Edinburgh is great! It has a castle, the Royal Mile, a magical Ice rink in the Princes St Gardens around Christmas and there is always Arthur’s Seat. But Glasgow is better! Just saying…
Read on to find out why!
I do have a bit of a soft spot for Glasgow. It is the place I spent 5 years of my life at University – gallivanting around the West End, gazing at the Gothic spires of the Uni, hanging out in Kelvingrove park, taking part in many a sub-crawl and making the most of the excellent free arts and cultural events around!
When I first moved to Glasgow I genuinely couldn’t understand a word – the Glaswegian accent is a pretty strong one! But if you persevere you’ll soon get there! And, I found the people of Glasgow to be some of the most welcoming and lovely people I have ever met. Cabbies will see you into your front door, strangers you ask for directions may well take you where you want to go and people regularly stop for a natter on the bus or in the park. Embrace it!
Glasgow is a pretty big city with a strong Industrial past. Because it is located on the River Clyde it was well positioned for ship-building, manufacturing and trade – even as far as the Americas. I have also just learned from Wikipedia that the name Glasgow comes from the ancient Cumbric name Glas Cau which means “Green Hollow”. This is interesting because Glasgow is often referred to as the Dear Green Place due to its many parks and green spaces (more than 90 throughout the city). It is possible that this green beauty inspired the work of a number of extremely famous artists and writers that have made Glasgow their home for centuries.
Glasgow is a City of great historical significance in terms of Scottish impact in the world of Science, Literature, Politics, Art, Sport and Architecture. Glasgow University itself is the alma mater of Adam Smith the forefather of Economics, Donald Dewar the first First Minister of Scotland, James Herriot the writer of one of my favourite series of books All Creatures Great and Small, Nicola Sturgeon the current First Minister of Scotland, James Watt the inventor and engineer who’s adaptation of the steam engine had massive impact on the Industrial revolution in the UK and worldwide, as well as a whole host of historical and current titans in their field. A proud tradition of celebrating Scotland’s successes can be found throughout the city with exhibitions and events set up to honour the likes of the Glasgow Boys, Robert Burns – Scotland’s National poet with whom I share a birthday, Alasdair Gray – who’s writing and art is based primarily in and around Glasgow and who is responsible for decorating some of the newly done-up subway stations!
If you’re not already sold on Glasgow, the European City of Culture 1990, here are a few of MY personal reasons to visit and LOVE Glasgow:
Established in 1901 this FREE museum and art gallery houses a collection that far surpasses your expectations! Not only is the gallery home to works by the aforementioned Glasgow Boys and other famous artists such as Van Gogh, it also has a very interesting and well-appointed Natural History museum and an extremeley delightful set of floating heads.
If you’re tired of wandering just grab a coffee and soak up the ambience either inside or out. The building is one of my favourites in Glasgow – red stone, imposing, backed up against the University on Gilmorehill and Kelvingrove park – it is statuesque and hauntingly beautiful… especially if you believe the stories that the architect dramatically took his own life by leaping from one of the towers after realising that the building had been built the wrong way around. SPOILER ALERT: sadly this little snippet isn’t actually true – it was always designed that way!
Top Tip: Head down there for around 1pm most days and you’ll catch a free organ concert in the main hall!
Oran Mor – A Play, a Pie and a Pint
This pub and restaurant is set in an old church by the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow’s West End. Not only is it a pretty good pub to check out, even if just for its unusual setting, it also has a fantastic and cheap lunchtime show which comes with a pie and a pint! Winner!
If you like books, this is the place to come. Also, there are often kittens! And, whilst it may seem that there is very little order to the place, the owner will be able to tell you within seconds if he has a copy of what you’re looking for.
However, don’t go for something specific. Enjoy the browsing and while away some time getting lost in the stacks of history, adventure, romance and philosophy!
Tchai Ovna is a little tea shop tucked away around the corner behind Voltaire and Rousseau. It is fully vegetarian and serves delicious dips, olives, snacks and about a million varieties of tea. A place where you could easily spend a whole afternoon – perhaps with your new book. This was one of my favourite places when I was a student and indeed, now!
