Glasgow, Scotland: Aug 7-9, 2019

Updated: May 3

Locations/activities covered in the blog:

  • Kelvingrove Park

  • Buchanan and Argyle Street Retail District

  • George's Square

  • Glasgow Cathedral

  • Necropolis

  • Oor Wullis Statues

  • Tennent Wellpark Brewery

  • People's Museum

  • Glickman's Sweet Shop

  • Museum of Modern Art and Duke of Wellington Statue

  • University of Glasgow

  • Hunterian Museum

  • Building Murals

  • Barras Market

We decided to start our Scotland trip in Glasgow since we had previously visited Edinburgh back in 2013. Click on the link above to view the '2013 Edinburgh' blog.


Here's a map outlining our planned route for this trip. I guess you can tell from this map that we are from the States and don't mind driving a lot.

We landed on time. Our luggage came out quickly and UK Customs was a breeze, but that’s when our luck ran out. At Europcar, we were told we needed to rebook our reservation because of problems with the UK car insurance coverage we purchased from TripAdvisor. Once we explained our travel itinerary to the agent, we were ‘rightfully’ convinced to rent a larger diesel car with more leg room and storage as well as better gas mileage. The agent probably ‘upsold’ us slightly but in the end the larger car (Volvo XC60 Mid-Sized SUV) was a blessing. This entire rebooking probably took 90 minutes and we were exhausted went it was over.

Dave initially panicked when he saw the SUV. How the hell were we going to drive down the narrow UK roads without clipping the side view mirrors or how were we going to parallel park this behemoth? Fortunately, I convinced Dave he should try driving on the ‘wrong side of the road’ first. Getting out of the airport went OK, except for my constant commentary, 'Dave, you’re driving too close to the center of the road' followed quickly by 'Dave, you're driving too close to the left side of the road.' Despite my backseat driving, Dave successfully navigated the airport to Airbnb drive without an incident.


We unpacked the car and settled into our West End the apartment. The West End is a bohemian district of cafés, tea rooms, bars, boutiques, hotels, clubs, restaurants, museums, parks, and public transportation. This was the perfect location to call home.

Glasgow West End apartment

It was a easy 5-minute walk down to Byres Road and we quickly found a shop to order lunch.

We were on a roll. Not only had we driven successfully but now we had managed to understand the heavy Scottish accent of our server, ordered food, and paid our bill with local currency. This wasn't going to be so hard after all.

Glasgow West End shops
Glasgow West End shops

Day 1: Kelvingrove Park

Although jet-lagged, we were up for exploring and walked to Kelvingrove Park. This beautiful 85 acre green oasis that is right in the heart of the city was created in 1854. The rolling hills and spiders-web of wide pavement weaving through the lawns make the park a heaven for families with kids, walkers, runners, and bikers.

Glasgow Kelvingrove Park path surrounded by trees and grass

The park was intended to provide for the continued expansion of the city to the west, furnishing relaxation and recreation opportunities for the new middle class to the west and an escape from the rapid slumming of the city center back in the late 1800s.

Glasgow Kelvingrove Park path surrounded by trees and grass

The largest monument in the park is the Stewart Memorial Fountain built in 1872 to commemorate Lord Provost Robert Stewart (1851–1854) and his achievement in supplying Glasgow with fresh water from Loch Katrine located over 25 miles away.

Glasgow Kelvingrove Park Stewart Memorial Fountain built in 1872

The statue of Lord Kelvin, erected on in 1913, honors Sir William Thomson. ‘Lord Kelvin’ was the title Thomson took when he was made the first ‘science lord’. He was considered one of the most famous scientists of his age and earned international acclaim for proposing an absolute scale of temperature now known as the Kelvin Scale and for his pioneering research in the fields of mechanical energy and heat. He was equally well-known for his work on planning the Trans-Atlantic telegraph cable and his invention of the Kelvin Compass adopted by most of the world's navies at the time. Yet, here he sits in Kelvingrove Park with a traffic cone placed on his head - a very Scottish thing to do. The placing of traffic cones on historic statues can be blamed on two factors - alcohol and the prevalence of roadworks of some kind in city centers.

The statue of Lord Kelvin with traffic cone on head in Kelvingrove Park Glasgow

The University of Glasgow Gothic tower rises above the trees.

University of Glasgow Gothic tower viewed from Glasgow Kelvingrove Park

The world famous Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum borders the park. Unfortunately, we weren't able to squeeze in a visit but we loved walking around the building with its beautiful design. Click on the link above for more information on the Gallery.

