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Issue 77 - Glasgow and the Clyde Valley

Scotland Magazine Issue 77
October 2014


This article is 4 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 and the Clyde Valley

Local history, where to go, what to do...

Scotland’s great West Coast city of Glasgow is basking in the unrestrained triumph of the XX Commonwealth Games which took place in July/August, symbolising the re-instatement of its reputation as “the Second City of the British Empire”, as it was known in the Victorian era.

For three glorious weeks of athletic excess, Glasgow in the sentiment of its motto, truly “flourished.”

But for those of us who live in Scotland, Glasgow has always remained true to itself: gallous, cheery, brash, opinionated, welcoming and often excruciatingly in your face. That, it has to be acknowledged, is the package that you get: a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-faith mix of decent, down-to- earth, no-nonsense individuals who are proud of their lives on the banks of the River Clyde.

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

Mushrooming from a medieval bishopric and 15th century university town, its existence as a small religious/academic rural settlement was dramatically transformed as a seaport in the 18th and 19th centuries by the transatlantic tobacco and cotton trades. 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 trade, 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 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 unravelling and evolving.

Towering over the Merchant City is the Necroplis, a sprawling city of the dead which was inaugurated in 1833 and which, within its slopes under serried ranks of obolisks 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 twelfth century, long before the Reformation swept away its doctrinal affiliations to the Church of Rome.

Contemporary Glasgow, however, has distanced itself from its hard core, commercially driven Victorian past. Today, the Merchant City, its oldest quarter, hums with eclectic bars, award winning restaurants, design shops and art galleries, many of them 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 superlative City Chambers, the headquarters of the city council. With its splendid marble interiors, it covers an area of 6000 square yards and used up ten million bricks in its construction. The Victorian fathers of the city were determined to publicise their new found wealth and achievements.

And throughout the city, there are the treasures of that affluence 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 over ninety 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 that 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, the 1901 House of an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park, and the Glasgow College of Art, recently damaged by a fire but mercifully saved.

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 over 130 concerts a week in such venues, taking in King Tut's Wah Wah Hut and the Scottish Exhibition & Concert Centre on the River 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 twenty one crossings including the Clyde Tunnel, and the regeneration work 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 citiscape 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 without the River 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, over 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.

And 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 one hundred and seventy six 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 and survival 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 eighteenth century by David Dale, an Ayrshire-born 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, benefitted 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, which today serves as a Five Star visitor centre and restaurant, was designed by William Adam and completed in 1734. It is run by South Lanarkshire Council.

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 caravaning 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 early 20th 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, ten years after the death of the tenth Duke of Hamilton.

From 1862, until his death eleven 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 Livingston Centre. In 2005, a railway link to the park was established 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 intermittently 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.

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 in the process of being reversed.

An area rich in historical interest, ancient and modern, the Clyde Valley, and the mighty City of Glasgow have a great deal to be proud of.

Crowne Plaza
3 Congress Road
G3 8QT
Luxury on the River Clyde overlooking the BBC Scottish HQ and Science Centre.
Tel: +44 (0) 8719 429 091

Grand Central Hotel
99 Gordon Street
G1 3SF
This stylish station hotel, winner of the SHA Hotel of the Year in 2013.
Tel: +44 (0) 1412 403 700

Hilton Garden Inn
Finnieston Quay
G3 8HN
On the banks of the River Clyde. SHA Brand Hotel of the Year 2014.
Tel: +44 (0) 1412 401 002

Piper's Tryst
30-34 McPhater Street
Adjoined to the National Piping Centre. Winner of SHA Small City Hotel of the Year 2014.
Tel: +44 (0) 1413 530 220

Blythswood Square
Blythswood Square
G2 4AD
SHA Style Hotel of the Year and SHA Bar of the Year 2014.
Tel: +44 (0) 1412 488 888

Fraser Suites
1-19 Albion Street
G1 1LH
SHA Serviced Apartments Hospitality Award 2014.
Tel: +44 (0) 1415 534 288

60 Renfrew St
G2 3BW
198 cool and stylish bedrooms for stylish guests. Winner of SHA Glasgow Hotel of the Year Award 2014.
Tel: +44 (0) 2035 191 111

Beardmore Hotel
Beardmore Street, Clydebank
G81 4SA
Spacious bedrooms with views of the River Clyde.
Tel: +44 (0) 1419 516 000

Westerwood Hotel and Golf Resort
St Andrews Drive
G68 0EW
SHA Business Hotel of the Year and SHA Events Team of the Year 2014.
Tel: +44 (0) 1236 457 171

