Glasgow Botanics: Spring Blues Cure

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A Celtic Muse

It’s slowly crawling towards spring, but you know that last stretch seems to be a huge hill to climb. Especially with this past winter, Scotland has had record snows and storms.It’s a great time if it’s safe to do so, to seek out a place where you can get a tropic feel without having to fly. Whether you are visiting Glasgow or a seasoned resident, having a bit of green during the dreary grey and white filled months, that seem to include Spring, will help those with the doldrums spring. If you find your Seasonal Affective Disorder won’t let go, Glasgow has answers.

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Two of the best indoor flora venues are in this town, The Glasgow Botanics Gardens Kibble Palace and the smaller Winter Gardens, and the People’s Palace at the Glasgow Green. Both feature classic Victorian Green Houses and are free to the public, but if you have a fiver, please donate at these free venues and any other museum in the city. It all helps to give you a cheer when you have the grey throughout.

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Glasgow Botanic Gardens

730, Great Western Road Glasgow G12 OUE Tel:0141 276 1614 Open from 7am until Dusk Every Day, Glass Houses Until 6pm, 4:15 in Winter.

Easily accessible by public transportation, near the Hillhead Underground stop, and off the Great Western Road with plenty of bus access. It’s close to the West End and Glasgow University grounds and has great access to fabulous food and other activities in the area. The Heritage walk encompases the exterior gardens off the Kelvin River and links up with the Kelvin walkways. A great way to add to a day of walking the parks in this very walkable town.

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The Kibble Palace is a Victorian Glass House Arboretum that was founded in 1817 by Thomas Hopkirk, and was part of the university in its early days. The gardens began in another location closer to campus, offering support and the teaching of botanics to students. The current site has been in use since 1839, and has a grouping of large glass structures that house several collections of specimens from around the world. The palace houses the main collections, with several other glass structures surrounding it. Glass houses mean protection from the elements for the many plants that are tropic, and this means a great out of the elements exploration for you.

Each greenhouse features different world plant zones, from the tropics to the deserts of the world. There are plants from all of the continents. My favorite is the collection of Carnivorous plants, and any fun Orchid that is dangling. Every inch imaginable is packed with plants. There is even a seed exchange or purchase, but you’ll have to go soon, they are only available until about mid April.

Kelvin Walkway

Maps Courtesy Walk Highlands

The Kelvin Walkway extends the West Highland Way walking trails into the city proper, going through Minlgavie. This a nice river walk/hike that goes through the city and lets you pop up in several neighborhoods. The full pathways route is a good 17 Km. Keep an eye out for blocked access as some of the stairs are under repair and it may be a few streets before you can exit. You can walk portions of the river walkways and come up to view attractions or neighborhoods, there are great eats in the West End. You can start the full walk from the Riverside Museum and do the Botanics and other attractions along the way. Mind the midges.

Glasgow Westend Summer 2017 Musings

ashtonI have just spent a few rare, mostly sunny days in Glasgow’s West End. What’s not to like about this festive and eclectic area in Glasgow. Situated right next to University of Glasgow, as in all great university towns, a great area hub of several very diverse communities on all sides of the university, each with it’s own flavor.

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It’s warm and happening here in the West End and Hillhead area of Glasgow. A rare, two warm sunny-ish days are indeed happening. I probably cursed us by wearing my sleeveless shirt for a while, sans jacket. Highly indulgent of me, I know. Feel the sunburn happening. Just walking the Byres Road area in the afternoon and the beach chairs are out near the  Hillhead Bookclub, an eclectically intense eatery that even has a clothing jumble sale on weekends upstairs. Great  vegan offerings along side traditional food. Had a sweet potato cake that was spicy indeed, and the plates are large portioned.  Just look for the dapper sea horse mural and you have found the spot.

Kelvinside and Botanic Gardens

This area boasts the enchanting Glasgow Botanic Gardens. In the summer you can see Bard in The Botanic, the local Shakespeare in the parks production. Places to eat and venues like the Oran Mor and Webster Theatre offer entertainment as well as good food and bar facilities.

