Glasgow, Scotland’s second city, but the country’s most populous, is located on the banks of the River Clyde and, in rail terms at least, is the Gateway to the Highlands. With us passing through the city to get to and from our Highland Adventure, we decided we needed to spend some more time in the city and so, split between the start and end of the holiday, we did just that.
Having made a 3-minute connection in Edinburgh, we arrived into Glasgow Queen Street half an hour earlier than expected and so after checking into the Premier Inn, had more time than planned to see the city. With a well-timed discount offer from City Sightseeing, and a well-located start point outside Queen Street, we decided to spend the late afternoon seeing the city from the top of a bus.
Making the 1530 tour, we found that this bus had a guide commentating rather than the automated headphone commentary. Our guide was excellent, providing a humour, yet informative commentary of the city, with us finding out loads of new facts about the city and its history.
The tour starts outside Queen Street station and initially heads uphill to the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Glasgow Cathedral. After finding out some more about these and the Necropolis that sits behind the cathedral and infirmary, we headed down High Street to the Trongate Steeple which marks the junction between High St, Trongate, Gallowgate and Saltmarket at Glasgow Cross. The Trongate name originates from the weigh beam erected in the mid-1500s used to weigh goods from the Clyde ships and sold in the nearby markets for duty reasons. As such Trongate was the centre of commerce in Glasgow during the 16th century.
After heading past the impressive St. Andrew’s in the Square and the end of Glasgow Green, we headed along the north bank of the Clyde before passing back through the city centre and under Central station. There’s too much history and too many stories within the city for me to list, so I’d certainly recommend a tour. Back along the north bank of the Clyde, we saw a few of Glasgow’s sights grouped together, including the Armadillo, SSE Hydro, Squinty Bridge (officially the Clyde Arc) and the Rotundas of the former Clyde tunnel.
Similar to the Docklands area of London, the banks of the Clyde are a part of a city that aided its growth through industry and shipping, however suffered the major decline and abandonment that came as the industry outgrew its former homes. These areas of Glasgow have undergone a revitalisation as brownfield land, with the Scottish Event Campus now sitting on the former Queen’s Dock, which was filled with rubble from the demolished St. Enoch’s Railway station.
Further west at Pointhouse Quay, where the River Kelvin meets the Clyde, is the Riverside Museum, now home to the Glasgow Museum of Transport. Constructed in 2011, the museum won the European Museum of the Year Award just two years later. We visited this museum during our visit to the city in 2016 and it was brilliant with plenty of exhibits to explore.
Heading north, away from the Clyde, we then circuited the Kelvingrove, Kelvinhaugh and University of Glasgow areas of the city. From the original ‘Pearce Logde’ building that was moved from its original site to its current location when the university moved, to the stunning Victorian building of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, this part of the city is also full of history.
Heading back into the city centre along Argyle Street, we were soon back at Queen Street station having thoroughly enjoyed the tour and looking forward to seeing some more of the city later in the week. With an early train north the following morning, we had made an earlyish reservation for dinner and so after visiting the conveniently located Costa, we headed to Absurd Bird in nearby Nelson Mandela Place for a not very Scottish dinner.
Absurd Bird is a small chain of 6 restaurants spread across the UK (Bath, Exeter, Leeds, London & Glasgow), which describes itself as being “Born out of a passion for great food, drink & a love affair with the deep South”. Serving BBQ food in a restaurant with ‘southern’ décor, the restaurants usually play Country music, however due to Covid restrictions it was strangely quiet during our visit.
Despite the strange music-less atmosphere, the meal was thoroughly enjoyable with us having a ‘Dirty Dog’ and ‘Cheese Waffles’ along with some wings and ‘Dirty Bird Fries’. All of the food was delicious and after some desert as well, we rolled ourselves back to the hotel to get some sleep ahead of our half eight train the following morning,
Our visit to Glasgow continued after a five-day excursion to the Highlands, with us arriving back into Queen Street mid-afternoon after a stress-free journey from Oban. Whilst our time in the Highlands had been amazing, it was also quite tiring and so after checking into our AirBnB, I left Beth to rest and headed out to travel to a location on the Clyde Estuary that, along with Corrour, I’ve really wanted to visit since seeing on ‘All the Stations’
Wemyss Bay is at the end of a branch of the Inverclyde Line, with trains connecting Glasgow Central station to the ferry terminal and Caledonian MacBrayne ferries to Rothesay. The station was designed with the ferry passengers in mind and its stunning curved interior is what makes it famous. One of Scotland’s finest railway buildings, it is Category A listed and underwent a full restoration between 2014 and 2016 as part of a combined project between Network Rail, Inverclyde Council and the Scottish Government.
