Imagine our surprise when we arrived in urban Galsgow, began pulling our bags out of the trunk, and discovered that we’d had a sneak hitchhiker come along for the ride. This Tolkien-esque toad creature stowed away in one of our hiking boots without our knowledge. Despite that it was an accident, we still felt really guilty knowing this little dude would probably not survive the city life. I seriously contemplated trying to find someone driving to the country to see if they could bring him back, but we ended up freeing him in the car park and imagining him going on to lead a happy life in the drainage system.
Even though we knew our road trip companion wouldn’t be a big fan, it turned out we were on the other end of the spectrum with Glasgow. What a fantastic little city. It feels somewhat Boston-esque with its brownstones and compact layout, and Alan felt the impressive architecture reminded him a bit of Stockholm. The famed architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh had his hand in a lot of the design in this city, and his influence is easy to find, but there’s much more to it. It seems like every block has at least a handful of buildings that make you stop and say “wow.” I couldn’t put the camera down while walking these neighborhoods.
We loved that there were so many pedestrian friendly streets for meandering. And there are also heaps of adorable places to go out, highlights including this bar/restaurant built in an old church, and Ashton Lane, with its adorable twinkle lights, cobblestone-ish street and ample outdoor seating. Perhaps the most novel spot was Merchant Square, which was set up like a pedestrian friendly square with outdoor seating, except that it’s covered so folks can enjoy it rain or shine. Loved this idea! It’s clear others enjoy the nightlife scene here as well, as seemingly endless restaurants were overflowing with diners and partiers.
And Glasgow is apparently full of engaged ladies and their heaps of friends keen to attend their hen parties. I haven’t seen this many bachelorettes in such close proximity since Nashville! Alan captured this meta photo bomb while I was snapping a photo for one of said hens.
And, like Penang, Malaysia (a favorite of ours), you can go on a scavenger hunt in search of murals painted throughout the city. We somehow managed to find only one, but next time we go back I’ll have to do the full tour.
Glasgow can probably take the cake for easiest subway system of all time. It’s a circle, and it goes both ways. Your only decision is outer or inner line (so, clockwise or counter). There are 15 stops in the entire system, and the trains are so small, I actually saw a medium height man duck to get off.
With the remnants of an American hurricane coming over to the UK, we got lots of rain on our next and final day in Glasgow. Glad to have known this in advance and taken advantage of the city’s offerings on a sunny Saturday arvo, we enjoyed the rainy day in a sleepy, slow fashion. We had a leisurely cream tea at The Butterfly and The Pig, savoring some more scones and clotted cream. Then we headed over to the Kelvingrove museum where we perused the art like adults, but secretly enjoyed the child-oriented animal exhibits far more. We had a lazy afternoon and headed out for dinner, deciding on the Wee Curry Shop partially because it’s fun to say, but largely due to its proximity and the fact that it was not raining inside. Nonetheless it was a tasty Indian meal and we enjoyed lingering over it with their enormous pours of wine. It was no haggis with neeps ‘n tatties, but we’re fine to miss that. Neeps, tatties, and haggis (for those not in the Scottish know), are, respectively, turnips, potatoes, and either a savory pudding made of sheep heart, liver and lungs or a potentially made-up short legged raccoon-like animal (depending on who you ask).
Glasgow has had quite the renaissance of late. It suffered many years of urban decay following its post-industrial decline, but you would hardly know it from visiting today. It is filled with trendy bars and restaurants, cute curated shops and glorious buildings. I expected it would still feel rather rough and tumble, but I was wrong.
City Centre seemed to have more big-ticket buildings and opportunities for self-guided walking tours, while the West End and Byres Road in particular was a bit more leafy and hipster. At least parts of Sauchiehall, Buchanan and Argyle Streets are pedestrian only.
Transportation: We drove from the Lake District. The M6 and A/M74 are nice, wide expressways. In Glasgow we rode the subway, which is so simple. It is just a loop and the two directions are called “inner” and “outer.” A one-way ticket costs £1.60 and return fare is £3, we did not explore getting a card. There are many bus routes.
Accommodation: We stayed at an Airbnb place right by Kelvinhall subway station, at the bottom of Byres Road. This location is excellent. The Hilton at the top of Byres Road and across from the Botanic Gardens would be a nice location. We didn’t really explore enough to say for sure, but I think you’d do well to stay in the West End or the City Centre.
Food and Drinks: Dinner at Oran Mor was good. It is a nice, large pub (in a former church, with the pub + a brasserie + theater etc.). The burger and the sticky toffee pudding were both solid. The scone at The Butterfly and The Pig (West End, not the one on Bath Street) was so-so but the space is nice and service was friendly. Dinner at The Wee Curry Shop on Byres was very good and quite reasonable at £25 for two apps, two entrees and 500ml of wine. Peckham’s on Byres Road has meats, cheeses, wine, etc. The pastries were meh but the rest was very good. TriBeCa was packed for Sunday brunch. Three Judges has jazz on Sunday afternoon. A friend recommended Two Fat Ladies (there are multiple locations).
There are lots of places to eat and drink throughout the city. Two of our favorite little hubs judged only from passing through are Merchant Square in the City Centre and Ashton Lane in the West End.
Activities: There are a number of free museums and there is endless impressive architecture (with Charles Rennie Mackintosh the local hero). Simply walking around and admiring your surroundings is a great way to spend time here.
We visited the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum and spent nearly two hours there, a miraculous feat for these short attention span folks. It offers a great combination of animal, cultural and artistic exhibits, making it appealing to kids and bigger kids. It is housed in a splendid building, and it’s free. If we had more time and/or better weather, we might have visited the Botanic Gardens and Riverside Museum.
There are lots of options for shopping, from the big name brands like John Lewis to smaller boutique shops. Jenni very much enjoyed checking out the goods at Tiger and liked the collection of art at By Distinction Gallery.
If you are not visiting the more well-known whisky areas or just want to hit as many as possible, the Auchentoshan distillery is very close to Glasgow, on the way towards Loch Lomond and Dumbarton Castle (which we stopped at but decided not to pay the £4.50 each to enter, in part because it was rainy and there was scaffolding).
August 9-11, 2014 (Saturday-Monday)