One afternoon recently I got the Subway into town. I bought my ticket at Govan then proceeded down the escalator just as an Outer Circle train pulled in. What made this unusual was that there was rain on the window despite the Subway being entirely underground. The Subway was one of the very few modes of transport that ran during the epic snow at the start of March for that reason though even then it finished early. Then I remembered that across the road from Govan is the depot and this train will have just entered service for the evening peak. It was good, though, to imagine the train leaving its eternal loop to take a secret route into daylight or going through a cave and a waterfall like in Tomb Raider or something.
As I walked past Kinning Park Subway, I was asked directions. Since I had passed where they were looking for only a few minutes before, I was able to oblige. I was now at Plantation Park and I stopped because my feet were lowpin’ and I needed a drink. Plus to make notes. Plantation Park was a pleasant green space, one of many in the city though much quieter than at the Botanics and in town.
I soon turned onto Paisley Road West and there was a feeling of being on familiar ground and of relief too. I knew where I was. The end was near. My feet may have been pounding but I still felt good, not flagging despite the distance covered.
The thirteenth station was Cessnock and I already knew I had to get a photo of the station gates, a relic of the old Subway prior to its modernisation in the 1970s. I did so though I hadn’t realised that the building above Cessnock is part of a very handsome crescent designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. It was an unexpected joy and even better to see it lived in rather than as a museum piece. The Paisley Road West walk led me past lots of food shops with very nice smells, particularly kebabs. I desisted, however. Nearer Edmiston Drive there were quite a few new housing developments springing up, which was nice to see.
At Ibrox Subway I felt quite conspicuous. There was a view to Ibrox Stadium and the Rangers Megastore. The combined effect of this and the Louden Tavern was enough to bring out the deepest Hibs fan in me, particularly the Louden Tavern which proclaimed itself to be not just a pub, since it had a beer garden too.
Between Ibrox and Govan were quite a few factories, many of them still going, including Maritime House which looked particularly venerable. I came to Orkney Street, much more urban than the islands, but interesting with a view of the back of the old police station with bars still on the windows. It is now an enterprise centre. I soon turned by the TSB back onto Govan Road, crossing the road and finding myself back at Govan, the walk completed in four hours and eight minutes. Again I had the Mary Barbour statue to myself. From there, I decided to do the whole thing again, though this time on the Subway itself, doing a whole loop before getting off in the town.
As the Subway train looped, I thought about the walk just concluded. I had seen many parts of Glasgow, the city centre, industrial and the chic, some areas which have seen better days and others flourishing. I had seen architecture from Rennie Mackintosh and ‘Greek’ Thomson, both south of the river, the best side, as well as 1960s concrete jungle sprawl near Cowcaddens and Kinning Park. I crossed the Clyde twice and the Kelvin twice too, once each on the longest leg of the journey, Govan to Partick. I passed three of the city’s 33 public libraries – Partick, Hillhead and Ibrox – and at least four branches of Subway. I passed four statues, including two featuring women – Mary Barbour and the one commemorating the Spanish Civil War by the river. Plus of course fifteen Subway stations, the guiding posts that kept me right throughout this walk around the many parts of Glasgow. My favourite stretches were less familiar, from Hillhead to St. George’s Cross with the pigeon-dwelling statue and diversity, plus Kinning Park to Ibrox, the Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson crescent and being on familiar ground once more yet still seeing something new at almost every turn. That’s the object of the exercise, after all, and it’s why it’s worth following your feet some times. What can be seen will make life more interesting, for good or bad, plus your other senses will be satisfied, guaranteed.
