Five reasons why you should come to Glasgow

Recently I saw a post on Facebook from People Make Glasgow, the city’s marketing bureau, which advertised a post from a travel blogger called WishWishWish about her visit to this fine city, where she ate, visited and shopped. I suspect I’m not in the target demographic for this particular post, since I already live here, though I realised that a fair few of the recommendations were for places I’ve not actually been to. That’s fine. We’re all different. If I wanted to eat in Glasgow, I would generally go to my house. I’m about the day life, not the night life. We all have different focuses in our lives and Glasgow has lots of strands that make it the fine city it undoubtedly is.

Lately I’ve written a lot about Glasgow, mainly through my wanders along some of the city’s streets. My focus has been narrowed so let’s think about the broader sense of the city. Here are five recommendations of places visitors to Glasgow should go. They might not necessarily be on the beaten track. But I like them.

  1. Pollok Park – The Burrell might be getting refurbed but Pollok Park is still well worth a look, not just for Pollok House and the Spanish art but for the trees, leaves and the fact it’s near the motorway but utterly peaceful.
  2. Glasgow Botanic Gardens – Not just the Kibble Palace and the bits nearest Byres Road but the arboretum and the walk by the Kelvin. There’s an old brick works and a river flowing right by. I like the Kelvin.
  3. Holmwood – The National Trust for Scotland look after an Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson designed house in the south side and it’s in nice grounds. It has an interesting design, inside and out.
  4. Riverside Museum – Invariably very busy, indeed it had 1.3 million visitors last year, but though it is much-maligned for a lot of the vehicles being up high and a bit of an aircraft carrier, it is a good insight into the city’s history. The old street and the Subway station in particular is always a highlight.
  5. The streets of Glasgow – what else would I say? Glasgow is a very walkable city and it is best seen on foot, usually looking up. The architecture, the voices, all that: the city is around you. Never mind tour buses or bikes or whatever. Get a good pair of shoes on and walk.

Streets of Glasgow: Duke Street

I don’t always do research for these walks. I prefer to see what I find out along the way. Duke Street was an exception. I looked up Wikipedia and one of my architecture books and that sealed the deal for actually going ahead with it. I started from the High Street end, walking by the side of 220 High Street and looking across to the elegant red sandstone building that sits on the corner of High Street and Duke Street. The sign was written in cursive so I wasn’t sure but I thought a Thai massage and beauty place across the way was called Supaporn. (It actually is, I’ve checked.) This part of the walk featured tower blocks on the left, modern flats to the right. I soon came to the Ladywell Business Centre, once a school, now offices, which looked great in the cold February sunshine with an elegant tower, complete with finial, as well as carved heads on the frontage of the building. Atop one of the ends of the building were a whole load of pigeons, revelling in a structure without spikes.

Not far away was the Tennents Caledonian Brewery. I don’t like beer and I’m told that Tennants in particular is vile so I wasn’t going to bother with the tour. Tennents have an excellent PR department and the walls up and down the street were bedecked in old adverts for Tennents Lager, including the cans with the Lager Lovelies and another in Japanese. My favourite, though, was the one that boasted ‘Now in cans’ plus the pipes of the brewery which were painted to look like a pint. Brewing has taken place on the site since 1556, making it the oldest continually operating business in the city. Duke Street is also the longest continuous street in the UK, again according to Wikipedia, so that’s particularly appropriate. Across the way was a pub no longer in existence, though looking like something out of Still Game in its rough and readyness, and the old Sydney Place United Presbyterian Church, now defunct, which is stunning, designed in 1857 by Peddie and Kinnear in a Greek style.

I soon reached Dennistoun and was tickled by a shop at the junction with Bellgrove Street called African Embassy, which billed itself as the ‘Visa to Good Food’. They went al the way with it, which I liked it. Dennistoun isn’t an area I know well. I went last summer to find the Buffalo Bill statue in the area and I had an urge to go back anyway. As I crossed the road, two women crossed in the other direction saying ‘It’s freezing’. They were possibly scoffing at the fact I was wearing shorts at the time, on a cold day (4 degrees) in February, though in my defence it was part of my 30 Before 30 list. Like on Govan Road, there were a fair few businesses around with Duke in their name, two including Duke Sweet and Dukes Barber. Also on that row was a pound shop with lots of emojis on the front, which gave a conflicted sense of the business’s priorities. I liked a sign outside a pub nearby, though, which featured Betty Boop on a motorbike with the legend ‘Adventure Before Dementia’.

