Glasgow - how good, and how necessary to stay overnight

Rick seems somewhat lukewarm on Glasgow, saying a few hours is enough and seems to think doing it as as a day trip from Edinburgh is a perfectly good plan. (Also, his Scotland tour does not even stop there.) I don't think his Scotland tour even stops there. Other guide books seem to rate it more highly. What do you think? There are a couple of museums in town, Kelvingrove and Burrell, that look interesting and other books rate highly. Rick says one star and that one of them is way outside the center. One of the things about Scotland, it makes sense to spend a lot of time in the countryside, whereas normally we like to mix things up between city, town, and country. (We have previously visited only Edinburgh as a side trip on out 2002 Ireland trip, and would include Edinburgh on this trip as well. On this trip we will have twelve days on the ground in Scotland and I anticipate four night in Edinburgh including day of arrival and day trip to Glasgow. We are a couple in our 40s/50s, and what we would normally get from a city visit would be art, architecture, history, urban vibrancy with cafes, etc.). Some countries, like Ireland, the points of interest are mostly in the country and that's fine. I am thinking Scotland is very much the same, and day trip from Edinburgh would work for us. Also, a while back Rick said he was taking his own tour of Scotland, (paraphrasing here) saying he had never been that big a fan and wanted to get to know it better - because familiarity has always made him like places better. Does anyone know whether it worked, does he like it better after the tour? We have been to all the "major" destinations in Europe, most more than once, and were thinking Scotland could be a great off the beaten path destination. We are talking early May here, so yes it will be chilly. Temperatures actually look fairly moderate online, do you think it's crazy to go to Scotland in early May? Last year we were in England in April and it was cool but perfectly fine for us.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1341 posts

VS,

in my opinion, if you want to go to Glasgow, go. who gives a rip on what so and so says? If you want to do/see things there, why not go? i can see not going if theres nothing that floats your boat, but everyone has different levels of acceptance.

my co worker is from Glasgow and hes calls it a S hole. i dont have to spell it out for you should i? When i told him i was going to Edinburgh a couple years ago, he told me to forget Glasgow. I didnt go to Glasgow not because of his comment, but because I only had time for Edinburgh. Now when i go back to Scotland, Glasgow will probably be in that list along with some other sights on my growing list.

so far all of my travels have been in cities. why? because thats where most of the things i want to see/do are located. Also, i do the city thing first so when i go back, i can skip the city and head outside of the city.

happy trails.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

I was just in Glasgow in August, and I loved it! There is a lot to do there. The Kelvingrove museum is my very favorite (its actual name is Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum) - and it's free. If you are interested in architecture, read up on Charles Rennie Mackintosh - his work is all over Glasgow. There is a new transportation museum (also free) that was named European Museum of the Year in 2013, a revitalized riverfront, pedestrian shopping areas, and lots of pubs and restaurants. I was only in the area for five days, and I am eager to go back. In the Glasgow area, Loch Lomond is about 30 minutes away by train to Balloch. You can cruise the lake from the dock near the train station as well. Next year they will be hosting the Commonwealth Games, and the city has been sprucing up in anticipation of that. I would definitely recommend an overnight in Glasgow.

Posted by Jean
Medina
8 posts

VS, thank you for your reply. My husband and I will be traveling to Glasgow from London for a 3 night stay and after reading the first two replies, I was a little nervous. We will be arriving in mid May. Looking for recommendations on "must do's". Should we plan to take a day trip to Edinburgh or maybe to Inverness? Any suggestions will be appreciated. We will not have a car.

Thanks, Jean
Minnesota, MN USA

Posted by VS
Palo Alto, CA, United States
556 posts

I was sort of hoping folks would say Glasgow is not that great, was trying to rationalize doing only a day trip. Yeah, it sounds as if we should probably go there for an overnight. It's just that twelve days on the ground is not much for a country. Might have to delay it until a year when we can manage fourteen nights on the ground, and choose a different destination this year. I am determined to do the Isle of Skye, Oban, and the highlands as well, in addition to making up a too short stay in Edinburgh on our previous trip. We actually were originally thinking about a return to Ireland this year first, but twelve nights are really, really not enough there!

