It’s not quite a trip to the jungle, it’s not a tour through sparkling snowy waste, but exploring the side streets of Glasgow can be just as much a life-changing experience. It’s the music that does it, as I discovered on trips to the city in the last year. Live music happens in every street; not just in grand concert halls but in basements bars and attic clubs, in ageing art deco cinemas and old variety theatres, in subterranean tunnels where gigs are punctuated by passing trains, in vegan (yes vegan) cafes which would not look out of place in San Francisco. Live music transforms even the most battered parts of the city into an unforgettable experience – O2 Academy stands like a beached liner, a defiant dazzler on Gorbals edgelands. Barrowland is a beacon for rock bands the world over, The Arches and Sub Club rock the city underground and even the Apollo, long gone, absolutely refuses to die. All adding to the gritty, almost industrial strength of Glasgow’s cultural life. No wonder this is the UK’s first UNESCO City of Music. I explored Glasgow with the help of Walking Heads audio tours who have just produced Glasgow Music Tour as a free app.
The Barrowland Ballroom is a hot, sweaty venue with a low ceiling which is virtually unchanged since the ballroom was rebuilt in 1960. It has excellent acoustics and a sprung dance floor (because of its original role as a ballroom) and is just the best place to see live bands. Although its capacity is limited to just under 2,000 it attracts big name bands because of the fantastic atmosphere - a reason it has remained popular with the punters for 50+ years. Have a look at the 1983 video of Simple Minds' single Waterfront, which was filmed there.
If you're in Glasgow check out who's playing in the local paper and go along if you can. Have a drink in the Saracen's Head pub, opposite, to sample the full flavour of a Glasgow night out!
The building was discovered languishing as a council car park by Jim Smith, director of the Glasgow Jazz Festival in 1992. Since then the Old Fruitmarket has been reinvented as one of the most atmospheric venues in the UK. With its wooden boat-like roof, huge old clock and still retaining the old stallholders billboards from the time when it really was a market hall, the Old Fruitmarket is now a thriving venue for music, comedy and for festivals such as Celtic Connections and the Glasgow Jazz Festival. A refurbishment got rid of the cobbles that threatened many a high heel, strengthened the balcony, improved the heating and sealed the roof against the pigeon squatters, but did nothing to dilute its essential character. It's a large enough auditorium to hold 1500 standing, but still works cabaret style for under 100.
City sightseeing tour with live guide or multi-lingual commentary. It is amazing! Takes you on a huge sightseeing tour of the city and we hopped off at the People's Palace and Mitchell Library which were superb. Recommend also visiting Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow Cathedral, University West End area of Byres Road. Fantastic value for money. Interesting. Breathtaking architecture. Your ticket is valid for two consecutive days.
www.citysightseeingglasgow.com or Tourist Information, George Square also Buchanan Bus Station. You may also pay as you get on the bus.
1- Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
Kelvingrove is the most visited museum in Scotland and the most visited in the UK outside of London. It recently underwent a massive refurbishment which has added new collections to its already impressive invitory.
2- Museum Of Transport
Everything from a horse and carriage to vintage steam trains are available here. A great place for kids or for a family day out, plenty to see.
3- Glasgow Cathedral
Worthwhile just to see the building itself, it is hundreds of years old and still looks magnificent, not bad inside either.
4- Burrell Collection
Located opposite the Kelvingrove Museum and well worth doing along with its more popular neighbor. Plenty to see from Ancient Egypt to information on Sir William Burrell who donated the collection.
I recently stayed in a self-catering castle with friends in Scotland. With all the talk of the downturn in the economy, maybe we should consider holidaying within UK and Europe.
A company called Celtic Castles offer castle accommodation all around the UK, Ireland and France. Some have been converted into hotels while others (like Castle Law that I stayed in) are now self-catering properties.
The thing I was surprised about was how little it cost. It worked out at less than 100 pounds per person per night, there are some offers available at the moment so this will be even less now.
Definitely worth considering!
Not many people know about this, even one tour guide I met hadn't heard of it. At the top of Kelvingrove Park, near the University, sit two tudor-style cottages, built for the 1901 Glasgow Exhibition. They were built by the Lever Brothers (of Persil and Fairy, and Sunlight Soap fame), as an exact replica of the houses that make up Port Sunlight village, the town built for their workers, complete with cinema, art gallery and railway station, near Liverpool.
The Glasgow houses (Port Sunlight Cottage) were intended to be an example of how houses in Glasgow would be built from then on, but this never happened, and now they stand alone, looking quite out of place amongst the sandstone of the city. They are now private residences.
It's a beautiful walk up through the park to get to the houses, and it leaves you within easy reach of the Transport Museum, the Kelvingrove museum and art gallery, and the West End.
You can see more at
Just outside Glasgow University, G12, at the top of Kelvingrove Park.
If you are on the Glasgow tour bus, get off at the Kelvingrove museum and walk up from there.
Crookston Castle is in the care of Historic Scotland but has free entry. You get two castles for the price of one. It has the ditch and earthen rampart of a 12th century ringwork castle and in the centre the ruinous remains of a 15th century stone castle of unusual form. It's on a hilltop and there's a good view of the southwest side of the city from the top of the tower.
Off Brockburn Road, Pollok, SW of Glasgow city centre. Exit M8 at Junction 26
Also known as St Mungo's Cathedral, Glasgow cathedral is situated in Cathedral Square at the north end of the medieval High Street. It's the only surviving mainland pre-reformation cathedral in Scotland and dates mainly from the 13th century. It's still in use. Architectural highlights include the lower church or crypt and the rare plate tracery windows. Entry is free.
Glasgow Cathedral, Castle Street, G4
nearest railway station - High Street
It's a big, accessible green space with good paths largely through mixed woodland which also features an early ringwork if you're in to archaeology. There are also gardens. Look out for kingfishers along the White Cart Water. There's a programme of family events and the kids will like the heavy horses and the highland cattle herd. There are also mountain bike courses through the woods for beginners to advanced level.
And if it rains, the Burrell Collection is on site - marvellous antiquities and art and entry is free. Or you could visit Pollok House, an 18th century mansion house in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. Both venues have restaurants.
If going by car, park by Pollok House rather than by the Burrell if you want to avoid parking fees.
Pollok Country Park
2060 Pollokshaws Road
Nearest train station Pollokshaws West
Buses 45, 47, 48, 57
Mackintosh masterpiece building of the last century. A granite wonder to come upon as you wander an ordinary street: huge northern windows with rose & sword ironwork, long library windows on the west; a structure that continues to influence contemporary architecture.
167 Renfrew Street
Glasgow G3 6RQ
The Duke of Wellington stands imposingly outside the Gallery of Modern Art and some years ago, a cone appeared overnight, presumably the result of a youthful prank. Although it was removed, it kept magically re-appearing and eventually the authorities gave up.
It has become such a landmark that the statue and its cone have featured in tourist guidebooks. A few years ago, when Greater Glasgow & Clyde Valley Tourist Board wanted photographs to launch their new Web site, they removed the cone. Immediately, the Lord Provost, Alex Mosson, expressed disappointment, saying that it highlighted the Glaswegian sense of humour. His predecessor, ex-Provost Pat Lally joined in and also agreed it should stay. The end result is that Wellington (and sometimes his horse too) can be seen sporting traffic cones! Not that anyone is suggesting that the Provost and ex-Provost were personally involved....
Near Museum of Modern Art
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