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Issue 48 - Glasgow & the Clyde Valley – the Western gateway

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 48
December 2009


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Glasgow & the Clyde Valley – the Western gateway

We take a trip through Glasgow and the Clyde Valley.

Strathclyde, taken from the Gaelic words Strath and Chluaidh, means, literally, “The valley of the River Clyde”, a waterway which rises 1,400 feet above sea level in the south east of Lanarkshire and flows past the towns of Lanark and Hamilton and through the city of Greater Glasgow into the Firth of Clyde below Dumbarton.

However, the name also enjoys an additional historic association with a Welsh speaking kingdom which long ago embraced a large chunk of northern Britain. Hence, since the principality of Wales fell within that kingdom, we discover from Welsh documentation that around AD 543, a missionary called Saint Kentigern, who in the West of Scotland became known as Saint Mungo, which means “Dear Friend”, was bishop of Gartnwl and built a church. Six centuries later this was transformed into a great cathedral, the focal point of what, in the ongoing passage of time, became the City of Glasgow.

Spreadeagled across a wooded area above Glasgow Cathedral is the Necropolis Cemetery which catches the eye from the M8 Motorway as it sweeps through Glasgow’s city centre and over the Kingston Bridge across the River Clyde to head south. This extraordinary city of the dead, which opened in 1832, was the eccentric inspiration of James Ewing, Provost of Glasgow, and was conceived as an ornamental park to enhance the memory of the great and the good of the Second City of the Empire, the cotton and tobacco barons, inventors and shipping moguls who made everything possible.

It is sometimes hard to appreciate that before this, Glasgow was not considered a significant force in the story of Scotland.

Although given Royal Burgh status in 1454, three years after the foundation of Glasgow University, its inhabitants were largely unaffected by the turbulence that took place in the north and east of Scotland. When the English Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell brought his army here in the mid-17th century, the town, as it then was, remained unscathed. Almost 100 years after this event, Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s retreating Jacobite army levied a toll as it passed through, a gesture that was greatly resented and led to its being reimbursed by the Hanovarian Government in London.

However, it was only with the subsequent Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries that Glasgow flourished.

Geographical location was naturally allimportant.

Situated two thirds of the way up the coast of Britain, with a sea estuary on the western seaboard, the River Clyde was an ideal base for servicing Britain’s burgeoning international trade routes . By the end of the 18th century, Glasgow had become a major gateway to the New World and this brought a period of spectacular prosperity which might easily have ended with the 1775 American War of Independence. But it did not, which simply serves to underline just how important Glasgow had by then become.

With the River Clyde widened and deepened, big ships were now able to offload their cargoes as far upstream as the city centre. Taking full advantage of this, the cotton trade followed on that of tobacco, preceding the railway. As Glasgow evolved into the ship building hub of the world, the prospect of employment in its yards attracted thousands of immigrants from the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland, and from Northern Ireland, and the population exploded. This golden age lasted until the Victorian era came to an end, but the influx of labour it generated is the key to the personality of the twenty first century Glaswegian, quick-witted, open and generous; more Celtic than Saxon; more Catholic than Calvanist.

Closely followed by Liverpool, the politicians of what was now designated “ the second city of the British Empire” certainly knew how to celebrate their success and self-importance. Ten million bricks went into the construction of Glasgow’s City Chambers in George Square. Scottish granite and Italian marble, alabaster and glass and mosaics were lavished on this renaissance-style palace which remains the city council’s headquarters to this day.

Designed by the Glasgow-trained architect William Young and opened by Queen Victoria in 1888, Glasgow City Chambers is an iconic example of Victorian indulgence, but that does not mean to say that Scotland’s largest city has since failed to keep pace with the times.

While boasting such historic gems as the 17th century Tolbooth and Tron Steeple; Alexander “Greek” Thomson’s Romanesque fantasies; the carpet manufacturer Templeton’s grand building of 1889, which was modeled on the Doge’s Palace in Venice, and the People’s Palace, which contains items relating to trades and industry, the city’s future is boldly saluted by the 100m (328ft) rotating Glasgow Tower on Pacific Quay, and the Armadillo, the shell-like Clyde Auditorium next to the Scottish Exhibition Centre on Finnieston Quay.

Thus, the Glasgow of the 21st century is where the old and the new sit side-by-side in an often awkward and clumsy harmony, but it works. Many of the more iconic buildings of the Merchant City have been transformed into boutique hotels, stylish bars and restaurants, while the plate-glass designer shops of Buchanan Street, Princes Square and Sauchiehall Street are comparable with those of any up-market destination. It is all to do with blending the best of the past with the demands of the present and, if sometimes a trifle brash, Glasgow does it extremely well.

In Pollok Country Park, a purpose-built, state-of-the-art museum houses one of the most unique collections of Egyptian, Chinese, Turkish artefacts in existence, all of which were gifted to the city on the death of Sir William Burrell, a 20th century shipping tycoon whose seemingly limitless wealth was accumulated from the Clyde.