Heading back into Glasgow, with a change of trains to see the stunning roof structure at Paisley Gilmour Street, I met Beth and a friend of ours at The Solid Rock Café outside Central station for dinner and a catch up. Identifying itself as Glasgow’s oldest rock bar, the Solid Rock was again strangely quiet due to the Covid restrictions, however this was advantageous to our conversations. Serving a menu of Pizzas, Burgers and Hot Dogs, the food was excellent, and some had a twist on the standard with black pudding or haggis thrown in for good measure.
After a great meal and catch up, all whilst avoiding the worst of Storm Alex, we slept like logs and woke up on the final full day of our holiday raring to go. Our only firm plan for the day was to head over to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum to explore, and with this not opening until 11, we were able to take a relaxed walk to St. Enoch’s subway station, grabbing breakfast on the way.
The Glasgow Subway is the third oldest metro system in the world, behind London and Budapest, having been opened in 1896. Initially the twin circular tracks were home to a cable operated railway, with the lines later being electrified but the system not extended. The inner and outer circles are just 6.5 miles long, with a full circuit taking around 30 minutes, and our journey from St. Enoch to Kelvinhall on the Outer Circle took us just 12 minutes.
Walking through the Kelvinhaugh district from the subway, we are treated of some beautiful views of the River Kelvin as well as the University of Glasgow perched above us on the hill. Our destination for the day is soon visible, the impressive Victorian grandeur that is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Originally opened in 1901 and built with the proceeds of the 1888 International Exhibition held in the adjacent park, the Kelvingrove’s first role was the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition.
With its role as the Palace of Fine Arts for the Exhibition, the main entrance of the Kelvingrove was built facing the park rather than the main road, however this has led to an urban legend that it was constructed back to front and the architect jumped from one of the towers in despair upon realising his mistake. Just after its centenary, the Kelvingrove underwent a three-year refurbishment, being reopened by the Queen in 2006 with an expanded display space, improved wayfinding and a new restaurant.
There is something for everyone within the Kelvingrove, with the southern wing featuring art from a range of genres and the northern wing housing the museum with exhibits ranging from Ancient Egypt to Conflict and Consequence with lots of information on Scottish wildlife also featuring. If you’re in Glasgow, I’d certainly recommend a visit, especially as its completely free, however bear in mind that currently, due to Covid, you need to pre-book an entrance slot. The other slight warning I’d give is that the Covid one-way system seems to be a bit all over the place (taking you the wrong way through history etc), so bear that in mind if visiting in the near future.
Whilst wandering around the Kelvingrove I had realised that we weren’t far away from a restaurant recommended by our Lonely Planet guidebook, Mother India. Opened in 1996, Mother India has its main restaurant on Westminster Terrace in Kelvinhaugh, whilst it also has cafés on Argyll St and in Edinburgh. We lucked out with our timing and were able to enjoy the lunch set menu in a relatively quiet restaurant. The set menu was £14.99 each and with this each, an extra portion of rice between us and our drinks, the meal came to just over £50 which I thought was well worth it for the excellent food and service.
Deciding to make the most of the good weather, rather than returning to Kelvinhall subway station, we walked north, through Kelvingrove Park and up to Kelvin Bridge station to return back to the city centre. With a path running alongside the River Kelvin itself, the park and walk were wonderful, and it was good to see the park being enjoyed by so many of the locals. Having had our fill of Glasgow’s sights for the day, Beth headed back to the AirBnB whilst I ticked off a few more stations before we spent an evening relaxing Infront of the TV.
Glasgow is a city that we really need to dedicate a week to as it is so full of culture, history and food, that the odd days we’ve spent in the city so far are nowhere near enough. Hopefully when we next return, the spirit of the city won’t be tempered by Covid restrictions and we’ll be able to enjoy some of the performance arts that Glasgow is home to as well.