Our whirlwind tour of Scotland has come to an end after a week in Glasgow, where we enjoyed the luxury of our own private guide, Aileen. During our week, we enjoyed:
- A bus tour of the city
- Scottish country dancing classes
- A visit to Loch Lomond
- A couple of hikes (well, Ken and Aileen did, while I worked)
- A tour of a brewery
- A visit to the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies
- A visit to the Riverside Museum
We started our Glasgow visit with a bus into the downtown bus station from Aileen’s house, and a Red Bus hop-on, hop-off tour to introduce us to the city. The bus tour covers a fair distance, so we saw more than we would have on foot. Since it was off-season, the buses only picked up every 30 minutes, which limited how many stops we could make before the last pickup around 4:00 pm.
Our first hop-off was at Glasgow Green and the People’s Palace and Winter Garden. We explored the museum in the palace and then stopped for a quick lunch in the conservatory café.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery
Our next stop was the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. We could have easily spent a few hours here in this beautiful building enjoying the wide variety of exhibits.
George Square and City Chambers
After we returned to our starting point at George Square, we wandered to the other side to check out the City Chambers. We weren’t allowed to visit the upstairs areas, which Aileen says are beautiful, but we appreciated the elaborate staircases and ceilings of the main floor.
Outside in George Square, the plaza was being prepped for Christmas. The huge light panels strung around the perimeter left me wishing I’d be there to see it all finished and lit up.
From George Square we wandered a bit and got closer to the Museum of Modern Art, with its always-pylon-topped statue of the Duke of Wellington.
From there, we stopped by the famous(?) Horseshoe Bar for a quick drink before catching the bus home. (Famous, because the stand-up bar measures a few inches beyond 100 feet, and may be the longest bar in Europe. We opted for a quiet table and chairs upstairs.)
Scottish Country Dancing
Aileen is an avid country dancer, among her many pursuits, and she invited us to join her classes. We have never done any of this type of dance, but she insisted that it was quite doable as each dance is walked through before the music goes on. Everyone at both classes we attended was very kind and helpful, even when we were utterly confused as dancers pushed us here and coached us there to try to keep us on the straight and narrow (or circle or figure eight, as the case may be). I think we messed up more than we succeeded, but we had a lot of fun trying.
While Aileen attended a scrabble tournament in Edinburgh, her sister-in-law Margaret (whom we had never met before this trip) gave up her Saturday to escort us to Loch Lomond. She had done her research, and we arrived just in time to board a boat that toured one end of the lake, offering views of castles and other historic buildings, the tallest mountain in Scotland, Ben Nevis, and beautiful scenery.
When the tour was over, we walked from the moorings along the path to the Balloch Castle and Walled Garden.
Since we had to pass near to Margaret’s neighbourhood on our way back to Aileen’s house, we took the opportunity to visit Gavin’s Mill, a charitable free trade goods shop and cafe that Margaret has been heavily involved in setting up and running in an old mill.
We were invited to tea (dinner) from the chippie (fish and chips shop) at Margaret and Leslie’s house (Leslie is Aileen’s brother) before Margaret drove us back to Aileen’s. It was a really nice day, thanks to the generosity of almost complete strangers. Amazing!
West Brewery Tour
West is a small brewery in Glasgow, mostly targeting the local market. Aileen had booked us in for a tour, followed by dinner in their restaurant. Aileen’s daughter dropped us off, so all could enjoy a drink (or a few). The brewery makes German-style beers and the restaurant reflects that in its food offerings. We all really enjoyed our meals. (Tip: Ask them to switch out the chips for spaetzli.) Ken and Aileen were able to taste many different brews. Not being a beer drinker, I opted for the only cider they offered (it was touted as the prosecco of ciders by our tour guide), and it was very good.
Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies
The Falkirk Wheel is an engineering wonder. After having seen so many locks throughout the UK and watching boats make their way up and down flights of locks over several hours, it is amazing to see the midway-ride-like solution that was implemented to move boats between the Forth & Clyde and Union canals. An 11-lock flight making the same connection was dismantled in 1933. We had checked ahead, and knew that it was undergoing maintenance for a month, but it was still absolutely worth a visit to see the size of it and imagine it in operation. I expect that it gets very busy in the summer months, as you can get on a boat to go from the visitor’s center on one canal, and ride up to the other, down a viaduct, through a tunnel, and then make the return trip.
The Kelpies, a pair of enormous and beautiful metal horse head sculptures, are in Helix Park, not far from the Falkirk Wheel. The two attractions are often paired as sites to visit together. At the Falkirk Wheel, there is a miniature sculpture in the same style.
Whangie Hike and Glengoyne Distillery
Ken already wrote about the first hike he took with Aileen. On another of my workdays, they headed off to take in a distillery tour and tasting (Glengoyne), followed by lunch and a hike up The Whangie.
The Whangie is a geological feature at the end of a mountain ridge. The hike took about 2 hours for a 5 km route, and they were enveloped in a Scotch mist most of the time (I believe Aileen referred to this as smirry weather).
We had seen the Riverside Museum while on the bus tour at the beginning of the week. We wanted a bit more time in the city center, and used checking out this museum, which is also known as the transportation museum, as an excuse to go back downtown. The museum is full of vehicles from all time periods, including locomotives, trolley cars, cars, subways (Glasgow’s subway is the third oldest in the world, dating back to 1896), bicycles, and boats, and more. The building itself is modern, open and airy.
Behind the Riverside Museum, on the river, is The Tall Ship, another museum based on–and in–the Glenlee, a tall ship built in the area. You can go right down into the cargo hold, check out the captain’s quarters and kids can participate in several interactive exhibits.
Big hugs and thank yous to someone who may be distant on the family tree, but is now very close to our hearts. Thank you so much for putting up with us, Aileen, and spending all of your time showing us around your lovely city!
- Red Bus tour: £14
- Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum entry: Free
- Day pass good on any First Bus: £4.60.
- Bus from George Square to Riverside Museum: £3.60 (return ticket).
- Boat trip on Loch Lomond: £10.50
- West Brewery tour: £11.90. Though this included two sample glasses of beer and 25% off a flight of tasters, it was almost all just talking with the use of murals on the walls as visual aids. Interesting, but possibly would be better priced at about £5.
- Falkirk Wheel: Visiting is free. Boat ride on the wheel when it is in service is £12.95 (adult).
- Kelpies: Free to view and walk around. There is a paid tour, and this allows you to go inside the heads, but we weren’t sure there was any value.
- Riverside Museum entry: Free