An old Scottish
proverb states, “Twelve highlanders and a bagpipe make a rebellion.” While this is not
entirely accurate it is a huge indication of the character of the
people. Their independence has shaped their character and pride in their
shared culture, history and institutions, is visible everywhere and it
is all laced with an ability to embrace life and laugh at it all.
Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, is the ideal place to learn about
and experience the real Scotland in all its manifestations.
Glasgow ‘s origins are entwined with the life of St. Kertigern.
Legend has it that he was given to the monastery of St. Serf in
Culross, to receive religious instruction for the priesthood, where he
was known as Mungo or “dear friend.” Upon completion of his training,
around 550, he set out for the home of Fergus, a holy man who lived in
Kernach. Fergus died on the night he arrived and Mungo placed his body
in an ox-cart planning to bury him where the oxen stopped at a place
ordained by God. The animals stopped at Cathures on the
in central Scotland. Mungo buried Fergus in the “beloved green place,”
“Glasgu,” and established a wooden church on the spot. He died in on
January 13, 603, was canonized and made the patron saint of the city.
His four miracles are depicted on Glasgow’s coat of arms and on
signposts throughout the city.
The centerpieces of Glasgow history
are located in the Cathedral Square area. A stone church replaced the
wooden structure in 1132 and was consecrated in 1136. A fire
necessitated another reconstruction and consecration 61-years later.
This church serves as the foundation of the current Gothic Glasgow
Cathedral. In the 13th-century the upper and lower choirs
were added as well as a tower in the 1400s. In the 1600s men came to
destroy the church and citizens belonging to the 14 trade guilds rallied
to save it. The cathedral is
285-ft long, 63-ft wide, and 105-ft high and is the only mainland
Scottish medieval cathedral to remain after the 1560 Protestant
of the interior can be self-guided but it is best to obtain a guide
because there are many nooks and crannies that you will otherwise miss.
Begin in the vaulted lower church beneath the choir. St. Mungo’s tomb
is here, covered with a drape crafted from 2,400 pieces of silk. Located
on the right side of the church are the former pilgrimage entrance and
St. Mungo’s Well. Pilgrim’s arrived here in huge numbers because a visit
to Glasgow Cathedral was equal to one to Rome. A series of chapels are
dedicated to various individuals and of particular note are the
embroidered chairs in the Nurses’ Chapel and designs depicting medicinal
herbs used throughout the ages. The stained glass windows are detailed,
beautiful and each one tells a story. There are display cases showcasing
the Munich Glass Windows that once graced the upper church but were
removed because of anti-German sentiments.
In 1999 Princess Anne dedicated the three-lancet Millennium Window in
the cathedral on the nave’s north wall. It was created using traditional
techniques, symbolizing the Trinity, taking “Growth” as its theme. There
are numerous additional windows and memorials throughout the upper
church on the tour route. Admission is free.
Once a chanonry, a residential area for the clergy, surrounded the
cathedral. In the 1170s Glasgow was granted a charter and the church in
Glasgow established a hospital for the sick. Provand’s Lordship, the
oldest house in Glasgow, was constructed in 1471 for the Lord of Provan
as part of the hospital. It was one of 42 such houses built in the
Scottish domestic architectural style. This 3-floor gem is located
one-block from the cathedral.
Tours begin with an 8-minute orientation film. The first two floors are
furnished with 17th-century Scottish furniture and portraits.
One of the most intriguing portraits is that of Mary Queen of Scots. It
is believed that she spent time in the house nursing her husband. Just
outside is the cloistered St. Nicholas Garden. The garden is divided
into two sections, a medicinal herbal garden and a 15th-century
parterre replicating a Celtic design. A significant feature of the
garden is a 1737 group of carved grotesque faces known as the Tontine
|St. Patrick's Arm
St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art, adjacent to the cathedral,
was constructed in Scottish baronial-style to reflect the area’s history
though it was built in 1989. The museum interprets the world’s major
religions thematically using artifacts and dioramas. The collection
includes a replica of the reliquary containing St. Patrick’s hand. The
focal point of the museum’s displays is “Crucifixion 2010” by Peter
Howson. St. Mungo’s also features Britain’s first Zen Garden.
The 1833 “Bridge of Sighs,” originally built over the Molendinar Burn,
connects the Cathedral with the Victorian Glasgow Necropolis. More than
50,000 people are interred there in nearly 4,000 elaborate tombs and
mausoleums. John Knox rests there and it is the site of famed architect
Charles R. Mackintosh’s Celtic cross on the grave of Alexander McCall.
