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Issue 68 - Glasgow & the Clyde Valley

Scotland Magazine Issue 68
April 2013


This article is 5 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 & the Clyde Valley


As it gears itself up to host the Commonwealth Games next year, Glasgow, which throughout the Victorian era was proudly known as “the Second City of the British Empire”, has much to celebrate.

As Scotland's largest urban conurbation, it is hard to imagine that as recently as three to four centuries ago, it hardly existed.

Mushrooming from a medieval bishopric and 15th century university town, its existence as a small religious/ academic rural settlement was dramatically transformed by the transatlantic tobacco and cotton trades of the 18th and 19th centuries. At the same time, Highland and Irish immigration swelled its workforce to become a third of Scotland's total population.

With the Industrial Revolution came chemicals, engineering and ship building, and you only have to stroll along Sauchiehall Street into Buchanann Street or George Square to become aware of the wealth of affluent period architecture that this created, alongside a vibrant sense of achievement. That is part of the fun of a visit to Glasgow: observing the striking contrasts between the present and the past; the sense of being in a city that is constantly evolving.

Towering over the Merchant City is the Necropolis, a sprawling city of the dead inaugurated in 1833 and which, within its slopes under serried ranks of obelisks and monuments, lie the remains of two centuries of Glasgow's great and good and Godly. On the lower ground sits Glasgow Cathedral, otherwise called the High Kirk of Glasgow, a supreme example of elegant Gothic architecture dating from the 12th century, long before the Reformation swept away its doctrinal affiliations.

Contemporary Glasgow has come a long way from its hard core, commercially driven Victorian past. The Merchant City, its oldest quarter, hums with eclectic bars, award-winning restaurants, design shops and art galleries, many housed in the former mansions of the trading elite. The splendid Mitchell Library, for example, was the gift of a tobacco lord.

George Square, laid out in 1871, boasts the headquarters of the city council. With its splendid marble interiors, it covers an area of 6000 square yards and 10 million bricks were used in its construction. The Victorian fathers of the city were determined to publicise their new found wealth and achievements.

Throughout the city, there are treasures a-plenty to be found: at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum; the Hunterian Museum; the People's Palace and Winter Gardens; the Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel, and at the Burrell Collection in Pollok Country Park. Glasgow boasts more than 90 parks and green spaces, the most notable perhaps being at Kelvingrove and Glasgow Botanic Gardens in the West End, with its spectacular Kibble Palace, a wrought iron framed glasshouse.

Two favoured sons stand out from the architecture they left behind them: firstly, Alexander “Greek” Thomson, notably for the Caledonia Road and St Vincent Free churches, and the Piper's Tryst, the College of Piping's hotel in McPhater Street; secondly, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, commemorated by his enchanting Willow tearooms and the 1901 House of an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park.

Cultural life is to be enjoyed in abundance, at the Theatre Royal, King's, Pavilion, Tron, Tramway, The Arches and Citizen's theatres, not to mention the Royal Concert Hall. Designated a UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow hosts more than 130 concerts a week in such venues, taking in King Tut's Wah Wah Hut and the Scottish Exhibition & Concert Centre on the Clyde.

For shopping, visitors can indulge themselves to their bank manager's delight at the thriving Buchanan Galleries in Sauchiehall Street, or Princes Square on Buchanan Street.

As a “river city”, celebrated in the BBC television soap series carrying that name, Glasgow straddles the waterway from whence came its good fortune. Today, there are 21 crossings including the Clyde Tunnel, and the regeneration work that that has taken place from the Broomielaw to Finnieston over the past two decades is nothing if not awesomely impressive.

Journeying over the Kingston Bridge on the M8 towards Glasgow Airport, the cityscape unfolds as a shimmering futuristic panorama, dominated by the irregular, pewter coloured 3,000 seat Clyde Auditorium designed by Sir Norman Foster, widely known for its appearance as “The Armadillo.”

But Glasgow would not have existed in its present metropolis manifestation without the Clyde, dredged and deepened over the last two centuries to accommodate its shipping needs, and the bounty that flowed into it from the far corners of the world. Between 1860 and 1870, more than 800,000 tons of iron ships were built at Clydebank, Finnieston, Govan, Kelvinhaugh and Scotstoun. In 1969, the QE2 was launched from John Brown's Shipyard on Clydebank. Now almost all of those great Clyde-built enterprises are a distant memory.

If there is one thing that Glasgwegians are good at, it is adapting to change. While its reputation as one of the world's greatest shipping waterway is realistically a thing of the past, the River Clyde continues to be the focal point of the burgeoning City of Glasgow, not to disregard the many small towns and villages that sit along its length.

With its source deep in the Lowther Hills of Dumfries, it should not be overlooked that the river travels a distance of 176 kilometres to merge with the Firth of Clyde, just beyond the west coast sea ports of Gourock, Greenock and Dunbarton. Large swathes of Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Stirlingshire and Dunbartonshire owe much of their prosperity to their proximity to the River Clyde.

