Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city, having expanded dramatically in the 18th-20th centuries due to being one of the main British hubs for trade and shipbuiling in the Industrial Revolution. Although its industrial heritage is fairly well known, Glasgow’s past as a centre for learning and creativity is less so, despite having been a hub for the Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th century and being famed for its Victorian and art nouveau architecture. Nowadays the creative side of Glasgow is much more prominent, being the home of the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and National Theatre of Scotland. It is this side of Glasgow that I was excited to get to know as I headed to the west side of Scotland.
Having arrived into Glasgow Queen Street Station that is bang smack in the middle of the city, I was in a good place to start as I came out into George Square. In comparison to its eastern rival Edinburgh, Glasgow is a lot more spread out, so there’s a lot of ground to cover to get from one end of the city to the other. However, although there is an underground system, I decided to walk from the city centre to the west end of the city to start exploring.
Leaving George Square via Saint Vincent Street, I began walking towards the west end of town (it was at this point that I began to realise how much bigger Glasgow was in comparison to my expectations). Having finally reached the west end with a few blisters, I began to more leisurely explore the rows of the neo-classical terrace houses. Although now inhabited by the growing student population of the University of Glasgow, this end of the city is particularly well known for its beautiful sandstone houses and quirky cafe culture.
Eventually, I found myself at The Òran Mór, a church turned into a pub and playhouse. It’s a very unusual but vibrant, friendly place, with the pub being in the old church while the playhouse is underground. The pub is beautifully decorated with ornate celtic patterns spanning the bar, tables and chairs, with artwork as well as ceiling and floor murals. It’s an artistic place. At 1pm each day Òran Mór run a lunchtime special called A Play A Pie And A Pint, which does exactly what it says on the tin. At 12pm the tickets begin selling by the entrance to the pub, so for £12.50 I got a decently sized Scottish pie, a pint of cider and a 45 minute play to enjoy. Not bad for a lunchtime pastime. The play on at the time was It’s Behind You, a comical story of Nickie and Nelly, two actors in a pantomime who have underlying problems that are all set to burst onto the stage.
After my enjoyable lunchtime dose of culture, I headed across the road to the Botanic Gardens. Free to enter, these huge greenhouses are fascinating to wander round and admire all the exotic and beautiful plant life they have growing in there. The Botanic Gardens were founded in 1817 by Thomas Hopkirk, moving to its present site in 1847, so it’s a little cove of history as well as an atmosphere of tropicality that is unlike any other part of the city. I found it really relaxing walking around the gardens, particularly because there is always the sound of water not far off that gives them this otherworldly ambience – plus walking around them is a lot warmer than outside!
My return to nature complete, I then began to head over to the University of Glasgow‘s campus. The campus looks like something out of Harry Potter with its neo-gothic spires, towers and university buildings. The main site which is connected to the University Chapel is beautiful, particularly the inner courtyard, in which you can see the various towers assigned to different subjects. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d have seen a broomstick flying overhead.
From there, I began to explore Kelvingrove Park, before heading back up to Gibson Street for a bite to eat and a coffee at Artisan Roast. The west end is populated by some of the best independent cafes and coffee houses Glasgow has to offer, Artisan Roast being one of its finest coffee pioneers.
After having stayed at Artisan Roast for quite a few hours resting my sore feet, I decided to call it a night for my first day exploring Glasgow.