Hillhead

Besides having a lot of student housing areas, with more being built as of this writing, this part of town has a vast array of restaurants that appeals to many cultural flavors and pricing is influenced by the student population. Therefore, great bargains can be had food wise here, and like most Uni areas, volume comes with the plate in many cases. Check out the other patrons plates to see if you can dine al fresco or if each plate can feed two to three people. There is also a lot of shopping to be done in the area at several brand name

DeCourcys

 as well as boutique stores. And don’t pass up the Oxfam and other local charity shops, you may just find a fun, hip article for a good cause.

West End

Just south of Kelvingrove Park is the area that is the eclectic and hipster area of West End and features Sauchiehall Street, Fitzroy Place, and Argyle street. There are a great number of bars and high end restaurants in the area, and plenty of places to do whisky tasting like the Ben Nevis. Other real notables are Ox and Finch, Mother India, The socialHidden Lane Tearoom, and Cubatas Tapas Bar, and the recently voted best place bar in West End, J. Sharpe Dispensary or The Drugstore Social . This was a great retreat one day from lang walks and the need to feed at lunch with a great glass of wine. The area features a few small boutiques for shopping fun. I recently ate at Ox and Finch, a small plates Tapas style eatery off Sauchiehall Street, after trying to have a sit in there for a few weeks. This restaurant is so popular you may have to book a few days in advance via their website like I did. It was worth the wait. The sommelier was very knowledgeable about both food and wine pairings, and helped with a Gluten Free adaptation of meals. The atmosphere was relaxing and a wonderful West End experience. Also after a good feed at the local, walking the Kelvin riverside walkways are a pleasant way to make room for a later whiskey tasting.

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Kelvinbridge

Two favorite places near where I was staying and just a convenient hop across the Western Road were Inn Deep at the Kelvinbridge, featuring a very twisty stairs down through the main door, or a bridge staircase down to the Kelvin walkway, which by the way is a must river adventure. This foodie enclave features dog friendly spaces, riverside seating you will have to fight for or make friends over. Music tends towards the 70s and even some American Funk. But beware of being blasted with Fleetwood Mac and other golden oldies you may find yourself singing along to. Great hand cut fries, too.

Another dog friendly spot, and people too, is the The Belle on the Western Road. Quiet some nights, raucous talk the next. Good selection of drink options. 

 

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Whiskey

Yes, national drink and all, most bars, pubs, and taverns will carry a very good selection of regional whiskey. If you have mostly had American or only a few Scottish varieties, you may want to go to a whiskey bar or even go on a whiskey walking tour where you can hit up a few specializing places. If you are in the West End, Ben Nevis Pub is a connoisseur spot but gets packed of an evening. If you don’t like a huge crowd and want to talk to the barkeep, try a late afternoon visit.

Hint: Kitchens can close early in Scotland, so if you are used to tavern food up until midnight, that may not be the thing in some parts of town. Sundays mean earlier closures for most restaurants.

© 2017 Photos by J. Canning

Glasgow Art Walk July 2017

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I had been looking forward to revisiting the Glasgow Mural walk for some time and was not disappointed. This walk features a great many murals all over the city with many of them being situated in the City Centre and outlying areas. There is a map you can download and print out, as well as just keeping your eyes peeled as there are many other murals that just keep popping up and unless you are a local, would not be aware of them and where they are situated. Check in out of the way spaces like under the bridges and lots.

These colorful depictions of life and interpretation have become such a part of the landscape, it’s hard to notice that some are suffering the sad realisation that wind and elements are taking their toll. To my relief I had not seen any of the murals suffering from deliberately being altered, although some other tagging and art seemed to be butting up against some of them. Street art is highly respected by fellow artists, and street art has a huge fan base. Indeed, as in other great mural and street art works from around the world, the sides of buildings are slowing giving away and altering some of the murals. Some artists see this as part of the landscape, that the art itself will have to show time. Good news is more are being created, including some new ones dedicated to the comic Sir Billy Connolly.

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Start with the City Centre and follow the circuit. You will see a great many parts of the city and get a good healthy urban hike. Don’t forget to stop off at some great restaurants and pubs along the way. Wear sturdy walking shoes. Happy hunting.