I like the modern canopy at St. Enoch and I never miss an opportunity to stop and stare at the fine glass construction. Nearby there was another bar by the mural of Billy Connolly, also full, and there were lots of sunbathers down by the river. I soon crossed the Clyde for the second time and looked up and down, not quite seeing Pacific Quay where I had crossed earlier, but seeing much of the city skyline and discovering that the trains were disrupted courtesy of the Central Station PA system carried by the wind.On the pavement as I crossed the road was a chalked drawing, looking very new, featuring an unicorn and the legend ‘From Canada With Love’. This Weegie liked it a lot.Bridge Street was once a railway station too and the surface buildings are still there, now shops and offices. Station number ten and they were fair mounting up now. The walk to West Street featured the second Google Maps check of the walk and I walked through Tradeston with polite curiosity and empty streets. SAS wear was one, causing a slight frisson of anxiety of what I had come into.From West Street to Kinning Park involved keeping close to Scotland Street, even when it was divided by the motorway and Google Maps came into play again. This was a walk into streets and by buildings I mainly see from the train and it was interesting, a foray into parts of Glasgow pedestrians don’t often get to and certainly not the tour buses. There were lots of gaps between buildings and particularly along Scotland Street. A football centre in an old factory had lots of flags in the windows but the only club crest and mural featured FCB Barcelona, carefully neglecting the Gruesome Twosome who play in this city.Nearer Shields Road is the very fine Scotland Street School Museum, open since it was a bank holiday, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Even the school gates, painted in bottle green, bore Mackintosh’s touches.The third map check came as I navigated the junction with a deep chasm underneath the M8 flyover that looked like it had seen a few drag races in its time in true American B-movie style. Towards Kinning Park I came near to those big warehouses that now host soft play and children’s entertainment. I also saw from the ground the big adverts that you can see from the M8 on the approach to the Kingston Bridge, one for Slaters menswear and the other usually bears the legend ‘People Make Glasgow’. Kinning Park was time for another break, luckily there’s a park nearby and I could rest my feet and pause before the final part of this Subway Surface walk.–
Thanks for reading. The final instalment of the series follows next week.
Last night I was walking home from the bus stop. Usually my main focus is decompression and just getting in the door. As I turned over the first overpass, my gaze fell on a considerable expanse of daisies between me and the road. This little triangle sits between the slip road and the link to the Clyde Tunnel and previously all I was aware of were weeds. The daisies stood high in that little bit of shade, a wee bit of wildness in urban sprawl, only to be seen a few pedestrians and cyclists, never by the drivers in the cars as they speed right on by.
Heat. Exam. Buses. Shorts. Sunshine. Castles. The first six words I can think of to describe my June. It has been very warm here in Glasgow for the vast majority of June. I am writing this on Saturday night and it is sweltering. I don’t handle the heat well anyway but this week has been beyond belief. This whole month has, really. We tend to get summer for about a week then it gets all horrible again. This year it’s been summer with a few days of dreich. I could do with some dreich soon, though.
Friday 1st June saw me going to the capital for some shopping. I walked up the Royal Mile, had a look at the quotes lining the wall outside the Scottish Parliament then ducked into St. Giles, intending on writing about it for Loose Ends here on the blog. It didn’t happen as I was scunnered by the £2 to take photos. I spent far longer in the very lovely National Museum of Scotland, which did feature in Loose Ends this past Sunday. I had forgotten how good NMS is and I only went to a few select bits, much of the Scottish and some of the old museum. Brilliant place.
The following week I was off for my OU exam. I revise better with less distractions and amazingly well on buses. I ended up on a bus to St. Andrews, reading my books on the way and having a good wander around the town and along the beach when I got there. The following day I ended up in Dunfermline, again revising on the bus and taking in the Palace and the Abbey Nave, the latter the work of the same stonemasons who did Durham Cathedral. That was another Loose End, featuring here this coming Sunday. The Friday was exam day and I sat in the Botanics before sitting my exam. I think it went okay. To chill out my head I walked into town to get the train home, going via Renfrew Street. It was a week before the fire and that night with the sunshine it felt good to be there, lots of folks around for the degree show.
Sunday 10th I went to the Fossil Grove, just over the river from here in Scotstoun. I had never been but it was fine, a wee bit neglected but interesting all the same. I walked to Kelvingrove via Partick, turning off Dumbarton Road past the West of Scotland Cricket Ground and Partick Burgh Halls, both fine looking places. I went into Kelvingrove and made sure I saw my favourite painting, The Paps of Jura by William McTaggart.
That Monday I had a day trip with a good friend and it was great. We started at the Kelvin Hall, looking at the museum displays, before going across to Kelvingrove to sit in the atrium cafe for a bit. In Edinburgh we walked up to Leith and just generally blethered. It was great.
Next adventure was the next Sunday, the Hibs Historical Trust Open Day. For more on that, read the post on Easter Road West. Here’s Neil Lennon’s view from the dugout. Normally it doesn’t have red tape.
The following Saturday I had been thinking about for ages. Eventually I decided on the Borders and it was the right move. A social media recommendation took me to Abbotsford, a country hoose once home to Sir Walter Scott but with a braw library. I walked to Melrose by the river through the hay fever and took a turn around the Abbey, a place I had been to before but I had never fully appreciated before. On the train back to Edinburgh I decided on a chippy over in North Berwick, which I ate at the harbour. Post on this adventure appeared here the other day.
