Glasgow, Scotland - a Tourists' Guide
Created | Updated May 27, 2009
Glasgow lies on the west coast of Scotland, and straddles the River Clyde. It is Scotland's largest city, and has a strong industrial background. It is unusual for a British city in that the streets in the city centre are in a grid format, making for easier navigation.
The city of Glasgow can broadly be divided into four areas:
The South Side lies on the south of the River Clyde. It is home to the Glasgow Science Centre, the Burrel Collection, Hampden Stadium (the national stadium) and Ibrox Stadium (home of Rangers FC).
The West End is separated from the main city centre by the M8, and is centred around Glasgow University, Byres Road and Kelvingrove. Glasgow University has been situated on its present site since 1870, and is Britain's fourth oldest university. Kelvingrove is home to museums, such as the Museum of Transport, and Kelvingrove Park. Due to the large student population, this part of the city has a vibrant ambience.
The East End lies east of Glasgow Cross and High Street. The main attractions are Celtic Park (or Parkhead), location of Celtic FC, and Glasgow Green, home of summer concerts and conventions. In the East End lies High Street: evidence of the rapid expansion of the city during the Industrial Revolution.
The City Centre lies on the north of the River Clyde and is found in between the East and West Ends. It is home to the majority of the hotels, pubs, clubs, restaurants and shops. Glasgow City Council is also located in the City Chambers here.
The City Centre
Glasgow offers the most comprehensive selection of shops in Scotland.
The main shopping areas of Glasgow city centre are Argyle Street, Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street. Buchanan Street links Argyle Street with Sauchiehall Street, and here you will find all the high street shops. For more upmarket tastes, the Italian Centre in the merchant city area and the Princes Square off Buchanan Street offer shops such as Prada and Cruise.
Outside the City Centre, there are two main shopping areas. The Glasgow Fort opened early in 2005, lies off the M8 on the east side of the city and comprises a selection of shops. It is outside with undercover walkways, and has a children's swing park and bus links. It is built in a semi-circular shape. For its location it is surprisingly sheltered. The Braehead shopping centre is situated off the M8 and is five miles from the City Centre, on the south side of the city. It is entirely indoors, spans two storeys and is also on the bus network. A food court and ice rink are situated inside the building.
A weekend market situated in the East End, the Barras is a local institution. It is the home of pirated CDs, DVDs, computer games, clothes and cigarettes and a perpetual source of interest for FACT1 and the local CID. If you want to see the local police in action, this the best place to come. It offers an insight into the grittier side of the city.
Eating and Drinking
The majority of the pubs and restaurants are centred around four main areas:
- The Merchant City area of the City Centre
- The Charing Cross end of Sauchiehall Street
- An area surrounding George Street
- Ashton Lane and Byres Road, in the West End
The fish and chip shop, or chippy, is a popular source of 'nourishment' for the locals, as are the fast food vans. Here you can find delicacies like chips and cheese, chips and curry sauce, potato scone or sausage butties2 (not forgetting the deep-fried Mars Bar). There is also the Village Curry House.
With three universities3 and several colleges, Glasgow has a vibrant nightlife.
There are many parks throughout the city of Glasgow. The main ones are:
- Pollok Park is Glasgow's largest park and was voted the Best Park in Britain 2007, and Europe's Best Park 2008.
- Bellahouston Park, which lies on the South Side. In 1896 it was purchased for use by the city.
- Glasgow Green, which lies in the East End. It is Glasgow's oldest park and home to the People's Palace.
- Botanic Gardens, which lies off Byres Road in the West End. It contains a selection of plants in greenhouses.
- Kelvingrove Park, which lies in between Glasgow University and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in the East End.
Art Galleries and Museums
There are several art galleries and museums in Glasgow. The most popular include:
- The Gallery of Modern Art: located at Royal Exchange Square, in the city centre. The statue of the Duke of Wellington 4 is situated just outside the front door.
- The Hunterian Art Gallery and Museum: situated just next to the Glasgow University Library.
- The Burrell Collection: situated in the South Side, the collection was donated to the city in 1944 by Sir William Burrell.
- The Museum of Transport: located in the East End, in Kelvinhall.
- The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum: can be found just across the road from the Museum of Transport.
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is due to re-open in early 2006 following refurbishment. All museums and art galleries listed are free to enter.
Glasgow is host to several theatres. These include:
- The Theatre Royal: home of Scottish Ballet, and hosting 'serious' productions.
- The King's Theatre: hosts mainstream touring plays.
- The Pavilion Theatre: its programme of shows is similar to that of the King's Theatre.
- The Citizens Theatre: hosts small-scale productions.
- The Mitchell Theatre: its output is similar to that of the Citizens.
The city has a lively music scene. The most popular venues include:
- The Royal Concert Hall: situated in the same building as Buchanan Galleries, the Royal Concert Hall hosts a wide range of musical entertainment.
- The Barrowlands Ballroom (or The Barrowlands): popular, intimate venue of rock bands such as Oasis.
- The Clyde Auditorium: situated next to the SECC on the Clydeside, the Armadillo - as the locals call it - hosts a wide range of musical entertainment and popular acts.
- King Tut's Wah Wah Hut: a popular venue for up-and-coming bands.
- Carling Academy: a smaller venue, located on the South Side.
Many pubs also host bands on different nights.
The Scottish Exibition and Conference Centre (SECC) is host to a wide variety of concerts, exhibitions and shows. On the site is a large crane, in honour of the shipyards.
There is also a range of poetry events.
