In the heart of Glasgow is the regal George Square, surrounded by the architecturally and civically important buildings of the city. Scot, Burns, Peel, Gladstone…all the Scottish heroes are memorialized in grandeur here in Glasgow’s most prominent pantheon.
Of Wellington, that is. This statue, erected in 1844 at the entrance to the Gallery of Modern Art, has been adorned with at least one (2 here) traffic cone since the early 80’s. Local authorities finally abandoned their sisyphean efforts to keep the Duke’s head “unhatted” and The Duke- and just as often, his horse- is free to be decorated as the season and occasion dictates.
Situated on the western edge of the West End, Victoria Park is a 50-acre paradise for multiple species of all ages. These swans have free reign in either of the two ponds along with a host of gulls, ducks, and coots. Meanwhile, the children’s playground is always active and there’s plenty of room for Chelsea and her friends to romp in woods and on lawns. Check out the fossil grove while you there; it contains newly discovered fossilized tree trunks!
Kelvingrove Art Gallery
If you’re around at 1pm, expect a short concert on this lovely pipe organ in the main hall. At all other times, expect a quality walk through French, Dutch, and Scottish impressionism as well as Dali’s magnificent “Christ of St. John of the Cross,” which resides here permanently.
“You take the high road and I’ll take the low road…” Scotland’s most exported song is about one of its most beautiful, and Glasgow’s closest, lakes. A mear 14 miles north of Glasgow, Loch Lomond is easily accessible by car, bike, or train. What’s more, the loch is large enough that one can arrive at different points on different days and be treated to varied, stunning views. Or in Chelsea’s case, various splashes.
Glasgow is home to Scotland’s music scene and on any given night, you’re spoiled for choice as to what you want to hear and where you want to hear it. Scotland’s best folk musicians are concentrated here to play until the pub closes, so grab a pint, pull up a chair, and enjoy the free show nightly.
Glasgow is rich in beautiful buildings and the Kelvingrove Museum, built in the Spanish baroque style, is as fine an example of Glasgow’s architectural variety as you’ll find. Located in the West End, and adjacent to Glasgow University, Kelvingrove offers relaxing lawns and trails into neverending woods, all before you even step foot into the building itself.
Did you think we were going to be able to get away without mentioning Scotland’s finest gift to the world? There’s a wee dram for whatever your taste and whatever your budget, ranging from a few quid to £80 per shot. Whether you like it neat, with a splash, or on the rocks (we do not advice this last method; the Scots will frown), whiskey is abundant and delicious in the land from whence it comes.
The Clyde Arc
Locally known as “The Squinty Bridge,” this famous landmark straddles the River Clyde between the West End and the City Centre on Finnieston Street. Opened in 2006, the “squint” derived from the diagonal arch which crosses from one side to the other along the length. This dandy is especially beautiful at night when it is illuminated, but we like it with the Scottish clouds just as well.
Say it aloud and you’ll get it: “Highlandman’s Umbrella.” Glasgow has two main train stations, Queen Street and this, Central Station, and it is here where 30,000 Highlanders were displaced and migrated to Glasgow to try to find work in the 19th century. They kept in touch with each other by meeting under the bridge, usually at the weekend, thus giving an apt name to the glass walkway that connects train platforms.
We spent a whole day chasing down street art in Glasgow, and we were richly rewarded for our efforts. Glasgow’s street artists have created a quality landscape of tributes (three alone to Billy Connolly), whimsicals, and downright strange contributions to the city’s thriving art scene. Our favorite is this, “Honey I Shrunk the Kids,” by Smug, and a nice place to begin your street art scavenger hunt.
Buchanan Street- Busker Heaven
Buchanan Street is a bustling pedestrian shopping district, and as such, you’re nearly always guaranteed to find a busker or three in this busy section of Glasgow. Sure there are plenty of pipers piping, like this busker shown here, but we’ve also heard talented Indie replications, and fascinating drum rhythms, as well. Walk the length and you’ll walk a world of musical treats.
