In late April I made my first proper visit to Glasgow for many years. When I say proper I do not mean previous visits were improper, they were just very short.
I paid a brief visit with my parents as a teenager, and two brief day trips for work when I was at the BBC.
And I have changed planes at Glasgow Airport on several occasions but that does not count – airports are strange islands of people, baggage, cafés, bars, security checks and duty free shops which are pretty much the same wherever you go in the world.
My first impression of the trip was to be impressed at Kirkwall Airport with the recently changed livery on Loganair’s Saab airliners. For many years Loganair planes travelling between Orkney and mainland Scotland have flown under Flybe colours as part of a franchise agreement. But now the planes have a distinctive white and tartan scheme, emphasising it is Scotland’s airline.
Kathie Touin (Mrs Brown) and I stayed in Glasgow at a Premier Inn (speaking of places which are the same wherever you go) but it was conveniently placed and our room had a splendid view of the River Clyde.
The hotel was built as part of the redevelopment of the former shipbuilding area of the Clyde, and we learned something of this when we visited another of the new buildings, the Riverside Museum, a 15-minute walk from our hotel.
The museum has a fascinating collection of classic cars, old buses, trams and trolley buses, railway locomotives and a huge collection of detailed model ships. At one time thousands of the ships sailing around the world were built in Glasgow, as were many of the steam locomotives running on tracks across the world.
I had my picture taken with one of the first Hillman Imp cars produced at Linwood, Scotland. I learnt to drive in a Hillman Imp, well, two actually, as both the driving school and my mother had blue examples.
Moored outside the museum and also open to the public is the 19th century Clyde-built sailing ship Glenlee. After a long career sailing the world’s oceans as a cargo ship she became a training vessel for the Spanish navy. Now she is back home and beautifully restored, though I imagine the restoration work never stops.
I would recommend the Riverside Museum as a great day out, even if you are not particularly into vintage transport.
Our hotel was next to BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters, opened in 2007. My previous visits to the BBC in Glasgow were to the old premises in Queen Margaret Drive so when two former colleagues offered to show us around we jumped at the chance.
Although having something of a box appearance from the outside, once inside the layout is innovative and the atmosphere pleasant. We managed to peek at the sets for the TV comedy Mrs Brown’s Boys and at the live BBC Radio Scotland phone-in with Kaye Adams.
Along the river next to the BBC is the Glasgow Science Centre. This was noisy, because of the large number of schoolchildren visiting, but there are some clever hands-on exhibits – try visiting in the afternoon when it is quieter. The IMAX cinema and planetarium were fun as well.
One evening we travelled with a friend by train from Glasgow Central Station, with its wonderful wood architecture, to the neighbouring town of Paisley for the Paisley Beer Festival, held in the magnificent town hall. I have not been to a beer festival for years (honest) but soon got the idea.
At the entrance you get a souvenir beer glass. You then take this to one of the volunteer bar staff and choose a beer, then another, and another… you get the idea.
The breweries participating, each offering a number of brews, were arranged alphabetically along the long bars, which took up two large rooms. We were pleased to see Orkney’s two brewers – Orkney Brewery and Swannay Brewery – both represented. My favourite beer of the five or six I sampled was Nene Valley’s Egyptian Cream.
For our final day in Glasgow we visited the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. If you were to visit just one place in Glasgow I would suggest this should be it – and it is free.
The 1901 red sandstone building itself is impressive, even before you enter. Once inside it has a fabulous eclectic collection of paintings, sculpture and objects. My favourites include a Spitfire aircraft hung from the ceiling, The Floating Heads by Sophie Cave (also hanging from the ceiling), Mary Pownall’s startling sculpture The Harpy Celaeno (1902), and paintings by the French Impressionists and the Glasgow Boys.
We paused at lunchtime to listen to the daily recital on the museum’s magnificent pipe organ – what a treat.
Unfortunately we missed Salvador Dali’s famous painting Christ of Saint John of the Cross, normally on display at the Kelvingrove, which was away at another exhibition. But, never mind, it will be a good excuse to go back another time to see it.
Earlier in our stay we spent an afternoon visiting Glasgow’s city centre shopping area, mainly because Kathie needed to visit the Marks & Spencer lingerie department (we do not have M&S in Orkney). While Kathie was doing that I called into WH Smith – their shops look tired and old-fashioned these days – and TK Maxx, where I bought some colourful socks and a brown leather belt.
I also bought a Glasgow Evening Times from a vendor outside M&S, I believe in supporting local and regional newspapers, now very much under threat. And, sadly, I noticed several homeless people in the doorways of shops.
Throughout the trip I made good use of my new over-60 bus pass, so there are some benefits to getting older, but I did not need it on the evening we went to the SSE Hydro, just a short walk across the Clyde from our hotel via the Bell’s Bridge.
This was, in fact, the original point of our Glasgow trip, Kathie booked tickets to see Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds in concert. It was my first arena gig in many years and I was struck by people’s behaviour during the headline act – using phones, constantly going out to the bars for drinks – and by the deluge of plastic glasses left behind at the end.
But the music was LOUD and good, the band excellent, and the big-screen projection, showing the musicians on stage but frequently overlaid with stylish animation, was impressive. I even recognised some of the songs.
We certainly packed a lot into our four-night stay in Glasgow and, better still, came away with a long list of things to do next time. This month we are making a return trip to Edinburgh – more of that in a future blog.
To find out more
Loganair – https://www.loganair.co.uk/
Riverside Museum – https://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/venues/riverside-museum
Wikipedia: Hillman Imp – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillman_Imp
Tours of BBC Pacific Quay – http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/tours/pacificquay
BBC Radio Scotland – https://www.bbc.co.uk/radioscotland
Wikipedia: Kaye Adams – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaye_Adams
Glasgow Science Centre – https://www.glasgowsciencecentre.org/
Paisley Beer Festival – https://www.paisleybeerfestival.co.uk/
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – https://www.noelgallagher.com/