What to Expect at GlasGLOW, Glasgow Botanic Gardens

GlasGLOW in Glasgow Botanic Gardens

This autumn, Glasgow has become host to a new event in the West End. GlasGLOW has been a much-advertised light show extravaganza and now it has finally arrived! We managed to get ourselves some tickets and headed along to one of  of evenings so here’s everything you need to know about GlasGLOW from tickets to parking options and, of course, our experience of the itison original event!

So, what is GlasGLOW?

The brainchild of the local voucher company itison, GlasGLOW is a light and sound experience based in the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow’s West End. The shows are running nightly from the the 27th October until the 11th of November in 2018 and are loosely based around Halloween.

Similar to many illumination shows such as the Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry or the winter trails taking place in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, GlasGLOW is very family orientated but aims to please both children and adults with its animated light shows. The evening is mostly open air with a short section in the Kibble Palace glasshouse and involves following a route around the Botanic Gardens at your own pace.

To make the best use of the light show, the fun kicks off after dark so the Botanic Gardens are still open to the public as usual during the day but shut at 4.00pm to allow the start of the GlasGLOW evenings from 5.00pm.

Our night at GlasGLOW

We opted to explore GlasGLOW the night before Halloween to get in the spooky mood and to check out how much of a Halloween celebration the night would be!

Ultraviolet Lights at GlasGLOW

Arrival and GlasGLOW tickets

Having spotted adverts for the event quite early we managed to get Early Bird tickets at a reduced price. When booking you need to pick a time slot and on our chosen day we managed to get a 7.45pm entrance time but slots go from 5.00pm until 9.15pm.

We ended up attending another event on the same night with a very short window between the two but luckily, the entrance times were quite relaxed on our night but the event does advise to ensure you are there 10 minutes before your start time. We were maybe 3 minutes before our entrance slot and ended up getting in maybe 10 or 15 minutes after our slot due to the queue at the gate. Our slight lateness didn’t cause any issues when checking tickets but this might depend on how busy it is as we were allowed to enter the Botanic Gardens in batches which I assume matched how many people were leaving to ensure a safe capacity inside the park.

What to expect from the GlasGLOW experience

Itison describes the night a world of light, sound and magic but not too many more specifics so if you want to know a bit more about what to expect from GlasGLOW then do read on but be warned spoilers ahead!

Kibble Palace during GlasGLOW

Once through the ticket check the first section of the route is the illuminated glasshouses which look amazing lit up after dark. On entering Kibble Palace glasshouse we followed a route through the tropical plants which had some additions for the event. Look out of Aztec-like statues and large totem poles painted in ultraviolet lights as well as various coloured spotlights highlighting key features of the glasshouse. This first section was the only point of the night we felt a little crowded in due to the narrow paths through the plants. Don’t let this first section put you off if it seems a little busy as the paths around the Botanic Gardens are much wider and there’s plenty of space to move around so you can properly enjoy the lights and get your selfies.

After the short indoor section, the rest of the night is open air so dress in warm clothes and prepare for rain. We were lucky enough to get a dry night but not too chilly so it was perfect for exploring. As you begin the outdoor route, the paths are all well signposted so you know which way to go next and can follow the one way system. This mainly just as a guide and isn’t enforced in anyway so you can head backwards at any point if you want to see something again or go back for photos.

The start of the GlasGLOW experience includes a fire feature and smoke machines in a section where the dragon lives. Sadly, you won’t see the dragon itself but you will hear its owners bickering about it and how it has escaped from its chain in an odd panto-style audio piece.  From here look out for the giant moon selfie spot (though you probably couldn’t miss it) an enchanted talking tree that certainly isn’t the friendly grandmother from Pocahontas and some very cool fluorescent spider structures which seem to race across the ground and up trees.

GlasGLOW moon area

There is one area that is highlighted as an optional “scary” section that those with small children can skip but this is along the standard creepy doll and abandoned children’s toy theme that is typical in horror movies and although it’s very low key, it’s still an interesting section. We also got some free popping candy from the stewards here so we were quite happy. Other classic Halloween elements included illuminated scarecrows and fog-filled cemeteries and but be sure to check out the text on the gravestones, especially if you are a fan of a pun or two.