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Download the brochure here:
https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=19649&p=0

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© 2017 Photos by J. Canning

On the hunt for the best castles in Aberdeenshire — Travels with a Kilt

My Jacobite Castle Trail in Aberdeenshire If there’s one chunk of Scottish history that gets folk going, it’s likely to involve the Jacobites. Covering a bloody and tumultuous period in the 17th and 18th Centuries, these were chapters that show Scotland at its most divided. For my latest Scotlanders campaign, we’re teaming up again with…

via On the hunt for the best castles in Aberdeenshire — Travels with a Kilt

Tour Packages: Are They Worth The Costs?

glasgow-cathedral-and-infirmaryIt’s a month out from your trip and you are contemplating your very tight budget. Some of the considerations are that you really want to see a bunch of castles near where you are staying, but can’t do a hire car because of the cost. That will leave you with a tour option. However there are so many tours, how can you find one that fits your needs and well, isn’t too touristy?

Hint: For larger cities like London, you will always find a tour. But really good ones can fill up in advance. If a tour has really good ratings, also check for complaints against in a search. You may want to book a few weeks out, especially in high summer, August.

I don’t know about you, but I really am not a fan of traditional tours. Tourists can be so distracting and well, in some cases, behave poorly when on a trip. When I am traveling, I usually avoid the traditional tourist traps if I can, or try to see them at off times, and visit spaces like someone who may live there might. However, if you really want to see a land feature or castle and it’s out of city limits, you may have to resort to a tour.

Commercial Tours €£€£

If you really have limited time and want to pack in as much as you can, the commercial tour companies that depart from most city squares are your bet. You will pay between £30-50 for these tours on brightly colored buses from most metropolitan squares. Then you have to deal with densely packed buses. You can get to a great many sites in one day. I find if I do use these services, I will plan one day to be used up, and of course get back into town and head for a neighborhood I like, just to get some sense of people and community. They are noisy, smelly affairs.

Avoiding Commercial Tours: Compromise €£€£€

There are smaller, more intimate tours for the areas you may be visiting. These are usually smaller vans and smaller bus affairs. They will, however, cost more than the massive tour bus companies. You are paying for a smaller comfort and more intimate and personal tour. Sometimes these are run by smaller family businesses, groups of friends. You can even get specific tours that may follow a theme. Keep in mind that these can cost over €75-200 per person, but may be over several days. Also, check Twitter. Some smaller companies have accounts and you can check out their feed and see what tours are going on and what people are saying.

Walking Tours €0-10

Finding walking tours in cites whether guided or self guided means doing some research. If you check out a tour guide like Trip Advisor, you can get a good selection of these tours along with paying tours listed. There are tours operated by independents that may involve a small group that hires themselves out. These can be really entertaining as many of the guides are locals and you can contribute what you like and tip them. You may find that it is easier to meet groups of other travelers and then have a meal afterwards. Check for local online and hard copy community newspapers and magazines. They will have a good listing of these tours. Also, research alternative tours of the area.

Public Transport Tours – Self Guided £5-10

If you have a few days in an area, using public transit and getting around on your own tour can be done. Most local cities and towns even have maps and bus route information on their city websites with tourists in mind. There are also many touring apps that have city walking tours and tours that venture out. Now, these are free for the most part, and may not be up to date. There may also be roadworks and improvements going on that may delay you, you will need to check local information. I did quite a bit around Inverness last year via this route. You do not get as much packed in as an organized commercial tour, but it can be much easier on the budget.

There are many guided tours apps created by enterprising individuals or tourist boards. If you visit the App Store, you can find many of these. Also check online for local What’s On publications for the city. There may be an app they have created. And don’t forget local book stores. They carry these things called maps that fold out.