Organized tours are available when booked in advance.
The first documented
international trade occurred in 1450 when William Elphinstone traded
with France. 1601 the first wharf was built in Glasgow and within the
few years it emerged as an important port. The first shipment of tobacco
entered the port in 1674 establishing a lucrative trade with the
American colonies and the West Indies and by 1740 Glasgow was the
dominant player in the tobacco trade. This was largely due to the fact
that the voyage from Glasgow to Virginia was 20-days shorter than to
London. Scottish merchants
operated tobacco storage facilities in North America, using slave labor
to work in the stores as well as on farms that grew food for the
workers. Such extensive fortunes were made that many of the palatial
homes in Glasgow’s Merchant Square area were built with these profits
and several streets have retained their names. The American Revolution
ended this era.
During this time
there was illegal slave trading but the Royal African Company’s loss of
its monopoly in 1698 and the 1707 Act of Union allowed Scotland to enter
the trade. Only 70 slaves are documented as being held in Scotland in
the 1700s and in 1778 private ownership of slaves was declared illegal.
In 1807 Parliament abolished the slave trade. Slavery was not fully
abolished until 1838.
As early as the 1600s a number of merchants owned island plantations and
by the 1700s thirty-three percent of Jamaica’s plantations were Scottish
owned and it is estimated that the trade was generating $75-million
annually by 1800. Robert Allason and his brothers were active
participants in the triangle trade. His estate, Greenbank House, can be
toured. The United Kingdom emancipated their slaves and made the trade
in slaves illegal in 1833.
From August 1845 until April 1847 Frederick Douglass toured the U.K. and
spent a substantial amount of time in Scotland seeking support for
American abolition of slavery. He was particularly fond of Scotland and
Glasgow in particular because several radical abolition groups were
based there and the Glasgow Emancipation Society was more than 10-years
old. He had chosen his last name because of his admiration for the
Scottish protagonist in Scott’s “Lady of the Lake.” Douglass drew crowds
as large as 2,000 in some of the same buildings in which the business of
slavery had been conducted.
In a city renowned for its architecture it is no easy task to stun the
onlooker but Architect Zaha Hadid has managed with her outstanding
Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel. Showcased on the north bank of
the River Clyde its roofline, a metallic spiky line, seems to represent
the heartbeat of the city. The $119-million museum is destined to become
a Glasgow icon.
Credit Culture and
Sport Glasgow Museum
Inside there are thousands of exhibits, from prams to trams, and 150
interactive story kiosks on two-levels. Highlights of the tour are the
world’s oldest bicycle, a recreated main street from 1895-1930 with
period shop interiors and exteriors, and recreated subway stations.
Adjacent to the Riverside Museum on the Pointhouse Quay is the Tall Ship
SV Glenlee, one of only five still in existence. Tours are available.
The People’s Palace Social History Museum is situated in one of the
U.K.’s oldest parks, Glasgow Green, and the oldest public space in the
city. The museum interprets the social history of Glasgow and
Glaswegians from 1750 to the present in galleries on two floors. The
display areas are thematic and are comprised of antiques, memorabilia,
paintings, videos and storyboards. The entire museum is delightful but,
as always, there are galleries that must not be missed.
The first section is devoted to Glasgow’s early tobacco history and here
you will find a painting of the Glassford Family circa 1760. Note the
empty space on the left side of the work. Evidence points to there
having been an African slave in that spot. The slave was later painted
“Crime and Punishment” introduces visitors to the “Cell Experience.”
Seated in a cell or looking through the bars you watch a 6-minute video
tracing criminal history through the ages and ending with a detailed
description of capital punishment as it was carried out prior to its
abolition in 1965.
Additional galleries allow you to walk into a tenement, see an authentic
drunk barrow used to remove drunks from city streets, and follow the
timeline of Scottish protest movements including a speech in George
Square by Nelson Mandela in the 1980s.
You can enter the 1898 Winter Gardens directly from the museum. Tropical
plants and a caf� are housed inside a Victorian glasshouse that is open
In front of the museum stands the 1887, 5-tier, Doulton Fountain, the
world’s largest terracotta fountain. It stands 46-ft. high and 70-ft.
wide. Queen Victoria stands regally atop the fountain while figures
representative of her empire, Australia, Canada, India and South Africa,
surround the base.