As I walked on, I was reminded of how split our city is in a footballing sense. Though I could see the cantilever of the Celtic Park stands, I was soon by two pubs, the Louden Tavern and the Bristol Bar, liberally festooned with Union flags, though some Saltires, leaving a casual passer-by in no doubt of their footballing loyalties. The 21st century resumed a little way away with a trendy chicken shop called Black Rooster Peri Peri. I also walked past a suitably no-nonsense pest control business, which declared ‘all types of pests dealt with’ and that they had ‘unmarked vehicles’, for those jobs requiring discretion. There was also a derelict nightclub building up the road nearer the Forge, which looked like it had seen its share of bother over the years. Being an architecture buff, though, I liked the angles of the railway bridges over my head as I came to the Forge.

The Govan Road walk ended at Paisley Road Toll, one of the most architecturally interesting corners of the city. Duke Street ends at Parkhead Cross, another stunning bit, with fine red sandstone buildings on each corner as Duke Street, Gallowgate, Tollcross Road and Westmuir Street joined. The one on the corner of Duke Street and Gallowgate looked rather like the one at the start, at Duke Street and High Street, a neat bookend for a rich and varied walk with some gorgeous buildings, bits I would rather have missed and many more I’m glad I saw, rewarded as ever by looking up and around when otherwise I would have passed by.

Sources and further reading –

‘Duke Street, Glasgow’, Wikipedia, available at,_Glasgow (accessed 9th February 2018)

Williamson, Elizabeth, Riches, Anne and Higgs, Malcolm, The Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, 2005, New Haven, CT/London, Yale University Press

This is the twenty fifth Streets of Glasgow post on Walking Talking. There are plenty of others to read, including High Street, which meets Duke Street at its western end. Near Duke Street in Dennistoun is Alexandra Parade, which I wrote about last summer. Posts on Gallowgate and Trongate will follow in the coming weeks.

Towering over Restalrig

Not too long ago, I thought this blog was getting too east coast, with more of Edinburgh, Fife and East Lothian than anywhere else. Then Streets of Glasgow happened and it got all Weegie. To get a bit of balance in this here establishment, let’s go east.

Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh, the arena used for much of the 1970 and 1986 Commonwealth Games, is in the process of redevelopment. The other day I saw a couple of photos online which had been taken from London Road, about fifty years apart. The one taken recently featured the velodrome while the other showed the old Meadowbank, once the home of Leith Athletic, which used to stand on the same site. The one common feature of the photographs was in the background, a tall, red tower which stands to this very day in Restalrig Drive. I went to primary school around the corner from it and the tower was a familiar part of my childhood landscape. Indeed it is prominent over much of eastern Edinburgh, visible from the East Coast main line too as it passes nearby. I took myself down there recently and from the street, right by the building (now flats), it is not possible to actually see the tower. From up the street, though, I could see the remnants of the letters ‘MUNRO’ on the centre of the tower. When I was at school, the factory was occupied by the tartan peddlars Kinloch Anderson. According to Canmore, Historic Environment Scotland’s very fine database of historic places, the factory was built in 1910 for Munro and Co. Ltd., makers of hosiery and waistcoats. The tower was in fact a water tower owing to the factory being higher than sea level. It shut in the 1990s, about the time I was in primary school, funnily enough.

When you’re a child, your reality is what’s normal, even if others would dispute it. I was lucky to grow up by the sea and have a good primary school experience. I didn’t realise until recently how the area I went to school in was actually really interesting. own the way is St. Triduana’s Chapel, which I wrote about recently and still haven’t been to, and over the hill is the Craigentinny Mausoleum, a little bit of Greece in a perjink suburb of the capital. It is always worth looking over that next horizon and keeping your eyes open. What you see in your neighbourhood might be familiar but it shouldn’t stop you from being curious or from just stopping to look up.

Thanks for reading. My other blog, Easter Road West, also has a post tonight, about reading on the way to the game. Walking Talking‘s next post is a Streets of Glasgow post, this time Duke Street.

Towards the stars

On the wall facing my bed is a poster I got from the Scottish Poetry Library. It features a poem by Iain Crichton Smith called ‘Towards The Stars’. I glance at it every so often and just now I got to thinking about a night about a year ago. I spent the weekend in Northumberland, a part of the country I absolutely adore. We drove to Embleton late one January night. It was a cold, clear night and as we drove down the A1 the stars were bright and shimmering above us. I’ll never forget it. I live in the city and stars aren’t a common sight here. It was perfect, the sky bright and scattered with little lights. Never have I had a greater sense of how small and insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things. We pulled into Embleton and I stood by the car for a while, just looking up. It was cold and it was late or else I would have been there a lot longer. The rest of the weekend was cloudy and I didn’t see much the next few nights. Somehow it is better that way, even if it didn’t feel like that at the time.


