In many ways Glasgow is a bit of an underrated city. Admittedly, first impressions can be a bit bleak – compared with the dazzling architecture and grandeur of Edinburgh, Glasgow can seem a bit grim and grey.
However this is definitely a city worth getting under the skin of – Glasgow has cultivated a gritty, urban appeal that is worth exploring.
There is a direct train from London to Glasgow – it takes a while but it takes you to the centre of town. There are also plenty of flight options also and the bus service from the airport into the city is easy to use and inexpensive.
For your accommodation there is a huge range to choose from – whether you are looking at hotels or something like AirBnB, you want to either be in the centre of the city or in the West End district.
The west coast of Scotland is notorious for bad weather, so ideally you want to try and time your visit with Spring or Summer to give yourself the best chance of being able to get out and explore the city without having to also battle with an umbrella.
When exploring a new city I like to start by getting my bearings – working out a few key landmarks so I know how it all fits together. The River Clyde cuts through the heart of Glasgow – it is a great place to sit and watch the various river craft that speed past as well as the commuter sea plane that lands in the river – ferrying passengers from more remote parts of the country. The river used to be heavily polluted from the activities of the city’s shipyards, but improving water quality has seen salmon otter and seal become regular visitors once again.
If you are staying in the city centre, it is a relatively easy walk to the University precinct of the West End where a lot of the best bars and restaurants are. It is an easy walk, but you do pass through some fairly tough looking council estates, so I probably wouldn’t tackle it by myself at night – take a taxi home, they’re not expensive.
My favourite option for dinner in the West End is The Ubiquitous Chip in Ashton Lane. The Ashton Lane area is very cool – lots of bars and restaurants. The Ubiquitous Chip has a large light-filled courtyard and they are serving up some great seafood – the local mussels from Loch Melfort at GBP£13 are a winner.
If you do strike it lucky and there is some sunshine during your stay, wander down to the Glasgow Green which starts at the High Court on Saltmarsh and sweeps expansively along the river. On sunny days this is where you will find all of the locals, tanning, picnicking, playing football.
Not far from here is the old Merchant City. Once the bustling hub of warehouses and residences of the local wealthy shipping magnates, the faded grandeur of this neighbourhood is striking. Having been left as a bit of a wasteland for years the regeneration is slowly happening but it’s interesting to explore nevertheless. Stop for lunch at Berits & Brown – they do a tasty black pudding salad which I guess is an example of modern Glaswegian cuisine.
If you feel like a bit of culture then the Kelvingrove Museum in the Finnieston district is worth checking out. The collection itself is interesting enough, but the enormous gothic building that houses the museum is stunning. Just nearby is a smart bistro called Crabshakk – a small modern space dishing up some great seafood. I can’t go past the Langoustines (GBP£19) which match nicely with a crisp glass of Viognier.
There is a lot to discover in Glasgow.