The world famous Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum borders Glasgow Kelvingrove Park

After dinner at an Indian restaurant, we ended the day with a trip to the Co-Op convenience store to pick up groceries. We decided to try and eat breakfast in our Airbnbs every morning and occasionally cook dinners in as well.


Day 2 Plans

  • Buchanan and Argyle Street Retail District

  • George's Square

  • Glasgow Cathedral

  • Necropolis

  • Oor Wullis Statues

It was a typical start to a Glasgow morning, cloudy with occasional showers. But the forecast didn't impact our plans. Umbrellas in hand, we walked to the subway station and headed to the 'Buchanan Street' stop. The Glasgow subway opened on 14 December 1896 making it the third-oldest underground metro system in the world after the London Underground and the Budapest Metro. It was a tight fit but Dave stood inside the car with an inch of head space to spare.

Short orange subway cars in Glasgow

While riding the subway, we noticed a poster for a Peter May book. He's a Scottish author and it turns out that some of his books are set in the Hebrides. It was interesting to read the books after we had been in those areas.

Advertisement in Glasgow subway for Peter May book The Man with No Face

Buchanan and Argyle Street Retail District

Buchanan Street is one of the main shopping thoroughfares in Glasgow. It forms the central stretch of Glasgow's famous shopping district with a generally more upscale range of shops than the neighboring streets.

Buchanan and Argyle Street Retail District in Glasgow

There was quite a crowd assembled to watch these kids perform.

George's Square

George's Square is the principal civic square in Glasgow. It was named after King George III. Laid out in 1781, today Glasgow Square is home to the headquarters of Glasgow City Council and showcases an important collection of statues and monuments.

Standing in St George’s Square in center of Glasgow
Glasgow City Council in St George Square

The most prominent statue is of Sir Walter Scott on the granite pillar pictured above. Another impressive statue is of Queen Victoria (shown below). This statue commemorates the Queen's visit to Glasgow in 1849. Incredibly, it was Britain's first equestrian statue of a woman.

Just so you know, Dave was not really studying the map, he was waiting patiently until I finished taking pictures so we could go to get a midday snack.

Glasgow Cathedral

One of Scotland's most magnificent medieval buildings, Glasgow Cathedral, is the only one on the Scottish mainland to survive the Reformation of 1560 intact. The Cathedral is built on the site where St Kentigern, or Mungo, is thought to have been buried in AD 612. His tomb is in the Lower Church of the Cathedral where there is a service held every year to commemorate his life. St Kentigern was the first bishop within the ancient British kingdom of Strathclyde.

Steeple and main entrance of Glasgow Cathedral

The first stone-built Glasgow Cathedral was dedicated in the presence of King David I in 1136, but the present building was consecrated in 1197. Since that period the Cathedral has never been unroofed (the ultimate desecration of Catholic churches in Scotland) and the services have been carried out within these walls for more than 800 years. The present cathedral was built during the 13th-15th centuries.

View of Glasgow Cathedral from the back.  The cathedral was consecrated in 1197.

The cathedral is also one of the few Scottish medieval churches (and the only medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland) to have survived the Reformation without being unroofed. The Quire pictured below was built in the mid-1200s and provided seating for the clergy, church choir and dignitaries.

The Quire of Glasgow Cathedral was built in the mid-1200s

The Nave of the Cathedral was where the people gathered to worship. Although not as ornate as the Quire, the nave would have been many alters each dedicated to a specific saint.

The Nave of the Glasgow Cathedral

The Cathedral has some of the finest post-war stained glass in Scotland.

The tomb of St Kentigern, or Mungo, is located in the lower church of the Cathedral. His remains are said to still rest in the crypt.

The tomb of St Kentigern, or Mungo, is located in the lower church of the Glasgow Cathedral
Post-war stained glass windows in Glasgow Cathedral

Necropolis

This Victorian cemetery, situated on a hill behind the Glasgow Cathedral, is the final resting place for over 50,000 Glasgow residents. However, the residents of this city have always considered the Necropolis more of a park than graveyard.

Necropolis, the Victorian cemetery is the final resting place for over 50,000 Glasgow residents.

Typical for the 1800s, only a small percentage of people buried here have named memorials and not every grave has a stone. Within these 37 acres there are over 3,500 monuments of all sizes, shapes and designs.

Within these 37 acres of the Necropolis are over 3,500 monuments of all sizes, shapes and designs.
Within these 37 acres of the Necropolis are over 3,500 monuments of all sizes, shapes and designs.

