rich in things to do, striking the balance between being a popular destination for a family day and still offering spots for quiet contemplation. In the summer, it hosts Pollok Family Day, a massive event with crafts fair, country living activities and more, in the winter, Pollok House hosts a Victorian style Christmas decoration and the lovely Mrs Claus, as well as horse pulled coach tours.
On ordinary days, Pollok Park invites the visitor to take a stroll along the beautiful banks of the river Cart, woodland walks that take you away from the bustling city. On the way, you will be able to take a very close look at the fluffy Highland cattle, the calves resembling more a lifesize Steiff soft toy than a real animal. There are many picknick places, and the surroundings of Pollok House offer something for the whole family: be it a look at the heavy horses (if you're lucky, you can watch their hooves being cut, all horse care is done in public so that anyone who is there can find out a bit more about the heavy horses), a run through the hedge maze (just the right height for toddlers to get them excited but not frightened), explore the walled gardens, vegetable patches or secret tunnes. There is a waterfall and a countryside rangers centre. At the edges of the park, you'll find two allotment areas and even two golf courses, which gives an idea of the size of the park. There is so much to discover, how about this secret tunnel, shown to me by a toddler (who clearly had better eyes for secret tunnels than me):
One of the attractions of Pollok Country Park is Pollok House, which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, and thus charges for a visit. However, the cafe is free and allows visitors to explore a Victorian style kitchen and garden, with plenty of original features, a cozy coffeeshop with a beautiful terrace surrounded by a typical English garden. The cafe itself is beautifully maintained, with high quality food and a very pleasant atmosphere. Next to the cafe are two shops which offer typically Scottish and heritage style fare.
The Burrell collection (entry to which is free) must be one of the most extraordinary collections in the UK, if not Europe. William Burrell was an idiosyncratic art collector and gifted the collection to the city of Glasgow, on the condition that a purpose built building would host it away outside of the then rather polluted city. The museum building itself incorporates some of the art, such as arches, stones and stained glass windows, it's spacious and offers views into the woodlands of the park. A stunning building which is family friendly and invites for a short or a long visit. It is serviced by a modern cafe (a nice contrast to the Victorian atmosphere of the cafe at Pollok House) and a gift shop.
Most recently, there has been a big controversy about a proposed Go Ape development in Pollok Country Park. As the park belongs to the people of Glasgow, and Go Ape would have charged a significant amount for use of a large area of the park, there was a furious campaign against the plans. The campaigners managed to ensure that the whole of Pollok Park would remain freely accessible to the people of Glasgow. Since October 2009, Glasgow's first forest kindergarten has opened it's "doors" to pre school children, which in my opinion is an excellent idea. The park truly offers a sense of wilderness and open space, rural history at the doorstep to Scotland's biggest city and is truly a green lung for the city.
Oh, and did I mention the play park next to the Burrell collection? With so much to offer, it is easily missed, however, it is a lovely play park that offers a range of activities for different ages, also set against the backdrop of the beautiful woodlands.
So what does a toddler think of the park? She loves to run through the maze, balance on little walls, visit the heavy horses, see the waterfall, run on the lawn, climb stairs and explore tunnels, she loves being scared of the two stone lions, play chase and throw twigs into the water. She loves the mud, the puddles, the branches, the berries on the hedges, the swing park, the cafe. Her verdict when we had to call it a day: "I want to go home not, please mummy?"
Pollok Country Park is easily accessible by public transport, with direct bus and train connections to Glasgow city centre.