The best walks don’t take much planning. The idea for this one, walking from the West End right into the heart of the city, came one day off when I was brushing my teeth. An hour or so later, I walked out of Kelvingrove and turned onto Sauchiehall Street, forking left at the junction. I came past the bowling greens, still bedecked in signs for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, with the newly restored Glasgow University tower behind. The tennis courts on Kelvin Way had games going on, an especially dedicated thing for a cool Friday in January. As I walked towards Charing Cross, the whole place was busy with traffic and folk milling around, not a few of them students. There was a guy walking his dug, which was a wee fluffy thing with a harness. The canine’s name was Bruce. Love it.
There were lots of incredibly good smells on this walk, as I passed a few curry houses and what smelled like barbecue food near Sandyford Place. The walk heading towards Charing Cross had good vistas either side, particularly at one junction when I could look up to Park Circus to the left and the Sikh Gurdwara to the right. Sauchiehall Street at that point had lots of sub-streets branching off them, Royal Crescent, Westminster Terrace, Sandyford Place, amongst others, though since they technically aren’t on Sauchiehall Street, I can’t write about them here. Royal Crescent is quite nice, though. Soon I came to the motorway, looking under the office block towards the Kingston Bridge and the Cathkin Braes beyond. That’s a whole lot of concrete. The Victorian drinking fountain that sits on the corner, put there in honour of Sir Charles Cameron, the city’s MP from 1874 to 1895, and the elaborate, curved Charing Cross Mansions make it a wee bit more aesthetically pleasing, if you ignore the exhaust reek.
Looking up is always rewarded in Glasgow, particularly in this case between Charing Cross and Renfield Street. Most of the buildings are older, with a few muckle towers and strange golden buildings chucked in for good measure. The golden one is near Primark further down and I hadn’t noticed it before, quite honestly thinking WTF? The road was being dug up though as ever there didn’t seem to be much actual work happening. Luckily there were some very fine buildings to look up to, including the Beresford, the Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum and the old Bank of Scotland that currently sits vacant, not to mention above the Savoy Centre and Waterstones closer to town. That bit of the street gradually became busier with traffic, only getting worse as it became pedestrianised. Between Charing Cross and Pitt Street, Sauchiehall Street was thriving with lots of restaurants and stuff going on, a bit less so towards Buchanan Street. Glasgow City Council are working on improving Sauchiehall Street, though, funded by the City Deal initiative, with lots of trees, cycle lanes and Wi-Fi, as well as ‘intelligent street lighting’ and ‘reduced street clutter’. No, me neither. I’m sure it is being done with the best intentions and we will see what effect it has. It was still busy, though, feeling very Glaswegian with the Evening Times seller hawking papers and pigeons not budging out the road as folk walk up the street.
After that, it all started to get a bit surreal. The 02 ABC advertised a show that night by Propaganda. At least the musicians were honest about their intentions. The CCA had a book in the window, apparently about the late architect Zaha Hadid, titled The World Is Not A Rectangle. Above Waterstones, I noticed posters in the window, bearing the admittedly quite thoughtful slogans ‘More storeys than any other bookshop’ and ‘Haven’t you got anything better to read than this. We have.’ Since there are no statues on Sauchiehall Street, a traffic cone was high up in a street light rigging. A red polis box nearer West Nile Street was being used as a dispensary of hemp. As you do.
I sat on the steps outside the Royal Concert Hall and thought about the walk just finished. I don’t visit Sauchiehall Street a lot. I mainly pass along it by bus or cross on the way to some transport connection or another. It was a good street to do a psychogeographic walk on, though, since it’s about looking beyond the obvious, the surface, the cosmetic, and instead looking up. There are some bits of Sauchiehall Street that are hard to love but there are lots of fine parts, architecture, characters and of course food smells. Whatever the finials, carvings and the rest, it’s the food that makes everything worth it.
This is the seventeenth Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Nearby streets written about as part of this series so far include Buchanan Street, Hope Street, Renfield Street and West Nile Street as well as Bath Street and Kelvin Way which are forthcoming.