Despite all these elaborate memorials, two stone towers dominate the Necropolis. The John Knox monument (below on the left side) is dedicated to the leader of the Scottish Reformation and the Duncan Macfarlan memorial (below on the right side) stands in remembrance of the eminent Scottish minister.

Two stone towers dominate the Necropolis. The John Knox monument and the Duncan Macfarlan memorial

Opened in 1833, the Necropolis only flourished for a short time. By 1866, burials peaked at 1,548 and thereafter decreased dramatically so that by 1875 there were only 400 burials. In 1950, the numbers dwindled to less than 100 burials and in 1995 there were only 9 burials recorded.

Within these 37 acres of the Necropolis are over 3,500 monuments of all sizes, shapes and designs.

Oor Wullis Statues

Oor Wullie is a Scottish comic strip (1937) that features a character called Wullie Russell. Wullie is the familiar Scots nickname for boys named William. His trademarks are spiky hair, dungarees and an upturned bucket, which he uses as a seat. In 2019 Oor Wullie's BIG Bucket Trail 2019 was officially launched with 200 artistic interpretations of the figure, in cities across Scotland. Sale of the statues will help to raise money for Edinburgh Children's Hospital, Glasgow Children's Hospital and the Archie Foundation. Dave took an instant liking to the Oor Wullis statues spread out across Glasgow.


Day 3 Plans

  • Tennent Wellpark Brewery

  • People’s Museum

  • Glickman's Sweet Shop

  • Museum of Modern Art and Duke of Wellington Statue

  • University of Glasgow

  • Hunterian Museum

  • Building Murals

We woke to pouring rain but after our usual oatmeal breakfast, we jumped in an Uber headed to our brewery tour and hoped for a better weather in the afternoon.

Tennent Wellpark Brewery Tour

Brewing has taken place in this vicinity since 1556 by one family in particular, the Robert Tennent family. This brewery was built in 1740 and was originally known as the Drygate Brewery. It was Robert’s ancestors in the 1790s who expanded the enterprise and renamed the site as the Wellpark Brewery. The brewery was again updated in 2009.

Tennent Wellpark Brewery storage towers and tanks in Glasgow

Tours of the brewery are extremely popular. A hardy group of a dozen or so people braved the downpour (30% of the tour was outdoors) and joined us on the tour.

Tennent Wellpark Brewery storage towers and tanks in Glasgow

Here's a few interesting facts about Tennent Lager. Tennents’s revenue is 20% larger than all Coca-Cola brands combined. Tennent's Lager is Scotland's best-selling pale lager, with approximately 60% of the Scottish lager market.

If you look closely at the picture below you can see the rain pouring down over the returned keg depot.

Empty kegs of Tennent Lager stored in the brewery yard in Glasgow

The tour ended with free samples of Tennent Lager. Not bad for a business started in the 1500s.

Glasses with Tennent Logo with Tennent Lager at the Tennent Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow

People's Museum

Since we were in the neighborhood and the rain was holding off, we walked to the People's Museum. We had read about a beautiful indoor botanical garden at the site and wanted to check it out. A stunning terracotta fountain stands at the entrance to the Museum.

The Doulton Fountain is the largest terracotta fountain in the world at the People’s Museum in Glasgow.

With a height of 46 ft and a 70 ft diameter basin, the Doulton Fountain is the largest terracotta fountain in the world. This hand-made structure was gifted to the city by English ceramic manufacturer Sir Henry Doulton in commemoration of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee of 1887.

Unfortunately the Museum was disappointing. The botanical garden was closed due to structural damage to the glass roof. There were some interesting displays about life in Scotland during WWI and WWII and a host of old time videos and photos. We stayed long enough for the rain to really clear and get a recommendation by a museum employee to stop by Glickman's sweet shop.


Glickman's Sweet Shop

Glickman's Confectionery is a Glasgow institution. The Glickman family have been selling homemade sweet treats from their little shop on London Road since 1903.

Glickman’s Sweet Shop in Glasgow

On the owners' advise, we tried a few of the Scottish treats and left with a bag of macaroon bars, Soor Plume candy and a couple others. The visit was a real throw-back to when we would visit the neighborhood store (Agnes's Variety or Alida's) for penny candy.

Inside Glickman’s Sweet Shop in Glasgow buying Soor Plume candy

Museum of Modern Art and Duke of Wellington Statue

Since the sun was out momentarily, we walked back to Glasgow Center to visit the Museum of Modern Art. Unfortunately, we were 2 for 2 in our choice of museums not to visit. The art on display was definitely not our cup of tea.

