Day 1: London – Glasgow
Train from London Euston to Glasgow Central. Departed at 08:30 to arrive at 13:00. The journey was uneventful and comfortable. I travelled second class but should have upgraded myself to manage a snooze – was still a little weary from the flight and a bad night’s sleep. But the excitement of the trip provided the necessary adrenalin.
Checked into the Grand Central – a heritage property located within the station itself. Saved myself a cab ride and did not have to drag my luggage. Renovated recently, the property is an attraction in itself – more about it in a separate review.
Dropped the bags, freshened up, grabbed a sandwich and a coke from Greggs, and went looking for my red City Sightseeing Glasgow hop-on, hop-off bus. Got an at George Square West and sought an upper deck seat for better photographs.
For years, I had heard mixed reviews about Glasgow – and was expecting a version of Gotham city. Nothing could be further from the truth – what awaited was a cheerful landscape accentuated by pink banners proclaiming, “People Make Glasgow.”
I was tempted to hop off at all 28 stops of the bus – but the shadows were getting longer and entry to many attractions about to close for the day. And this was not a timeless trip. My first stop took me aboard The Tall Ship berthed on the river Clyde. The name of the boat itself is the Glenlee, a three-masted barque (a sailing ship) – the names are a tad confusing because the Tall Ship is the name of the exhibit of which the Glenlee is a part. Let’s just leave it at this. It first set sail in 1896 as a bulk cargo carrier. I walked around the ship, expecting characters from times gone by to appear and get about the job of cleaning, cooking and navigating the boat. I tried a “I’m flying” moment from Titanic – but I am no Leonardo DiCaprio, there was no Kate Winslet and the ship was not moving. But the early evening skies were experimenting with stunning hues of blues and yellows, casting a golden glow on the ship itself. It was also time to put on a light jacket.
Alongside the ship is the Riverside Museum, home to some of the world’s finest cars, bicycles, ship models, trams and locomotives. Interactive displays and the hugely popular historic Glasgow street scene bring the objects and stories to life. If there is one collection I would want to invest in, it is vintage transport that I saw at this museum, regarded as one of the best in Europe.
With a checklist awaiting tick-offs, next stop was the University of Glasgow campus – reminding me of my year spent at Cardiff University despite a vastly different architecture. I spent half an hour looking at exhibits in The Hunterian, Glasgow’s oldest public museum. The Hunterian Art Gallery houses one of the most important collections of the work of Scottish architect, designer and artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) and his artist-wife, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864-1933). The Mackintosh House, located closed by, is a meticulous reassemblage of the principal interiors from the Mackintoshes’ Glasgow home. Pity I could not visit it as it was undergoing renovation.
When you are in Europe, attractions close early – I had to leave Glasgow Cathedral for the following day. I got off at George Square, had a warm dinner, and was in bed early.