Visit and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Glasgow, City of Glasgow. The first thing to be said about Glasgow is that it is an entity of long repute. Its diocese, of which Glasgow Cathedral is the seat, was established by papal consecration in 1136.
More than half a millennium before 1451, when her University was founded, Glasgow was a place of note at the crucial ford on the then shallow but important River Clyde, associated with the early saint now usually known as St Mungo. This was as far back as about A.D. 540. As a well-known historian of Glasgow has pointed out, in referring to the romantic quality of Glasgow's soft light and changing colours, “If a faint mist of romance hangs about Glasgow's origins, this is, perhaps, very much as it should be”.
Glasgow's ancient origins make the capital city of Edinburgh, for all her antique and statuesque beauty, appear something of a new arrival on the Scottish scene. Added to this cause, there has been, of course, the geographical position of Glasgow. It is in the lap of the Lowlands yet at the backdoor of the West Highlands. It has been, since it became a navigable port well over a century and a half ago, at the head of Scotland's most important river and firth. It has looked out to the Wets by water and by sea, and has invited the world into Scotland by its West door.
When Scotland had regained her independence, and had settled down as a unit in the comity of European nations, Glasgow settled down too, to be a pleasing small episcopal city of the West, in appearance not unlike St Andrews in the East. Unlike St Andrews, which lay in the teeth of the east wind and in the heart of ecclesiastical controversy, it was a quiet place. Moreover, surrounded by rich agricultural land, and itself a natural marketplace, its atmosphere was prosperous and peaceful. Removed from the dynastic struggles that attended the succession of infant Stuarts to the throne in the East, and largely untouched by the savage internecine warfare of the nobles, again mostly of the East, Glasgow flourished modestly but distinctly as a Lowland city of importance, allowed to go its own peaceful and prosperous way.
As such, her appearance was often praised by visitors from England and abroad, right down to the beginning of the 18th century and the dawn of the great trading and subsequent industrial era. Since then her romantic, vivid appearance has been praised, but for different reasons. In the days of her earlier episcopal and market-town prosperity, she was set beside the yet undeepened Clyde. This river was later to be dredged into the waterway it is now, but at that period it was no more than a Lowland salmon-stream. Around the city by the ford there were rich gardens, and behind the gardens there were fruitful farms. Amongst the many tributes to her aspect, and rather a late one for this period, there is the well-known eulogium of Daniel Defoe beginning “The beautifullest little city I have seen in Britain”.
He might have added “peaceablest”, for Glasgow, throughout her long existence right down until comparatively modern times, was singularly little touched by the dreadful dissensions that tore at the body politic of Scotland, and most of which had their origin in the East.
Even the great upheaval of the Reformation, which indeed changed Glasgow's official form of Christianity along with that of the rest of Scotland, had small violent effect upon her. Her ancient cathedral, as compared with the gaunt ruins that romantically or tragically stand against the sky in the rest of Scotland, has survived inviolate as a place of worship. All that has happened to it as a direct result of the Reformation is that it was stripped of its Catholic images — a process described by Andrew Fairservice in Scott's Rob Roy as an old dog shaking itself free of fleas.
Immediately after the Reformation Glasgow was sufficiently conscious of its status as an episcopal city to keep on its bishops under the Reformed Faith. It was not until the covenanting wars in the 17th century, and until Glasgow, along with the rest of Scotland, began to suffer from the intolerable arbitrary rule of the Stuarts when they had removed to London, that Glasgow really threw in her lot whole-heartedly with the non-Episcopalian, democratic Kirk of Scotland.
Indeed, the South-West of Scotland was the centre of the heroic anti-Episcopalian resistance that Glasgow supported. But it is in key with Glasgow's own curiously peaceful resistance that the city itself did not suffer in the wars. She suffered humiliation, again along with the rest of Scotland, under the English Commonwealth when Cromwell briefly subjugated Scotland; but she did not suffer the devastation of war. Nor, be it added, was this immunity earned by silent subjection. The Glasgow ministers from their pulpits certainly let Cromwell know what they thought of him, and while he was in their presence.
