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Things to do in Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute

Panorama of Helensburgh waterfront, with brooding clouds
The Waterfront

Helensburgh is an attractive town in Argyll and Bute, best known as being the birthplace of John Logie Baird, the father of television. It is 30 miles west of Glasgow.

Helensburgh's history dates back to 1600 when Ardencaple Castle was built. The site was later used by Sir Ian Colquhoun to build the spa in 1776 as part of his upscale planned town which he named after his wife, Helen.

Helensburg's success in part was due to him starting a ferry service which allowed wealthy workers from Greenock to live on the more pleasant north side of the Clyde.

The first commercial steamboat in Europe, the Comet, was built by Henry Bell in 1812 and an obelisk commemorating him stands on the waterfront close to the statue of John Logie Baird.

With the arrival of the railway in 1858 Helensburgh became one of the most popular resorts on the west coast.

Abandoned Pier on the quayside, Helensburgh, Scotland
The Quayside

Present Day Helensburgh

Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Hill House

Helensburgh has a pleasant town centre with a good mix of shops from independently owned shops to chain stores and supermarkets. It has a good number of cafés, restaurants and coffee shops with outdoor tables in fine weather.

In the evening there are Indian and Chinese restaurants, fish and chip shops and several pubs serving home cooked food.

The Tourist Information Office is a good source of information and is located in the Clock Tower on East Clyde Street. The tower is all that remains of the old parish church.

Helensburgh has several churches including the lovely St Michaels and All Angels on William Street. It has some fine stained glass and a guide book about the windows is available from the church.

The seafront is given over to gardens and is a pleasant place to stroll with open views across the Clyde.

Things to Do Around Helensburgh

The Waverley Paddle Steamer is a popular local attraction. It sails from Helensburgh Pier to Rothesay, Innellan, Dunoon and around the Kyles of Bute during the summer months.

Hill House was designed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and is worth a visit. It was built in 1903 for publisher Walter Blackie and is now managed by The National Trust for Scotland.

The gardens at Glenarn, Rhu are renowned for their huge rhododendrons which give the attraction plenty of summer colour. It has wonderful views across Gareloch.

Rhu is at the west end of Helensburgh and is a centre for yachting on the Clyde estuary. It is the location of the local coastguards and the lifeboat station. Brave visitors at New Year can join in the New Year's swim in the Clyde here.

Hermitage Park has enjoyable walks, tennis and bowling facilities and a skateboarding park for youngsters.

Loch Lomond is within easy reach from Helensburgh and offers walking, cycling, horseriding, boat trips, kayaking and other water sports. The area is ideal for scenic drives and for nature spotting amidst some glorious scenery.

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