An English comedian once remarked that: “if they like you in Glasgow, they let you live”. So, while Scotland’s largest city hosts more than two million tourists annually, the warmth of the welcome has not always been extended to alleged funnymen from “down south”.
Kevin McIndoe recommends, Glasgow,
Joking apart, Glasgow was the third European city and the first British city to win (in 1990) the EU’s European Capital of Culture award; an accolade that caused many London-based journalists to splutter into their early morning Earl Grey.
It has produced four winners of the Turner Prize, the UK’s most prestigious contemporary art award; and actors James McAvoy and Gerald Butler are doing rather nicely in Hollywood these days, too.
Glasgow is a port and was founded on the River Clyde in Scotland’s western lowlands. Its name is a derivation of the Gaelic “Glaschu” (dear, green, place) and it boasts more parks and open spaces (more than 70) per capita than any other city in Europe.
The city is home to around half a million people, and Scotland’s broadcasters and theatre, opera and ballet companies are all based here. It offers art galleries galore, myriad museums, music venues, theatres and hotels as well as countless places to eat, drink and be merry. It’s here that the world’s biggest pop stars come to for the Scottish dates of their tours, at Hampden Park football stadium or The SSE Hydro arena.
Glasgow has long been known as the best city outside London to shop, and last year its Finnieston district was voted the “trendiest place to live in the UK” by The Times newspaper.
My favourite place- Pollok Country Park (on the city’s southside) offers an oasis of woodland walks as well as an enchanting 18th-century Jacobean mansion (Pollok House) with courtyard and gardens. Treat yourself to tea and scones in a café that was once the house’s vast kitchen, and outside, your kids can stroke the horses and enjoy being stared at haughtily by some Highland cattle. Also on the estate is the Burrell Collection, a modern museum replete with the resplendent works of art of a Victorian Glasgow shipping magnate. Unfortunately, it is now closed until 2020 for refurbishment.
Highlights- The city’s impressive architecture and its array of fine museums illuminate Glasgow’s evolution; from the Middle Ages through its mercantile, shipbuilding and industrial heritage to its status today as a vibrant, progressive and forward-thinking city. The Art Nouveau legacy of Glaswegian architect, artist and furniture designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh abounds; from the sublime Glasgow School of Art (undergoing refurbishment after a fire) to House for an Art Lover, a modern take on one of his (unrealised) designs. Glasgow Harbour, once the hub of shipbuilding, is now on a road to regeneration, with structures like the Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum and the iconic Norman Fowler-created Clyde Auditorium (“the Armadillo”). Traditionalists may prefer the work of Alexander “Greek” Thomson whose work can be found all over the city, including Holmwood House (on the city’s southside) or the neo-Gothic splendour of the University of Glasgow or Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. No monument to the city’s medieval past can top Glasgow Cathedral and the Glasgow Central Mosque marks its multicultural present. All are well worth a visit.
Lowlights- Litter, and the failure to control the people who drop it. Some of the city centre’s pavements could do with resurfacing, too.
Souvenirs- For those fans of the TV series Outlander who fancy taking some traditional Scottish attire home, check out Tartan Plus on Glasgow’s main shopping thoroughfare, Buchanan Street. Don’t forget to visit Prince’s Square. This Victorian building and courtyard was a totem of the city’s urban renewal in the 1980s and boasts four floors of shops, restaurants, cafes and designer boutiques.
Getting there- You can fly from Muscat to London’s Heathrow and then get a connecting flight (every hour) with British Airways. Alternatively, fly to Dubai and take an Emirates flight to Glasgow. The airline runs 15 flights there a week.
Where to stay- Every well-known hotel chain has a presence here. But you can find more traditional boutique options in the Merchant City or in the West End. The usual websites will keep you busy, such as Booking.com, Hotels.com, Kayak, Trivago and Expedia.
1) Visit the Cathedral, the Necropolis, and Glasgow Green
2) Visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and Byres Road
3) At the Riverside Museum, step aboard a genuine clipper
4) Sit on a bench in George Square, in the heart of the city
5) Read a book in the Mitchell Library, the largest in Europe