Streets of Glasgow: Mitchell Street

I slept in. A big day trip and I fall back asleep. A new ticket and a new plan swiftly arranged, I found myself with time to kill in the centre of Glasgow at 7 on a Saturday morning when the sun wasn’t even up. Naturally my thought was to do a Streets of Glasgow walk. The problem I had as I walked out of Central onto Gordon Street was thinking of which street in the vicinity I hadn’t done before. I thought about Royal Bank Place, which leads from Buchanan Street to Queen Street. Then I remembered Mitchell Street, not just a street I hadn’t written about but I had never actually been down. Obviously the time was then, 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning. As I headed along Gordon Street, the city was getting geared up, including the workers in the nearby Pret A Manger. Above a bright video advert for Adidas beamed away, not failing to catch my attention. I turned right and as well as the Lighthouse, my first sight was a set of black iron railings above the Co-op Bank, an affectation rather than a necessity in all likelihood.

The Lighthouse is a Rennie Mackintosh building, once where the Herald was printed. I have never actually been, though I will very soon, so I can only comment on the outside, which is red sandstone, typically Glaswegian with the usual Rennie Mac stylings and flourishes suitably rendered. Across the way is a multi-storey car park. It was designed by Frank Gehry, though, looking like a dancing couple–no, of course it wasn’t. What it did have was a mural on the side depicting a girl blowing dandelion seeds which were in the shape of wind turbines, a neat environmental message plus a reminder of why it’s good to embrace our inner child. My inner child was tickled by Mitchell Street’s street art, including a big mural on a gable end showing a girl with a magnifying glass and another smaller one shrouded in scaffolding which depicted someone taking a picture of a flying taxi. Another unexpected pleasure was a ghost sign, this one for Wylie and Lochhead, good Scottish names both, cabinet makers and upholsterers.

My abiding impression as I walked down Mitchell Street was that it was like an alley Superman would duck down to get changed in. Every city needs a back street or six though even early on a Saturday, this one had people in it, folks huddling over their fags in doorways outside hotels and their work before they start. The street narrowed until it eventually came out and I suddenly knew where I was. I was now on Argyle Street, between an arcade and the Celtic shop. I looked back and saw the aforementioned mural of the girl with the magnifying glass. I had long admired it but had never ventured up close. Even in the half-light, it was worth it.

Even on the sunniest day, I don’t suppose Mitchell Street gets a whole lot of light, the narrowest of narrow streets even by Glasgow standards. Glasgow standards, though, are high and even back streets here are worth a look, preferably when the sun has come up a bit more.

This is the twenty fourth Streets of Glasgow post to appear on Walking Talking. There are quite a few others available, twenty three of them, funnily enough. Mitchell Street joins onto West Nile Street, which I wrote about last autumn, and Gordon Street, which I wrote about last summer. Last week’s was West Regent Street, elsewhere in the city centre.

The big day trip I was heading for was London, which I wrote about here.

Since I wrote this post, I visited the Lighthouse, which is excellent. A very fine building it certainly is, especially the view from the top. Here’s Mitchell Street from the Lighthouse.

In the heart of the city

The other week I was in London. I wrote about it too, here. At one point in the day, I headed for South Kensington, intending to go to the Science Museum but that part of the world was busy and I reasoned that the museum wouldn’t be massively comfortable. I went for a walk instead with not much of a plan beyond just following my nose. I walked up round by the Royal Albert Hall and then decided to walk through Hyde Park despite the drizzle and the cold. I hadn’t been to Hyde Park before and I was particularly glad to see the Serpentine in particular, which I had heard of mainly because of some bonkers folk going swimming in it on Christmas Day, apparently an annual event.

Beyond the Serpentine, I went across the park, eventually ending up near Marble Arch. Despite the horse riders, cars and traffic noise, I managed to be on a path entirely on my own with not a soul to be seen around me. In the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world, on a Saturday afternoon when everybody and their granny seemed to be out, quite a few of them in costume, I was alone. I just found that amazing. To be fair, a drizzly February Saturday wasn’t the best day to see Hyde Park. A lot of people would have preferred to be inside. I can appreciate how lovely the park would be on a summer’s day. But I was there that day and I felt something. I’m not London’s biggest fan. It’s big, loud and busy. But I felt comfortable and at peace, even in one of the biggest cities in the world but still managing to find a space in the crowd to be alone, to hear myself think. My connection with London, even my affection for the place, grew in that moment.

