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One of Glasgow's attractions is its proximity to a diverse array of rural scenery, whether the hills and mountains to the north or the sea coasts to the west. A short journey in almost any direction will present visitors with open spaces and fresh air.

As Sir Walter Scott dominates Lothian and the Borders, the prominence of 18th-century poet Robert Burns is felt southwest of Glasgow in Ayrshire. The heart of "Burns Country" is there, although it extends to Dumfries, as well. Down the Clyde coast is another popular tourist attraction: Culzean Castle. Pronounced approximately "cul-lane," it is more of a mansion than a castle, with extensive and picturesque gardens and woods all around.

Some of the world's great links golf courses are in this region, including world-famous Royal Troon and Turnberry, with windswept coastal views and gorse-filled dunes. Although the heyday of resort towns such as Rothesay on the Isle of Bute or Brodick on the Isle of Arran may be gone, these islands in the broad Firth of Clyde are great relaxing places to visit. Or, go a bit further afield to the peninsulas further west--such as Kintyre--where you might be lured by the scenery into spending more than a night or two. Short of that, day-trippers can easily reach Helensburgh and visit one of architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh's singular achievements: The residence known as Hill House.

Glasgow is also an excellent gateway to explore the southern reaches of the Highlands. Within an hour, you can be on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, with the mountains looming in the distance. Finally, the city of Stirling and the Trossachs range of mountains can be visited in a single day.