This walk was utterly unplanned. It was inspired by passing Glasgow Cross on the way back into the city. Seeing the Tolbooth Steeple reminded me that the street that lies to its north is the city’s High Street, no less. It being a beautiful sunny afternoon, it was all I could do that I got off the bus at George Square and walked along George Street past Strathclyde University and its many murals towards the top of the High Street. With the Cathedral and the Necropolis in the background, I set off, stopping within a matter of moments to admire a mural on the gable end of one of the buildings, showing a beardy guy with birds around him. The avian kind, I should add.
The High Street represents a lot of Glaswegian stereotypes – red tenements, closed shops and it is a bit rough, a lot more so than Byres Road, the last street which featured in this Streets of Glasgow series. Also like much of Glasgow, however, it has many fine buildings – it is always worth looking up. On the first stretch leading down to George Street, I not only appreciated the mural but also some fine finials, carvings and statues in the space of maybe 300 yards. I crossed the road by a solicitor’s office and was rewarded by looking up to see an elegant building, apparently part of a City Improvement scheme in the late 1890s, complete with curved windows and towers at the top. Across the road, though, was the first incongruous building, namely 220 High Street, the headquarters of Glasgow Life, which is a modern office block which looks like it’s composed of a box of ice lollies the wrong way round. In short, it’s part of the ‘middle finger’ school of modern architecture so I gladly passed by. The High Street has a mixture of old and new buildings, as most of Glasgow does, though there was a fair bit of empty ground across from the station which yielded a good view towards the Merchant City and Strathclyde University’s many murals.
Unlike on Byres Road, there were few folk walking the whole way like I was. There were a mixture of commuters despite the Bank Holiday and students heading in and out of the halls of residence further down the High Street. Across the road from the halls was a good reminder of how multicultural our great city is with an eastern European food shop next to a Russian food shop which sat next to a bookies.
Only a wee while later, I found myself back at Glasgow Cross, at the end of another walk. The Tolbooth Steeple dates from 1623 and sits like an island in the midst of a busy road junction. Or an archipelago really, since there’s also the Mercat Cross and the ventilation grilles of the old Glasgow Cross railway station around the junction. The steeple is, I read, the only surviving part of the Tolbooth which was once the centre of Glasgow’s civic life before being demolished in the 1920s. I noticed, though, that the plaque on the steeple, marking it as a city landmark, was not only on the road side with no pavement but also high above where anyone could see it without craning their neck. This walk was another around this city when I did that a lot. It is always worth looking up in Glasgow, wherever you are, but this walk was a great insight into this city, more so than Byres Road, a real, diverse, interesting Glasgow.