I also have a post on my other blog, Easter Road West, tonight. It is about Cathkin Park, home of Third Lanark. Sunday’s Streets post here features Mitchell Street. Have a read.

Maps and memorials

I don’t normally post on Thursdays but decided to make an exception for today since it’s International Women’s Day. Rather than write an earnest diatribe about how women are great (which they are), I would like to share something I saw earlier on Twitter. It also fits in with something I wrote about in the Streets Govan Road post recently about the lack of statues of women in Glasgow, though today there is one more with the unveiling of the Mary Barbour statue in Govan, which seems to have been well-attended. Sadly I couldn’t make it though will get down to see it ASAP. The Glasgow Women’s Library, Women’s History Scotland and Girlguiding Scotland have joined forces and produced a website called Mapping Memorials to Women in Scotland featuring a map of memorials to women all across this land. It combines at least three of my favourite things: history, maps and facts.

Elder Park

I had a quick scout around it earlier and there are loads of different spots around. Nearest to my house is Elder Park, which I wrote about recently here, donated by Isabella Elder to the folk of Govan. Around where I grew up is the Witches’ Stone in the village of Spott near Dunbar which I have read about but not yet seen. Witches seem to recur a lot around the country, including the marker on Maxwellton Street in Paisley where witches were once burned. There is also a statue in Civic Square, Tranent, by where the Library used to be, which commemorates the Tranent Massacre in 1797, a protest against conscription.

Marjory Bruce cairn, Gallowhill, Paisley

I only had a few minutes so kept to those places I have a connection with, mostly East Lothian, the east of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Near where I went to primary school in Edinburgh is St. Triduana’s Chapel, part of St. Margaret’s Parish Church, Restalrig. I’ve still not been, though at some point I’ll manage it when in the capital. I used to work in Haddington and across the road from its library is the house where Jane Welsh Carlyle was born, the wife of Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle and a fine letter writer in her own right. In Renfrew, there is the monument to the air ambulance, which is by Tesco in Broadloan, and not far away in Gallowhill is the cairn with a plaque marking where Marjory Bruce died after falling from her horse. The plaque to Jane Rae, who was involved in the Singer rent strikes, which sits in the garden at Clydebank Town Hall, is also on the map.

I could easily spend hours looking at this. Now I’ve reached home, I’ve looked a bit more. I just wanted to share it. It was created in 2011 but I only saw it today. I’m glad I did. Go have a look.

Paisley Gilmour Street

Paisley Gilmour Street is a station I pass through at least once a month on my travels, deeper into Renfrewshire or down the coast to Ayrshire, sometimes even bound for Edinburgh to watch the Hibs under the lights. It is, according to the Office for Rail and Road, the fourth busiest railway station in Scotland, beaten only by Glasgow Central, Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street, with roughly 4.1 million people entering and exiting the station in 2016-2017. No wonder – you can get a train from Paisley practically anywhere. The other night, I was on the way home from work and I had some time to kill. I sat and watched the trains pass through. At least two were for Gourock, one for Wemyss Bay, others for Largs, Ardrossan and the fast trains for Glasgow. When I got there, not long after 5, the station was pretty full; by the time my own train had arrived, it was much quieter. Then again there was an amber weather warning that night for snow and ice and folk would want to get home post haste.

Despite its low roof, Gilmour Street always gives the impression of space with its four long platforms spread out over quite an expanse over the Cart and the town streets below. From Platform 1, where I usually end up on my way home to the Glaswegian suburbs, by day there is a view over spires and industrial premises towards Glasgow Airport and the Kilpatrick Hills over the Clyde. On a good day, Gilmour Street Station is bathed with light, a pleasant place to sit and wait, stretch out with a book or a coffee. By night, the lights hit the red brick of the station buildings and it isn’t as stark nor as dark as Edinburgh Waverley, for example. I don’t mind sitting there, either watching the trains or the folk going by. I look towards a door on another platform marked ‘Railway Chaplain’. I always seem to miss them on their rounds.