At the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th centuries, the New World of the North Americas was beginning to infringe on the trading interests of Western Europe. Glasgow, as one of the most important western cities all but touching on the Atlantic, saw her opportunity. Remotely northern as she was then held to be, there was no doubt that she could, if she had made the effort, become the ultimate “great gateway of civic Europe towards the New World”. She did make that effort.
After the Union, and until the revolt of the American colonies, there arose the fantastic Glasgow period of the “tobacco lords”. These were industrious Glaswegian overseas traders who became the middlemen for the tobacco trade not only for Great Britain, but for much of Europe. With their gold-headed canes, their scarlet coats, their easy right-of-way through the Glasgow streets (everyone got off the Glasgow “plainstanes” to let a tobacco lord pass), they became the northern equivalent of the one-time Florentine merchant princes.
Their period of glory vanished with the revolt of the American colonies in 1775, but they had left their mark on Glasgow and given an impetus to the great trading city of the North-West of Great Britain that was not to cease. Architecturally, nearly all that they achieved in Glasgow disappeared with their glory. One notable exception remains — the mid-l8th century Church of St Andrew's off the Saltmarket. It is in its style superior to any church of Edinburgh's New Town, save perhaps, and by a coincidence of nomenclature, the Edinburgh Kirk of the Disruption, St Andrew's in George Street.
It was during the period of the tobacco lords' glory that Glasgow suffered her one full-scale invasion and occupation by soldiery. Yet it was an invasion that was to emphasize the curious consistency of Glasgow's immunity from physical harm in warfare. This invasion was the occupation of the city by the army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart upon return from his unsuccessful sally from Scotland into England in 1745. Glasgow was then an entirely Whig city, and deeply resented this Stuart and Highland occupation. But, beyond a certain expense to which she was put (and for which she was later recompensed by the Government in London), she suffered nothing.
But this brief and, to Glasgow, disagreeable irruption was soon forgotten in the excitement of planning the dredging, widening, and deepening of the shallow Clyde that was eventually to make the river navigable to ocean-going ships right up to the centre of the city.
International commerce was, despite all plans for the re-making of Glasgow's great river, to receive a severe blow when, in 1775, the Americans revolted. The tobacco trade in Glasgow seemed to vanish overnight. But Glasgow was already too big, too inherently wealthy, too forward-looking to surrender beneath such a purely political blow.
Glasgow now turned her attention to the weaving of cotton and the export of cloth all over Europe. She carried on with her schemes for the Clyde, and continued as an exporting city republic now within Britain, rather than solely within Scotland. Perhaps a little under the influence of example from Edinburgh with her noble New Town, she began to build Augustan squares, places, and streets, in the centre and West centre. Some of these, as in Blythswood Square, notably remain; others were swept aside in the forthcoming Industrial Revolution, the coming Railway Age, and the emergence of Glasgow as the shipbuilding centre of the world.
In its outward shell, and in its essential city character, the Glasgow of today preserves much of the signs of its largest metamorphosis till now, but it was in the era of Victorianism that Glasgow really expanded to the world. Victorian Glasgow — dark, stone-built, romantic, continually expanding, growing in vigour and in continual enterprise — is still with us. She was (and is) too powerful an entity to sink easily into the background of “modern progress”.
It was the power of steam that brought in the new Glasgow of the 19th century James Watt, in his laboratory, had harnessed the power of steam back in the 18th century in Glasgow University. Not until the dawn of the Victorian age did steam really come out into the open air of Glasgow, so tremendously to affect its development. It affected it in two ways, on water and on land.
On water, it soon became evident that the steamboat was able to manage the entry to the Clyde in ways far beyond that available to sailing-ships. Even before Waterloo had ended the Napoleonic wars, and had ushered in the great century of comparative peace, steam-driven vessels had moved upon the Clyde. In 1812 the famous little Comet had been launched, on the Clyde, to paddle about there, if a trifle ineffectively, at least prophetically.
It is so characteristic, too, of the go-ahead spirit of the city republic of Glasgow that the place should not have been content merely with opening its gates to the steam-vessels of the world. No. She now set about that task for which she was to become world-famous in the 19th century; she made her own steam-vessels and founded her own engineering yards, and with what results the world knows. Before the century had ended, there was no higher praise for a vessel that moved upon the waters of the world than to say that she had been Clyde-built.
