The Scottish city offers a mix of industrial heritage and natural beauty, wrapping it all in a warm and welcoming embrace, says Suman Chakraborty
The foremost thing that a first-time traveller comes across while visiting Glasgow in Scotland, is the local accent; and I was no exception. I had blamed my ignorance of international languages for my handicap, but later, I realised that even travellers from other regions of the United Kingdom, of which Scotland is a part, find it difficult to comprehend the quaint Glasgow patter or Glaswegian, as the accent is popularly known. A form of Scottish English with influences from Cockney (London), Glaswegian made me fumble in conversations for a long time after my arrival in the city for my college education! But that becomes an ignorable part of the experience of Glasgow, a city so beautiful that more often than not, visitors just want to stay back forever!
Glasgow is often translated as “a dear green place”, somewhat of a puzzle as the city has been a bustling seaport, synonymous with industrial power. As you discover Glasgow, the meaning of its name dawns upon you, because it throws your way a remarkably charming mix of business and nature, and a lifestyle of fun mixed with a rich cultural heritage.
Glasgow is green, no doubt, particularly its western side (popularly called West End), with the Kelvingrove Park and the large Botanical Garden. Nature comes to life here, especially during the change of seasons – from being bare and stark in winter, the trees turn lush green in spring and yellow and brown in autumn. And nestled amidst this foliage is the recently refurbished Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and my alma mater, the massive and picturesque, hilltop castlelike University of Glasgow, the tower of which dominates the city’s skyline. A walk through the Kelvingrove Park is one of the most peaceful experiences in Glasgow. If you arrive in the warm months, you will be greeted by families soaking up the sun and the myriad hues of the trees, and in winter, the landscape is sombre and draped in white.
The city’s prosperity as a flourishing manufacturing and trade centre is reflected in the impressive line-up of stately Victorian mansions and public buildings. However, eclipsing these are the sublime designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, one of the most influential Scottish artists of the 20th century. From fridge magnets and shopfronts flaunting the legendary Mackintosh lettering to iconic buildings like the Glasgow School of Art, the Scotland Street School Museum and the stunning Lighthouse (which was central to Glasgow becoming the UK City of Architecture and Design in 1999) – the city has been shaped by the unique “Glasgow Style” of Mackintosh. Glasgow proudly wears its tag of being a working-class city, innovatively displaying its industrial heritage in several iconic structures, including the magnificent Riverside Museum and many more along the Clyde river.
A tour of the city is, however, incomplete without shopping and experiencing its vibrant nightlife. The main shopping hub is Buchanan Street, where high-end brands rub shoulders with cosy cafés offering the delectable fish and chips, corner coffee shops, gift shops selling Scottish knick-knacks and street singers playing bagpipes or violins.
For a drink, head to Ashton Lane, where almost every door leads to a pub or a restaurant. Buzzing throughout the year, this is where you can soak in the true spirit of this vibrant city. Weaving through handwritten menu boards displayed on the cobbled street, beerguzzlers having fun and several musical scores mingling with each other, this is where I made friends for life and discovered the warm and welcoming soul of Glasgow!
The author is a teacher and travels to Glasgow often. The views expressed in the article are his own