Back in April, we were fortunate to spend some time travelling around Scotland. It was a holiday for us, but it was also the opportunity for us to do research so that we could gather first-hand experiences. The purpose of which is so we can provide more comprehensive recommendations about Scotland for people visiting Edinburgh and going on one of our Wee Golden Walks. In this article, I will feature some of the highlights from that brief, two-day visit to Glasgow.
Glasgow is certainly a city with a rich history and has much to offer. And, I definitely concur with the Official Guide to the City of Glasgow website's motto, "People Make Glasgow". Therefore, it is difficult for me to just skim the surface and not delve into the history behind each place, monument, building, etc. I could write books on everything we saw and explored, but, alas, that isn't the purpose of this article. However, if you are interested in a more in-depth look at Glasgow, I highly recommend that you explore your local library and the various online resources that discuss it in much better detail and with the attention it deserves. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this brief trip report.
History: Alive and Dead
It seems that everywhere you go in Glasgow, there is a rich tapestry of history that weaves its way into the buildings and monuments. Our first stop is a must-see site- Glasgow Cathedral. It now is part of the Church of Scotland, (and Presbyterian) but it has seen an incredible amount of change over the centuries. The courtyard of the Cathedral was particularly lovely in April with the cherry blossoms in bloom, framing the building quite nicely. Walking into Glasgow Cathedral is quite breathtaking as the ceiling is 105 feet (32m) high and the Nave is an incredible open space with elaborate stonework plaques lining the walls to honour various congregation members over the centuries. It sets the tone for the majesty and grandeur that is present throughout the Upper and Lower Church sections.
Make sure to go into the Lower Church because there is an original column/piece of the Cathedral dating from the 12th century. There is also the tomb of Saint Kentigern- more popularly known as Saint Mungo (the patron saint of Glasgow). You can find more information about Glasgow Cathedral on their website.
Our next stop looks at history through a clearly Victorian lens- the Glasgow Necropolis. The anthropologist in me was curious to explore the ways Victorians honoured their dead, and the tourist in me was simply fascinated with this city of the dead high on the hill behind Glasgow Cathedral. The Necropolis is quite large and there are pathways throughout that allow visitors to walk among the many graves and admire the beautiful monuments, gravestones, and mausoleums. There is quite a large monument that stands out more than the others and it wasn't too surprising to see that it was for the infamous John Knox (although his statue predates the Necropolis). The vantage point provided fantastic views of the city and is a peaceful place to sit for a moment and take it all in.
In a completely different section of the city- Glasgow Cross- we find an even older history and an ancient junction of the city. Here, there are historical markers such as the Tolbooth steeple which was built in 1626. Unfortunately, it is all that remains of the original Tolbooth buildings. There is also a replica of the original Mercat (Scots word for merchant) Cross which was built in 1929. Finally, you can also spot the Tron Theatre (see picture below) which was previously Tron Kirk and built in 1794. It was converted to a theatre in the 1980s.
Artistic Endeavours: Surrounded by Beauty
What I particularly enjoy about Glasgow is that there are exquisite examples of art all around- both inside and outside. For example, Glasgow is now famous for its beautiful murals (often featured on social media) which have been painted onto the sides of buildings all over the city.
It is part of series called the Mural Trail and its purpose, according to the Glasgow City Centre website, is to "rejuvenate streets and revitalise buildings and vacant sites that look a bit tired, reincarnating them as beautiful pieces of public street art". One of my favourites is the lovely mural of a mother and child. It is meant to represent St Enoch with her child, St Mungo (who, as I mentioned above, is the patron saint of Glasgow). The picture below does not do justice to the gorgeous colours and art detail and you must visit it in person to best appreciate the scale and beauty.
The Glasgow Botanic Gardens are yet another illustration of the beauty and art that can be found in the city. The Gardens are located in the west end of the city and are a wonderful place to take a relaxing stroll; best of all, the entrance is free. My favourite part of the Gardens is the Kibble Palace. It is a fantastic example of Victorian architecture that wonderfully highlights the natural beauty of the plants and flowers under its roof. And, if you would like to further your reading on nature and gardens, you can check out our article on the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
However, there are also more traditional institutions of art in Glasgow. We
(and Scotland overall for that matter).
Another popular museum to visit when in Glasgow is the Riverside Museum located on the picturesque River Clyde.
It is a relatively new museum opened in 2011 and also houses the Glasgow Museum of Transport.
Let's continue our tour by looking at a couple of examples of two very different cultural icons in Glasgow.
The University of Glasgow is perhaps one of the more iconic locations you will find in the city. The history of the University unquestionably ensures its prestigious status; it was founded in 1451 and is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world. There are so many stunning architectural elements found throughout the University campus. One of the most photographed locations is the Cloisters. The transverse ribbed vault is the definition of iconic, and, fittingly, is a popular filming location. More recently the University, and the Cloisters in particular, were the stand-in for Harvard University in series (season) 3 of the Starz television show, Outlander (as an aside, if you are interested in Outlander, there are some fun surprises on our Wee Golden Walks of Edinburgh. Make sure to book a tour to find out more).
Changing the pace quite a bit, but still a fun cultural icon, is the Glasgow Subway. It has to be one of the quaintest, one of the cleanest, and certainly the easiest, subway system I have ever been on. It has been in operation since 1896 and is the third oldest underground metro system in the world (behind the London Underground and Budapest Metro). The media has often used the nickname, 'The Clockwork Orange' to describe the subway. However, there is doubt as to whether locals use the term, and the consensus seems to be that most just call it 'the subway'. Regardless, this small but functional underground system is a practical option when in Glasgow and getting to different sections of the city (such as the Kelvingrove Museum mentioned above).
For those looking to do a little high-end shopping, make sure to head over to Buchanan Street- Glasgow's main pedestrian boulevard. You can find a variety of shops with name brand shops such as Gucci, Prada, and Zara to name just a few.
Or, if you're looking to get a little Canadian flavour, stop by my favourite coffee shop from my University days- Tim Hornton's. I'm not sure if they rrrrrroll up the rim at these Scottish Timmies, but I highly recommend you grab yourself a double-double and some Timbits because they're sure to please anyone looking for a wee tasty snack.
Well, I hope you've enjoyed this brief but fun exploration of Glasgow. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, there is so much to do in Glasgow, and these are just some highlights from our April trip.
The history, beauty, art, and iconic locations, that can be found in Glasgow can also be found throughout Scotland. Of course, we might be biased, but we believe that Edinburgh is the flagship example. Therefore, if you come to visit Edinburgh, make sure to check out our walking tours because we- including Sawyer, our Golden Retriever tour guide- would love to show you some of what the capital city has to offer.
Until next time- Explore & Discover!