Gilmour Street is also one of the few stations in Scotland with a mural, in fact in the passageway that leads to the platforms, the work of local artist Caroline Gormley bearing the legend ‘Welcome to Paisley’, featuring a Scotrail train as well as local landmarks and historical events plus well-kent folk including Gerry Rafferty and Fulton Mackay (yes, him who was Mr MacKay in Porridge), not to mention the Russell Institute on Causeyside Street, the girl mural on Storey Street and the Anchor Mill. It rewards a closer look and whenever I’m there I like to admire it for a few moments. Make sure you stop next time you’re in the vicinity. Even though Paisley lost its bid to be the UK City of Culture in 2021, arriving into the station and seeing that mural gives a cracking impression of the place and it’s good to see.

The first time I ever visited Paisley was when I was a kid. I had an auntie who lived there. I remember coming into Gilmour Street and walking down the stairs into a bustling town. The station made even more of an impression than Glasgow Central, which I would have passed through only a few minutes before. Even when I’m there now, I just like to sit and look for a few minutes, to think about what this station has seen down the years, the people bound for mills and places of industry then and commuters and students now. Every so often, I’m one of those commuters and it’s always a good thing to come into Gilmour Street and wait for a train to somewhere, be it home or some distant, exciting locale, usually the right place for the right time.

Streets of Glasgow: West Regent Street

Having done a few of these walks, it has reached the point when I can sum them up in a couple of words. West Regent Street’s are ‘food smells’. Walking up to Blythswood Square, I got the distinct whiff of fish, maybe salmon, maybe a fishcake, but something fishy nevertheless and not altogether unpleasant, as it happens. At the end, near West Nile Street, it was charred meat, from the BBQ place on the corner, plus I could also smell curry from the street food place up the road.

I started this walk at the junction with Holland Street. To the right was the back of the Strathclyde Police Headquarters, which occupies a whole block. Some of the old police posters were still up outside, despite the various Scottish police forces having merged nearly five years ago. As I walked past, I imagined the cast of Taggart cutting about, DCI Burke, Jackie and Robbie solving the inevitable murderrr. Randomly, I had just walked past an office block called Madeline Smith House, which I recognised as being named after an alleged murderer of the 19th century. No Mean City, indeed. Even the street signs joined in the dramatic theme, in the manner of a soap opera saying that West Regent Street continued after Blythswood Square. Not much happened in between, I can assure you, except the fish smell.

At that end there are also a few hotels, including one of the Dakota chain. Whoever designs them is quite firmly of the ‘middle finger’ school of architecture, particularly those near the Forth Bridges and on the M8 at Eurocentral, though the West Regent Street branch is slightly less shite, though still black all over. Thankfully, the architecture got better including a building on the corner at Blythswood Square which looked like it would fit snugly into Edinburgh’s New Town. I don’t know Blythswood that well but it felt very much like the New Town, complete with the concentric grid pattern. The buildings were like that for much of the walk, eventually getting more typically Glaswegian in red sandstone by Hope Street and Renfield Street then just tall and glass-fronted towards West Nile Street. A notable exception was Sovereign House, belonging to the Keppie design partnership, which I gather was once the home to the Institute for the Adult Deaf and Dumb and the John Ross Memorial Church to the Deaf, with a lot of Gothic touches designed by Robert Duncan. I’m not always a fan of Gothic stylings though it managed to sort-of blend in with the rest of the street.

It was late on a Friday afternoon and so the street grew busier with commuters the closer I got into town, even while the end nearest Holland Street was rather quiet. I hadn’t quite realised before I moved here just how Glasgow city centre is built on a hill, particularly to the west, though thankfully West Regent Street is quite gradual, at least the way I did it, an incline then a decline, much like life, I suppose.

Source and further reading –

Williamson, Elizabeth, Riches, Anne and Higgs, Malcolm, The Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, 2005, New Haven, CT/London, Yale University Press

Since this post was written, plans have been announced to demolish a particularly dilapidated building at 141/143 West Regent Street to replace it with flats. I remember walking past the building in question thinking nothing more than it was a bit run down. There’s more about it in this report from the Evening Times.

This is the twenty third post in this Streets of Glasgow series on Walking Talking. There are plenty of others to check out, including three streets which cut across West Regent Street at some point, namely Streets of Glasgow: West Nile StreetStreets of Glasgow: Renfield Street and Streets of Glasgow: Hope Street. Last week’s post, undertaken about an hour before this walk, was Queen Margaret Drive.


View from the Lighthouse

The other Sunday, I visited the Lighthouse for the very first time. It sits in Mitchell Lane in the city centre featuring a diverse selection of exhibitions. It also has a tower from which you can see right across Glasgow. Today this view’s probably much more snowy. Below are some photos from that experience at the top of the shoogly staircase. They were taken as normal with my phone so nothing special. Enjoy.