Booking

Trip Advisor/Viator are the same company, just different formats. One is the classic Trip Advisor green and the other is a bit more supped up and takes more bookings.

https://www.viator.com

Tour Radar

http://www.tourradar.com/d/europe

City Specific

London

Manchester

Cardiff Wales

Glasgow Tours

Edinburgh Tours

Dublin Tours

Belfast Tours

London Pass

Articles and Resources

https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-tips/choosing-the-right-tour-company/

http://www.scotlandmadeeasy.co.uk/

http://www.irelandmadeeasy.eu/

https://www.vacationsbyrail.com/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/united-kingdom/scotland/articles/12-of-the-best-self-guided-tours-of-scotland/

https://www.myirelandtour.com/travelguide/solo-travel.php

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/the-50-best-travel-websites-8646338.html

 

 

The New UK 5 Pound Note and Out With The Old

Got any £5.00 notes from your last journey to the UK? Worthless now. May 5 was the deadline to turn in the old bank notes. Not so good for those of us trying to change money in US and other countries. If you are ordering cash for your trip, play it safe and get denominations £20.00 and £50.00 if you must have the cash. The new note £10.00,  is due in a few months. You may be able to specify through your bank to get the new “plastic” notes, but just play it safe. Of course, you can just use your travel card, but it is good to have some cash on you for airport and taxi use. You don’t have fees with that unless you exchange it. Check that you receive change in the new polymer style notes if you are traveling over the next few months if it’s fiver in the UK, Scotland and N. Ireland. They have a plastic feel, very like the Canadian Dollars and look like:

And for you Jane fans, the new tenner will look like this:

The date for the Jane will coincide with her birthday, July 18th 200 birthday.

Scotland’s new polymers were issued last fall, but UNLIKE their British counterparts, they are pulled as they come in from circulation and replaced with the new notes. A much more sensible solution.

See the Scottish policies here

http://www.scotbanks.org.uk/banknotes.html

Articles and Resources

How to Spend or Exchange £5.00 Now They Are Not Legal Tender

https://www.thesun.co.uk/money/3409365/old-5-pound-notes-legal-tender/

 

http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/valuable-5-pound-notes-numbers-8903425?service=responsive

 

Official B of E Statements

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/polymer/Pages/default.aspx

 

Current Banknotes News

http://www.acbi.org.uk/rbs.php

 

What’s On Glasgow’s Hubs and Clubs

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Glasgow rocks, and it’s apparent. Countless bands have their start here from eighties rockers Simple Minds and Jesus and Mary Chain, to Supernaturals, Texas, Belle & Sebastian and Frightened Rabbit. The music venues of fame include King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and The Barrowland Ballroom are familiar to all. But what about all the other venues and what’s on this spring of note? What do you do if you are a traveler and haven’t a clue where to go. Well, you are in for a rest regardless, there is so much musical going on here.

Like any city you may visit, look at the local clubs and independent papers for where you are traveling to. You may want to do this several months before you arrive as some of the more popular bands may sell out quite early. If you are lucky and have friends and family in the place you plan to visit, you can have them get live tickets for you, but many places use services like eventbrite.com and other online ticket sellers and you can store on your phone. You may not be able to purchase unless you are in the UK as some apps and ticket selling sites are set up for UK addresses only at checkout, even if it’s an online ticket.

Local Papers and Music Resources

I always find and love to look through the local indie rags for any city like Glasgow. All port towns have a great independent news and cultural paper or two, usually online but occasionally you can still pick up a hard copy which is great as you can get that old textile feel for the paper. Music and theatre are a steady, vibrant beat in this town. Another great way to find out who is playing is of course to pick up flyers and promo cards from independent music stores. Some of the local stores are Record Fayre and Rubadub. Check the registers and windows for bank promos, and don’t forget your local cafe and coffee houses. Don’t forget to listen to the Buskers in Buchanan or other mall streets, many of them have CDs or will also tell you about the local music scene and who’s playing.

Some of the music venues are:
Òran Mór
Bar Bloc
O2 ABC
Old Fruitmarket

Like big music events? Spring marks the beginning of the festival season, so along with small music venues, you will find weekend festival events filling the air with sound. Check and see if there is one during your stay. These venues are filled with bands all day and into the night. Festivals coming up in Glasgow are the new May West Festival May 27, 28 TRNSMT 2017 Festival July 7 through 9 and they are hosting the BBC6 Festival this year.

Is This Music ? is a great, Northern UK publication online with music reviews and listings for where bands are playing. Glasgow Music has reviews and information specific to the city and outlying area. Reviews and venue information. And best of all, never forget that the universities in most cities have a student run radio station. The University of Glasgow’s student run station is Subcity Radio. Check out their reviews and music offerings.

