Glasgow, Scotland

Just before Glasgow is the town of Paisley, where Danny lived for a few months many years ago. His memory of the region was surprisingly sharp, so he took on the role of tour guide again. First he showed me the Abbey (which he had never been into), then the pub he used to frequent (but was now shut down), and finally the restaurant where he worked. The latter was a simple, low key establishment with a menu that apparently hadn’t changed much in 12 years. We sat here and loaded up on drinks and nachos before heading to a campsite for the night.

 

The ferocious wind was following us all over Scotland, and we endured yet another night of being rocked to and fro. Miraculously, our roof held together with only a clothesline strapped around the handles, but we knew we needed a more permanent solution. The caravan/ campervan store in Glasgow stocked exactly what we needed, however we were required to buy the entire unit, not just the part that was broken. So even though we owned a brand new screen, we had to buy it again along with the complete frame (although, for some reason, the whole unit was cheaper than just the screen). We couldn’t fit it straight away as it was raining (again), so we left the new skylight in the van and caught the train into Glasgow.

Exiting the train we found ourselves in George Square, which had been taken over by a fun fair, ice skating rink and food tent. We took a quick walk around but it didn’t compare to Edinburgh's festivities. So we left and wandered over to Merchant City, a vibrant district filled with bars, cafes, boutiques and cultural spaces. Most of the buildings were former warehouses, constructed using profits from the tobacco industry in the 18th century. It was a fascinating area to explore, but there were no actual “sights” to see.

 

From Merchant City, we slowly made our way down to the River Clyde and spent the next couple of hours walking along its banks. The architecture changed continuously, displaying a mixture of old and new that reminded us of Newcastle. Dozens of bridges, in differing styles, crisscrossed the waterway, ranging from traditional to contemporary. The sun actually decided to appear for a while, allowing colour to penetrate a few of our photos, as opposed to the various shades of grey we had become accustomed to lately.

Back in the city centre we visited the Lighthouse, a building designed by the famous Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. His works, found all over the city, are considered a type of Art Nouveau, although many simply refer to it as the Glasgow Style. We couldn't see a lot of the Lighthouse building itself, but the small exhibit dedicated to Mackintosh was interesting. The highlight was the lookout over the city from the rooftop, providing fleeting moments of clear views in-between rain showers. Nearby was the Mackintosh-designed Tea Rooms, stunningly beautiful but well beyond our budget. 

Pushing through the Christmas shoppers on the bustling pedestrian streets, we headed over to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Housed in a striking mansion, it contained not only paintings (which was all we were expecting), but also history, science and cultural sections. We spent hours here, trying to absorb everything and read the detailed information signs. I think we were the last to leave, as security had to let us out when we had finished. It was fantastic – I wish we could have stayed longer. 

After dinner, Danny tackled the arduous task of trying to install our new skylight while sitting on top of the van. It turned out that the old one had undergone a few modifications, and Danny needed to replicate these to make it fit. Limited access to any tools made this job all the more difficult (the sawing was accomplished with a kitchen knife). Two hours later we were proudly sitting underneath our (second) new skylight. 

The next day was all about Mackintosh. He is inescapable in Glasgow, and we weren’t even going to see half of it. First up was a church he designed, which initially appeared quite plain but when we examined the building closely, we could see that his characteristic embellishments blended in unobtrusively with the facade. Next, it was over to the Glasgow University, a Hogwarts-style castle that was grander and more impressive than several castles we have paid to enter. Inside was the Hunterian Museum, filled with historical artefacts, anatomical specimens from a range of animals, and descriptions of old surgical procedures (Hunter was a doctor and lecturer about 100 years ago). These antiquated medical approaches sounded horrific; for example, no anaesthesia was used when removing gallstones and kidney stones, and patients had a 50% chance of dying. I’m glad things have improved since then.

 

Opposite the Hunterian Museum was the Hunterian Art Gallery (a small collection of mostly Scottish artists) and Mackintosh House. The House was a reassemblage of Mackintosh's own home, and allowed us to view two rooms filled with Mackintosh creations and artwork. I think every single item on display was designed by Mackintosh himself. Neither the Gallery nor the House were terrible, but we weren’t captivated by them either. 

Our final stop in Scotland was the Burrell Collection, a museum south of Glasgow. Sir William Burrell starting accumulating art in his teens and didn't stop until he died. Burrell wanted his stockpile to be exhibited in a very specific manner, and left the entire collection (over 8000 items) to the city of Glasgow with detailed instructions. On our walk through the light and spacious building, we skipped over most of the furniture and ornamental sections and concentrated on the artwork, in particular the Impressionist pieces. The downside was that they were nearly all pastels, rather than the paintings I would rather admire. Even so, this was definitely the better of the attractions we visited today.

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