The next day I was with my dad and we went to Cardross and Dumbarton Castle. Cardross featured a wee glimpse of the St. Peter’s Seminary. Dumbarton was the right place to be on a gloriously sunny day. The ice cream just made it so.
On Wednesday I went shopping after work. I soon realised that the trains were off because of the heat. I got the Subway to Govan then had a few minutes before the bus. I walked down to the river and had a good look at the Mary Barbour statue. The bus had difficulties again because of the weather but eventually it got moving and I got home.
Friday I was off and went out for dinner in Paisley at night. I went up Browns Lane to see some street art and ticked off another item on my 30 Before 30 list, a drink of Belhaven beer. I wasn’t keen.
That’s June. This month I have read We Shall Fight Until We Win, the graphic anthology produced by 404 Ink and BHP Comics to mark the centenary of some women getting the vote, as well as The Marches by Rory Stewart and What Goes On Tour by the Secret Footballer. Plus too bloody much about Huguenots and Martin Luther. I am currently reading the memoir by mountaineer Cameron McNeish and re-reading Notes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin.
Finally, there’s also a post on my football blog, Easter Road West, tonight. It’s about Dylan McGeouch.
Thanks as ever to all readers, followers and commenters. Have a nice month.
Posts this month –
The original plan was for the next Loose Ends post to be St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. The last one was Glasgow Cathedral so it was a straight link between churches and patron saints. When I got to St. Giles, however, I had a quick turn around and that did me fine. I don’t know what it was, there were a few ideas percolating around but I think I was scunnered by being asked to pay £2 to take photos, which I grudged. I was planning on going to the National Museum of Scotland anyway, just up the road on Chambers Street, and just as I walked down George IV Bridge past the National Library, it started raining for the first time in what felt like weeks. I still had to find a connection between Glasgow Cathedral and NMS, though, coming up with their managing agencies both being part of the Scottish Government, that both are free to get into and they also have bits about the Reformation.
NMS and I go way back. I grew up in East Lothian and a lot of visits to Edinburgh involved a trip to Chambers Street, either to the old museum with the fish ponds or the new one, which opened in 1998 and covers Scotland. To this day I still call the Scottish bit of NMS the ‘new’ bit despite it now being in its third decade and the ‘old’ bit being spruced up and new. I don’t get there as often any more, living in Glasgow and all that, and a trip is a bit of a treat now. A lot of it is very familiar and I headed to some favourite bits straight away, starting with the Kingdom of the Scots with the Monymusk reliquary once used, or so they say, to carry the relics of St. Columba into battle. After that I looked up to a painted ceiling once in a big hoose in Burntisland and then left to some Pictish stanes. I covered bits of the ground floor, going into the other bit for the Millennium Clock and a lighthouse lamp from Inchkeith Lighthouse that I can’t help loving to photograph. I like the object wall you can see from the Grand Gallery, each bit seemingly random but interlinked somehow. The wall features rockets, Buddhist sculptures, sewing machines and railway station signs.
Back in the ‘new’ museum I made sure I had a look at the Arthur’s Seat coffins, the section on lighthouses, trains and the big Beam Engine on the third floor. At the Reformation display, revision for me for an upcoming exam, an American woman was opining about Martin Luther, her man confessing he knew hee haw about Luther. I wandered, feeling happy to be in a familiar place, still learning but thinking all the time about connections for this series. A piece of petrified wood links to John Muir and Dunbar. The lighthouse lamp could take me almost anywhere on our coastline, though Barns Ness came to mind at that moment. The painted ceiling could even take me back to Aberdour, alternatively to Huntingtower Castle not far out of Perth. The beam engine might take me to Kilmarnock, where it worked, or Prestongrange where an engine still exists, albeit not in use. One of the locomotives on the fourth floor was built in Leith, quite an historical place in its own right. To be fair to NMS, it has connections and links to many parts of Scotland and the world, in many cases drawing attention to other places to visit, even other museums in the case of Skerryvore in Tiree and the Lighthouse Museum in Fraserburgh. I thought about the Riverside Museum here in Glasgow or even Summerlee in Coatbridge, good places both, good possible connections too.
There are many people who would argue that Scottish culture is skewed towards the central belt and Glasgow or Edinburgh in particular. I used to think NMS was but walking around it for this visit changed that view. It gives a good account of Scotland and how we see the world, a good starting point that inspires wonder and travelling once more.
