Like St. Vincent Street, Argyle Street is one of the most prominent Glasgow streets, mainly known for the stretch in the town lined with shops and invariably filled with pigeons. I had wanted to write about it for this series for ages but the opportunity never arose until one Sunday afternoon in March. I began by the Kelvin Hall, the point where Dumbarton Road becomes Argyle Street, and paused to look up at the globes that adorn the two towers of the building. I had just been in Kelvingrove but I never tire of looking at that wonderful building. Then I walked on and there was a boy and his mum a little ahead of me. The boy was skipping, trying to step very precisely onto the pavement and not onto any of the cracks, something I still like to do from time to time as well. What I don’t like so much is gin and there was a bottle on the ledge outside one of the student residences and it was Edinburgh Gin, no less.
Argyle Street soon led into Finnieston with lots of ghost signs to go with the one by the Mother India Cafe. Some of these were deliberate to fit into Finnieston’s hipster ethos. There was also a pub that had lots of rugby stuff right over the outside and even advertised that people could book booths. Surely going to the pub isn’t that organised an exercise, even to watch the rugger? What also rankled was a restaurant called strip joint. The lower case wasn’t the issue, it was that it declared itself a ‘pizzaplace’ without a space. Our language doesn’t need mangled like that. Pizzeria is a perfectly lovely word. Italians and probably New Yorkers will have a few more.
I came back to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue and turned through a new housing development development into Anderston. Three hippo sculptures came up on the left, created in the 1960s and plonked there as part of Anderston’s latest redevelopment. I stopped a little while later and got a photo of the many ages of Glasgow architecture, including the pyramid (now a community space) and more modern and classically Glaswegian buildings. One of the pubs further down was decidedly less recent with a Masonic insignia above one of the windows.
The motorway intersected Argyle Street and before it did I came to some strange statues. One I could just about make out as Jimmy Reid, while the one on the left I thought was a soldier. It turns out that the one on the left was presenter and naturalist Tom Weir, Jimmy Reid in the middle and to the right James Watt. I’m not sure what I think of them. They weren’t substantial enough but that might have been intended because of the transient nature of the surroundings. I pressed on under the motorway, getting a few photos of the angles of all the overpasses and sections cutting off the middle.
Argyle Street resumed and it became more modern once more with offices, though in the middle there were some ruined and semi-derelict buildings along the way. One shop was a sex shop with the surely redundant title of ‘Your Secret Desires’. Those desires must stop being secret when people go in the door. What isn’t so secret is that I’ve always liked the Radisson a little way along the street with its many angles and protuberances. It looks like it was designed by Frank Gehry, though actually by Glaswegian architects Gordon Murray and Alan Dunlop.
Central Station loomed with its golden stone and glass so I came underneath the arches. I call it the arches but it is also known as Hielanman’s Umbrella as it was once where workers who had come from the Highlands met each other. Underneath is grotty and dark though thriving and always busy with folks passing by. Back into the light and the Argyle Street walk was nearly done and it was the busiest section. Also my least favourite. What I didn’t realise was how lovely some of the buildings were above street level, especially above Footasylum, Ann Summers and the Argyle Arcade, some all pillars and decorations, another white and almost Artdeco. I say this often but it is true. The best of Glasgow is above our heads. With that cheering thought, I counted how many other Glasgow streets I’ve written about that cross or meet Argyle Street and I came up with thirteen, the record for this series. It just shows its importance in the city as a thoroughfare, shopping paradise and place to live and work. Like everywhere it has its grotty bits but many, many charms, from pyramids to globes and much else besides.
Thank you for reading. This is the sixty second Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Nearby streets featured in this series previously include St. Vincent Street, Sauchiehall Street, Hope Street, Oswald Street, Jamaica Street, Union Street, Mitchell Street, Buchanan Street, Queen Street, Miller Street, Virginia Street, Glassford Street and Trongate.