Links
Top Music Venues Glasgow
https://theculturetrip.com/europe/united-kingdom/scotland/articles/the-10-best-music-venues-in-glasgow/

Is This Music?
http://www.isthismusic.com

Glasgow Music
http://www.glasgowmusic.co.uk/GMHome

Local Independent Music Stores
http://www.scotlandnow.dailyrecord.co.uk/lifestyle/record-store-day-2016-glasgows-7755773

Independent Culture
http://www.theskinny.co.uk

Subcity Radio Glasgow University
https://www.subcity.org

May West Festival 2017
http://www.may-west.com

TRNSMT Festival 2017
http://trnsmtfest.com


Photo by Craig Monaghan

Binge on the Fringe: Edinburgh Fringe Festival Survival

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On the last tour in Scotland I couldn’t get anywhere near Fringe Festival, the month long Arts fest that has been going strong for 70 years. All accommodations were booked up that I could afford. My trip to Edinburgh ended up being the week before and after talking to a few residents, realized I would need to book about an year in advance for best lodgings. This is of course if you want to deal with a large European city that has its population swell about three-fold in four weeks. Had to think about that. I lived in San Francisco where this came close to happening every summer. When you live in a large tourist destination, it’s your least favorite time of year. Some stay, some go on their own vacations.

It’s the 70th year, so the festival is gearing up even bigger. This festival is insane. I picked up the program last year and spent an hour or two combing all the acts and theatre performances. It’s packed and overwhelming with something for everyone. I decided I would have to try to make it this year. Now, how do you navigate one of the largest festivals in Europe for your first time and if you only have three days to spare? Research, of course.

Step 1 Book Accommodations Way Ahead
As I said before, last year I just couldn’t get reasonable rooms. Everyone I talked to said book early. Edinburgh is the most expensive of the cities in Scotland I found to spend time in as far as accommodations go. So shopping early is a great choice. You can always adjust later. Other festivals in the UK also require early bookings, and don’t count on camping accommodations as those will have been snagged up, unless you have some traveling companions in the know. You can however book in adjacent towns and ride in on the train, which runs extra trains during August.

Step 2 Enroll on Fringe Website
Most festivals have a website and you should join early. You will get updates to performances as new lineups happen. I am checking in as I heard many popular shows sell out quick. I am not be familiar with many of the performers, but I am only in the city for three days and have to cram. And some US performers do make it to the marathon. I see there is a Fringe society planning group for your visit. Ooo, I have pals.

Looks like I may have to book my train run early ish as well. ScotRail has festival trains for the month, but they may be a bit packed, so better book the to the festival run at least a month out. What a contrast is will be from the tranquility of Skye where I will be coming from.

Did I say marathon? Yes, for the performers and the patrons. Many a US comic has lamented that they survived the Fringe Fest. It’s a month of shows and you may have 2-3 a day to do, and your venues can be spread out. Search for some comedy on Netflicks with Fringe Fest in the title and see what I mean. Get a perspective from a comic, and of course YouTube.

Step 3 Research, Who to See, or How to See Them
Okay, so here is the thing. There are thousands of shows and performers. Many of them trying to make it, new to it, feeling it out. It’s a festival, that means experimentation. You may find some names you are familiar with, but it’s not going to be a headliner affair like you may be used to in your home town. So, how to pick things to go to and not strike out. Go with an open mind. I know I like impromptu theatre. So, I can probably be highly amused regardless. How to do this on a limited budget? Look for free and discount shows. Go during the day. Wait for reviews. Get the App for the Fringe. Sounds like a lot of ways to get overloaded. Most of what I have read has said to wait to find deals when you get there. Keep an eye out for the daily reviews of shows. Talk to a more experienced attendee near you. I plan on interviewing people while there to get their take on the festival.

Step 4 Make Sure Your Accommodation is Really Booked.
Your accommodation should always be booked well ahead in any place you stay, but I have had weird things crop up while traveling overseas and had rooms get overbooked, and computer glitches happen. Confirm you have a booking. If you would like to go but all things are booked up, you can find accommodations in bordering towns and take the train in. Extra transit is provided during this month.