The final section and the absolute showstopper of the GlasGLOW event is the field of lights at the end of the trail. Covering the vast lawns of Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens and encompassing the surrounding trees, the finale piece is a fantastic light and music show which really does dazzle. There are spooky faces created from lights on the trees but, other than this, the set is more magical Christmas than haunted Halloween but it doesn’t really matter as it is visually stunning. There are plenty of benches throughout the park but other than at the food stalls, this certainly seemed to be where more people were stopping to just sit and enjoy the light show.

Grand Finale of GlasGLOW

How long do you need to go round GlasGLOW?

Itison give visitors a 90 minute slot when they purchase their ticket. On the night we went along there didn’t seem to be any way that this was being enforced so once you have your ticket check at the entrance you are good to go. The night seemed to be more working on a staggered arrival time and flexible finish. The only time the 90 minutes would likely come into play is the final time slot of the night when the event is closing. Personally, we took approximately 60 minutes to go round but this is based on having eaten before arrival and therefore not stopping to eat in GlasGLOW. We also went as a couple and did not have small children with us. There is certainly no rush to get round quick so do take your time and enjoy the night.

Is GlasGLOW scary?

Definitely not.  Not even for the tiny kiddies including toddlers that were present when we visited. The section that is claimed to be the scary part that can be skipped for those who don’t want a fright is creepy are best. Like most of the park the “scary”section is more lights and a nice wander through the park but I guess if you specifically have a thing against dolls then you might find this spooky. There are no loud noises, nothing jumps out at you and certainly no scary faces or ghostly things that go bump in the night. Mostly the event is lovely light festival and doesn’t really need the Halloween theme at all.

Foggy Cemetery at GlasGLOW


Food and drink at GlasGLOW

If you’re heading to the GlasGLOW night, the organisers ask that you do not take food or drink into the park and there is a strict no alcohol policy but we didn’t spot any bag searches on our visit. There are several food vans which are pretty central within the route selling pizza and burgers, churros and various other hot meals and drinks. There is also a stop further on in the park that you can buy and toast marshmallows on an open fire which is a nice addition. Prices didn’t seem too high especially for the surrounding Glasgow West End with burgers between £4 and £7.

If you want to head out before or after there are many options along nearby Byres Road, Ashton Lane or Great Western Road and the various spots around the West End. Many of the restaurants and cafes in the local vicinity are also offering discounts and special offers for GlasGLOW ticket holders so have a look to see what options are available if you want to make a night of it. Remember that, due to the event, the West End is busier than normal so you may want to book ahead and factor in extra waiting times for your night.

GlasGLOW lighting up Kibble Palace

Getting there and parking at GlasGLOW

Public transport is the best option for getting to the Botanic Gardens. There are a large number of buses from the city centre and elsewhere into the West End with most stopping along Great Western Road.  If you are heading by train the nearest stops are Hyndland, approx 20 minutes away, or Partick train station which is around 25 to 30 minutes walk to the entrance.  The subway is also a good option and Hillhead underground station in only a five minute wander along Byres Road.

Due to very limited parking in the West End, driving isn’t really recommended and there is certainly no parking options on the streets surrounding the Botanic Gardens. If you do opt to take the car you may find free parking near Kelvingrove Park and further afield if you don’t mind a walk or paid parking at Gibson Street Car Park behind Ashton Lane.

Are there any tickets left for GlasGLOW 2018?

Yes! But they are limited.  GlasGLOW will be running until the 11th of November so there are still dates left to head along and enjoy the colourful festivities. Tickets are currently priced at £14 -£18 per adult and £9 – £11.50 per child and are available only from the official itison GlasGLOW site.

GlasGLOW will also be returning in 2019 so if you’ve missed out this year then there will certainly be a chance to experience the illuminations again next year. Remember to keep an eye out for announcements as early bird tickets are a great discount too!

Are you attending GlasGLOW this year? Have you been to a similar event somewhere that you would recommend? Drop your suggestions in the comments!


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