St. George’s Cross was an interesting part of the walk. Outside the Subway was an interesting chalked drawing of a loch scene with a mountain and what looked like Jupiter or Saturn high up in the sky. I came to a square with a statue of St. George and the dragon in the centre, liberally bedecked with pigeons, and I was glad to see it, a reminder of why it’s just fine to detour in the city. I wasn’t 100% sure how to get from there to the next stop, Cowcaddens, and it was there that I turned to Google Maps for the first time. On the way I came across some intriguing desert island-style graffiti and an art installation encouraging touch in an underpass. As a person with touch sensitivities, I declined, instead moving on and I soon discovered I was in Chinatown, coming to a cash-and-carry and lots of businesses catering to the Chinese community. On the corner facing these was an intriguing, generously decorated block as well as a water fountain dedicated to James Torrens, a town councillor in the latter part of the 19th century.
In the underpass leading to Cowcaddens was another art piece, this time featuring hands in various gestures, none of them deliberately rude that I could see. With my disappointment I walked on and soon heard bagpipes. Remembering that nearby is the National Piping Centre, I wasn’t surprised to see a young guy in full Highland dress, sans jacket, standing outside the Centre doing his stuff. I soon came near to Cineworld where a taxi was broken down outside. This was proper city centre now and I stopped outside the Royal Concert Hall to write notes and just sit for a bit. A busker nearby, by the Donald Dewar statue, was playing some possibly modern indie tune then burst into ‘That’s Entertainment’. I resisted joining in with the Hibs version about Martin Boyle and Brandon Barker.
I was now halfway through. It was still roasting but I was still feeling fine, not exhausted, keeping going.
Buchanan Street was station number eight out of fifteen and I had paused on the steps to look down the street towards St. Enoch, the river and Cathkin Braes beyond. The street was very busy with street bars doing a roaring trade and buskers and drummers making a din as I walked spiritedly past, bound for St. Enoch and another pause in our story.
I was once gainfully employed giving guided tours. Even now I don’t do that, I can’t help lapsing into guide mode whenever I have half a chance. Whenever I’m showing off Glasgow, I have a few places I would naturally choose. Our city is blessed with many fine museums not to mention its architecture, parks, rivers and libraries. Since I don’t give much of a hoot about eateries, I can’t comment about where to eat or indeed about nightlife since I would rather see Hearts win the Champions League than visit a nightclub.
I think that the best days are carefully curated, especially if they are with other people. We can get in our bubbles and just go to the same places we like but that gets stale after a while. That was how I visited the Glasgow Women’s Library for the first time. One of my friends was in Glasgow and suggested we go to some places neither of us had been to before. I suggested the GWL and it went down a treat. If memory serves, we went to Provand’s Lordship that day too, possibly the Necropolis, all fairly new to us. It’s all about seeing where you end up and following impulses. A couple of weeks ago I went to the Fossil Grove over the river in Victoria Park then went on an urban ramble around Partick. Even just turning off Dumbarton Road and looking at the West of Scotland Cricket Club and Partick Burgh Halls was enough for me. After a walk I had in the West End last night, a couple of Streets of Glasgow walks might happen around Hyndland.
I’m getting sidetracked from the places I would recommend people to visit here in Glasgow. With a few hours, I would suggest one or more of the following:
These are listed in no particular order, based on how they came out of my head into my fingers and tapped out on this computer keyboard. Let’s start with the Hunterian. Glasgow University is a rather grand campus, the Gilbert Scott architecture and mighty Tower looking out over the city. The Hunterian Museum is in the University’s Main Building and combines medicine, anthropology, geology, archaeology and anatomy all in the one place. Some of it creeps me out, particularly the bodily bits in jars, but I like how random it is. The Roman altars from the Antonine Wall are positioned well, right in front of a big window looking towards if not directly over the route of the Wall itself. The Art Gallery over the way’s no’ bad either.
The People’s Palace is another museum, a social history story of Glasgow. It’s a nice red sandstone building with some interesting exhibitions but that’s not the main reason I like it. On the first floor is a video on a constant loop featuring Glasgow singers and comedians, including Billy Connolly whose famous banana boots are nearby in the same gallery. Also on the video is Stanley Baxter doing his Parliamo Glasgow routine with the very broad Weegie interspersed with the best RP translation. His facial contortions do it to me every time.
The Mitchell Library is the largest public reference library in Europe. It also features Aye Write, the city book festival, and some half-decent exhibitions. Plus a whole load of books. It has old and new bits, some only open if you ask nicely, but it is one of the best buildings on the planet.
Pollok House is south of the river, the best end, I always think, nestled in Pollok Country Park. Pollok House has a nice library in it too, plus a good Spanish art collection. The nearby Burrell Collection is getting refurbed this weather but go to Pollok House instead.
