Bambiloo Pottery, Helensburgh

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Although we love outdoor adventures, the weather in Scotland is never predictable so it always pays to have a few indoor activities and attractions in mind if things aren’t looking so great outside. Bambiloo Pottery in Helensburgh fits the bill nicely as it offers children the chance to do something they may not at home, they can paint and make mess and it’s all done from the comfort of the seafront shop.

Bambiloo is a paint your own pottery studio which opened in 2020 and is most definitely not just for children. Granted, we were there for a lovely family painting session, but there are also Friday night Sip n’ Paint sessions (adults get snacks and can BYOB)

The basics

A ceramic painting session at Bambiloo costs just £2 Studio fee per painter, plus the cost of the pottery item you choose to paint. Pottery pieces range from £2 to £60 so can be a great value day out/activity. Glazing and firing and a complimentary drink are included in the studio fee – we’ve heard great things about the hot chocolate, but T didn’t want one while we were there! You don’t get your pieces to take away that day, as they require glazing and firing which can take up to two weeks depending on how busy it has been. However once you get your pottery, it becomes fully functional and if you choose dishware or mugs, they will be both dishwasher and microwave safe. If you live out of town, they also offer a pottery posting service to save you coming all the way back another day.

Bambiloo is located right on the waterfront in Helensburgh, meaning you get a great view as you paint. There are numerous car parks nearby and the area is well serviced by both buses and trains if you’re visiting by public transport. The studio itself can accommodate a few family groups at a time (even in covid restrictions!) and is wide enough to fit a pushchair if you have younger children, though I’d say this particular activity is probably suited to children of at least 2+.

What to expect

There are a number of different clay wares, from things like garden gnomes and home ornaments to piggy banks and plates. You simply choose an item to paint during your pre-booked session and you will have a couple of hours to paint your chosen piece. It’s ideal as it allows children to explore colours and mixing as well as using their fine motor skills with various sized paintbrushes. Plus, depending on the item chosen for painting, you could come away with a nice new plate or mug that your little one can take pride in using, knowing they decorated it themselves. Or alternatively, they could paint something to give as a gift to a loved one.

Once everyone has completed their painting, the items must be glazed and fired – a process which can take up to 2 weeks, though ours were ready in just over a week. Personally I thought it was great that we had to wait for the pottery as it teaches kids patience and moves away from instant gratification, plus it means that there’s a whole surprise on another day when you collect your pottery!

Unlikely Mum Verdict

Without a doubt this is a great activity for kids as it allows them to explore colours, master their painting and they get to witness how pottery works – all without having to get yourself a kiln or worry about the mess of painting on your ill-equipped home furniture. Plus Mable, the store owner, is absolutely lovely. You can tell she pours her heart and soul into the pottery and is so welcoming and accommodating to all painters – little and grown-up.

Not only that, it’s a great value morning or afternoon out, at just £2 per head plus the cost of your pottery item. It’s a great alternative to soft play for an interactive/physical indoor activity on a rainy day, plus you get some great new homeware at the end of it all. Of course, as Travis is a complete car nut, we came home with some vehicle ornaments – a pickup truck and a VW campervan.

Main takeaways

  • Booking: Sessions are booked in advance: 10am-12noon or 2-4pm on weekends and occasional midweek dates. (It’s advisable to check in advance as this may change in line with government guidelines and/or demand)
  • Price: £2 per painter plus cost of pottery
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Pushchair friendly: Yes, but the activity itself is more suited to kids of 2+
  • Parking: Limited on-street parking though Helensburgh has a couple of large pay and display car parks
  • Location: 68 West Clyde Street, Helensburgh

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