One of the most beautiful buildings in Glasgow, the Templeton Carpet
Factory, can be viewed from the vantage point of the museum. The city
kept denying permission to build the factory because all submitted
designs were not appealing. Finally William Leiper designed a building
reminiscent of the
Palazzo Ducale, the
Doge’s Palace in Venice. The fa�ade is colorful and makes extensive use
of polychromatic bricks, enamel tiles and terracotta.
The best way to orient yourself in Glasgow is to take the narrated City
Sightseeing Tour. Your ticket entitles you to hop on and off and is good
for two days. There are 24 stops and we have only covered six of them.
Needless to say we will cover the rest in part two.
Next week we’ll discuss great places to dine, accommodations,
architecture and the Philadelphia connection.
Glasgow is a city that invites you to touch history as well as
experience all that it has to offer. Greater than 130 cultural events
are offered weekly, there are more than 70 parks and gardens, impressive
architecture, unique dining venues, year round festivals, and the best
shopping in the UK outside of London. In August 2008 Glasgow was
designated a UNESCO City of Music in recognition of its musical history,
diversity and the ongoing vitality of its musical scene.
Public transit is available, the city is walkable and all the major
attractions are on the route of the City Sightseeing Tour. A city bus
services the airport making a car unnecessary and all city museums are
free making Glasgow an extremely affordable destination.
The city tour departs from George Square in the center of the city. The
square was originally marshy land over which townsfolk drove their
cattle to pasture. The first documented owner, George Hutchinson,
purchased the land in 1609. The square itself was laid out in 1781,
named in honor of King George III, with surrounding residential
structures. In 1842 the opening of Queen Street Station with its
connection to Edinburgh it became a commercial area filled with
Victorian buildings and 12 sculptures. The statues include Queen
Victoria, the only woman, Prince Albert, Sir Walter Scott, William
Gladstone and Robert Burns.
Brad Pitt’s new zombie movie “World War Z,” partially set in
Philadelphia’s JFK Boulevard, was filmed in and around George Square.
The attention to detail included the importation of Philly cabs and the
inclusion of replica street signs, road signs, vending machines, lane
markers and traffic signals. The streets looked so authentic that people
had their pictures taken there.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum recently underwent a multi-million
dollar restoration and is now ranked one of the top 15 most visited
museums worldwide. This beautiful structure should first be enjoyed from
the exterior. It is red sandstone Spanish Baroque with a bronze
sculpture of St. Mungo at the North Entrance between the female
personifications of art and music.
The interior’s blonde sandstone houses a permanent collection of 8,000
objects, displayed over 3-floors and 22 galleries. While the art and
European armor collections are wonderful the true gems here are the
historic Scottish artifacts and relics creatively showcased on the upper
level. “Scotland’s First People” begins with prehistoric archeological
discoveries and continues with the story of Viking attacks on the
Scottish coast. Great attention is given to early burial customs and
Other featured displays include Salvador Dali’s “Christ of St. John of
the Cross” on the South Balcony, a 1944 Spitfire LA198 flown by the City
of Glasgow 602 Squadron suspended from the ceiling and Sir Roger the
Elephant. Sir Roger, a male Indian elephant, after a career with a
menagerie was given to the zoo in 1897. In 1900 he developed musth, an
ailment that caused him to exhibit extreme aggression that led to his
harming zoo workers. It became impossible to get near enough to feed him
and it was decided to humanely put him down and soldiers killed him in
December of 1900. His remains were given to the museum and he was
mounted and is on display in the West Court.
Daily Kelvingrove Organ concerts are given at 1 PM. The organ was built
in 1901 and has been designated a Grade One Historic Organ. There is a
caf� and facilities. www.glasgowmuseums.com
The University of Glasgow is the UK’s 4th oldest university.
A Papal Bull granted by St. Nicholas V established it in January of
1451. Originally classes were held at various sites including churches
and houses but in the early 1600s dedicated buildings were begun and
completed in 1660. Many of the historic structures were demolished in
Brad Pitt introduced his furniture collection last year giving much
credit for his inspiration to Glasgow’s Charles Rennie MackIntosh
(1864-1933), architect, designer and artist. Mackintosh is
internationally acclaimed for his architecture and furniture/sculpture
works that employ skillful use of light, color and design. He was a
member of the Glasgow Four, a group of artists that included his wife
artist Margaret Macdonald. She is most famous for her gesso works and
her collaborative projects with her husband.
