I don,t go into Glasgow City centre that much these days,not for shopping anyway.With out of town malls five minutes away its too handy to go there and get everything I need under one roof quickly.Sometimes a year can pass between visits on foot into the heart of Glasgow even though I live within the city limits.When I do go in its to find more rows of charity shops,cheap, here today gone tomorrow,type outlets in the quieter,less frequented streets or upmarket stores and restaurant's I have no intention of going anywhere near with my wallet unless I,m dragged into them by someone else.Same story throughout the UK I guess.
However one day, a couple of months ago,a late autumnal weekend dawned where I fancied something different from hills.I thought I,d have a culture and history day instead and here it is.
Monday to Friday at 10.30 am and 2.30 pm.Tours with a guide last about an hour.Its usually overseas visitors that take advantage of this and a lot of Glaswegians have no idea what lies inside this Iconic but fairly sombre exterior.
In these uncertain times today however the fact that you can still explore this outstanding building for free is remarkable.They,d charge you an arm and a leg for the privilege in most other cities.
On the other side leading to the opposite wing of the building is a similar but dark staircase composed of red marble with multi coloured veins and golden swirls creeping thought it.When Queen Victoria opened this building in 1888 even she must have been impressed by its scale and quality of workmanship.
If the winds were unfavourable for once ships would lie up here waiting for the right conditions then use this express sailing corridor to reach America and the West Indies up to two weeks faster than their southern neighbours in England.Here they would import Tobacco,Sugar, Rum,Cotton and other goods in exchange for materials these colonies required.They would then resell these imported goods to other cities making substantial profits.An idea of the Importance and power of these merchants can be seen here.Under the later added embellishments of Greek columns, new roof and pediment (the triangular bit at the top of the pillars) lurks the large town mansion of one William Cunninghame,A Tobacco lord.In 1780 It took 10,000 pounds to complete his original building and here it remains, one of the few left standing in the city.Many visitors to the gallery however are unaware as to its original use and purpose. Although most of these great piles have long since passed into history the Mansions that used to stand on the ground and the names of the merchants that lived in them linger on in the streets that eventually grew up around them. Buchanan Street,Ingram Street,Glassford Street,Cochrane Street,and Oswald Street to name but a few are named after the great merchants and houses that originally stood there.Likewise Virginia Street,Jamaica Street,and Tobago Street all tell the tale of the areas they sailed towards to collect their goods.
However,back to the tobacco lord,s we go as a few other relics of their time remain in the Glasgow of today.
As a cultural self tour guide there is a good merchant city public art trail pamphlet normally available from the visitor information centre in George Square or in the GOMA itself which might have them.With plenty of pictures It gives you a route to follow around the nearby Merchant city and the Italia centre with its troop of rooftop Sculptures looking down.If you have not visited since its regeneration its well worth a stroll around the place.
If that,s not enough and you want a longer thrill walk you could always make a full day of it and cut up through the Rottenrow gardens with its giant nappy pin sculpture where many generations of Glaswegians popped out of the maternity hospital that once stood here.I was one of them, squirted out into an empty birthing bin then set free into the big bad world.Proud to be rotten to the core :0) Says so on my birth certificate anyway.This is a good place to have lunch with seats and flowers,surrounded by the unusual and contrasting architecture of the University.
When ready climb up towards the gleaming pin.This end takes you onto level ground and through the campus of the University of Strathclyde. Just Follow the signs for campus village.After passing several more interesting sculptures you come out the other end onto the honeypot cluster of Glasgow Cathedral,The Bishops Palace(Museum of Religion) the Provand,s Lordship (oldest house in Glasgow) and the Necropolis Graveyard with great views across the city.Yippee!.Also free!!!! .A long full day of culture as energetic as any hill day.With nightfall approaching I crawled back down the High Street to take a bus home.My only outlay of coin yet so many wonders.Call me mean but in these dark days of recession it doesn't hurt to stem the endless flow of twenty pound notes from your pocket.I could live for a month on one of those in the good old days.Visit Glasgow.Its pure dead magic so it is.
Sunday, 22 January 2012
I had cycled a variation of this tour once before many years ago and knew it was a cracker with exceptional views and empty roads.It mainly uses minor and B roads with two short sections of A road from Aberfoyle to Lake of Menteith then near the end from Balfron Station To Gartness.
A fine Sunday dawned at last.The hills were bare of snow again after days of mild weather and constant rain.Now it was Sunny and cold,lots of early morning ice on the roads.For this reason I left it til after 9.0 clock am to set off,arriving in Drymen car park around 10 o clock am. Although the days were short at this time of year I thought I could be back by 4 o clock pm and avoid cycling in the dark.Even with lights on the bike I consider night cycling on busy roads an easy invitation to the delights of hospital food so they stay in the cupboard normally.I used to cycle to work in the dark every day long ago and the memory of frequent near misses and the occasional direct hit still haunts me.I once slid 20 feet on my knees then on my back along the road at Bearsden Cross when a Morton,s roll van kindly separated me from my bike.Luckily I had thick trousers and waterproofs on due to the downpour of rain at the time and both helped to save me from major damage.Its always an adventure on a bike.