A great change was now to come over the face of the quickly growing Glasgow in the age of Victoria. By the end of Queen Victoria's reign in 1901, Glasgow's population, if you included the suburbs, had multiplied itself by four.
It would be improper to leave the subject of the aspect of 19th century Glasgow without mentioning the name of Alexander Thomson, known in his Victorian day (and still thus referred to) as “Greek” Thomson. Alexander Thomson had a passion for the Grecian style, which, by paradox, can be admirably expressed in our grey Scottish stone. It is not the equal of Greek marble, of course, but the strength of the old dark stone speaks of the Old Testament and covenanting tradition that lay at the background of “Greek” Thomson's training. His churches — notably the St Vincent Street church built between 1857 and 1859 — are remarkably effective and satisfying.
Glasgow's University moved from the centre of the city to its noble premises in the West of the city on the ridge of Gilmorehill. Its architecture of the 1870s may have made some smile at it in the early years of this century and in the reaction from Victorian Gothic. Unlike other remnants of Victorian Gothic, however, it inspires more than affection. This, one of the genuine masterpieces of Sir George Gilbert Scott, is a truly impressive building. Standing on its hill, dominating western Glasgow with its amplitude and its style, it really does give the impression that Oxford once claimed uniquely for itself, of “dreaming spires”.
The arts were encouraged to flourish. Journalism and writing were lively, architecture experimental; but it was in painting that Glasgow became, at this period, internationally known. The wealth of the Glasgow merchants had enabled them to buy paintings extensively from abroad. And in the 1870s and '80s they made a speciality of investing in the French Impressionists. This in the days before popular reproduction, engraving, and mass communication of the arts introduced to Glasgow practising artists a school of painting that particularly appealed to them.
As a result there emerged the famous Glasgow school of impressionist painters. Their names are still in our ears — James Guthrie, John Lavery, A. E. Hornel, and others. Maybe the sometimes misty, or at least not strongly defined, outlines of the Glasgow scene provided a suitable environment in which such a school could grow. At any rate, it did grow, and grow in fame far outside its own city and country.
Edinburgh grew up round a castle. Glasgow grew up round a cathedral. And so the historical way to see the city is to start in Cathedral Square and move down to Glasgow Cross. Then you go North West to George Square and West again to the University. That, roughly speaking, has been the development of Glasgow over the last 1,400 years.
The founder of Glasgow was St Kentigern, popularly known as St Mungo, and he established a little chapel on a green hill overlooking the Molendinar Burn in the 6th century. Glasgow Cathedral stands on the site of that chapel. In its present form it goes back partly to the 12th century, but most of it is 15th century. The tomb of St Mungo is in a fan-vaulted crypt, and a light always burns there.
The Cathedral is the only example of pre-Reformation Gothic architecture on the mainland of Scotland. Official guides show visitors round, and this is a good opportunity to become acquainted with the Glasgow dialect, a tongue rich and quite easily understood once you get used to it. The things to see are the Laigh Kirk; the vaulted crypt, said to be the finest in Europe; the rood-screen depicting the Seven Deadly Sins; the East Chapel; and the well in which St Mungo baptized his converts.
If you want to see the Cathedral to the best advantage, cross the Bridge of Sighs into the Necropolis, the graveyard of the Merchants' House of Glasgow. It is built on a rocky hill, and the topmost statue is that of John Knox. You can tell what he thinks of Glasgow today by the expression on his face as he gazes over the city.
The Necropolis is built in the style of the Père-la-Chaise cemetery in Paris. It contains imitations of almost every kind of architecture in the world, because each Glasgow merchant had his tomb built in the style of the place where he made his money.
The oldest house in Glasgow, Provand's Lordship, stands in Cathedral Square. It was built around 1471 for the priest in charge of St Nicholas Hospital. Mary Queen of Scots is supposed to have lived here in 1566, and, if she did write the notorious “casket letters”, this is where she wrote them. The house is now a museum, devoted mainly to Old Glasgow relics.
If you go down Castle Street to the High Street, you come to the Bell o' the Brae, where Sir William Wallace won a small battle against the English in the 13th century Duke Street, leading to the East, is said by patriotic Glaswegians to be the longest street in Britain. College Street goods station is built on the site of the ancient University of Glasgow, but only a plaque in the wall remains to show where it once stood.
