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Issue 26 - Glasgow – riverside city

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 26
April 2006


This article is 12 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Glasgow – riverside city

Glasgow has long been a city worth seeing. But now, says Rob Allanson, it's making use of its past and focusing its appeal on the Clyde

There is no real excuse to go to Scotland, visit Edinburgh and not slip out to the west and visit the jewel of the Clyde.

Glasgow, for many, is considered Scotland’s premier city to visit and take a longer holiday than a day trip.

Edinburgh has its government, coronets, crowns, castle and grey winding streets; but Glasgow is really the nation’s powerhouse.

The mighty Clyde bisecting it, the city has always been seen as the industrious neighbour to Edinburgh providing a home for shipbuilding and heavy industry.

If you find yourself on Clydeside in July, you will be able to take part in one of Glasgow’s newest festivals – The Glasgow River Festival.

The Clyde yards built ships of all sizes, helping to put Glasgow on the international map as the ‘second city of the Empire’ in the 19th century.

John Brown’s yard in Clydebank built three of the world’s most famous liners: the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Elizabeth II (QE2). From 1870 until the start of World War I, Glasgow produced an estimated 20 per cent of the world’s ships.

Glasgow also built around a quarter of all the locomotives in use anywhere in the world.

The locomotives were exported by ship all over the world, and a massive crane, able to lift 175 tons, was built in 1931 on Stobcross Quay for the job of loading them onto ships.

This crane, once known as the Stobcross Crane, is now known as the Finnieston Crane. It’s still in use today and is one of Glasgow’s best-known landmarks – look out for it if you fly in to the city airport.

Also worth spotting from the air, glimmering next to the Clyde, is the Exhibition Centre (the SECC), the Armadillo, inspired by the Sydney Opera House, which is built on land reclaimed from the former Queen’s Dock.

Now this cradle of shipbuilding has risen like a phoenix shedding its heavy industry chains and tales of dockland violence to become a travel destination par excellence with everything you would expect from a modern European city.

The Armadillo and the whole area have become the symbol for the regeneration.

Pacific Quay area is now home to the Glasgow Science Centre, the first iMax cinema in Scotland, and BBC Scotland has also relocated there.

During the last two decades the city has welcomed 3.2 million tourists annually with open arms – perhaps it’s time you were one of them.

Now if you do feel you need a reason to visit, this year is the perfect year for Charles Rennie Mackintosh aficionados and art lovers alike.

Never shy of celebrating its past, industrial, academic or artistic, Glasgow will be paying homage to one of its famous sons throughout this year with the Glasgow Mackintosh Festival, the highlight of which will be a series of events held in September.

Mackintosh made his sublime mark on three types of architecture – public buildings, private houses and tearooms – with the majority still existing in the city.

Hailed as one of the principal founders of European Art Nouveau, he was responsible for laying the foundations of ‘the Glasgow Style’.

The centrepiece of the year long festival will be the recently refurbished Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, expected to reopen during the summer, with displays from Mackintosh’s tea room and furniture designs.

The Hunterian Art Gallery will also be staging the first ever exhibition devoted to Frances Macdonald and Herbert McNair, who worked with Mackintosh, and a number of never before seen works will be on show.

Other venues for this feast of art nouveau include some of Mackintosh’s most famous architectural works including the Glasgow School of Art, The Lighthouse, the Mackintosh House and the Willow Tea Rooms.

One of the best ways to see all the Mackintosh sites, during and after the festival, is to take a trip on the Mackintosh Trail.

The £12 ($21 or e17) ticket gives you entry to all paying Mackintosh attractions in the city and Hill House at Helensburgh, as well as unlimited travel on the subway and FirstBus across Greater Glasgow.

Mackintosh aside there are plenty of other things, places and spaces to explore in this magnificent city. If it is shopping you are after then the heart of the city will help you fill your bags with goodies.

Shopping in the city centre is easy with the main three streets laid out in a Z, formed by Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street.

You will find the usual department stores and high street names, but the city also boasts a wealth of specialist outlets. Little boutique stores behind the main drag are worth hunting out.

Prince’s Square shopping centre ( in Buchanan Street is a real highlight. All wrought iron and gleaming surfaces, certainly a place to be seen in.

Merchant City is known as the city’s main style quarter where many labels can be picked up. For every recognisable name, there’ll be one you don’t recognise.

The Barrows (pronounced Barras) is a sprawling section of streets and an indoor market area in the east end of the city. Full of character, where it’s still possible to find bargains and collectibles.

Head out from the city centre to either the South Side or the West End and you will find stretches of parkland bordered by Victorian mansions, warm red stone tenement buildings and spires.

Worth a visit is the University of Glasgow, a fertile ground for artists, writers and musicians.

This artistic cauldron has seen Glasgow rise to take the current reign as Britain’s music capital, with the recent success of Glasgow bands such as Franz Ferdinand and Snow Patrol.

If it is the finer arts you prefer, more than 200 art organisations are based in Glasgow, including the Scottish Ballet, Scottish Opera and the Royal National Scottish Orchestra, creating the cuttingedge productions and attracting high-profile exhibitions that led to the city being crowned as a European City of Culture.

Now let’s not forget all this walking and sight seeing you will need to eat. Glasgow has a wealth of culinary styles with influences from across the globe.

There is a heavy Italian influence in certain areas – the city being the home to several waves of Italian immigrants – and the food is on a par with the Mediterranean.

A traveller can find himself or herself getting completely spoilt for choice browsing the restaurants in Bath Street, West Regent, West George and St Vincent.

Even perusing the streets surrounding the university, such as Byers Road, Ashton Lane and Gibson Street, can offer a bewildering amount of choice.

So what better reason do you need to explore this magnificent city and discover a new love?

