Sunday, 10 June 2012

Glasgow,s West End.Walks,Cycles and Tourist Attractions.

As the Glasgow Posts on here are by far the most popular, getting over 1,500 hits after a couple of years to 20 to 60 for the hill posts I thought I'd write one on the West End. This area has a lot of Glasgow's top tourist attractions but also has a surprising number of delightful leafy walks and paths for walkers and cyclists. You can link these up to make long hard outings or easy strolls/ traffic free family bike rides.
Even for hill walkers a pleasant excursion here can rescue a day where the hills are shrouded in mist or rain. As the Kelvin walkway in particular is sheltered and almost subterranean in places as it weaves in its green trench below the city streets even in poor weather it can be an enjoyable experience. Although popular with sightseeing tourists, students on bikes and dog walkers, midweek or in winter it can be surprisingly quite. As its in a city however I'd avoid it later in the evenings. It also links up a whole range of attractions listed here.
1. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Glasgow's world famous collection is housed in a magnificent building built in 1902 for the Empire Exhibition to showcase inventions and exhibits of the time during the great age of Victorian enterprise.8000 objects on display. Its one of the Top twenty most popular museums in the world. 14th I think. Free entry.  It has a strong Indian Influence in its design as Europe was newly fascinated by the wonders and temples of the east around the period of its construction. Inside its full of  stuffed animals, Armour and battle dress, treasures from every corner of the globe and  famous paintings by Dali, Rembrandt, Botticelli, Picasso, Monet and Van Gogh as well as a wide range of Scottish artists. Most of these were acquired at at time when Glasgow was cash rich and well known paintings did not come with the astronomical price tags great works of art command today. Dali's impressive and Iconic Christ on the cross painting was bought for £8,200 pounds and is now worth  well over £60 million.
2. Kelvingrove Park, in which the Museum sits is a large green oasis full of mature trees and statues reflecting Glasgow's sea going and colonial influenced roots. The fact that it covers the slopes of a hill means that it has superb views over much of the city to the green hills and outskirts beyond. The River Kevin and its walkway flow through it.
This is the Kelvin walkway with the University spire behind. There is also a nice walk on the slopes of the opposite bank seen here which runs under the University and comes out at the Western Infirmary gate. This makes an easy circular tour and can Include the University Itself reached through a small back gate. This is locked out of hours.
The nearest subway station on the underground is Kelvinhall, nicknamed by locals the Clockwork Orange as it runs in a circle from the city centre around the West End  and the South Side going under the River Clyde. The trains are currently orange but the whole system is in line for a much needed upgrade so they may not stay that colour. Kelvingrove park and Museum is only five minutes walk away from the entrance of this station.
3.Byres Road is nearby and also worth a visit. It's right beside Kelvinhall Station and is a colourful Shopping street on a gentle rising gradient stretching between Partick and Hillhead. Its crammed full of bars and restaurants as well. Halfway up ,near Hillhead Underground station, sits the trendy lanes area, loved by students, tourists and locals alike. This is a view down Ashton Lane which runs parallel to Byres road. Although not very long its packed with Bars, Restaurant's and even a small cinema. Going in the opposite direction from where this photo was taken the lane runs back towards the University, coming out near the tower with its Iconic spire.
Ruthven Lane lies on the other side of Byres road, a more modest maze of  several alleys, small quirky outlets and restaurant's. The lanes have a faint bohemian air and give Byres Road much of its character although a fair number of Glaswegians outside the area do not even know they exist.
They also give an insight into Byres Road and its distant past. There have been travellers using this route down here since the middle ages. An 1800,s farmhouse sits here(its now a restaurant) giving a glimpse of a time when it was just a pleasant country lane filled with  cows and meadows either side leading to Partick Castle. Hence "Byre" where cattle were placed.
The nearby Curlers Pub is also one of the oldest buildings, named after the Curling team that used to play  winter games on the flooded quarry in the vicinity, now long gone. Hard to imagine that now on this busy city street. Winters were colder then for longer periods.
Halfway up, Travel a short distance along Highburgh road and you come to Cottier's Theatre in an impressive high spired former church.
Last years summer season had plays, rock operas, children's performances and comedy events.
4. The Botanic Gardens. Oran Mor. The above picture shows the main entrance to the Botanic gardens which lies at the top end of Byres road. The spire of the Oran Mor is visible. This is another converted church which now boasts a range of bars, restaurant's, live bands, and plays throughout the year. The West End is a very arty place. It's very well heeled and a lot of folk with money still live in this area. In Victorian and Edwardian times Great Western Road and the Botanic Gardens were "the" place to parade in your Sunday best taking in the air. As I just qualify as a west end trendy due to  my location rather than in attitude, money, desire and inclination I've been in the Oran Mor a couple of times now to see moderately priced rock bands. I never pay over £25 pounds for anyone though no matter how big. Very good they were too. Due to the numbers in the hall It tends to feature up and coming bands or minority taste outfits which is fine by me as they tend to be cheaper.
The Botanic gardens itself has a range of Large glasshouses, filled with the usual Palm trees, giant ferns, cactus gardens and goldfish inhabited ponds. The park has several themed gardens and a range of mature trees.
Bard in the Botanics has been an annual summer event in recent years along with the West End Festival though the one day street parade may be a thing of the past sadly due to the large and not always well behaved crowds it attracted.

