'Tell them about some Glasgow must sees,’ said Johanna. ‘It’s time you said something about Scotland’s largest city.'
‘But I’m not sure I really I like the place’, I replied. ‘Never been comfortable there, to be honest.’
‘That’s because you’re an east-coaster and prefer small towns.’
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‘Could be. But I reckon Glasgow offers no essential Scottish experiences that you can’t get in Edinburgh. OK, it has has plenty to see, but as for Glasgow must sees, I’m not sure.’
‘Well, you’re making the city sound like an inferior Edinburgh. And that’s wrong. What about Charles Rennie Mackintosh? The Art School?'
‘OK, I agree, the Glasgow School of Art qualifies as a Glasgow must see.’ And I’m not really saying, Glasgow is an inferior Edinburgh. It’s just a lot less picturesque. It hasn’t got those sweeping panoramas, those magnificent first impressions, that sense of theatre... ’
‘That’s enough. You’re beginning to sound like these tourist brochures you used to write.’
‘That’s true. I wish I could have a hot dinner for every time I’ve written about Edinburgh ‘sweeping panoramas and sense of theatre.'
‘Hot dinner? OK, where in Glasgow would you choose for dinner? I mean as a Glasgow must see or must experience.’
‘Hmmm. Cafe Gandolfi, probably. They’re friendly there.’ Or the old-established Ubiquitous Chip. And,come to think of it. I was always told to go on about Glasgow’s legendary friendliness, its “genius for instant friendship”. But, personally, I have always found, say, Dundee, just as friendly.They always chat to you in the shops anyway. Berwick-upon-Tweed is really friendly and it isn’t even in Scotland. And,at the other end of Scotland, Orkney folk are friendly. Come to think of it, most places in Scotland are friendly. Except possibly Crieff.’
'Hmm. Moving on. So you’ve reached two must sees for Glasgow. Now what about its culture? Would you add the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to your list of Glasgow must sees?'
'Yes, I suppose I would. Love the layout. But as a museum experience I wouldn’t say it’s any better than the Royal Museum of Scotland....’
‘I know, I know.....in Edinburgh. Come on, try a bit harder.’
‘Well, I like steam trains, so I’d add Glasgow Transport Museum to the list. Sorry, I mean the Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel. Except you're best to go in school term-time as otherwise it's full of skirlin bairns. I mean screaming children. Or do I mean weans? It's 'weans' in the west...'
‘Still a brilliant venue nonetheless. That’s better. And I like shopping, so.....’
‘OK, then. For some folk, the Glasgow shopping experience should be on the list. Not so much for the Buchanan Galleries or the St Enoch Centre. They’re just like the vast shopping malls elsewhere in the UK. Could be anywhere - just faceless 21st-century retailing. No, I’m thinking, uhmm, Princes Square - decent cup of coffee in there, in my time - or some of these exclusive boutique-places in the Merchant City. I used to be forever writing stuff about Glasgow being the second-largest retail centre in the UK, but I’m not even sure that’s true. Big enough, anyway. '
‘Yes, agreed. You’d have to put Glasgow shopping as part of the Glasgow must see or must experience. OK, you’ve nominated - not in order - Glasgow School of Art (and you could also have put the Mackintosh House in there); then you said Cafe Gandolfi and/or the Ubiquitous Chip, Kelvingrove Museum, Museum of Transport. What about the Burrell Collection?’
(Above) A peely-wally sunset on the River Clyde. On the left is the main BBC building in Scotland. Behind it is the Glasgow Science Centre. The 127 metre high Glasgow Tower is also conspicuous. The tallest building in the world that can revolve 360 degrees, it doesn't do this trick very often as it has been plagued by operating difficulties. Ho hum.
‘The Burrell Collection, I hear you you say, as we've just been interrupted by a picture caption. Ah, yes, the magpie collection of a Scottish shipping magnate.’
‘Will you stop sounding like a smug brochure?’
‘Sorry. But Burrell was well known for his ability to pick up a bargain. And the kindest thing you can say about the collection is that it’s eclectic.’
