As far as Scottish city breaks go, Glasgow is often – falsely – overlooked in favour of its eastern neighbour, Edinburgh. However, as me and the other 2 million visitors to this city in the last year can testify; to dismiss Glasgow is to miss out on a whole lot of fun…
Perhaps Glasgow’s main charm lies in its ability to prove many of your misconceptions wrong. What do you associate with Scotland’s largest city? For many, Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting is the closest reference at hand, whilst others speculate on the image of the infamous ‘Glasgow Kiss’. When I told a university friend I was spending a weekend there, she reminisced about the grey and urban cityscape she remembered from her childhood. So I was immediately taken aback by its vibrancy; how fairy lights framed the music-filled high street and how the sunrise danced upon the river Clyde. I won’t lie and say Glasgow is all cobbled streets- it is Scotland’s largest and most industrial city. Yet it is this energy that gives Glasgow its sense of freedom and opportunity, and crucially, it gives Glasgow a pervasive sense of fun. The city knows how to have a good time. This fun can be seen all along Sauchiehall Street in the evening, which boasts many student bars such as Nice’N’Sleazy and Campus. The Art School on Scott Street is another student venue that regularly puts on gigs within its warehouse-esque interior.
You can’t really mention Glasgow without paying homage to its legendary music scene. It constantly welcomes some of the biggest names in music, and live bands can be heard every night from the many music venues around the city. During our 3 day weekend, Twenty One Pilots, Enter Shikari and Mystery Jets (who we were lucky enough to see) were all playing. It’s no surprise from a city that has raised Belle & Sebastian, Amy Macdonald, Primal Scream, Simple Minds and the Fratellis. Music seems to be the city’s life-force, as it fills the city centre during the day. As I walked along Buchanan Street, one busker armed with only a guitar and a kickdrum filled the street with Mumford and Sons and a surprisingly powerful acoustic serenade of Adele’s Hello. Further along, flutes, violins and accordions all provided a soundtrack for the sunny day.
Another great thing Glasgow has going for it is its location. It has all the perks of a large city, whilst also being just a stones throw away from Scotland’s other main drawing point; the breathtaking natural scenery of the Western Highlands. We decided to spend a day travelling across western and northern Scotland on one of the many tours that run from the city. Just 30 minutes outside of Glasgow we’d reached Loch Lomond, the largest stretch of inland water in Great Britain. From there we climbed towards the Highlands, through Rannoch Moor and Glenn Coe. Throughout this desolate and haunting landscape, which you may recognise as the backdrop for Skyfall’s final scene, Scotland’s famously temperamental weather lived up to its reputation. As we drove on, we experienced sun, snow and rain. It felt like a completely different world to Glasgow, as we past Gaelic speaking towns and crunched through the snow to meet some wild red deer. Further on, we stopped at Loch Ness, Inverness and finally returned to Glasgow by way of the Cairngorms National Park. We arrived back to our hostel feeling refreshed and with a new appreciation of Scotland’s history and cultural heritage.
As I boarded my train home it felt like I’d only scratched the surface of what this city can offer. I could go into the hospitality and humour found in every Glaswegian we met, or how the city is in the middle of culturally re-defining itself on the global scale, but I really feel that these need to be experienced first-hand. So for music, nightlife and a whole lot of fun, I’d recommend Glasgow – just bring a coat.