Shona Kinloch's 'As proud as...' And so he should be.

Shona Kinloch’s ‘As proud as…’ And so he should be. Particular parts of his anatomy have been very well polished by admiring passers-by.

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.

Glasgow Central Station. All that polished wood.

Glasgow Central Station. All that polished wood.

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.


The entrance hall at Kelvingrove

Pollok House
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.

We can't guarantee that the rhododendrons will always be blooming and that a piper will always be playing for a wedding.

We can’t guarantee that the rhododendrons will always be blooming and that a piper will always be playing for a wedding.

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 .

Egyptian, Roman, Medieval and 19th century masterpieces, and a few Rodins in the entrance hall.

Egyptian, Roman, Medieval and 19th century masterpieces, and a few Rodins in the entrance hall.

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.

A must-see for lovers of art deco.

A must-see for lovers of art deco.

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.

James McNeill Whistler's portraits, and his art materials, in the Hunterian Gallery.

James McNeill Whistler’s portraits, and his art materials, in the Hunterian Gallery.


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.

Big, brassy and decent brekky for the price.

Big, brassy and decent brekky for the price.

Modern architecture

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’.

The Armadillo

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.

Princes Square, Glasgow. Who did the design?

Princes Square, Glasgow. Who did the design?

“People make Glasgow”

So goes the slogan. We found people very friendly and their accents charming, albeit incomprehensible.

The Duke of Wellington and one of his subjects, outside the Gallery of Modern Art.

The Duke of Wellington and one of his subjects.

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?


Filed under Scotland


  1. Caroline

    The Duke has lost his hat? He should have a orange traffic cone placed at a jaunty angle upon his noggin.

    Lovely to see ma wee Glasgee in such a beautiful light.

  2. You have opened my eyes to Glasgow. Last time I visited the evening was played out on a knife edge as strangers befriended me in an aggressive sort of way. They might buy you a pint. They might attack you. Maybe that’s an experience reserved for the English visitor! Either way it’s an undeniably beautiful historic city and you’ve left me wanting more. Perhaps a more cultural evening next time though, avoiding the dodgy bars!

    • Thanks, Tim. Glasgow will host the Commonwealth Games in July and August, so it will certainly be flooded with visitors then. We’ll pick another time to go back.

      • That sounds wise. Similarly I never made it down to London when the Olympics were on but now they have just reopened the Olympic park to the public and I’m going to pop along now that it’s quieter, plus I’m working down there.

  3. Glasgow is certainly stuck with its previous image but your post has started to enlighten me!

  4. Jenny Thompson

    That’s good Richard – we are there for a couple of days in August and will certainly be checking some of the above out.

  5. Caroline

    Oh, and next time you’re in the area, make a detour to Culzean Castle. Though it’s about 1 1/2 hours south of Glasgow. It’s a stunning castle on a cliff top, surrounded by magnificent gardens both wild and structured. If you’re driving also try to find the Electric Brae where you’ll believe your car is rolling uphill.

  6. Stan Mc Donald

    Richard, just back today from a week in Glasgow ( did you miss the Necropolis ?), after boating around Mull with Sandy, Andy, Clare and Ray (not John ) and that was after a week in Amsterdam trying to avoid death by cyclist and a week in Berlin. For much of this I hold you at least partly responsible… so thanks a lot !
    Stan McDonald

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