If you have never been, it really is time. You will not regret it – promise!

Where to visit

Botanic Gardens
Great Western Road
Known internationally for its glass houses and extensive tropical and temperate plant collections from around the world.
Tel: +44 (0)141 334 2422

The Burrell Collection
Pollok Country Park
An award winning modern gallery featuring medieval art, stained glass and English oak furniture and European paintings. It’s worth a detour to Pollok House and gardens.

The Citizens Theatre
Gorbals Street
A Glasgow institution. The Citz has an extensive programme of classic and contemporary texts. Drama at its best.

Gallery of Modern Art
Royal Exchange Square
Four floors of contemporary paintings, sculpture and installations from around the world.

Glasgow Cathedral
Cathedral Square
One of Scotland’s most magnificent medieval buildings and the only one on the mainland to survive the Reformation of 1560 intact.

Glasgow Science Centre
Pacific Quay
More than 300 exhibits housed in three buildings, so much to see you’ll find it impossible to do it all in a day.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Musuem
Argyle Street
Contains the city’s extraordinary collection of public art work. Set to reopen this summer following a £28 million refurbishment.

Mercat Tours
Forth Road
Historic or horror walking tours, or personalised tours to suit your needs. A great way to learn about the city.

Museum of Transport
Burnhouse Road
A fully intereactive museum containing a huge collection of buses, trams, trains, and boats. One highlight is a reconstructed Glasgow street from 1938.

The People’s Palace
Glasgow Green
Folk museum that reveals the heart and soul of the city. The attached Victorian Winter Gardens are well worth a wander round.

Sharmanka Kinetic Gallery & Theatre
Osborn Street
A small but extraordinary theatre experience. Hundreds of carved figures and pieces of old scrap perform to light and music.

The Tall Ship at Glasgow Harbour
Stobcross Road
The S.V. Glenlee (1896) restored to her former glory. Only one of five Clydebuilt ships still afloat in the world.

Where to eat

48 West Regent Street Bistro
West Regent Street
This glamorous bistro serves a mix of traditional home-cooking with a modern approach.

Bastille Taverne at Sloan’s
The Argyll Arcade
One of Glasgow’s oldest licensed premises. The famous ‘square pie’ and a pint for £4.95 comes recommended.

The Buttery
Argyle Street
One of city’s oldest and most celebrated establishments. The restaurant still retains an aura of the past.
Tel: +44 (0)141 221 8188

Café Gandolfi
Albion Street
A combination of traditional Glasgow tea room and European café restaurant.

Le Chardon d’Or
West Regent Street
Chef and owner Brian Maule uses the very best of Scottish produce to create dishes other chefs only dream about.

Hope Street
Stylish restaurant that serves Western/Oriental dishes that are beautifully presented.

West George Street
Glasgow’s best seafood restaurant and bar, known locally for its truly outstanding value and high levels of quality and service.

The Mussell Inn
Hope Street Top quality seafood, mussels, oysters and scallops a speciality.

Oran Mor
Great Western Road Two restaurants housed within an old church. Fantastic decorated ceiling in the restaurant and a lively nightclub downstairs.

Gibson Street
This restaurant serves up some exciting combinations of locally sourced ingredients cooked with flair and imagination

Ubiquitous Chip
Ashton Lane
Famous brasserie and restaurant serving the finest Scottish cuisine. A huge variety of dishes from the lunch and dinner menu to choose from. Reasonably priced.

The Willow Tearooms
Sauchiehill Street & Buchanan Street
Elegant tearooms designed inside and out by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Where to stay

Alamo Guest House
Gray Street
Friendly family run guest house in a very central but quiet location overlooking Kelvingrove Park.

City Apartments Glasgow
Bath Street
Bright and stylish self catering apartments in a good location.

City Inn
Finnieston Quay
Designer hotel with identical rooms, but a fantastic riverside location.

Craigielea B&B
Two star B&B in a pretty conservation area of the city.

Glasgow Youth Hostel
Park Terrace
Offers great value quality accommodation for independent travellers, families or groups. All rooms are en-suite with good self-catering facilities available.

West George Street
Part of a chain of good design hotels, this one impressively housed in a converted Greek Orthodox church.

One Devonshire Gardens
Devonshire Gardens
Five star hotel in the west-end. Individually styled rooms renowned for their comfort. The menu at its No.5 restaurant is a joy.

Radisson SAS
Argyle Street
Large five star hotel including two restaurants and bars, leisure facilities and pool.

Saint Jude’s
Bath Street
A contemporary hotel, restaurant and cocktail bar, situated in the heart of Glasgow’s city centre. Excellent service.

Sandyford Hotel
Sauchiehall Street
This hotel offers clean and quite stylish hotel rooms at cheap rates – from £26 per night including breakfast.

The Townhouse Hotel
Hughenden Terrace
Three star hotel in the same good location as One Devonshire Gardens, but at a fraction of the price.

The White House
Cleveden Crescent
Not a hotel but self catering apartments. A good choice if you’re staying a week.



Celtic Connections

Glasgow Film Festival

Miller Glasgow International Comedy Festival

Glasgow International Festival of Conetmporary Visual Art

West End Festival

Glasgow River Festival

Gourmet Glasgow Food & Drink Festival

Piping Live!


The M74 allows quick, easy access through the Clyde Valley and into the city. Motorists from the south can choose to follow the more scenic A73, A72 and A702. Scottish Citylink and National Express services services can be booked online.


Glasgow has two main line stations and is well connected to the south and north.


Almost 100 routes including transatlantic flights operate into Glasgow Airport. www.baa/glasgow Other services (chiefly RyanAir) fly into Glasgow Prestwick International Airport, which is 30 miles from the city.