At the foot of the High Street is Glasgow Cross, so much admired by Daniel Defoe and other l8th century visitors. All that remains of what Defoe saw are the Tolbooth Steeple, built in 1626, and the Tron Steeple, built in 1637. The Tron Steeple was part of St Mary's Church, which was burnt down by the Hellfire Club in 1793. Its archway is typical of the surroundings of Glasgow Cross in the 17th and 18th centuries. The mercat cross is a replica of the original one and was put up in 1929.
On the South side is the Saltmarket, near which is St Andrew's Parish Church, already mentioned, and St Andrew's-by-the-Green, the oldest church in Glasgow. It was built in 1751 by the Episcopal Church; for many years it had the only organ in the city, and it was known as the “Whistlin' Kirk”.
At the foot of the Saltmarket is Jocelyn Square. On one side are the Justiciary Buildings, where High Court trials are held. On the other is Glasgow Green, the oldest public park in Britain. In Glasgow Green is the first monument ever erected to Lord Nelson (1806); the People's Palace, which contains the Old Glasgow Museum; and the Fleshers' Haugh, where Bonnie Prince Charlie reviewed his troops in 1745.
Russian visitors to Glasgow are amazed when they see Templeton's carpet-factory, overlooking the Green. It reminds them of the Kremlin in Moscow. This is because the factory is built in the style of the Doge's Palace in Venice, and the Kremlin has many of the same architectural features.
It is true that you will see the brave and the fair of the city more in Buchanan Street than any other thoroughfare. All the same, it has lost some of its characters. There was the tragic-looking fiddler, who had once played in the best orchestras and was now reduced to interpreting “0 Sole Mio” on the pavement-edge. He made more in Buchanan Street than he ever made from the orchestra pit. And there was the great “Clincher”, a Mr Alexander Petrie, who started as a barber but became a politician and an editor of his own paper, The Clincher. He wore a shiny topper and a grey frock coat and a sparkling white beard, and, as he sold his paper in Buchanan Street, he would say to the passers-by, “Be kind tae yer granny an' gi'e her plenty o' whusky!”
To the visitor, any Glaswegian will turn out to be a character. The essence of the Glasgow man is his friendliness. If you ask the way to somewhere, he will not only tell you, but insist on accompanying you to the spot, just in case you miss it.
Kelvingrove Park is the best known of the fifty-eight parks in Glasgow, which has the highest proportion of parks to population of any place in Britain. The beauty of these parks bears witness to Glasgow's soft climate. Although Glasgow is on approximately the same latitude as Moscow, the difference in climate is remarkable. There are seldom any extremes in Glasgow. Queen's Park is named after Mary Queen of Scots, who met defeat at the Battle of Langside (1568) nearby. Some distance away is Linn Park, which includes the Court Knowe, from which Mary watched the progress of the battle. Of the Glasgow parks, Rouken Glen is probably the most beautiful.
Nearby towns: Alexandria, Airdrie, Balloch, Bearsden, Bellshill, Bishopton, Bothwell, Bonnybridge, Clydebank, Coatbridge, Cumbernauld, Dumbarton, East Kilbride, Grangemouth, Hamilton, Johnstone, Kilmarnock, Kilsyth, Kirkintilloch, Lanark, Lennoxtown, Milngavie, Motherwell, Paisley, Renfrew, Wishaw
Nearby villages: Anniesland, Auchenhowie, Auchinairn, Baljaffray, Balmore, Bardowie, Bishopbriggs, Bonhill, Burnside, Cadder, Calvay, Cambuslang, Cardonald, Cathcart, Drumchapel, Fenwick, Finnieston, Giffnock, Govan, Hermetray, Hillington, Hurlet, Kilmacolm, Kings Park, Kinning Park, Lenzie, Linthouse, Mansewood, Maryhill, Mingulay, Mount Vernon, Netherlee, Nitshill, Partick, Pollok, Polmadie, Provanmill, Ralston, Rutherglen, Scotstoun, Shieldhall, Shillay, Springburn, Thornliebank, Tollcross, Tradeston, Vallay, Whiteinch, Woodfarm
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