Its influence on the central belt of Scotland has been immensely important. Following its course from the meeting of the Daer and Potrail Waters, west of Moffat, it reaches the spectacular Falls of Clyde in South Lanarkshire. This great beauty spot was discovered in the late 18th century by David Dale, an Ayrshireborn cloth merchant, who instantly recognised the power of the waterfalls. It had long been his dream to create a model village, and by harnessing the waters to the spinning frame technology recently developed by an English inventor, Richard Arkwright, he set up the New Lanark Mills and created jobs for 2,500 employees. It was a revolutionary and benign concept of employment, inspiring generations to follow.

Today, the Lanarkshire cotton industry has also passed into history, but New Lanark, including the mill buildings, has been lovingly restored and the surrounding landscape, which includes the Falls of Clyde, Bonnington Linn, Corra Linn, Dundaff Linn and Stonebyres Linn, has been designated a World Heritage Site, encompassing a nature reserve managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Much of the work force of Lanarkshire, traditionally employed in coal mining, was subsequently to benefit significantly from steel production. The centre of this was at the Ravenscraig plant near Motherwell which operated one of the longest, continuous casting, hot rolling production assemblies in the world. Its closure in 1992 signalled the end of large scale steel production in Scotland.

Chatelherault Country Park, occupies the grounds of a former hunting lodge belonging to the powerful Hamilton family, Scotland's premier dukes, and takes its name from one of the Hamilton's French titles. The lodge serves as a Five Star visitor centre and restaurant, was designed by William Adam and completed in 1734.

At Bothwell Brig, on 22nd June 1679, took place a conclusive battle between Government soldiers and militant Presbyterian Covenanters, signalling a temporary conclusion of their cause.

Today, the adjoining Strathclyde Country Park also occupies lands once owned by the Hamilton family, but was handed over to the nation in lieu of death duties. Centred on an artificial loch, created in 1975, there are amenities for coarse angling, woodland walks, watersports, a camping and caravanning site, and a theme park featuring rollercoasters and other diversions.

Hamilton Palace, the largest and grandest of private houses ever to be built in Scotland fell victim to subsidence brought about by underground mining activities, and was totally demolished in the early20th century. North of where it stood, however, is the remarkable Hamilton Mausoleum, 37 metres high, begun by the architect David Hamilton in 1842, and completed by David Bryce and Alexander Ritchie in 1858, 10 years after the death of the 10th Duke of Hamilton.

From 1862, until his death 11 years later, the missionary and explorer David Livingstone owned a house in Burbank Road in Hamilton. His life and achievements are celebrated in the house in which he was born, now run by the National Trust for Scotland as The David Livingstone Centre. In 2005, a railway link to the park was built to provide two trains per hour to and from Hamilton to Glasgow.

At Bothwell, the river winds past Bothwell Castle, built in the 13th century for Walter de Moravia (or Moray) and intermittenly garrisoned by both English and Scots armies.

It was later passed on to the Douglases and the Homes. South of the river, the hopes of Mary Queen of Scots regaining her Scottish throne were terminated at the Battle of Langside, fought within the boundaries of Glasgow in 1568.

Industrial developments aside, it is not so surprising to find that the Clyde Valley is often known locally as the “Garden of Scotland.” Despite its reputation for being an industrial heartland, fruit orchards, woodland and farmland have long been an important feature of the countryside hidden from the busy M8 Motorway.

The Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve, for example, is made up of six locations,incorporating Cartland Crags, Chatelrehault, Gleghorn Glen, Falls of Clyde, Mauldslie Woods, and Lower Nethan Gorge.

Five of these sites are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest, deriving from the abundance of native flora and fauna. Until the 1960s, the area south-west of Glasgow was a centre for tomato cultivation. Hundreds of growers made Scotland self-sufficient in tomatoes until rising energy costs and the removal of European trade barriers made it uneconomic. Happily, the trend is being reversed.

An area of contrasting landscapes, rich in historical interest, the Clyde Valley, and the mighty City of Glasgow have something on offer for everyone.

You will certainly never be lost for something to see or do.

Craigend Bed and Breakfast
Rural location offering four star accommodation, clean and comfortable rooms and ever so friendly hosts.
Tel: +44 (0)1555 820 898

Cornhill House
Castle hotel situated in large grounds overlooking the Clyde, popular for weddings. Attentive staff, excellent food, lovely rooms.
Tel: +44 (0)1899 220 001

15 Glasgow
Woodside Place, Glasgow
Sophisticated bed and breakfast hotel, voted by a UK newspaper as one of the coolest places to stay in the UK.
Tel: +44 (0)141 332 1263

Hotel Indigo
Waterloo St, Glasgow
A vibrant, boutique city hotel with super comfy beds, rainfall showers and lots of little extras.
Tel: +44 (0)141 226 7700

Struther Farmhouse
Relaxing homely atmosphere, and great food in the restaurant.
Tel: +44 (0)1560 484 946

Blythswood Square
Blythswood Square, Glasgow
Luxury hotel with 88 bedrooms, suites and beauty spa.
Tel: +44 (0) 141 240 1666