Early in our travels we would plan too many stops, too fast and we have felt the agony of having to leave a destination too soon many times as a result. The more experienced we get at traveling, the more we learn to slow it down. We tend to be contrarian travelers who finds a lot to like in places others skip or undervalue. (Example: I prefer Budapest to Prague and Madrid to Barcelona). Oh sure we love Rome-Paris-London, but equally love the places that are a little less loved by the masses. Portugal, Strasbourg, Olomouc. We have always enjoyed mixing it up between cities, smaller towns, and country destinations. I have found Rick to be nearly always on the mark about what places are worthy, hence my wondering about Glasgow.

Jean, Edinburgh is absolutely wonderful. You definitely should day trip there at a minimum. The Royal Mile and the castle are not to be missed. (I love things Medieval and especially castles). The National Gallery is not bad as well, but skippable on a short trip. Also there is a city museum that was great, and the National Museum of Scotland is like the Smithsonian for that country. They had artifacts of Robert the Bruce and we only had a couple of hours there but I was in awe of the history, lovingly presented. We had only three nights/two full days there on our 2002 trip. Overall too little time for Edinburgh. Half day was spent on a very worthy day trip to see Stirling Castle. Also the Royal Yacht Britannia which is a ways out from the center, we did not see it but it seems promising. That's why I was budgeting four nights, including the jet lagged day of arrival, for our next trip. Most people would say that's a lot for a smallish city, but really that town is really something.

Posted by susan
aberdeen, scotland & london, uk
237 posts

Glasgow vs Edinburgh - chalk and cheese. Both have good things / bad things. I like Glasgow for the lifestyle things (restaurants / shops) which are more difficult to judge if travelling from US. On a first trip to Scotland it's essential to visit Edinburgh - major city tourist hotspots are there. If curious - go, you may find you like it better!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7972 posts

For perspective, I've spent a lot of time in Scotland over the years. In the past year alone, four trips totaling two months.

Took the Glasgow bypass every time I got close.

Went there a couple of times years ago. Once would have been almost too many. Twice was a mistake. Nothing wrong with it, it's just one more city; but has no particular merit for a first trip.

As for the weather, I've been there probably during every month of the year. Nothing's horrible. What you do is go anywhere whenever you can - - screw the weather.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

No offense, Ed, but "years ago" Glasgow wasn't like it is now.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7972 posts

Hence I clearly stated that the last time I was there was so far back that I don't know when it's was.

In fairness, other than Turnhouse, the only time I've been in Edinburgh in more than ten years was a few weeks ago when I'd wrangled an appointment with a curator at the National Museum.

Posted by Kevin
near Ringwood, Hampshire, UK
521 posts

There are (at least) two different Scotlands. First, there is the glens and mountains, Lanseer's red stag, mist on the loch, castle, grouse and whisky, picture from the lid of a shortbread tin. Edinburgh is part of that version of Scotland.

Me, I come from the other Scotland, Rosyth to be exact. Coal smoke, pubs, tenement buildings and council estates, trains, ship yards (almost all gone now), a hard-scrabble working, industrial Scotland. Glasgow is part of that.

Most tourists barely know the second Scotland exists, and that's fine. No problem, the first Scotland is wonderful, best place in the world if it wasn't for the rain and the midges. But if you want to understand why Scotland isn't just a small, insignificant, agricultural place on the edge of Europe, then it's worth taking a look at that second Scotland, and Glasgow is the best place to do that.

One of my grandmothers was from Parkhead by the way, and the other lived in Morningside. If you know anything about the two Scotlands, you'll know why that was always a tense relationship.