In the city centre, the work of another of Glasgow’s favourite sons, the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, not only resonates through his designs for the Glasgow School of Art and Willow Tea Room, but in the Mackintosh House of the Hunterian Art Gallery, and in the House of the Art Lover in Bellahouston Park. But it is through discovering the sumptuous collections of the recently refurbished Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum that a proper appreciation of the vitality of this remarkable metropolis can be achieved.

Where else would you find the works of Scottish masters such as Sir Henry Raeburn and David Wilkie hung in such close proximity to Vincent van Gogh’s haunting portrait of the Glasgow dealer Alexander Reid or Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross?

Whereas, like Manhattan, the heart of Glasgow occupies a classic grid-system on the northern bank of the River Clyde, its sprawling suburbs can be confusing as roads head off south towards East Kilbride, Kilmarnock or Ayr; north to Kirkintilloch; west to Dumbarton and Loch Lomond, or east along the Clyde Valley, which, for reasons of its mild climate and fruit producing potential, is sometimes called the Garden of Scotland.

At Bothwell, the ruins of the old castle, once a stronghold of the Douglas and Hepburn families, still loom beside the river north-west of the town. Nearby, stands the monument to the Battle of Bothwell Brig fought in 1679 between Royalists and supporters of the Presbyterian Faith. In a nearby mansion, Sir Walter Scott wrote his ballad, Young Lochinvar.

Strathclyde Park was once owned by the immensely wealthy dukes of Hamilton who, in the early decades of the 19th century, built the massively large Hamilton Palace.

When it was later discovered that underground mining was causing the palace’s foundations to sink, the entire building was demolished. The estate is today a countryside park complete with man-made loch, nature reserve and sandy beach.

In 1732, the architect William Adam, was commissioned by the fifth Duke of Hamilton, who also enjoyed the French title of Duc de Châtelherault, to build a sumptuous folly shaped like a hunting lodge, a commission which the architect described as “the dog kennels of the Hamiltons.” It fell into disrepair when Hamilton Palace was finally abandoned in the 20th century, but has since been restored by Historic Scotland.

The 10th Duke of Hamilton also had grand ideas which earned him the nickname “Il Magnifico”. In 1842, he commissioned a family tomb with massive bronze doors modelled on those of the Baptistry in Florence. Now a popular visitor attraction, it has never been used for worship owing to an echo which lasts a resounding 15 seconds.

Motherwell, on an old Roman Road, takes its name from an old healing well. Until the 18th century this was predominantly an agricultural village, but coal and ironworks soon brought massive changes to the area.

In 1871, the Dalzell Iron Works was founded by the entrepreneurial David Colville and, soon after, changed over to steel to become the largest steel manufacturing works in the country. By 1920, the population of Motherwell had grown to such an extent that the town merged with its neighbour, Wishaw.

On the high moors to the north-east is Shotts, once a busy centre dependent upon the local iron and coal workings. The bleak and evocative Kirk o’ Shotts Parish Church, which on one side overlooks the M8 Motorway, and to the south, the village of Salburgh, sits 900 feet above sea level.

To the south, Carluke, with its railway station, also sits on a plateau overlooking the River Clyde, and is probably best known as the centre for fruit growing.

A castle was built at Lanark in the 12th century by King David I of Scotland, and although nothing of the original fortification remains, the town grew up around it. Lanark played a significant role in the Scottish Wars of Independence and tradition has it that Marian Bradefoot, the wife of Scotland’s great freedom fighter William Wallace, was born here.

Amile to the south is the remarkable model village of New Lanark. The English painter J. M. W. Turner was moved to paint the Falls of Clyde in the early 19th century, but by then a visiting cloth merchant , David Dale, and an inventor, Richard Arkwright, had been equally inspired by the location.

Arkwright was the genius behind the spinning frame and, in 1793, Dale matched it with the power of the falls to set up mill factories employing 2,500 people. One innovation followed another and, in 1800, Dale’s son-in-law Robert Owen, began a revolution in employment practices by providing houses for his workers, a school, co-operative store and dance hall.

The cotton industry has passed into history, the village, including its mill buildings, has been restored and the surrounding area, including the Falls of Clyde, has been transformed into a nature reserve.

Auchentoshan Distillery
Tel: +44 (0)1389 878 561

Bothwell Castle
Tel: +44 (0)1698 816 894

The Burrell Collection
Pollok Country Park,
Tel: +44 (0)141 2872 550

Craignethan Castle
Tel: +44 (0)1555 860364

Gallery of Modern Art
Queen Street, Glasgow
Tel: +44 (0)141 229 1996

Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Great Western Road, Glasgow
Tel: +44 (0)141 334 2422