Tolbooth Apartments
High Street, Glasgow
A bright and airy self catering apartment in a top location has to be one of the best bases for exploring any city.
Tel: +44 (0)141 404 0086

Premier Inn
George Square, Glasgow
There are lots of Premier Inns around the city. This one has an unparalleled location and rooms from £57.
Tel: +44 (0)871 527 8440

Torridon House
Delightful little B&B presented to a very high standard. Its village location is just 30 minutes to the north of Glasgow.
Tel: +44 (0) 1360 550 308

Glasgow Guest House
Dumbreck Road
Traditional guesthouse that really delivers with the quality of service, great location to base yourself for exploring the area – and only 10 mins into the centre by train.
Tel: +44 (0)141 427 0129

Alamo Guest House
Gray Street, Glasgow
Lovely accommodation and service, rooms furnished with antiques and luxury bathrooms. Great location overlooking Kelvingrove park.
Tel: +44 (0)141 339 2395

Holmwood House
Netherlee Road, Glasgow
Beautiful historic house designed by famous Glasgow architect Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. Explore many richly ornamented rooms and extensive gardens.
Tel: +44 (0)844 493 2204

A vast hilltop cemetery, also known as the Victorian city of the dead. Spooky and wonderful in equal measures. Friends of Glasgow Necropolis run fascinating tours on many weekends.

National Museum of Rural Life
East Kilbride
Five-star museum and working farm that thoroughly explores Scotland’s rural heritage, both past and present.
Tel: +44 (0)300 123 6789

Tenement House
Buccleuch Street, Glasgow
The Tenement House is a typical Glaswegian four-room flat, circa 1892. Step back in time to Glasgow in the Victorian era.
Tel: +44 (0)844 493 2197

Glengoyne Distillery
Picturesque whisky distillery just 11 miles from Glasgow. A variety of tours run on the hour and provide an amazing insight in to the production of Scotch whisky.
Tel: +44 (0)1360 550 254

Falls of Clyde and New Lanark
A fantastic short walk along the Clyde from the World Heritage Site of New Lanark, passing waterfalls and a peregrine falcon watching area before the inland return route takes you through fields and woodland.
Tel: +44 (0)1555 665 262

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
Argyle Street, Glasgow
World-class museum boasting one of Europe’s greatest collections of civic art in 22 state of the art galleries.
Tel: +44 (0)141 276 9599

Botanic Gardens and Kibble Palace
Great Western Road, Glasgow
Located in the city’s West End, Glasgow Botanic is a cross between a public park and a botanic garden, adorned by a great conservatory: the Kibble Palace of 1873. Well worth a visit to enjoy some fresh air in the city.
Tel: +44 (0)141 276 1614

University of Glasgow
Student-led tours through this wonderfully gothic 550 year old campus operate every Thursdaythrough- Sunday at 2pm.
Tel: +44 (0)141 330 2000

The Glasgow School of Art
Renfrew St, Glasgow
Wonderful tours of the buildings designed by Charles Rennie Macintosh, conducted by a student. A must if interested in art, architecture and history.
Tel: +44 (0)141 353 4500

Number 16
Byres Road, Glasgow
A well established neighbourhood favourite offering quality fresh Scottish fayre, friendly service and great value.
Tel: +44 90)141 339 2544

Cushion & Cake
Old Dumbarton Road, Glasgow
A quirky and cute tearoom serving a daily and changing selection of homebaked sandwiches, soup and delicious cakes.
Tel: +44 (0)141 339 4114

Tea Jenny’s
Kings Court, Falkirk
Fantastic little café with loads of personality; full Scottish breakfasts, gut-busting cakes, homemade soups and a huge variety of tea, leaf and bagged, served up in pots covered with quirky tea cosies.
Tel: +44 (0)1324 228 185

The Tap Room
Friendly local pub with a good reputation for food, offering a wide selection from international cuisines to classic favourites.
Tel: +44 (0)1698 284 805

Gamba Seafood Restaurant
West George St, Glasgow
Award winning seafood restaurant serving up some of Scotland’s best and tastiest, sustainably sourced, fish and shellfish.
Tel: +44 (0)141 572 0899

The Mill Inn
Coulter, nr Biggar
Good pub grub in a friendly village location next to a watermill.
Tel: +44 (0)1899 220 950

Black Sheep Bistro
Clarendon Street, Glasgow
This bright little restaurant is fully licensed and serves some delicious home cooked meals.
Tel: +44 (0)141 333 1435

Lamora Restaurant
Argyle St, Glasgow
Lovely little Italian place to eat with a restrained menu, but superb quality and service.
Tel: +44 (0)141 560 2070

The Bakehouse Café
The exterior’s not much really, but inside this is a comfortable and welcoming café.
Tel: +44 (0)871 266 4503

Wee Lochan
Crow Road, Glasgow
Café-bar by day, cosy restaurant by night. Great atmosphere and superb Scottish cuisine.
Tel: +44 (0)141 338 6606

The Last Shift Inn
Lovely rural pub open Friday through Sunday for fantastic meals and friendly service.
Tel: +44 (0)1555 812 700

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