Karen Bowerman Discovers The Attractions of Glorious Glasgow
14:32 11 February 2013
Glasgow is often referred to as Scotlands second city, known for its glorious art deco architecture, but little more. In fact, it has a lot going for it: 45 parks, earning it the ancient nickname the dear green place, historic buildings, great places to eat, thumping live music venues and Scotlands leading tourist attraction - the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which recently enjoyed a 28 million pound facelift.
Youll also find spirited locals with a gritty determination to move with the times.
They live in a city that was once hugely powerful: Tobacco brought it wealth in the 18th century, coal in the 19th, munitions in the early 20th and ship building throughout, thanks to the river Clyde. But in the second half of the 20th century, with heavy industries on the decline, it was in the doldrums. Unlike Edinburgh, Glasgow had no service industries to fall back on.
But this was a city of inventors, a place where Joseph Lister had brought the world antiseptic, Ian Donald ultrasound and Charles Macintosh the much loved raincoat; reinvention became the buzz word and the Clyde the key. The river that had been at the heart of Glasgow in the past would keep it afloat in the future.
The riverfront was redeveloped. Glasgow turned to tourism; the marketing men worked on a slogan: The Clyde built Glasgow, now Glasgow was building the Clyde.
You can get the whole history of the city, from the 6th century when it was founded by St Mungo, to the present day (with a little plug for the Commonwealth Games in 2014) at the Lighthouse, a centre dedicated to architecture and design. In a darkened room youre invited to view an animation of Scotland from above. As the clouds clear and the centuries flash by, Glasgow grows beneath your feet.
The city was founded on the site of the 13th century cathedral, the only one on the Scottish mainland to survive the Reformation intact. Intensely coloured stained glass windows light up its dark, medieval interior.
Behind, on a hill, is the necropolis, considered one of the most important Victorian cemeteries in Europe. Massive tombs and elaborate stone statues (nearly 4000 in all) sprawl across grassy slopes in honour of the citys rich and famous.
While the cathedral is the birthplace of Glasgow, St Georges Square (aka Philadelphia in Brad Pitts zombie film World War Z) is its centre.
From here, I jumped on a sightseeing bus and joined tour guide Campbell upstairs on the sunshine deck where we both tried to ignore the drizzle.
The route took us through Merchant City, home of the tobacco lords, their warehouses now bistros and apartments, past the Scotia bar where Billy Connolly used to perform, Barrowland Ballroom where Lulu often sang and Barras Market - where Campbell, as a youngster, bought back his stolen bike.
We swept past red sandstone mansions, brick tenements, grandcrescents, museums, galleries and buildings embodying the dramatic, linear designs of Charles Renee Mackintosh (1868-1928), Glasgows favourite son.
The citys austere-looking art school, which Mackintosh designed at just 27, is well worth a visit as are the Willow Tea rooms in Buchanan Street where I enjoyed a Scottish speciality: a bowl of Cullen Skink, smoked fish soup.
The tearooms were once owned by a Kate Cranston, who asked Mackintosh to design not only the interior but also the cutlery, crockery and the high-backed chairs for which it became famous.
While theres plenty to do in the city, the riverfront boasts some of Glasgows main attractions. Chugging along, aboard the Pride of the Clyde waterbus, I took in the new concert venue, affectionately known by locals as the Armadillo, thanks to its shape, and the glittering science centre with its egg-shaped IMAX cinema.
At the Riverside Museum (dedicated to transport) I wandered round trams, trains, buses and cars. While theres a bit of a hoo-ha going on among cycling enthusiasts as to whether the museum can lay claim to the oldest bike in the world (or not), the one that drew my attention was the Raleigh Honey- my sisters bike in the 80s. She would have loved the promotional blurb: for modern young ladies looking for a touch of sophistication.
Moored outside the Riverside museum is the Glenlee, a magnificent tall ship, built in 1896, where you can explore the galley, peep into the captains bathroom (with its roll top bath), hunt down extremely large eared mice as part of the kids quiz or grab a mop and clean the decks.
And thats what I love about Glasgow: it doesnt take itself too seriously. It even has a carpet factory modelled on the Doges palace in Venice. Go and visit. Youll love it.
For more information on Glasgow: www.seeglasgow.com
Stay at: The Carlton George hotel - www.carltonhotels.co.uk/george
The Pride of the Clyde - www.clydeclippers.com
Glasgow School of Art - www.gsa.ac.uk
The Foundation exhibition at the Lighthouse -www.foundationglasgow.com
The tall ship (Glenlee) at Riverside www.thetallship.com
Willow Tea rooms - www.crmsociety.com