The Botanic Gardens are a marvel – having existed on their current spot since 1842 they are truly a testament to the Dear Green Place of Glasgow. There are two main Greenhouses – The Kibble Palace being the most interesting to look at. It came from a private estate and was first used as a concert hall and as a place for meetings – the likes of Bejamin Disraeli and William Ewart Gladstone (both Prime Ministers) came to speak there once upon a time.
Now the greenhouses are more likely to house some summer Shakespeare with the Bard In The Botanics programme than the Prime Minister. This runs every summer and you can also find specialist Photography lectures and Science events held here too. These events are extra and come at a cost but a visit to the Gardens is always free! Donations are welcome though…
Visiting a University without being a prospective student may seem like a strange thing to do but I promise you won’t regret it!
Once you’ve seen the main building perching on top of Gilmorehill – the extravagant gothic masterpiece that it is – you’ll fall completely in love. Stepping in through the main gates and exploring the sheltered cloisters puts you fully in mind of Hogwarts. Now Glasgow Uni never actually featured in the Harry Potter films (though according to Glasgow whispers the University was asked) but there are a lot of rumours that the University building was one of the main sources of inspiration to J.K Rowling in coming up with the Wizarding school. I can’t substantiate that claim sadly but take a look for yourself and see what you think!
Whilst you’re there, you may as well check out The Hunterian – another free Art Gallery and museum. And, if you’re on the lookout for some more education – consider a degree at Glasgow – it’s great!
Access To The Rest Of Scotland
Within a 30-40 minute drive of Glasgow you will find yourself at the bottom of Ben Lomond, one of Scotland’s most accessible Munro’s (small mountains to those outside Scotland) – you only need an afternoon to summit this one but if you wanted to take a few days there is a Youth Hostel by Loch Lomond and a number of B and B’s in the surrounding villages.
Another great option is a trip to Stirling (only about 1hr drive away) where you can see the beautiful Castle and then head off to the Highlands of Scotland!
You can also easily go South into the Scottish borders for some other lovely places to visit.
Edinburgh is an hour’s drive/train ride away and if you drive half an hour out to Ardrossan you can catch a ferry to Scotland’s 7th largest Island the Isle of Arran.
Buchanan St Shopping
In the city centre you’ll find shopping which is unrivalled outside of London. Glasgow hosts a whole heap of amazing shops handily tightly packed around the Buchanan St area as well as the St. Enoch Centre and Buchanan Galleries.
What makes the Glasgow shopping experience extra special is that you’ll be entertained whilst you shop by dashing Scots in kilts playing the bagpipes or talented young musicians busking on the street corners. I’m a sucker for the pipes – they get me every time!
Many cities have some sort of sub-terranean transportation – the subway in New York, the Tube in London, the Metro in Paris to name just a few. But few have the elegance and simplicity (as well as the cleanliness) of Glasgow’s subway! “How so?” I hear you ask! Well, I’ll tell you. Glasgow’s subway is round. It has an inner and an outer line which go in opposite directions. It is clean, well-maintained, not too busy and has some great artwork in the stations by Alasdair Gray as I mentioned before! It is impossible to get lost!
The best thing about Glasgow’s Subway is the Sub-Crawl phenomena. You’ve definitely heard of a bar or pub-crawl… right? Well the Sub-crawl is where you buy yourself a day ticket for the subway and try to do a full loop getting off at every stop and having a drink at the closest pub however sketchy it appears. Messy but really fun, these events are often run by sports teams etc. or just groups of pals for birthday celebrations. They often come with extra rules too like a requirement that you be in costume or surf the subway (read: stand in the aisle without holding on to anything without falling over)! Fun and more fun!
Plus it’s a pretty good way to see a lot of the city! If you can remember anything, that is!
Go To A Ceilidh
What’s not to like? Men in kilts, swirly skirts, fast spinning, drinks, jolly music and hilarity. No need to know what you’re doing, just find yourself a partner who does!
A Glasgow Drunk-food classic. This van is permanently parked outside the Botanic Gardens and serves something called a Scooby Snack. This is the most disgustingly satisfying drunken food you could ever ask for! An enormous bun filled with a burger, cheese, tattie scone, bacon, a fried egg, a square sausage and, I think, some onions. Plus sauce. I think. I mean, I was drunk!
Also make sure you at least try a deep fried Mars Bar and a can of Irn Bru. I can’t wholeheartedly support the Mars Bar but the Irn Bru is a treat and a half… plus they make spectacular adverts…