I wasn’t sure if I would finish this one. It was a hot May afternoon and I was overdressed. Plus I don’t do well with the heat. I gave myself until Queen Margaret Drive and persevered even after checking Google Maps and thinking lots of swearies about how much further I would have to walk. Great Western Road is a street I’ve wanted to write about in this series for a long time. It is a major thoroughfare in the city, the A82 trunk road leading to Clydebank, Dumbarton, Loch Lomond, Glencoe and ultimately Inverness. I wasn’t walking that far. This series only covers streets in the city of Glasgow local authority area and that ends by a retail park about 5 miles from the city centre.
I started right after West Graham Street, walking under an underpass with the rather cheery legend ‘Life Is Life’, which reminded me of an 1980s disco song. I reached Great Western Road proper and until Byres Road it was a blur of churches, cracking shop names and the odd colourful pillar. Schoolkids were heading home, some running. I would have been doing the same. The Kelvin was fairly low and calm as I crossed it, the surroundings far busier than the flow of the river. The city there was busy and vibrant, establishments with names like Serenity Now (vegan cafe), Bake ‘n’ Flake (selling cakes, though it could have been a tanning salon), the Hug and Pint (pub though I wouldn’t particularly like either one), Valhalla’s Goat (posh booze shop) and Machair (pub/restaurant). That’s just the ones I noted down or got photos of. There were a few churches along the way, though some of them were no longer churches, like Webster’s and Oran Mor. Webster’s had the rather pleasing picnic tables with flowers in vases below a rather nice church exterior.
Past the Botanic Gardens it got quite leafy with trees hanging over me for much of the walk. On a sunny, warm day that was particularly welcome. I realised I was running out of water and I had to pause at Anniesland to refuel. The Botanics and the other gardens were particularly glorious in the sunshine. Nearer Anniesland there were a few quite handsome blocks of flats, some art deco and others 1950s-style. Trains passed over and I nipped into the supermarket to procure some water. The junction at Anniesland was busy, a red corner with a cupola and the 1960s tower block with offices underneath, a vision of utopia. A tree stump stood outside some houses nearby. Not quite sure how that got there, especially on its side.
The rest of the walk began to get more residential, some bungalows and flats a bit later. An old school had been turned into a care home but the gates remained, one for boys, the other for girls. A more modern school stood nearby, new and shiny, not looking so utilitarian with kids playing even later in the afternoon after school had finished. The frequent signs for the Forth and Clyde Canal I had been seeing for a while finally yielded a glimpse in Knightswood. Some day I will have to walk some of its route through the north of the city.
An overpass and I realised I was nearing the end of my walk, some five miles after it had started. Green signs stood at the other side of the road informing drivers that they were leaving Glasgow and bidding them a good journey. The retail park rose to my right as I saw signs welcoming me to West Dunbartonshire where my walk would finish or it would when I figured out how to get back into the city. Drumry railway station was just along a path and I was soon on a train, covering the route I had just walked in nearly two hours in a matter of minutes.
I was glad it was done. Several times I had thought about giving up. But the walk was interesting. I put names to places. I crossed a river and a canal. I saw great names and walked in the shadows of many trees. The longer streets in this series tend to be the most diverse and this one certainly was. Glasgow in one street, really – urban, suburban, posh and not-so-much. It felt important to write about this one. For many people, this would be their first sight of the city or maybe the last they saw of it if they were bound for mountains and lochs. For a couple of hours I walked, thought, looked and listened as I walked the length of Great Western Road.
Thanks for reading. This is the sixty seventh Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets featured in this series so far include West Graham Street, Buccleuch Street, Woodlands Road, Otago Street, Glasgow Street, Byres Road and Queen Margaret Drive. Additionally, part of Great Western Road featured as part of the Subway Surface walk between Hillhead and St. George’s Cross.