Mar Hall
A 5-star golf and spa resort. The Winner of SHA Luxury Hotel of the Year Award, Glasgow & Clyde, 2014.
Tel: +44 (0) 1418 129 999

Radisson Blu Hotel
301 Argyle St G2 8DL
Comfortable with Scandinavian-style interiors. Winner of SHA Service Excellence Hotel of the Year Glasgow & Clyde.
Tel: +44 (0) 1412 043 333

Jury's Inn, Glasgow
80, Jamaica Street
G1 4DG
Winner of SHA Informal Dining Restaurant of the Year, Glasgow 2014.
Tel: +44 (0) 1413 144 800

Glasgow Cathedral
Castle St
G4 0QZ
A medieval kirk on the site of St Mungo's original.
Tel: +44 (0) 1415 528 198

The Necropolis
70 Cathedral Square
A hilltop Victorian city of 50,000 dead.
Tel: +44 (0) 1412 873 961

The People's Palace and Winter Garden
Glasgow Green
G40 1AT
A step back in time to see how Glaswegians lived in centuries past.
Tel: +44 (0) 1412 760 788

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
Argyll Street
G3 8AG
Housing one of Europe's finest civic art collections.
Tel: +44 (0) 1412 769 599

The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery University Avenue
G12 8QQ
The oldest public museum in Scotland featuring Romans to present day.
Tel: +44 (0) 3334 221

House for an Art Lover
Bellahouston Park
10 Dumbreck Road
G41 5BW
Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1901, and built in 1996.
Tel: +44 (0) 1413 534

Pollok House & Garden
2060 Pollokshaws Rd
G43 1AT
A grand country house on the fringe of Glasgow, former home of the Maxwell family.
Tel: +44 (0) 8444 932 202

The Burrell Collection
2020 Pollokshaws Road
G43 1AT
A unique collection of art and artefacts accumulated by shipping tycoon Sir William Burrell.
Tel: +44 (0) 2872 550

Bothwell Castle
G71 8BL
Medieval fortress of the Black Douglases.
Tel: +44 (0) 1698 816 894

The David Livingstone Centre
G72 9BY
A museum dedicated to the life of the legendary explorer and missionary.
Tel: +44 (0) 8444 932 207

New Lanark World Heritage Site
South Lanarkshire
ML11 9DB
A late 18th century village founded by David Dale to house workers.
Tel: +44 (0) 1555 661 345

Country Park
Carlisle Road,
Hamilton ML3 7UE
Hunting lodge built in 1732 for the dukes of Hamilton.
Tel: +44 (0) 1698 426 213

11 Exchange Place
G1 3AN
A Glasgow legend in Art Deco Style dating from 1935. Intimate with superb cuisine.
Tel: +44 (0) 2484 055

Wee Lochan
340 Crow Road
G11 7HT
Café-Bar Restaurant. Speciality Scottish cuisine and friendly service.
Tel: +44 (0) 3386 606

Ubiquitous Chip
12 Ashton Lane
G12 8SJ
A celebrated Glasgow eatery with artistic brasserie dishes.
Tel: +44 (0) 1413 345 007

Black Sheep Bistro
Clarendon Street
G20 7QD
Bright surroundings and delicious home cooked meals.
Tel: +44 (0) 1413 331 435

Number 16
Byres Road
G11 5JY
Quality fresh Scottish fayre. A favourite with locals.
Tel: +44 (0) 1413 392 544

7 West Nile Street
G1 2PR
As the name would suggest, Italian cuisine at its Glasgow best.
Tel: +44 (0) 1412 481 166

Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery
652 Argyle Street
G3 8UF
An old coaching inn with famous status, fun ambiance and superb food.
Tel: +44 (0) 1412 218

The Corinthian Club
191 Ingram Street
G1 1DA
Popular Bar, Restaurant and Casino loacted near George Square.
Tel: +44 (0) 1415 521 101

The Bakehouse Cafe
31 Clyde Street,
Comfortable and welcoming cafe in honest surroundings.
Tel: +44 (0) 8712 664 503

The Tap Room
1 Burnbanlk Road, Hamilton ML3 9AA
Essentially the local pub but offering excellent food.
Tel: +44 (0) 1698 234 805

4 Barrack Street
From a traditional Italian chef background, the menu changes daily.
Tel: +44 (0) 1698 284 379

John Carrigan's Eating House
3 Birkhill Road, Eddlewood Toll
Good food, good drink and good service from a family business
Tel: +44 (0) 1698 285