‘Well, I still think it should be on a Glasgow must see list. It’s quality.’
‘That all depends on how much time you have.’
‘Aye, that’s a consideration. Knowing your prejudices as an east coast laddie from the country, I suppose you’d recommend potential visitors take a day trip by train from Edinburgh?’
‘Tempted, if I was being totally honest. But you’d not have enough time to cover the ground.’
‘Any more? Personally, I’d put the Tenement House into the list.’
'Yeah. It’s a reminder of the ordinary working folk of Glasgow, I suppose. Same goes for the People’s Palace. Add it to the list. Interesting, come to think of, that the equivalent preserved example of domestic life in Edinburgh is the Georgian House - definitely a bit more upmarket.'
‘Well, that’s Glasgow and Edinburgh for you. Anyway, think back. What else did you used to write about Glasgow?’
‘I always used to say that you had to look up. I mean all that Victorian detailing. A lot of it is going on above ground floor level. And I remember I was always asked to say something about the Glasgow style, though I could never work out what it actually meant. I always reckoned it was just a marketing ploy. I suppose it referred to a lot of themes coming together - Charles Rennie Mackintosh; classy shops; Glasgow’s own cafe society. I never found it. Though you can get a nice scone in John Lewis’s coffee shop. OK, only joking....’
'Did you tell them about Byres Road and Ashton Lane? Remember that pleasant drink we had on the roof of the Ubiquitous Chip (above) in the sunshine?'
'Sure, sure. Look, of course visitors will have a fine time. It’s Scotland’s biggest city after all. It’s bound to have good restaurants. Bottom line though: if I had extra days to allocate on a Scottish vacation, unless I was an inveterate clubber, shopper or diner, I think I’d rather go north and west. Even if it was only to see Loch Lomond on the way. Come to think of, is Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park a Glasgow must see?’
'Probably. And I love the way you speak text links.'
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What's this page about?
This is where you can eavesdrop on a conversation. It's about Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, and the chat is between two Scotland travel experts (he explained modestly). One thinks Glasgow is great. The other is slightly less convinced but open-minded. Read it and decide for yourself.
---unless you're here to read about that Duke of Wellington statue controversy....if so, read on below:
In November 2013 the Scottish media reported that Glasgow City Council was ashamed of its image - as reflected by the tradition of placing a traffic cone on the city’s statue of the Duke of Wellington. They intended to spend an astonishing £65000 on raising the duke even higher on his plinth.
Now, the Duke of Wellington was terribly good at battles and military matters, and twice a Tory Prime Minister. He opposed the Reform Act, extending the vote to the people. He also opposed the development of the steam locomotive and railways on the grounds that it would ‘only encourage the common people to move about needlessly’. (Breathtaking, but true.) Given that Glasgow at one time had the second biggest steam locomotive manufacturing base in the world (after Baldwin’s in the USA), would that be reason enough to be less than reverent about the conservative old buffer?
Well, in our book, definitely yes. So we applaud the tradition of (drunken?) revellers planting the cone on his head. The cone was repeatedly removed, no doubt by po-faced Council employees, yet always to be replaced again. Actually, we haven’t a clue why the feature really became so permanent. Maybe it was linked to the statue’s location outside GOMA, the city’s Gallery of Modern Art - so that the cone became a kind of installation in itself. Or maybe it was just an expression of the much vaunted humour of the locals.
The point is that after a widely-publicised campaign was launched on social media, the city authorities then reversed their intention of doing away with the ‘tradition’. Perhaps someone pointed out, for example, that the influential Lonely Planet Guide named it in 20122 as one of the ‘top ten most bizarre monuments on Earth’. Anyway, look out for the iconic statue on your visit. That cone is here to stay! Hurrah.
There he is, below, on his nag in front of the gallery. The Glasgow cone on Wellington statue is also in this hilarious short clip. I could swear he hasn't got a cone in our pic....but he's become a 'Glasgow must see'.
Scotland in Three Days