Exterior of the Museum of Modern Art in Glasgow

Although we didn't enjoy the museum, the visit provided an opportunity to see the famous Duke of Wellington statue. The statue has been adorned with an unauthorized traffic cone since the 1980’s. It is one of the most iconic locations in Glasgow and was listed in the 2011 Lonely Planet guide as one of the ‘Top 10 Most Bizarre Monuments On Earth’.

The famous Duke of Wellington statue with a traffic cone on his head

After all the walking, we treated ourselves to lunch and a Gregg's triple chocolate muffin. This had become our new 'go-to' midday dessert.

Gregg's triple chocolate muffin snack after walking around Glasgow

University of Glasgow

After lunch we headed out to explore the University of Glasgow and arrived just as the rain started again. We hung out in one of the quads until the showers passed. The university was founded in 1451 by a papal bull from Pope Nicholas V. It is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's four ancient universities. Along with the universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and St Andrews, the university was part of the Scottish Enlightenment during the 18th century.

Old buildings of University of Glasgow founded in 1451
Inner courtyard or quad of University of Glasgow founded in 1451

In 1870, the university moved to its present site on Gilmorehill in Glasgow's West End. The new campus was designed in the Gothic revival style. The large twin-quadrangle layout of the original campus was reproduced but on a far grander scale. The signature Gothic bell tower rises 279 ft above the campus.

The signature Gothic bell tower rises 279 ft above the campus of the University of Glasgow

Hunterian Museum

In 1783, William Hunter, a noted anatomist and physician, died with his will stipulating that his substantial and varied collections should be donated to the University of Glasgow. The Hunterian Museum was created in his honor. The museum was part of the original Glasgow campus but was packed up in its entirety and moved into a new home on the Gilmorehill campus.

Hunterian Museum on the campus of the University of Glasgow

The museum features extensive displays relating to William Hunter and his collections, Roman Scotland (especially the Antonine Wall), geology, ethnography, ancient Egypt, scientific instruments, coins, medals, and much more.

The Antonine Wall exhibit was really interesting. The Antonine Wall was a turf fortification on stone foundations, built around 142 AD by the Romans across what is now the Central Belt of Scotland. Representing the northernmost frontier barrier of the Roman Empire, it spanned approximately 39 miles and was about 10 feet high and 16 feet wide. The barrier was the second of two "great walls" created by the Romans in Great Britain. Below is a stone marker from the wall.


Building Mural Trail

Massive building murals are part of Glasgow’s Mural Trail. These works of art are scattered throughout the city on various buildings. Many of the murals were painted on abandoned structures which had previously stood as stark reminders of the area’s past economic perils. The city council began commissioning the individual pieces in an effort to revive old, unsightly buildings and transform them into displays of street art. The first mural was produced in 2008 and the number of building art works have expanded ever since.

Glasgow building murals
Glasgow building murals

A long day ended with a couple of mojitos at dinner. We've spent a great couple of days exploring what Glasgow has to offer. Tomorrow was our last day in the City.

Mojitos in Glasgow

Day 4 Plans

  • Barras Market

  • Drive to Scottish Border (new blog)

Saturday August 10th was our last day in Glasgow and since it was a weekend, we decided to spend the morning in 'The Barras Market'. The market has a long tradition in the East End of Glasgow, with hawkers selling from handcarts (barras) in the early part of the 20th Century.

Entrance to the Barras Market in Glasgow

The Barras is world famous and well known as the market place to purchase a bargain and see a lot of unusual stuff. The Barras Market is a mixture of street markets, indoor markets, shops and pubs. Just about anything can be purchased at the Barras, with items ranging from antiques to a pair of work boots.

Shops in the Barras Market in Glasgow

The Barras was founded by James and Margaret McIver in the years between the world wars. Several of the smaller 1921-era market halls still bear the McIver name. Even though our suitcases were fairly full, Dave still was on the hunt for a few deals. In fact, we were still looking for mid-century memorabilia for the California condo and we (Dave) were successful finding a few hidden gems to bring back.

One of the more unique shops, by far, sold zombie dolls.

Some recent reviews note the Barras Market has declined in quality, calling most of the goods 'junk'. However, we had a fun time rummaging through the piles of flea market goods for a few hours. After The Barras, we packed up the Airbnb and drove south to the 'Scottish Border Region'. We really enjoyed Glasgow, it was a great way to start of the UK trip.


In hind sight this may have been one of the mistakes we made planning our Scottish travels; heading south of Glasgow to the 'Borders' for a few days only to return north to continue our drive to the Highlands.


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