5. University of Glasgow. The University sits high on its hillside and has 104 listed buildings. You can either take a guided tour around the entire complex for £ 5.00 pounds or wander round some of it yourself. If you get lost ask a student.Well worthwhile.
This is the area under the central tower which leads into the courtyards then through to the flagpole look out. From here views over the city are extensive. Above this, one floor up, sits the Hunterian Museum which has a wide range of interesting exhibits and has recently been refurbished. Just Across University Avenue sits the Hunterian Art gallery in a modern tall grey building containing  mostly modern art.
Both these buildings are open to the public along with several others which I'll not name here. Well worth a visit. A lot of Glaswegians have never been here either assuming its off limits. As long as you behave yourself its not.

6.The Tall Ship. Riverside Museum. Glasgow Harbour.
At the bottom Partick end of Byres Road, About fifteen minutes walk away down towards the River Clyde a collection of attractions line the bank. The Tall Ship ,The Glenlea floats here. A Clyde built vessel and  surprisingly roomy below decks giving you an idea of how much cargo these sailing ships could carry. The HGV,s of their day. Modest entry fee.
This is another Andy Scott Sculpture. "Rise". He's based in Maryhill and has works in a number of places throughout the central belt of Scotland and beyond.
Riverside Museum is a recently completed modern building containing the former transport museum exhibits from Kelvin Hall (now a sports venue) and also a couple of reconstructed period streets from Glasgow's past. Very popular. Admission free.
Glasgow harbour is a new build hi rise zone of apartments and riverside penthouses but it does have a nice waterfront promenade. This is The Glasgow to Loch Lomond cycle track running past it.
In the other direction, an equal fifteen minutes walk away from the Riverside Museum is the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, the Clyde Auditorium, The Moat House Hotel and a major new sports venue rising as we speak for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Across the River From The Riverside Museum Lies Govan, The Science centre, Imax theatre, Glasgow sightseeing Tower and Ibrox, all reached by a new ferry link which also goes to the city centre and Braehead for payment of coin. There is a bridge across the river at the Moat Hotel ten minutes walk upstream.
Have I missed anything out? Probably.There,s a lot to do here.
From my point of view though a network of mainly traffic free, cycle tracks/walkways links all these sights by green corridors and the River Kelvin and make it great for urban travel. For families, couples or just on your own.
Pedestrian bridges, as I've said, also go across the river at the Moat hotel, perfect for a circular tour of the city on the south side cycle track which is my personal favourite. Near the Imax You can cycle through Festival Park with its man made water course and stream features then along through Cessnock and Polloksheilds on another winding cycle track to flat large Pollok Park  for a picnic or lunch stop then visit Bellahouston park on its hill.Return the same way or  continue out via  Pollok,the White Cart Water past Leverndale (very scenic) then the Renfrew ferry, infamous Clyde tunnel for the brave or the further away Erskine bridge to take you back to your start point. Cycle tracks/walkways also run from here(Riverside Museum) to Glasgow Green along the Clyde. The Kelvin links into the Forth and Clyde canal at Maryhill where you can cycle to Bowling one way then back along the Glasgow-Loch Lomond tarmac ribbon or the other way  up past Port Dundas to the city then back to here along the Clyde.