Step 5 Enjoy
With all the craziness of any festival like this, sometimes you need to pull out and decompress. Edinburgh has so many great little spots, courtyards, district areas that you can take a few streets to the left or right and find a smaller space to eat some great Pop-Up restaurant food and just let go for a bit. Making a decision on whether to cram every minute with theatre, dance, music, and all other arts can be and exhausting stimulus. That fear that you may have to choose between 3 things is a bit much for us. Remember, spontaneity can be living in the moment and just breathing.

Prepare for weather. My summer experiences in Edinburgh were that they were very close to San Francisco/Portland weather. Changeable within a day, check your weather app. Bring light rain gear, also suncream and your brelly. Hopefully the performance you are seeing is in shelter.

DOWNLOAD THE APP. As we get closer to August, the festival puts out an App that is very useful for booking and getting up to the minute information. You also have a feature where you can check shows via your location to see what is about to start near your location. You can also purchase tickets via the app. Keep an eye out for this App appearing in July in the Android and Apple Apps stores.

Reading
http://thatbackpacker.com/2016/08/22/a-first-timers-guide-to-the-edinburgh-fringe-festival/
https://www.edfringe.com
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/theatre/what-to-see/edinburgh-fringe-2016-10-top-tips-for-survival/

Video
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OgNf8Pt5tOw

Art Walks: Amazing Spring Entertainment and Culture in the Isles

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Mural on the Clutha Pub, Bridgegate Street, Glasgow Scotland Summer 2016 J. Canning

I have always enjoyed a good street art walk. Murals and sidewalk art have become extensive, massive canvases to showcase local artists and get up close and personal with art. This summer I will be hitting more mural walks. I was reading one of the people I follow on Twitter, Travels With a Kilt Blog, and a recent article caught my eye. It’s a great art walk in Glasgow and I will be following it this summer and adding some of my own discoveries.

Got one of those super saver early flight arrivals like I always get? It’s one of the best things to do when you just get to a city, especially if you are walking off the jet lag. Get a taste for the city you are exploring, grab coffee or tea on the way, walk a few hours, then have a meal. Great way to meet people.

Since I won’t be going until summer this year, I thought I would link you up with this article so if you happen to be going to Glasgow this spring, you should read this:

Glasgow’s Street Art Article

Planning on going to a city or two this spring summer that may have street art? Seek it out and take your own shots of this amazing public art form. Share them on Instagram or try a street art app that you can share with the world.

Just a tip: You will find many official street art tours. They cost money. You can find maps for free online and also some walking tours with local historians, a bit less money. If you have a budget, small tours with locals can be a blast as you can meet with others traveling and have great convo. But sometimes creating your own tour is great on the budget, look for Street Art Tour Maps online. There are apps online and phone apps for tours as well. Remember this will eat up your power and many places are charging money now in cafes to recharge your phone.

Links

Apps for Street Art Worldwide Directory http://geostreetart.com/

For great walks and place in Scotland to take your snaps, check out http://www.photowalkscotland.com/

More at these cities:

Edinburgh 

http://www.walkingheads.net/pride-of-place-street-art-in-leith/

Glasgow 

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/things-to-do/visitor-itineraries/city-centre-mural-trail

http://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/glasgow-mural-trail

Ireland

Belfast 

http://free-belfast-tours.com/tours/the-free-original-belfast-alternative-tour/

http://www.seedheadarts.com/street-art-walking-tour/

http://www.belfastartmap.com/places/belfast/public-art/street-art-north-street/

Dublin 

https://www.joe.ie/life-style/spend-a-day-taking-in-some-brilliant-dublin-street-art-377646

http://www.dailyedge.ie/best-irish-street-art-1627974-Aug2014/

Galway

https://www.facebook.com/galwaystreetart/

https://oddballtours.com/tours/

UK

http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/london-tours/walking-tours/london-graffiti-and-street-art-tour/

https://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/the-street-art-walk

Coming to the PNW, Portland PDX?

http://www.pdxstreetart.org/