Cathkin Park is a derelict football ground just off Cathcart Road, once the home of Third Lanark. The terracing is being slowly reclaimed by nature though efforts are underway to spruce the place up and get more football happening there. It feels like a church to me and in its eerieness is its great beauty, a reminder for those of us who love football of how our game can be corrupted and our teams can just disappear in a matter of minutes. Cathkin has appeared here numerous times. I collected together some of those posts recently on my other blog Easter Road West.
The Lighthouse I’ve only been to once but it’s nice, an arts centre with a rooftop gallery boasting incredible views over Glasgow city centre. It’s a Rennie Mackintosh building so go for that but stay for the views. I’ve written about the Lighthouse in View from the Lighthouse and Streets of Glasgow: Mitchell Street.
I know that there are some folk who read this blog who know Glasgow very well indeed, probably better than I do. This is just a wee selection of what I would recommend people see in this great city. Rather than following a list, it’s sometimes just worth following your nose and seeing where it leads you. Even doing a bit of psychogeography and taking a random turn. It will be worth it.
Glasgow Cathedral has been a possible connection a few times in Loose Ends so far, right from Aberdour Castle since both have appeared in Outlander. This time it is due to Culross and St. Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow, who is buried within the Cathedral. It was a beautiful sunny day as I walked up to the Cathedral, entering through the big end doors that face Castle Street. I took a turn around the upper church, pausing to peer at some of the windows and plaques that line the walls. One window, a blue affair, was particularly handsome and every time I go to the Cathedral I like to look at it, despite it being put there by some of Glasgow’s independent schools. I went up to the sacristry and found a plaque about Robert Leighton, once archbishop of Glasgow, a link back to Culross where Leighton often stayed. I also paid particular attention to the pews with the crests of various city institutions as well as the city itself. Sadly the lower church was shut so I didn’t get the chance to see my favourite bit of the Cathedral, the Blackadder Aisle, or indeed St. Mungo’s tomb in the undercroft.
From Glasgow Cathedral there can be many links, certainly to any church under the control of the Church of Scotland. I thought about going to the Necropolis but the heat of the day and my throbbing feet put paid to that. Other ideas came, though, a possible trip to Aberdeen with the link to the Piper Alpha memorial in the square outside, or to Leighton’s Library in Dunblane.
Despite being busy, the Cathedral was peaceful and serene and I enjoyed what I was able to see of that great church.
The walk paused at Hillhead. Byres Road was busy and I didn’t wish to linger long, with plans to lunch in the Botanic Gardens. I stopped outside Fopp to enjoy the quotes from Einstein and Plato on their board outside. Other signs of civilisation included the empty bottle of El Dorado on the windowsill outside the library.
The Botanics were full of people with every square inch of grass covered by someone sitting enjoying the sunshine and the searing heat. I sat inside in the Kibble Palace, keen to escape it for a moment, and ate lunch then made some notes and planned routes to the more awkward stations, some of which were fairly near.
I left the Botanics onto Queen Margaret Drive then Great Western Road, proceeding past the trendy shops and under the pink flowers that fell low over the pavement. One of the charity shops advertised that it sold fishing tackle while in quick succession I felt I must be in the east coast exile district, with a pub owned by Belhaven of Dunbar right next to a cafe selling ice cream from Giaccopazzi’s of Eyemouth. Fine companies both. It was around this point that I was walking in front of a group of young guys and I heard one of those lines you aren’t sure you heard right, something about ‘lipstick on his balls’. My own balls happily unpecked, I walked on and looked in the window of a nearby bookshop which had a book by John Muir and the wonderful Pevsner architectural guide to Glasgow alongside a suitably random title featuring the novelist AL Kennedy’s thoughts on bullfighting.
As I walked up to Kelvinbridge, and crossed the river, I remembered that prior to the Subway’s redevelopment in the late 1970s, the station was in a tenement rather than a stand-alone building as it is today. I stood on the bridge and looked over towards the University tower, last seen at the other side of the Clyde, and spied a plaque about the engineer Sir William Arrol involved in the building of many bridges and railways across the country.
The next bit of the walk along Great Western Road got interesting with colourful street bollards and interesting diverse shops and businesses, particularly at the end nearer the town. There was a row of cracking shop names from Serenity Now to the pub Crossing The Rubicon to Beaver In-Car Installations. As the road reached the motorway, I ducked underneath and into an underpass to St. George’s Cross, where this tale pauses again in the midst of a whole lot of pigeons.
Thanks for reading. The next instalment follows next week.