Glasgow Necropolis
Castle Street, Glasgow
Tel: +44 (0)141 287 3961

Glasgow Science Centre
Pacific Quay, Glasgow
Tel: +44 (0)8715 401 000

Greenbank Garden
Clarkston, Glasgow
Tel: +44 (0)141 616 5126

Hunterian Museum
Hillhead Street, Glasgow
Tel: +44 (0)141 330 5431

Holmwood House
Tel: +44 (0)141 637 2129

House for an Art Lover
Drumbeck Road, Glasgow
Tel: +44 (0)141 353 4770

Kelvingrove Art Gallery &
Argyle Street, Glasgow
Tel: +44 (0)141 287 2699

Museum of Transport
Bunhouse Road, Glasgow
Tel: +44 (0)141 287 2720

National Museum of
Rural Life
East Kilbride
Tel: +44 (0)131 247 4377

Newark Castle
Tel: +44 (0)1475 741 858

New Lanark
Tel: +44 (0)1555 661 345

The Tenement House
Buccleuch Street, Glasgow
Tel: +44 (0)141 333 0183

Small city centre hotel in a great location, 59 double rooms and an award-winning restaurant.
Tel: +44 (0)141 572 6000

Alamo Guest House
Gray Street, Glasgow
Small, family-run guest house situated in a quiet street overlooking Kelvingrove Park.
Tel: +44 (0)141 339 2395

Self-catering cottages within the New Lanark conservation village.
Tel: +44 (0)1555 666 560

City Inn
Finnieston Quay, Glasgow
Contemporary three-star city centre hotel offering 164 en-suite rooms and restaurant. The breakfasts are excellent.
Tel: +44 (0)141 240 1002

Heather Bed & Breakfast
Simple and comfortable b&b offering a warm and friendly welcome.
Tel: +44 (0)1475 724 002

Kerse Farm
Comfortable b&b accommodation at a working, family run dairy farm. Conveniently located to Glasgow airport.
Tel: +44 (0)1505 502 400

Kincaid House Hotel
East Kilbride
Milton of Campsie
Elegant 10-bedroom hotel in a grade A listed house at the foot of the Campsie Hills.
Tel: +44 (0)141 776 2226

Macdonald Cutherland House
Four star hotel with extensive leaisure facilities and set in 37 acres of parkland.
Tel: +44 (0)1355 577 000

My Place in Glasgow
The Old Sheriff Court, Glasgow
Newly descorated self catering apartments situated between George Square and Merchant City.
Tel: +44 (0)7858 381 583

Rab Ha’s
Hutcheson Street, Glasgow
An inn of distinction comprising boutique hotel, enticing restaurant and traditional
Scottish bar.
Tel: +44 (0)141 548 6733

Scotscraig House
Luxurious and historic bed and breakfast set in beautiful landscaped gardens. Guests are sure to receive a warm welcome and a cosy atmosphere.
Tel: +44 (0)141 884 2082

Skirling House
Five star guesthouse in a beautiful village location. The 16th century house is full of period features, and abundant in character and style.
Tel: +44 (0)1899 860 274

Babbity Bowster
Blackfriars Street, Glasgow
The ground floor bar restaurant offers a selection of freshly prepared meals and snacks with daily blackboard specials.
Tel: +44 (0)141 552 5055

The Boathouse
Waterside restaurant and bar with an alfresco deck with spectacular open views to the Campsie Fells. Offers 10 luxurious bedrooms.
Tel: +44 (0)1236 829 200

Camerons Restaurant
Castlecary Hotel, Cumbernauld
Traditional lunch and suppers are served in all the bars, with the Castle Lounge the perfect place to do justice to an old malt.
Tel: +44 (0)1324 840 233

Chancellor’s Restaurant
Shieldhill Castle, Biggar
Modern Scottish cuisine using local produce, including game from the grounds of this country house. Good wine list.
Tel: +44 (0)1899 220 035

The City Merchant Restaurant
Candleriggs, Glasgow
Quality seafood and good value lunches.
Tel: +44 (0)141 553 1577

Bowfield’s Country Club Restaurant
Howwood, Johnstone
An informal, friendly ambience, welcoming staff and classic Scottish fare.
Tel: +44 (0)1505 705 225

Café Gandolfi
Albion Street, Glasgow
A much loved Scottish café and restaurant, famed for its décor as much as its food.
Tel: +44 (0)141 552 6813

Grapevine Restaurant
A wide range of food on an extensive menu, complemented with an interesting wine list.
Tel: +44 (0)1698 852 014

The Liquid Ship
Great Western Road, Glasgow
A good variety of nibbles, light snacks and hot meals with a global/Mediterranean/ tapas slant.
Tel: +44 (0)131 331 1901

Exchange Place, Glasgow
Over 70 years old, this Glasgow institution is famous for its luxurious art deco interiors, fine Scottish fish
and seafood combined.
Tel: +44 (0)141 248 4055

The Sisters
Kelvingrove Street, Glasgow
A small first floor restaurant offering simple decor and skilfully cooked dishes. There’s another one on Jordanhill, too.
Tel: +44 (0)141 564 1157

Gibson Street, Glasgow
Basement restaurant with a well-earned reputation for skilful Scottish cooking.
Tel: +44 (0)141 334 2665

Ubiquitous Chip
Ashton Lane, Glasgow
Stylish dining in a relaxed aura created by vines and a water feature. There is an inspiring choice of game, steak and seafood with creative accompaniments.
Tel: +44 (0)141 334 5007