You can also walk along the Kelvin to Maryhill and Bearsden then get a bus back down Maryhill Road or go left and enter Dawsholm Park returning via  Anniesland by bus or train. Myriad options available on foot as well. Even if you know Glasgow well the Kelvin walkway for first time visitors can be confusing as it travels below street level most of the way.Only if you are heading off it though I should add not following it.

Even with all the signs for various places dotted at intervals around you sometimes just have to go up to ground level to get any idea of where you are. And how often can you say in the modern world that you are really lost... if only for a short while. A rare feeling which I quite like actually, except if there's a gang following me late at night. This happened only once when I was about 18 and was on my way back from a party at a house. Took a short cut  down into here to get to the bus stop as it was just on the other side and the other way round was much longer and disturbed a gang at the bottom of this trench up to no good. Pun intended. It changes at night is all I have to say. Found out I could still run pretty fast even when drunk. My dignity and trousers were still intact back at the house in familiar Pollok  once again after legging it along the pitch black floor of this, now grim, canyon with a choice of escaping into either Maryhill's  tough Wyndford or Ruchill estates. Happy days.....Fear not. During the day  though its a different popular place full  of visitors and dog walkers and no sign of night time bum activity.
As a youngster from the leafy suburbs of rural Pollok,  however, to see what some city folks got up to of an evening was a real eye opener. .I'm a good boy me. Sheep and girls only... in that order:)
The number of routes available from this one departure point is impressive. It's the centre of a  massive web, walking or cycling.
"Collins streetfinder Glasgow"  map is the best I,ve found for planning trips as its big scale makes route finding easy. Also for anyone interested "the Friends of Glasgow West" publish an excellent  mini series of heritage trails around the west end highlighting the architecture and history of this area. I picked mine up in Hillhead Library but other places should have them also.
Walking in the city. It might just catch on you know.
On a hot mid summer's day or wild windy weather the Kelvin walkway comes into its own with leafy cool shade and river scenery.Its a great link between Glasgow's West End attractions. For visitors and locals alike.
If you get lost down here just ask a  pigeon for directions. We hire them as tourist guides on the Kelvin walkway. Its cheaper than employing a person as they are much more content working for peanuts.
A Swan and its offspring grooming their feathers.


Carol said...

Love that arches photo!

The Glebe Blog said...

What a cracking informative post and pictures Bob.
Could almost pass for a tourist brochure.

Talking about hits on posts Bloggers are certainly a weird breed. My most popular post (1700 hits) is a humorous look at my Back Operation while no one has even looked at a little video I called the Siskin Shuffle
It's a funny old world.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim.
Best thing I,ve ever written on here got zero comments after 2 years Jim :) so I thought I might as well do one for people typing in " Glasgow. Tourist Attractions."
Dont remember any tourist brochures I,ve read warning Holiday makers of the difference between a pleasant day time walk and super dodgy night time activity though :)
Although popular during the day the Kelvin Walkway does go through some tough areas of Glasgow after it passes The Botanic Gardens.
I like to try and paint an accurate picture of an area.
I,ve seen Loads of families use it during the day though For walking or Cycling trips right out to Bearsden.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Carol.
I remember doing Stac Polly After a fifteen year gap and being amazed at how much of it had been worn clean away by feet so you were probably spot on in your assessment of Bla Bheinn.
I,ve probably still got an outdated rosy vision of what the paths up most Munro,s are like these days rather than the reality.
Never mind.When you get around to bagging Corbetts the numbers drop off. They are far quieter with none of the crowds.Most of them have only faint paths up near the summits.
Something to look foreward to when you finish your round of the Munro,s and wonder what to do next.