I wouldn,t make a good racing cyclist as I stop for photographs all the time or curiosity gets the better of me if I pass anything of interest.That,s the whole point of any journey for me though.Finding out about things.
Gartmore is a quiet village only a kilometre away from the busy A81 leading to tourist hot spots Callander and Aberfoyle.As its higher than this road and largely hidden from sight most car drivers are unaware it even exists.Its not got the draw of these bigger destinations being a sleepy wee place but it does have its quieter,less obvious surprises.
His amazing life story here.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Bontine_Cunninghame_Graham. ( Be aware though I have found a couple of minor discrepancies in this otherwise excellent biography when compared to other articles.Wikipedia is not always 100 percent accurate in its research yet but it does update when it receives new facts on a subject so its getting there. More like 98 percent.)
As the A81 looked fairly quiet I biked along this.There is a traffic free cycle track here along a dismantled railway to Aberfoyle but these things tend to be slower and below road level for much of the time,limiting the views of the surrounding countryside.The turn off away from Aberfoyle was soon reached and I was off along the rolling section of the A81 to Lake of Menteith.Here a much quieter road was taken, the B8034 hugging the shores of this famous fishing and curling Lake with its island Priory (Don Roberto,s last resting place) and ruined castle,before passing Nick Nairn,s cook school then Arnprior sitting pretty on its ridge.
Dew - The wind in my wheels.Travel guide books to a certain place are different.You need them to know what,s out there and where the best places are if you are setting off there Travel writers however can sometimes tend to be of the variety.... I went there ...I visited here.Bill Bryson and Josie Dew for me stand apart as they can be enjoyed by anyone.Creative,funny and informative, even if you never intend to go to any of the places they are descibing .Multi country adventures in uplifting,always funny and unique insights into different lands.She and her game but unsuspecting boyfriends,s /girl companions abroad take the kicking so I don,t have to.I,ve enough lumps and bent bones from cycling in Scotland thanks..She is completely different class though. A Rare individual who didn,t just dream to going somewhere exotic and far away but made it happen and slogged it out on the ground inch by inch on a bike..A modern day Don Roberta on a metal horse.You will not be disappointed.Like a couple of forces of nature I,ve met in my life though Its far safer to enjoy her from a distance on the page than be involved in one of her adventures methinks:)
What views though.This is looking towards Stuc a Chroin and Ben Vorlich from the minor road near Jennywoodston,a new road tick for me and a belter of a bike run.
I was fairly pleased with my level of fitness given my age.There,s an old saying though" What,s for you will not go by you".How true! Little did I know what was in store for me just around the corner.After a month of cabin fever, shuffling about the house or limping round the shops for messages my hard won fitness is gubbed.Ah well .... Life is an unpredictable game of up the ladder and down the snake at times.Back to square one again.At least I,m still here to reclimb that ladder.That,s the main thing.
Saturday, 14 January 2012
http://www.glasgowhistory.com/sailing-down-the-clyde-%E2%80%9Cdoon-the-watter%E2%80%9D.html Well worth a look and a lot of work to collect so much lost history and images.
Sunday, 8 January 2012
I should know.... I used to be one of them.
I need not have worried.A bold,exhilarating kingdom awaited me on these, my newly adopted local hills. This is the farm track leading up into the Kilpatricks starting from just above the Erskine Bridge at Old Kilpatrick village itself. I think one of the main reasons these hills remain undiscovered by the majority of walkers must be the lack of obvious parking in the area.Once you know where to park however that is not a problem.
For car drivers follow the A82 til the Old Kilpatrick cut off which is on the left just after the Erskine Bridge slipway.Once down in the village there are several discreet parking places in quiet streets nearby where you are not in front of anyone,s house or driveway.Then walk up Station Road.Alternatively two suitable car parks for visitors are available right beside the road at nearby Bowling harbour.This is also worth a foot tour round afterwards anyway as its an interesting place full of liitle boats,wooden sculptures of animals and canal berths.There is a tiny three car layby at the start of the farm track itself right beside the gas facility which I use but I would only park my own car here for a short time.It,s up to you.The other places feel much safer if slightly further away.There is also large safe street parking available around Mountblow both in bays below the three grey high rise flats (West Court is the first or on quiet streets higher up nearer the hills.) I,ve parked here many times.
Even greater range loving Alex when I persuaded him to go a walk up here (Duncolm was on his list of ticks needless to say) expressed amazement at how good it was.A real five star day out.
Monday, 2 January 2012
Whatever happened to that old favourite" Not fit for purpose" I wonder?Maybe the saying itself is....
When you think about it....This is where the entire cult of celebrity first began.
My new years resolution? Get back on those hills again. I.m starting to get cabin fever!