The Green Hills of Glasgow
An amazing city and a hub for Scottish travel. If you are going to Scotland, this is your home base. Amazing, fiercely loving people in an industrial river city. Gateway to all of Scotland, you can rail, drive, bus your way anywhere in the country here. Airport is very good compared to many American ones, and make best friends with the cabbies.
Why would an American like this city? I hit the pavement after a terribly long flight and had to just walk. For walking, Glasgow is amazing. This town was an industrial ship builder for many years, but if you look around and walk it now, it is so much more.
Glaswegians are from industrial stock, like many other river and port towns I have traveled or live in, it’s the working class that make the city. That said, yes, you’ll see men in kilts and many lasses playing the pipes for coin on the mall. Not everyone runs about in a kilt, but if you are in the main part of town you will see the doormen of the hotels fully dressed as well as the Celtic drum bands on the mall. If it’s kilt sightings you want, you may want to hang out near the Uni and see the gents sporting the modern worn kilt. Pipe music is sadly often blasted from recordings on the shopping mall, but if you want to hear true pipes, go to the mall and find a piper, or better, hang out in the park.
This city has a great many parks and green everywhere, it is named Glaschu in Scots Gaelic or Glas Cau, which means Green Hollow, for a reason. This medieval city has many modern amenities and something for everyone. It’s vibrant and yet someone will still talk to you at any moment, and indeed you will see people making conversation all over the city on any corner or street, and sometimes in the street. There is so much to see I ended up using one of the free maps from the hotel and just dividing it in quadrants, picking one and just exploring. I then used one of the many apps you can download for walking tours. There are many fun tours just walking that you can do, including one that visits all of Glasgow’s murals. I recommend picking a section and working your way around areas. My favorite was the West End and some of the north. The parks, as I have said, make a great connecting walk and walking the Clyde every morning was a favorite morning activity. I suggest starting your walking with just connecting up the parks to get the first lay of the land, then specialize in your experiences.
Staying in Glasgow
I would recommend that if you want to experience any larger city in Europe, that you manage to rent a serviced apartment. Many people stay in the hotels, and there are some really good ones if you are into the hotel life, but I find I really like seeing how people live and what communities can be like so the second time I stayed in Glasgow on the way back, I rented an apartment in a neighborhood by the Clyde and tried to experience the city as someone who lived there might. It was a great decision, but I soon learned that because of the local, night time access to shops was not so great, well there was always Tesco. I found Tesco to be like our Plaid Pantry here in Oregon, convenience store and a bit more. If you are staying in the downtown area, there are several of these, but I warn you if you are doing a service apartment affair, most actual grocery stores are not in the main part of the city, you need to go to the outskirts to find full grocery facilities. There are some whole foods type stores and I found that since I had a fridge I could pick up some small quantities of items and cook in for part of the day, I could watch what I ate and not get to overloaded. You can get way overloaded on some serious food fare in this town. Bacon wrapped is not just a US thing, nor is deep fat frying. And the Scots love to experiment with food. There is plenty of traditional, and yes after staying in about 3 hotels or B&Bs you will have Scottish Breakfast coming out of your ears, but comb the West end for some great eats and watch Anthony Bordain’s Parts Unknown Scotland for some fun.
Entertainment, well Glasgow itself is so. Glasgow is a theater town, so if you can check out the local productions. Walk down Sauchiehall (Saw-Kee-Hall) Street and you are smack in the middle of it. Hint: If you are a music fanatic, plan your trip in advance and see what bands will play while you’re there and book tickets. Things sell out. Shopping and clubs, bars, and much more, it’s the place to go for shops and a serious nights out on the town. My first experience on the Friday I arrived was watching what I take as a local custom, of large groups of women or men, and some mixed, walking lock armed and step into the Sauchiehall area and pouring down into the Buchanan Street shopping and clubs area, or pouring in from the East End down Trongate. I hadn’t seen such a fierce going out to party rite before. I sat in a outdoor pub area and watched this grouped salmon run of people getting out of work and dressing to excess, and then mobbing down to the entertainment areas. Being an American, we simply have a problem here with being so open about affection. We go out in groups but they are loose and kinetic. We are laid back and hippy with our touch here and interactions. In Europe, people are much more open about affection and paling around if you would. In Glasgow, native Glaswegians are kinetic in groups but hang on to each other in a fierce group love and do they love to crawl the pubs and clubs this way.
Museums are free for the most part in Scotland, donations are always welcome. Unless there is a special exhibit. I always make it a point to get to as many museums as I can in a city, it’s a great way to know the history of the town. The industrial nature of this town is shown in it’s museums like the Glasgow Science Centre, The Hunterian, The Riverside with it’s amazing transport displays with some of the best Euro cars and lorries I have seen, not to mention the motorbikes.
Other places are attached to parks, the Botanics are amazing and the Kelvingrove Museum was a good three hours spent. Don’t forget to swing by the University of Glasgow campus and check out the setting of films and series, currently being used for Outlander scenes S3.
Travel plans for 2017, I will be in Glasgow for 3 stays this time, a few days at a time while I travel to other destinations in Ireland and Scotland. I plan on staying in an apartment block in the West End, then a small boutique hotel near the university. I hope to discover more great spaces in this fantastic city and maybe meet a few more great people.
AND don’t forget the City of the Dead. The Necropolis is an amazing place and an amazing view. You’ll see the back side of the Tennents brewery, which I recommend investgating, but the overall view of the city itself is fabulous. Pack a small lunch and picnic.
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