When I spent some time in Edinburgh in the 1970s, Glasgow was a city to pity, fear and hurry through on your way to somewhere else.
Edinburgh was elegant buildings, the Castle, Holyrood, the Tattoo and the world’s most prestigious arts Festival with its mighty Edinburgh Fringe. Glasgow was people vomiting in gutters at Hogmanay and stupid sectarian riots at Celtic/Rangers football matches.
People who claimed to know better told me Glaswegians were funnier and friendlier than that snooty, stuffy Edinburgh crowd.
Maybe that was so. Glasgow Citizens Theatre had a fine reputation for producing edgy political work. Billy Connolly sang ‘If it Wasna’ fur yer Wellies’, a song I much admired and could almost sing myself with fake Glasgow accent.
But when Glasgow was named European City of Culture in 1990 it seemed like awarding the weakest kid in the team the ‘Most Improved Player’ encouragement prize.
So it was a surprise for us to pass through the place on our way to our cruise around Mull to find that Glasgow was not the grubby, violent cesspit we’d been led to expect.
Glasgow Central Station
I had seen serious rioting in the station back in the 70s. Celtic and Rangers had just played a drawn match and fans were looking to score over their rivals. Now it’s a particularly beautiful station. Decent coffee too at Patisserie Valerie.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross and Rembrandt’s A Man in Armour are the best known works in this lovely museum, but the highlight for us here was the work of the Glasgow Boys. They sound like a group of young thugs you’d avoid antagonising in a dark alley. In fact they were a group of artists, men and a few women, working in the city in the late 19th and early 20th century. Beautiful landscapes and images of rural life to rival the French Impressionists.
It’s billed as Scotland’s Downton Abbey. While the interior may be the predictable collection of over-furnished rooms upstairs and servants quarters below the stairs, it’s worth a visit for the gardens and the country park setting.
The Burrell Collection
Shipping magnate and collector Sir William Burrell assembled one of the greatest private collections of art and antiquities in Europe. It’s been donated to Glasgow and is open to the public for free.
Mr Burrell picked up a few nice Degas pastels and my particular favourite, Anton Mauve’s Scheveningen .
Charles Rennie Mackintosh
The architect and designer’s work is highlighted in the Kelvingrove and Hunterian (see below) collections, and can also be found in various Glasgow locations. Tours can be arranged of the Glasgow School of Arts and if you arrive before closing time (we just made it in time to get inside but too late for tea) you can see his interior designs in the Willow Tea Rooms.
Hunterian Museum and Gallery
The University of Glasgow, Scotland’s oldest, founded 1451, also has Scotland’s oldest museum, founded thanks to a bequest from William Hunter. It features a furnished reconstruction of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s house and the world’s largest permanent collection of the work of James McNeill Whistler. His famous mother may be in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris; many of his other paintings are here in Glasgow.
Okay, I admit it. Mevrouw T and I are not really bar people. So we picked the nearest city pub for breakfast. The Counting House is impressive inside and the food was fine for the price.
Glasgow is keen to spruik its credentials in cutting edge architecture. We did the hop-on, hop-off bus tour, the touristy and quick way to get a look around. The new Riverside Museum catches the eye, as does the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, unsurprisingly nicknamed ‘The Armadillo’.
Shopping – Princes Square
You don’t actually have to buy anything in the refurbished Princes Square Shopping Arcade. It’s worth a quick whip through just to look at the design.
“People make Glasgow”
So goes the slogan. We found people very friendly and their accents charming, albeit incomprehensible.
A couple of days were too short. We’ll have to come back to Glasgow. And when we do, what else should we be doing?