Glasgow’s Mackintosh Trail consists of 11 sites within the city and one,
Hill House, in nearby Helensburgh.
The 1-day trail ticket gives unlimited access to transportation
and admission to the Mackintosh attractions.
Your first stop should be the Mackintosh House in the Hunterian Art
Gallery of the University of Glasgow. The collection is comprised of the
Mackintoshes’ Glasgow house and their artistic estate. The couple
resided in the original house, located 100-yds away, from 1906-14.The
house and contents were donated to the university but, because of
structural damage, it was torn down. The 4-story house was reconstructed
based on measurements and photographs. Highlights of the guided tour are
examples of the famous “Mackintosh Rose,” the foyer mirror, the
high-backed dining room chairs and the 2nd-floor studio with
his black desk and her white one. www.glasgow.ac.uk/hunterian
The Glasgow School of Art is considered Mackintosh’s masterpiece, begun
in 1896 and completed in 1899. Guided tours are offered and give
visitors an opportunity to closely examine his designs and their
construction. Do not miss the 1909 2-story Library and the janitor’s
room, a suspended that looks
from above like a Japanese lantern. www.gsa.ac.uk/tours
The Lighthouse, Scotland’s National Center for Architecture and Design,
was originally the Glasgow Herald Newspaper Building designed by
Mackintosh in 1895. Highlights of a tour here include a gallery of
models of structures that Mackintosh designed but were never built, a
Mackintosh timeline wall and “Foundation Glasgow: The History, the
People, the Place.” The
Foundation’s 15-minute video is shown on a 10-ft. screen and takes
viewers from the Vikings to the present. www.thelighthouse.co.uk
No trip to Glasgow is complete without visiting at least one area
distillery. Glengoyne Distillery, situated at the spot where the
highlands and lowlands meet, is widely regarded to be the most beautiful
distillery. Glengoyne received the first license to distill whiskey in
1833 though the family had been in business for at least two generations
prior to that and the laws for making Scottish whiskey were created
here. Tours begin with a 7-minute video and proceed through the
distillery following the process. An optional experience is a class in
which visitors can blend and bottle their own whiskey.
Dining in Glasgow is a gastronomic adventure. Restaurants, serving
international cuisine, are located inside both modern and historic
buildings in every section of the city.
Ashton Lane, in the West End, is a tiny passageway that was once lined
with tram horse stables. These stables are now a collection of
restaurants. In the evenings it is lit up with hundreds of tiny lights.
My favorite is Brel. This cozy establishment has great food, wonderful
ambiance and an amazing selection of Belgian beers.
Merchant City’s newest caf� and deli is the Central Market, named in
honor of the markets of the 19th-century. Their menu is
comprised of fresh, seasonal produce and visitors can purchase breads
and other artisan products. The portions are large and everything is
If you are in a rush there is no better choice than Martha’s Fast
Natural Food. There is always a line but the all healthy menu is worth
it. You can eat in or take out.
The Red Onion in the City Center is an absolute must. Scottish cuisine
is served here with a wonderful twist created by renowned Chef John
Quigley, personal chef of such stars as Tina Turner, Whitney Houston,
Sir Paul McCartney, MC Hammer, Bryan Adams, etc. The restaurant is
listed in the 2013 “Good Food Guide” and reservations are recommended.
Everything on the menu is appetizing but I suggest you forget what you
have heard and try the chef’s spin on the traditional Scottish haggis.
The 4-star Blythswood Hotel offers perfect, luxury, accommodations for a
trip to Glasgow. The building was formerly the headquarters of the Royal
Scottish Automobile Club and the Monte Carlo Rally began outside the
The hotel has 93 spacious guest rooms with designer linens and
amenities, Spanish marble baths, and state-of-the-art technology. Guests
can avail themselves of 24-hour concierge service, a luxury spa and
wellness center, the restaurant and the Rally Bar. Full breakfast is
served in the restaurant with Scottish, Continental and American
selections. High Tea is served daily from 12PM to 5PM.
In case you are still in need of a reason to experience Glasgow I
suggest you check out their festivals, the Glasgow Jazz
Celtic Connections (www.celticconnections.com) and the World
Piping Championships (www.theworlds.co.uk), among others.
TripAdvisor named Glasgow the “#1 destination in the U.K.” and all the
tools you need to “Experience Glasgow” can be found online.