Posted by susan
aberdeen, scotland & london, uk
237 posts

Feel I need to defend Glasgow here .... I lived there for many years - until a couple years ago. The picture painted above is NOT accurate. While it def has run down areas, so does Edinburgh, so does London, so does SF, NY, etc. Edinburgh is easy for tourists to negotiate - Castle, Royal Mile, etc, etc, but for Scots themselves a trip round Scotland would be incomplete without a tour to Glasgow. From a personal point of view Glasgow wins hands down.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3300 posts

The first time I went to Glasgow was with my sister back in the 70's. We were just passing through, but managed a visit to the Cathedral between trains from Skye and the sleeper to London.

It was a long time before I got back to Scotland and couple more trips before I made it to Glasgow. When I finally did, I stayed out at the West End and I enjoyed it. I liked the subway that allowed me to get downtown. I was driven out by a local work colleague to see the Burrell. I wished at the time that I had been on my own so I could have explored it more. I was fascinated by Kelvingrove and thought that the Transportation Museum, which at that time was across the street from Kelvingrove was fun. I really liked the invalid car. :) But what was even more interesting was the music scene and the food in the west end. It's great. A few years later, 2001, I went to a music festival that mostly bands from Glasgow and they were wonderful. You haven't lived until you hear Cockles and Mussells Alive Alive Oh on a lime green violin with a contemporary twist on the tempo and accents!

On later trips I explored the Tenement Museum and went back to the Cathedral. I have not been back since the new transportation museum was opened, but it's on my list.

Pam

Posted by Kevin
near Ringwood, Hampshire, UK
521 posts

Feel I need to defend Glasgow here .... I lived there for many years - until a couple years ago. The picture painted above is NOT accurate

I think you miss the point - I'm recommending that people go there if they really want to understand modern Scotland, rather than the usual tourist version.

Of course not all of Glasgow is deprived, and of course it's miles better than it used to be. The point is that it was built on industry and trade and that's what defined it. It didn't become the second city of the empire from selling tartan souvenirs to tourists and if it wasn't for Glasgow and its industrial hinterland then Scotland would not be the country it is today, and indeed the grand buildings, museums and so on that Glasgow has are also entirely the result of wealth created by that trade and industry.

As for factual accuracy, the truth of the matter is that 75% of Scotland's most deprived areas are in Glasgow. Edinburgh and Glasgow are almost mirror images of each other in terms of poverty, in that Edinburgh has a high proportion of the wealthiest wards in Scotland and Glasgow has a high proportion of the poorest. See this article and the research behind it. It's true to say that Edinburgh has poor areas too, but you aren't comparing like with like.

Now, I wouldn't suggest that readers of this helpline wander around Keppochhill or Parkhead, but the galleries and museums that have already been mentioned are certainly worth a visit. There's a great website which lists many others, including the Riverside museum.

Posted by Matt
Washington, DC, USA
566 posts

My wife really wanted to tour the Mackintosh building at the Glasgow School of Art, so we based our visit around it. We had just enough time to depart Edinburgh, deposit our baggage (for a small fortune at the train station), wait for the Hop On/Hop Off, take the GSA tour around 10am, a quick bite at the Willow Tea Rooms (also Mackintosh designed), then continue the circuit on the Ho/Ho, and depart that evening for London. The waits for the bus were longer than we anticipated, leaving us very little time to do anything other than see things from the bus. Glasgow was harder to navigate by foot than Edinburgh and we spent so much time just getting from place to place. My wife enjoyed the trip since she saw what she came to see. I wasn't as interested so the trip was just a long slog for me.

I'd advise that a day trip probably isn't enough time to get a taste of the city unless you have very specific sites in mind that you can target. If you're looking to just show up and wander, I think the distances between sites and the disappointing tourist bus make that plan ill advised. I used to be very down on Glasgow, but now that I'm willing to give Glasgow another chance, on my next trip I will book at least a night or two there so I can really take the time to explore all the sites there beyond the art school and the train station!

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

You can buy an all-day bus ticket for 4 pounds. Of course, you don't get the commentary, but public buses are very frequent.

