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Issue 42 - City of surprises

Scotland Magazine Issue 42
December 2008

 

This article is 8 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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City of surprises

Sally Toms does some more sightseeing in Glasgow

I travel to Glasgow a lot. I suppose I like to think of myself as a bit of an expert, being the Editor of a respectable publication such as this. But a recent trip to the big city showed me that being familiar with a place can work against you.

It occurred to me that I only see the same places: the airport, the inside of a taxi, the SECC. I even end up going to the same pubs and restaurants.

This time I decided to make a change, see a few ‘touristy’ things.

Throw off that feeling of prior knowledge and look at the place with a fresh pair of eyes. I was amazed by the range of new experiences waiting for me, and how much you can do for free in this vibrant city.

So off I went, armed with one of those tissue-thin tourist maps that disintegrate before the day is done, and a long list of ‘things to see’ which included newly refurbished Kelvingrove and some other of Glasgow’s excellent museums. You may well know that admission is free to all the Glasgow Museums, including Kelvingrove, the Burrell Collection, Scotland Street School Museum, St Mungo’s and The Museum of Transport, but until you’re on the tourist trail you don’t realise just what a big difference this makes, especially if you’re on a budget.

Surprisingly for me, the Transport Museum was the pick of the bunch. I don’t consider myself to be a very girly girl, but nor am I particularly excited by cars, boats and trains. The fact that they work is good enough for me – especially if I’m in one. Yet this museum is an absolute joy.

There’s a mock-up of a street complete with cobbles and shop fronts that perfectly recaptures the atmosphere of Glasgow in the 1930s. It even includes a cinema you can sit in and a recreation of an old subway station.

Tucked away in a room upstairs are some 250 models of ships, representing the huge contribution Clyde shipbuilders have made to maritime history. And if you aren’t specifically in to boats, the models are magnificent for their craftsmanship alone.

My favourites, though, were the grand old buses and trams.

Metal platforms allow you to peek into the upper decks where notices threaten to fine patrons a shilling for spitting.

It’s funny, you can read about a place as much as you like but if you tell yourself that you’re not interested in boats and trains, like I did, you won’t know you’re missing out. I probably wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t been dragged along by my other half. It just goes to show that there is no substitute for experiencing it first hand.

I realise I may be doing myself out of a job here, since writing about Scotland is kind of what we do at Scotland Magazine. But even then, we might do an article about the Glasgow’s Necropolis, for example, and the wealthy merchants buried there – but unless you’ve actually stood on the grass among the tombs for yourself, you won’t know that the whole plot smells pleasantly like beer from from the Tennent’s brewery next door.

Or, if you’ve never been particularly interested in the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, then you won’t appreciate the beautiful colour and texture of his Gesso panels.

Some things you just have to see for yourself. And who knows, you may even discover a secret love of trams and buses? It surprised me.