‘It was a rainy morning in Glasgow as we set out for our walking tour. But the sun seemed to pop out now and then to announce its presence. “This is so typical of Scotland,” said every Glaswegian who I met with a friendly smile. The heart of Glasgow lies in its people who are called Glaswegians or the Weegies. And although the accent referred to as the Glasgow patter may be a wee difficult to follow initially, the communication was filled with warmth. No wonder the tag line for the city reads, ” People make Glasgow.” My guide however laughed and told me, ” Try asking any Glaswegian for directions. First, they will tell you their life story, then they will expect you to share yours, and then they will flood you with recommendations and suggestions and finally remember that you had asked them for directions. ” And that set the tone for our walking tour as I explored 48 hours in Glasgow. It is not my first visit to Scotland as I have been to Edinburgh before, but this is my maiden visit to Glasgow, which is one of the places to see in Scotland and is one of the erstwhile trading hubs and ports of the United Kingdom. My walking tour began in the George Square, the city centre and one of the places to visit in Glasgow, where we get a dose of the city’s history.
Glasgow was originally founded by the patron saint and missionary, St Mungo and he built a small church here. It was then referred to as Glas Gu or the “dear green place.” The Glasgow Cathedral stands here today and it is the oldest building in Glasgow. The origins of the University of Glasgow which was established in the 15th century is connected to the cathedral, as the initial classes were held in its precinct. Built in the Scottish Gothic style, the oldest cathedral of Scotland houses the tomb of the patron saint in its lower crypt and is one of the places to see in Glasgow, The Museum of St Mungo is located close by. The patron saint is remembered in the Coat of Arms while a nursery rhyme reminds people of the miracles he performed. I heard the verse virtually everywhere.
Here’s the bird that never flew.
Here’s the tree that never grew.
Here’s the bell that never rang.
Here’s the fish that never swam
Located on the banks of the River Clyde, Glasgow was essentially a fishing hamlet which slowly evolved into a trading port as the Tobacco Lords created a deep water port on the Firth of Clyde, or at the mouth of the river. The town slowly became a hub for shipbuilding along the banks of the river and even today, one can see the old shipyards. Apparently it was once producing half of Britain’s shipping in terms of tonnage. The heritage shipping tour is one of the things to do in Glasgow if you have just 48 hours in Glasgow,
Glasgow is the entry point to Scotland’s beautiful Highlands and Lowlands surrounded by lochs and vales and is rich in legends and stories. And yet, Glasgow itself has so much to showcase – from art and architecture to museums and monuments, distilleries to fine dining. If you are looking for an itinerary for 48 hours in Glasgow, then here are some of the experiences, trails and tours and places to see in Glasgow.
1.Walking tour of Glasgow
The walking tour of Glasgow is the best way to experience the city and gives you a perfect introduction to the city if you have just 48 hours in Glasgow. As mentioned we started at The George Square in the city centre, which is one of the places to see in Glasgow. The square named after King George 111 was built in the 18th century and it is one of the six main squares of Glasgow, which was built in the 18th century. Several monuments and statues adorn the square. There is the ornate City Chambers, an 80 feet column which is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, a War Memorial and statues dedicated to the poet Robert Burns and scientist James Watt besides others. As an aside, I learnt about the Burns Supper from my guide. The Scots celebrate it as Burns Day or Burns Night on January 25 every year where they celebrate the famous poet. However the haggis, which is apparently the national dish of Scotland is the show stopper of the celebration. Parties are held with traditional Scottish dances and the haggis is served with bagpipes while Burns’ Address to a Haggis is recited.
We continued from George Square towards the Merchant City where the houses and warehouses of the erstwhile Tobacco Lords stand today. While it is now an upscale neighbourhood with bars and restaurants and shopping districts, the architecture takes you back to the past. Our walking tour was over three hours and we explored the street art near the University and the shipbuilding history around the River Clyde. This is one of the places you must visit in Glasgow if you are interested in history and architecture.
2. Street art tour and mural tour in Glasgow
The entire city comes alive with vibrant street art and murals depicting people and places, commemorating events and showcasing ideologies. Even St Mungo finds himself in a vivid wall. There are celebrated artists like Smug, Art -Pistol and Rogue-One who have painted the city in striking hues. There is an entire street art walking tour which takes you to all the neighbourhoods or you can even do it on your own with a map. We had just 48 hours in Glasgow, else I would have spent at least half a day exploring the street art of Glasgow.
Strathclyde University Wonderwall
We just had a brief glimpse of these kaleidoscopic murals as we went to the Strathclyde University Wonderwall, which covers over 1000 sq metres. The murals were commissioned for the 50th anniversary of the Royal Charter. Colours flew out of every wall in Glasgow.