It’s free and it’s cool. The Hunterian, situated on the campus of Glasgow University, is one man’s collection of…strange things. There are preserved human organs, stuffed deformed zoological species, and…strange things. But don’t be put off, there are some legit treasures too, including a whole floor of scientific and musical instruments. Even Whistler and Mackintosh have some of their artwork on display here.
You’re gonna have to hike the hill but once you do, Hogwart’s opens up to you. The university, founded in 1451, is the fourth oldest English-speaking university in the world and part of the Scottish Enlightenment movement of the 18th century. Adam Smith, Lord Kelvin, and three British Prime Ministers have all attended uni here and on the day we toured, yet another class of Scotland’s finest were graduating and ready to lead Scotland into its next big venture.
The View of Kelvingrove
There is a giant, magical park of endless trails and streams and rivers, and if you’re not careful, you will forget you are in Scotland’s largest city. Take the pup, a book, or just yourself, and get lost, climb the hills, enjoy the views.
The longest street in the city is surely bound to give you some excellent views, and what d’ya know, it does. At 2.1 miles, Argyle runs along an east-west course and connects the near east end to the city centre and famed West End near the university. A stroll in almost any section of its length will entertain you endlessly with its variety and bustle.
There was an older defensive structure here, but it’s gone now and this beauty, built in 1836, has taken its place. While it’s not open to the public, the grounds certainly are and atop this hill provide you with some spectacular views of Inverness and the River Ness.
St. Andrews Cathedral
This Scottish Episcopal church is nowhere near the size of its Anglican cousins to the south, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm. Situated along the banks of the River Ness, St. Andrews is the northernmost cathedral on mainland Britain and open to the public daily.
Old Town Inverness
Mostly pedestrian, the small but entertaining Old Town is just steps away from the train station. It is decidedly more touristy than local but that doesn’t mean it’s kitschy. Pubs, souvenir shops, and cheap eats line the broad street ready to entertain, and from there it is a very conveniently short walk to the River Ness or Inverness Castle.
We have been here before- and also it’s massively famous- so it’s simply worth noting that Ness is an easy drive or bus ride from Inverness. What’s more, it’s large enough that, like Loch Lomond, each stop offers a different Loch Ness, monsters aside.
Highland Cattle- Culloden
They are beautiful, aren’t they? And they’re abundant in the Highlands, including here in Culloden, near the famous battlefield. Highland cattle are famed for their long tufts of hair, sturdy composition, and horns, all geared specifically to cope with harsh Scottish winters. And they’re beautiful, aren’t they?
Exploring the History
The Highlands, and especially Inverness and the surrounding area, are rich in ancient and British history. It is easy to stumble upon any number of castle ruins, stone circles, or witch burnings.
During the warmer months, it is regular and routine to find a Highland game, pipe band contest, or any number of obscure-to-outsiders competitions that test the Scots’ strength, talent, and agility. Highland dancers can start as early as 4 and compete in their own regular contests. Here we see a pre-teen age group competing as individuals on stage.
Old High Church
It’s difficult to walk through the grounds of the Old High Church, set along the shores of the River Ness, and not be overwhelmed with a sense of tragic history. The parish church of Church of Scotland was home to Scottish prisoner executions after the Battle of Culloden, 120 reported executed in the graveyard on 10 June alone. Despite its involvement in a tragic Scottish event, the grounds also offer stunning views of the River Ness and Inverness.
King David founded this abbey in 1150 and during its time as a Cistercian monastery, the abbey was visited by Edward I, Edward III, and even Mary, Queen of Scots.
Calling all used book fans. We have found your heaven, and it is in Inverness. Leakey’s is toppling over with second hand books, mostly categorized, but don’t bank on it. Nonetheless, it is a browser’s paradise with thousands and thousands of second hand books, old prints, and maps available to peruse or purchase. Even if you don’t read, a few minutes spent simply admiring the sheer volume of books if worth the short walk from the Old High Church
You might find a few seals, you might get drenched with rain or blown with wind, or you might spend your day windsurfing, but however your day unfolds you’re sure to enjoy some time in Findhorn. Set in the Moray Firth, Findhorn is relatively tame and ideal for gentler watersports or beachcombing.