To be honest, I was in two minds about visiting Glasgow. My mother, who was briefly married to a highlander from Dunoon, had given me the impression it was a rough and tough city where bad things happen. Her experience was coloured by a highlander’s view of lowlanders, and it’s quite possible that Glasgow in the 1970s – when she lived for a while in Scotland – was not a top spot for tourists. However my daughter saw the city just a couple of years ago and loved it. She urged Murray and I to visit. And so we did.
On every day of our four-day stay, Glasgow took our collective breath away with its whopping collection of over-the-top Georgian architecture. To appreciate this city you need to look up; that’s where the spires, towers and fiddly bits live. We also loved the cheerfulness and helpful attitude of every Glaswegian we met. The weather might be a bit crap sometimes (“chucking down”, as they say in Glasgow), but the people come up smelling of roses.
Here are the things and places we enjoyed the most during our visit:
The People’s Palace
Glasgow museums have mastered the trick of combining history and art. They’re also good at making inanimate objects tell an interesting story. We visited the People’s Palace at Glasgow Green and couldn’t help but be drawn into exhibits that painted vivid pictures of Glasgow’s past, particularly the living conditions in tenement buildings and the fun to be had at dances in the 1950s. In total contrast to these stories was an exhibition to honour Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly for this 75th birthday. Three well-known Glasgow artists had been commissioned to capture the essence of Billy. Here’s one of the results, by mixed-media artist Rachel Maclean:
Great Iranian-Indian food
While the pub beneath our apartment had haggis bon bons on the menu, as well as neeps and tatties, we ignored the call to eat Scottish cliches and chose instead to follow the good reviews. Chaakoo was the best eating place we discovered this way; a delicious fusion of Iranian and Indian food with a very cool Bombay-meets-Glasgow interior, great music and niftily-quick service. A menu of tapas-style dishes made ordering easy – five shared courses had us sufficiently stuffed. Our favourite dishes were the fish pakora, cauliflower kebab and lamb saagwala.
A real tall ship
I love boats, but my passion for things that float is way surpassed by Murray’s. As recovering yachtaholics, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to inspect Glenlee – a 250ft two-masted square rigger that has been painstakingly restored to full glory. Admission is free, though you are strongly encouraged to buy a guide for five pounds. As floating maritime artefacts go, this one’s a beauty. You can easily imagine life on board. Judging by the crew’s bunks, sailors were short – you wouldn’t want to be a six-footer on this vessel.
We were drawn to this area by the university clock tower, a gothic comehither of a thing that pointed skyward above west Glasgow. But we didn’t make it to the clock tower because we found Kelvingrove House instead. Oh my goodness, the architects had a big budget for this particular piece of Georgian gorgeousness.
Once a family mansion, Kelvingrove House is today a museum/art gallery – another of Glasgow’s splendid blends of history and creativity. However the exhibits are, in my opinion, eclipsed by the building’s interior detailing. It’s wonderful that buildings like these are available for public consumption.
Local amateur theatre
Wherever our travels take us, I have this theory that attending a local amateur theatre production is the quickest way to find the pulse of local culture. In Glasgow, this itch is easily scratched. The Pavilion Theatre was diagonally opposite our apartment. And the extra drawcard was the buildig itself – a frilly, ornamented tribute to the glories of Art Nouveau architecture.
The show we attended was ‘Summer of 69’ – a mix of slapstick schoolyard comedy and music-hall-meets-1969 singalongs. To be honest, we struggled with the broad Glaswegian accents. While the crowd around us were laughing fit to wet their pants, we were often left perplexed. However during the production our ears tuned into the accents and started getting the jokes. Overall, it was a right hoot.
- Always carry an umbrella
- If it’s really “chucking down”, find a pub
- Look up at every opportunity, to appreciate the architecture
- Walk the riverbank from the People’s Palace to the Glenlee