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Published September 18th 2016
As they say in Glasgow: West is Best
I was born and brought up in a region that lies between Edinburgh and Glasgow and I spent many happy times in and around the Greater Glasgow area. I've always been amazed at how friendly Glaswegians are (I have no idea why they get a bad rap, sometimes) as they're the most down to earth, kind and funny people in Scotland (in my opinion…). I'm not just saying that because I have family from Glasgow, although, obviously, they'll hunt me down and give me a stern talking to if I say horrible things about it. I genuinely do love it.
The last time I visited Glasgow was for work and I was inspecting a city bus tour. I exited from Buchanan Street Station and it took all of a minute before someone came up to ask me if I'd visited the markets on George Square yet, and went on to tell me how lovely they were. Seriously, this is what happens every time I go. Someone always, always chats to me. I'm not sure if it's just me, but that would be weird, so I'm going to assume they do it with everyone. They are a very friendly lot.
As well as the lovely people, Glasgow has some incredible sights and there's a ton to do to suit every budget. These are a few of my favourite sights:
The Council Chambers in George Square
The square is in the centre of the city and is where the seat of the Council lies, in Glasgow's City Chambers. The building itself is wonderful, and there's always something going on. Surrounding the Square are a number of quality bars and restaurants (The Counting House being my personal favourite), and both major train stations are within quick walking distance.
If you get some decent weather (I said if…), it's a great place to sit and watch the world go by.
Free admission: public square.
City Sightseeing Tours: The tour buses are based from George Square and will take you all around the city, with fantastic commentary and friendly guides. If you don't really know the city and want to get your bearings, this is a great place to start. Despite knowing the city for many years, although not well, I found the tour to be highly enjoyable and taught me so much about the city and its people.
Admission fees apply.
Glasgow Cathedral: The magnificent Cathedral is situated north of the High Street and dates back to before the Scottish Reformation. The tomb of Saint Mungo, who is the patron saint of Glasgow, lies in the lower crypt. The Cathedral also famously features in the novel, Rob Roy, by Sir Water Scott.
It is free to enter and walk around and hopefully you, unlike me, can avoid going at the same time as some poor soul is getting married. If you do happen upon someone's nuptials, you can still enter the main areas, but would likely be unable to access the Chapel until the ceremony is over. Unless, of course, you sneak in, but that's not for me to encourage.
The views from the hill across the city shouldn't be missed
This is a Victorian cemetery (I know, I know, it's probably not what 'normal' people consider a tourist attraction) that sits on top of a hill just to the east of the Cathedral. The site hosts almost 3,500 graves, some with and some without headstones. I remember it fondly from my days watching Taggart on Scottish television, as it featured quite regularly, what with all the murders and stuff.
Given the location, it offers a good view of the city below and is a really interesting place to walk. Honestly.
Free admission (well, it is a graveyard...)
Anyone for cake?
Willow Tea Rooms: The Willow is located on Sauchiehall Street in the centre of the city and is famous for being designed by leading Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Macintosh. The team rooms have been in place since 1903 and are instantly recognisable in the classic Macintosh style.
They can get quite busy and are a major attraction in the area as they beautifully showcase the work of Macintosh. The sister shop is located in Buchanan Street, which is only a short distance away from the main event on Sauchiehall Street.
Free admission, but do try a cuppa when you're in.
Kelvingrove is one of Scotland's most visited attractions
Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery:
With a collection of more than 8,000 pieces of art, Kelvingrove is the most visited free museum in Scotland and the most popular in the UK (outside London). The Spanish Baroque exterior is impressive in its own right and the Museum sits within the gorgeous surroundings of Kelvingrove Park, adjacent to the University of Glasgow's main campus building.
The art gallery contains many fine Europeans pieces, including works by Monet, Pissarro, Van Gogh and Renoir. In addition, it houses works by Scottish Colourists, and has space dedicated to Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Macintosh. The museum also showcases the magnificent Christ of St John of the Cross by Salvador Dali.
Due to the sheer size of Kelvingrove, and the fact that there is no admission charge, it's a very popular place for families to enjoy a day out together.
House for an Art Lover:
Situated in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park, the house is inspired by the designs of Charles Rennie Macintosh. It combines gallery and exhibition space, artist studios, café, and can also be hired out for weddings and other events.
The original designs for the building were part of a competition entry by Macintosh to build an 'art lover's house' in 1901. After Rennie Mac was disqualified from the competition for submitting the interior designs after the official closing date, the idea remained on paper until 1989, when an engineer, who was in charge of restoring his other works at Craigie Hall, pushed through the idea to initiate the build. After a long and arduous process, the final building was opened in 1996.
In addition to the house, there's a walled garden, which is brilliant for the kids and includes an Alice in Wonderland maze, Glasshouse, walking and cycling trails and lots of outdoor space for relax in.
Admission fees apply.
Glasgow Science Centre:
Located on the south bank of the River Clyde, GSC is officially Europe's Best Science Centre and is graded as a 5 star visitor attraction by VisitScotland. It's a purpose built venue, which houses three main buildings: Glasgow Tower, Science Hall and the IMAX Cinema.
The entire space is interactive and is VERY popular with families with children as, as well as being great fun; it's also very educational. There are hundreds of interactive exhibits to keep adults and children occupied. It can be quite an expensive day out, depending on your budget, but you could easily spend a full day here. There is also a shop and Café on site.
I don't have any children, but I do like to try and borrow some so that I can visit without looking odd.
Admission fees apply.
Glasgow's fabulous Museum of Modern Art
GoMA: The Museum of Modern Art is located in the heart of the city centre, in Royal Exchange Square, and is free to visit (two bonus points already, then…). It showcases the best in modern art and is Scotland's most visited modern art gallery.
The last time I was there, I was lucky enough to see a photographic exhibition, of which one of the images was the balcony in Memphis where MLK was assassinated. This image stuck with me for such a long time and fuelled my need to visit the Lorraine Motel for myself, which I was lucky enough to do in 2014. It's funny how a simple photograph in Glasgow led directly to me visiting a city thousands of miles away. That's the power of the work in GoMA. Aside from the range of modern art, the building itself is truly beautiful, with fabulous Corinthian pillars on the Queen Street side.
As well as the gallery, the city library is also based in the building. There is also a shop and Café on site.
The Duke of Wellington:
No trip to Glasgow should EVER be completed without paying your respects to the unofficial symbol of the city: the Duke of Wellington. He stands on his horse, immediately outside GoMA, and is instantly recognisable from the jaunty traffic cone he proudly dons on his head. The blaze orange cone has been removed by the city council on numerous occasions, but always, always finds its way back. It makes me laugh every time I see it and I'd love to know how many people visit the statue just because of this. The cone, and its positioning on a prominent statue in a lovely area of the city, perfectly reflects the Glaswegian sense of fun.
During the 2015 UK general elections, even the Duke's trusty steed earned a traffic cone, but this has sadly been removed. Old Welly's is still in place and the council seems to have finally given up attempting to take it down. Resistance is futile, as they say. The city has spoken.
Visiting the Duke is free, but he's totally worth paying for, right?