Posted by MC
Glasgow, Scotland
21 posts

Long time lurker but this got my interest. Hello.

Further to what other people have said, I'd say yes. Glasgow is a city of contrasts and is never going to win a beauty contest when compared to Edinburgh but also has some interesting in a good way modern architecture.
It is a poor city that also has hosted the only branches of some stores in the UK outside of London. It is still an industrial city and also home of the 4th oldest university in the English speaking world. Museums wise there is are the Kelvingrove and Burrell mentioned, plus St Mungo's Museum of Religious Art, the People's Palace (Glasgow's museum of Glasgow) and many others. Living in Glasgow I would say it has what you say you are looking for in a city. Weatherwise, May should be ok, just be prepared for rain or a heatwave.

By train Glasgow (Queen Street) is 45 minutes from Edinburgh (Waverley), and you arrive in the city centre. This station is also linked to the underground, second after London but only goes around in a circle. However it links the city centre out to the university area where Kelvingrove is. Also around the university of Glasgow, if asking directions you would need to remember Glasgow has three universities, are quite a number of cafes etc that have a good reputation, plus ones in the city centre.

Posted by Raf
Ben Lomond, CA
14 posts

I like both Glasgow and Edinburgh, but for different reasons...Glasgow has the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which is worth seeing for sure. There are alsogreat excursions to distilleries that are just a stones throw out of Glasgow as well...We have been to Scotland in June, July, September and October (Glasgow in September) and would definitely go back to Glasgow again, but keep in mind that no matter when you go, you certainly don't go for its weather!!! :)

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1586 posts

What about using Glasgow as a base for a daytrip to Loch Lomond? Say, going to Balloch ( by train?) and doing a walk or bike ride from there?

Posted by Sarah
Seattle, Washington
82 posts

I love my time in Glasgow, I really have nothing bad to say about it. The fights you hear stories about are more sports related then anything, think of the Boston Red Sox vs the NYC Yankees, it's like that but all in one city vs taking place in different ones. But like I said I loved it there.
The things to see in Galsgow;
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
Glasgow Museum of Transport
People's Palace
George Square
Glasgow Cathedral
and next to that is Glasgow Necropolis (the famous view of Glasgow)
The Clyde Auditorium (this city has so many different styles of architecture)
The University of Glasgow (4th oldest University in the EnglishSpeaking World - it's beautiful)
Glasgow Botanic Gardens

I really enjoyed people watching on Byres Rd and Great Western Rd

If you haven't booked a place to stay yet, try and get into Babbity Bowster, great tradition Scottish food, local craft beers, live local music and some of the cutest guest rooms I've ever seen.

If your in need of some good coffee is Glasgow try out Papercup Coffee Company it's near the University on Great Western Rd (free wifi).
Lastly good Craft Beers and Pub Food try Munro's.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

The Glasgow Museum of Transport closed in 2010. It is now housed in the new Riverside Museum, on the banks of the Clyde, in Partick, just outside of Glasgow. It's a beautiful new, award-winning space.

Posted by Sarah
Seattle, Washington
82 posts

Nancy is right :-)
It's the "The Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel." My friend that lives there kept calling it the other thing, I guess it just stuck in my head that way. But it is worth going to.

I visited Glasgow on a whim in January and came away really liking the feel of the city. It has vitality. I walked for miles, in the rain, no hassles. Kelvin Park is lovely. Likewise, the botanic gardens. The weather was warmer than in London. Some people were friendly and helpful, others not. Biggest challenge was the Glaswegian accent. Can seem impenetrable. But that is part of the adventure...

I visited Glasgow on a whim in January and came away really liking the feel of the city. It has vitality. I walked for miles, in the rain, no hassles. Kelvin Park is lovely. Likewise, the botanic gardens. The weather was warmer than in London. Some people were friendly and helpful, others not. Biggest challenge was the Glaswegian accent. Can seem impenetrable. But that is part of the adventure...