A few months ago, I had a notion. I had been reading one of Iain Sinclair’s books about walking the route of the London Overground and it got me to thinking about walking the route of the Glasgow Subway. It’s been percolating for months, even going through a practice run back in the spring from Buchanan Street to Bridge Street. It also made my 30 things I would like to do before I’m 30 list. I thought about making it the main part of a book then I decided just to make it a multiple-part series here. It might be a book one day, you never know.
The Glasgow Subway is an underground rail system that runs on a closed loop around the city. It has fifteen stations on two lines, the Inner and Outer circle. It opened in the late 19th century and is well-beloved in Glasgow, even spawning the concept of a Subcrawl whereby folks go around the system getting a drink at the nearest pub to each station or more recently the Subrun which involves protein shakes rather than pints or shots.
My very first visit to Glasgow involved a trip on the Subway, a straight loop from Kelvinhall right around and back. When I visited afterwards, very often I got to my destination on the Subway. It became part of my commute for a while after I moved here. Strangely, though, I still check the map each time to make sure I haven’t missed my stop and the whirring and grinding isn’t ideal for my particular blend of sensory sensitivities. But it’s the Subway and it’s convenient.
The Subway Surface adventure came about as part of my continuing quest to understand my adopted home better. Last year I started a project called Streets of Glasgow which involved walking down streets, looking up and down, writing about what I experienced and gained in the process. I’ve long been fascinated with psychogeography, the French Situationist concept which sought to help people become less alienated in urban settings, and Streets was my way to do that but in Glasgow. Subway Surface tried to replicate that but on a linear route, a longer walk but one in a very varied landscape.
The walk eventually happened on a Bank Holiday Monday and it was also absolutely roasting to boot. The night before I was coming home from the east and I thought about just doing it. I bought an A-Z sheet map of the city and marked down my route. The first thoughts were where to start and how to navigate the Clyde. Since Govan is my nearest station, I started there. In the summer there is a ferry which runs from Govan to the Riverside Museum, which would make the route from Govan to Partick more straight forward. The alternatives are either to detour through the Clyde Tunnel or to go up river to Pacific Quay and cross there. I chose the latter option, not least because the Tunnel slightly creeps me out.
Over the next few weeks the results of the walk will appear here on Fridays. I finished, in four hours and eight minutes, with three breaks for buying provisions, lunch and to rest my feet near the end. I hope you enjoy following along on this walk on the surface of the Glasgow Subway.
Thanks for reading. Loose Ends returns tomorrow with Tranter’s Bridge.