A day walking around Glasgow

May 2, 2012

We’re here in Glasgow now, after the tedious 8-hour flight on Air Transat. The only good part: it was a direct flight. We arrived yesterday afternoon, and our jet lag is really not too bad.

So today Christine drove us into Glasgow on her way to work, and dropped us off at the Buchanan bus station. From there we walked over to the Tourist Information in George Square to find any pamphlets which might be useful. We had a copy of a walking tour from our AA Guide and Rick Steves’s walking tour, and picked up a pamphlet about Charles Rennie Mackintosh and a brochure describing public art in Glasgow. Armed with this combination we set off to tour the city.

First stop was Glasgow Cathedral. It was partly under scaffolding, but it was still open so we went in for a quick tour of the building. Then following the Mackintosh pamphlet we made a short excursion to see the Martyrs School which he had built. Built of red sandstone, it was topped with ventilators with decorative finials. Back at the cathedral, we headed over the “Bridge of Sighs” to wander around Glasgow’s cemetery, the Necropolis. It was opened in 1833, and here rest many famous and not-so-famous people. On the top of the hill was a very large column with a statue commemorating John Knox of the Reformation, along with the graves and mausoleums of the city’s upper classes. Farther down the hill was the grave of William Miller, who penned the child’s verse “Wee Willie Winkie”.

From here we headed down High Street to the Tolbooth. Here we switched to the public art pamphlet and checked out some of the art-works in the Trongate area. We managed to locate most of the ones we looked for, as we worked our way back to the centre of the city. Many of the buildings in Glasgow are decorated with friezes and statues, but in order to see them you have to be looking up rather than into shop windows.

By now we were back at the start of Rick Steves’s tour, so we followed that around the centre for a bit. Here we found the Lighthouse, a building which had been designed by Macintosh. Not quite a lighthouse as we know it, but a tower which we could go up into. We skipped the art galleries on the lower floor and went up to the lunch room on the 5th floor. For a very reasonable price we had baked potato topped with Cajun chicken and a tuna baguette, along with two cups of hot chocolate. After lunch we continued up to the top of the tower, where there was an enclosed viewing platform. However the view wasn’t all that exciting.

Back on ground level, we went out onto the pedestrian mall of Buchanan Street, where one building had a beautiful peacock made out of metal on its roof, with metal leaves cascading down the front of the building. We passed by a couple more Mackintosh sites, including the Glasgow School of Art and the Tenement House, but our main destination for the afternoon was the Kelvingrove Museum, so we passed those by. The Museum was free (actually donations were accepted but we had no small money) and housed a wild variety of exhibits including stuffed animals, Mackintosh’s designs, and some lovely paintings including some by Monet, Pissarro, and Rembrandt.

After a couple of hours in the museum we were both getting tired, so we headed out to the grassy Kelvingrove Park. Right by the entrance was a kiosk selling burgers and drinks, but more importantly ice cream. The day had started out cold and windy, but by now the sun had come out and it was quite warm, so we treated ourselves to ice cream before heading back to the bus station. Our walk back was along the Kelvin River through the park and then back through the city streets. Before long we were back at the bus station, where we found we had about 15 minutes until our bus would leave. We asked the bus driver how much the fare would be – apparently this is secret information and only the drivers are entrusted with it – and found it would be £3.15 each. Exact change only. We only had notes of £5 or larger, so we went back into the terminal building, where the people at the magazine shop kindly gave us coins in exchange for one of the notes.

The bus’s route first went along the motorway and then through smaller towns. We recognized where to get off, so we were back at Neil and Christine’s by 6 pm. We ate dinner quickly, as we were heading back into Glasgow to go ceilidh dancing. This was held in a former church at St. Andrews Square. There were about 20 people in attendance, and it was led by a lady who taught us the various dance steps before setting us loose to the music played by a man with an accordion. It was actually a lot of fun, as we soon figured out that some of the other people there were really not much better than we were. The evening ended at 9:30 pm, after which we returned to Christine and Neil’s for a cup of tea.

Next: Biking the Forth and Clyde Canal

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