The wildlife of Scotland came alive in the car park at Ingram Street painted by Smug. It will take you over a couple of hours to do this trail and if I had the time, I would fly back to Glasgow just for this.
3. Museums and art galleries
Glasgow is a haven for art and architecture enthusiasts with over 20 museums and art galleries and the first stop has to be GoMA – the Gallery of Modern Art. Housed in an 18th-century neoclassical building, which was the house of a tobacco lord, the gallery is dedicated to contemporary art and showcases exhibitions of both local and international artists. The Kelvingrove Gallery is another of the must-see places in Glasgow. Opened in 1901, the gallery was reopened in 1996 by Queen Elizabeth 11. The gallery is built on the banks of the River Kelvin and is adjacent to the lush Kelvingrove park and is near Glasgow University. The grand museum built in a Spanish Baroque style has over 22 galleries. It is highly recommended as one of the places to visit in Glasgow.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh and The Lighthouse
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the celebrated artist and architect has left his mark in several buildings in Glasgow and you can go on an entire tour. But if you have like me, time for just one building then it has to be The Lighthouse, the first public commission created by him.
The Lighthouse was once the house of the Glasgow Herald and is now the Scotland Centre for Design and Architecture. A tour of The Lighthouse showcases the history of the building as you visit the different galleries. One of the main attractions remain the tower, which takes you to the rooftop from where you can see views of Glasgow. The ascent via the helical staircase from the third floor is an experience by itself and is one of the things to do in Glasgow.
4. River Clyde tour
The River Clyde is the very lifeline of Glasgow and the history of the city is linked to it. From trade to shipbuilding, Glasgow’s highs and lows are connected to the river. It was raining as we strolled along the banks of the river, which once was the hub of shipbuilding, with over 300 firms having built over 25000 ships, some of them being warships as well. The shipbuilding industry declined after the Second World War, but you can get a glimpse of a couple of old shipyards that live to tell the tale.
The Riverside Museum
At the Riverside Museum, which houses the Glasgow Museum of Transport, you get a peek into the old shipbuilding industry. Located in an old shipyard, the museum designed by Zaha Hadid, the acclaimed Iraqi architect in a radical spiky style has over 3000 exhibits and not everyone is a ship or a boat.
From bicycles to locomotives, vintage cars to trams, motorbikes to trolleybuses, every exhibit here tells a fascinating story. Personally, this was one of my favourite museums. The historic Tall Ship moored here transports you back in time to the era when Glasgow was the hub of the shipbuilding industry and is a symbol of its heritage.
You don’t travel to Scotland and not try whisky. We visited one of Scotland’s latest distilleries which is dedicated to single malt whisky in Glasgow. While Glasgow may be the entry to the Lowlands and the Highlands, the city used to have its distilleries at one time. However after almost a century, a new distillery has started here. While we learnt about the history of whisky and the five whisky barons and their stories, we also sampled whiskies from the Lowlands, Highlands and the Islay and were told how they are different from the other, primarily because of the water. Indeed whisky is their liquid gold, the water of life. While we went on the tour, we also learnt about the history of the Queen’s docks.
The Pumphouse where the distillery is located was once the Custom’s Office during the Industrial Age where they monitored the arrival of ships at the docks. The Pumphouse used to supply the hydraulic power that was required to operate the swing bridge at the docks. The Morrison family which manages the Clydeside Distillery have their own personal historical connection to the docks as their ancestor, John Morrisson helped build the docks. As I sipped fine ten-year-old single malts, I realized why it is referred to as liquid gold. It is more than just a spirit.
There are many more places to see in Glasgow like the weekend market at The Barras, or shopping at Buchanan Street or losing yourself in the lush Glasgow Green or listening to a concert at the old musical hall, Britannia Panopticon. And my favourite is the Duke of Wellington statue, dedicated to Arthur Wellesley. But it is his orange hat, a traffic cone that captures everyone’s attention. The story goes that a group of revellers had placed the cone on the statue’s head after a night of partying and the tradition continued. It is not just an emblem of Glasgow but a very symbol of the characteristic humour of the Glaswegians and the Scots.
Glasgow is a lively and a spirited city and I wished I had more time here. Oozing with Celtic charm, the heart of the city indeed lies in its people. Glaswegians do indeed make Glasgow.
Places to stay in Glasgow.
There are many places to stay in Glasgow, from luxury retreats to cosy bed and breakfast hotels. We stayed in the charming Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel, where we were treated every day to delicious scones and cocktails. The aqua spa is a must if you can spare an hour as you can immerse yourself in the thermal baths. We also spent a night at Hotel Dakota where champagne flowed freely like The Clyde and the atmosphere was vibrant.
Have you been to Glasgow ? What would you include in an itinerary of 48 hours in Glasgow ?
I was on an international press trip to Scotland organised by Visit Britain and Visit Scotland.