Main Football Stadiums
- Hampden Park: home of the national team. Capacity: 52,000
- Parkhead (Celtic Park): home of Celtic FC. Capacity: 60,000
- Ibrox Stadium: home of Rangers FC. Capacity: 50,500
- Firhill Stadium: home of Partick Thistle FC. Capacity: 13,000
A Selection of Sports Centres
- Glasgow Climbing Centre: located in an old church building on the South Side, an ideal centre for the expert and novice.
- Kelvin Hall International Sports Arena: contains a fitness suite, climbing wall and athletics track. It is host to international competitions in areas such as such as basketball, gymnastics and athletics.
- Scotstoun Leisure Centre: home of the National Badminton Academy, this centre also contains swimming pools, tennis courts and five-a-side football pitches.
- Bearsden Ski Club: offers private tuition and lessons for skiing and snowboarding on a dry ski slope.
Glasgow has two main national train stations: Queen Street Station5 and Central Station. Queen Street broadly deals with the north and east of Scotland, with departures to Dundee, Edinburgh, Stirling and Mallaig. Central similarly deals with the areas south of Glasgow, with departures to London and much of England. There are smaller local stations throughout the city.
Glasgow has an Underground, which runs in a circle (both clockwise and anti-clockwise) around Buchanan Street, Cowcaddens, St George's Cross, Kelvinbridge, Hillhead (on Byres Road), Kelvinhall, Partick, Govan, Ibrox, Cessnock, Kinning Park, Shields Road, West Street, Bridge Street and St Enoch (on Buchanan Street). The River Clyde passes between the St Enoch and Bridge St stations, and the Partick and Govan stations. An ability to walk up and down stairs is a must, as the escalators in the few stations that have them are often broken down, and few have lifts to the platforms.
By Bus or Taxi
If these let you down there are always the buses, which travel to most places, and taxis, which wait in ranks at the two main stations. The main bus station is called Buchanan Bus Station, but if you know the route of the bus you wish to take, there are also bus stops throughout the city. Express services operate from here to main cities such as Edinburgh. Many of the public buses operate a system whereby the driver does not handle the money or give out change but it is placed in a machine, so it is necessary to have the exact fare unless you wish to overpay.
Guided Bus Tours
In common with other British cities, two companies operate separate open-top bus tours with commentary around the main attractions of Glasgow, such as the City Chambers, Glasgow Cathedral and the People's Palace.
Glasgow International Airport is situated on the South Side of the city just off the M8. There is no rail link between the city centre and the airport, but there is a shuttle bus service and taxi rank.
As with all large cities, a wide range of accommodation is available in Glasgow - from the upmarket Devonshire Gardens to youth hostels. There are youth hostels in the city centre, such as at Charing Cross and Kelvingrove, and there are many bed and breakfasts in the area surrounding Glasgow University.
As the city lies on the west coast, the weather is often wet and windy. However, much depends on the time of year: the summer is usually dry and the winter frequently wet. In the summer, the maximum temperature could be as high as 25°C, and in the winter as low as -7°C.
- Glasgow: pronounced 'Glesga'.
- Also known as: 'Dear Green Place'.
- Founded by St Mungo, also known as St Kentigern.
- Population: over 600,000.
- Home to four football clubs: Celtic, Partick Thistle, Queen's Park and Rangers. (Clyde FC are no longer based in Glasgow, but in Cumbernauld.)
- Home of Irn-Bru, the nation's second national drink.
- Main rivers and canals: the River Clyde, River Kelvin, the Forth and Clyde Canal.
- Motto: 'Let Glasgow Flourish'
Scottish dialect can be difficult for non-Scots to understand. Here is a brief summary of words and phrases more specific to Glasgow.
- 'fae': from
- 'fitba': football
- 'gonnae no dae that': 'stop doing that'
- 'haud yer wheesht': 'be quiet'
- 'hen': lassie, girl
- 'naw': 'no'
- 'ned': possibly an acronym for Non-Educated Delinquent. This is typically a fast-food loving, smoking, loitering, drinking youth, usually dressed in a tracksuit, skip cap and trainers.
- 'old firm': a term used to describe Scotland's biggest footballing rivals (and perennial League leaders), Rangers and Celtic.
- 'peely-wally': pale, sickly looking
- 'wee': little, small
- 'wean': child
- 'ya beauty/dancer': exclamation of delight
- 'youz': 'you' (plural)
The BBC series Chewing the Fat and Still Game provide excellent examples of the local accent.
A few of the best-known Glaswegians are:
- Charles Rennie Mackintosh (artist and architect)
- Travis (indie pop/rock group)
- The Lisbon Lions (Celtic 1967 European Cup winning team)
- Donald Dewar (Scotland's first First Minister)
- Sir Alex Ferguson (football manager)
Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a Glaswegian architect, designer and artist. The buildings he designed in Glasgow include:
- The Glasgow School of Art: found at 167, Renfew Street. As a functioning art school, guided tours only are available of this site that includes objects Mackintosh designed.
- The Willow Tea Rooms, located at 217, Sauchiehall Street and 97, Buchanan Street, offer the chance to have a coffee in a Rennie Mackintosh-designed setting.
- The Lighthouse, found at 11, Mitchell Lane, contains a 'Mack Room' which also describes the background to Charles Rennie Mackintosh's life and art.
- Scotland Street School Museum: located on 225, Scotland Street. The museum offers the chance to see both a Rennie Mackintosh-designed building and discover the history of education in Scotland.
- The official Visiting Glasgow site is full of tourist information.
- The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society website contains information on all his work as well as advice for visitors.
- Glasgow Science Centre
- Glasgow University
- Map of the Glasgow Train Network (pdf format)