Forget stressful airport transfers and illogical sat nav instructions: be cool and arrive at your destination by boat. Visit the Knoydart peninsula in North West Scotland: inaccessible by road, so boat, boot or bike are your default modes. It’s remote, stunning, has four Munros and is a haven for walking, diving and photography, but it also offers top class cuisine and is famed for its hospitality, culture and community spirit.
Across the Sound of Sleat from Skye, Knoydart is actually part of the mainland. However, unless you walk, or mountain bike from Kinloch Hourn you need to arrive by sea. Known as the Rough Bounds, it is one of the last real wildernesses in Western Europe. In 1999, the Knoydart Foundation , a partnership composed of local residents, the Highland Council and the John Muir Trust, was set up to “preserve, enhance and develop Knoydart for the well-being of the environment and its people”. Today, it is a thriving community, home to about 100 residents who welcome visitors to share its rugged beauty and enjoy its relaxed, genuine way of life.
As you can’t drive into Knoydart, why take the car? It is perfectly possible to reach Knoydart by public transport, the most civilised option being the overnight Caledonian sleeper: board at Euston, or stations through the Midlands, wake up in the southern Highlands, then breakfast in Fort William before catching the West Highland Line to Mallaig.
Frequently voted one of the top railway journeys in the world, this 42 mile ride takes you past Britain’s highest mountain, deepest loch and shortest river, before reaching its most westerly station. Travel between April and October and the steam engine, Jacobite will power you across the 21 arch Glenfinnan Viaduct, immortalised in the Harry Potter books, past the monument to the 1745 Jacobite rebellion and alongside the iconic silver sands of Morar, the setting for the films Highlander and Local Hero.
If you have a few minutes to spare, drop into the Mallaig Heritage Centre beside the station, where the imaginatively presented exhibitions tell the history of the Rough Bounds and show the rapid transformation of Mallaig into a busy fishing port after the railway was completed in 1901.
Head towards the harbour and, keeping to the left, you will arrive at the public steps on the small boat pier. Here, a small boat will take you on the last leg of the journey, across Loch Nevis to Knoydart. Doune is on a rocky headland on the western edge of the peninsular and the accommodation is run by two couples, Martin and Jane Davies and Liz and Andy Tibbetts and their families. Doune Stone Lodges offer fully catered, comfortable double or twin rooms, en suite toilet, shower and porch, while the Doune Bay Lodge is designed for larger families, clubs, corporate events, and consists of eight rooms, open-plan living area and kitchen.
The setting is idyllic, with unforgettable sunsets behind the Skye Cuillins to the west, and the absence of mobile reception and power-thirsty hairdryers and trouser presses adds positively to its unique ambience. The lodges are effectively and sensitively equipped: warm duvets and invigorating showers – particularly welcome after a bracing day in the hills.
Doune Dining Room is one of only seven institutions currently holding the Destination Dining Award for providing the best of food in the finest of settings. Everything is home-made, seafood is caught locally and Jane and Liz’s organic gardens provide most of the vegetables and soft fruit. While meat eaters can tuck into locally-produced lamb and venison, my vegetarianism was expertly satisfied, with a sumptuous nut pate and mouth-watering desserts particular highlights, and fully catered means exactly that, with breakfasts, packed lunches and evening meals all included.
ThreeCorbetts, added to its four Munros make this hill-walking heaven, particularly for those who seek peacefulness and solitude.Ladhar Bheinn, at 1020m (3,346ft) is the highest and most dramatic mountain, although like many peaks on Knoydart, it is difficult to access. Martin and his team are generous with their local knowledge and, by using their boat Mary Doune, it is possible to sail to many mountain approaches.
That said, it is not necessary to go stratospheric to enjoy the beauty of Knoydart. Sailing from Doune, we headed north along the Sound of Sleat with Sandaig Islands clearly visible in the distance. Turning east into Loch Hourn, our progress was observed by some bored looking seals basking in the April sunshine, while Alastair, our knowledgeable skipper, identified Beinn Sgritheall as the snow-clad peak dominating the northern shore.
Scrambling ashore on Barrisdale Bay, it was impossible not to be moved by the still beauty of this sandy inlet. From here to Inverie, the “capital” of Knoydart is a trek of about eight miles through a spectacular mountain landscape. Passing the Barisdale bothy and campsite, the route climbs steadily along the pony path through Mam Barrisdale, until, at the top of the path, the cylindrical outline of Loch an Dubh-Lochain appears on the horizon. From here it is a relaxing stroll along the Inverie river to the Old Forge pub in the centre of the village.
The Old Forge, the most remote pub in mainland Britain, is much more than just a pub. It has won many accolades for its beers, wines and locally-sourced food and also provides a rewarding coffee and slab of cake, as you relive your walk, climb or dive. But it is also the undoubted hub of the community; the stock of musical instruments in the bar testament to its famed reputation for impromptu entertainment. Its website is a treasure trove of local information, advertising local jobs, advising on hill-walking routes and listing local accommodation.
Staying on Knoydart can be as lavish or basic as you want to make it. It is possible to wild camp on the beach, backpack in a bothy or indulge in a luxurious b&b. Match your requirements to the surprisingly wide variety available – check out the Knoydart Foundation and Barrisdale and forget any excuses for not experiencing this magnificent corner of Britain.
Climb, hike and cycle among the rock towers, gorges and ravines of this beautiful but unknown part of Slovakia – but hurry before everyone else discovers Sulovske Skaly too.
It was hot and dusty and, as we jumped from the train, I half-expected some Henry Fondaesque assassin to ambush us at the isolated junction. But we were in Slovakia not the Wild West and Branko, our in-house translator, assured us, correctly, that the next train would arrive in five minutes.
Slovakian trains may be crowded and functional, but they are regular, cheap and punctual and 30 minutes later we gasped in collective amazement at the spectacular rock formations straight in front of us as we finally arrived in Sulovske Skaly a “rock city” made up of contorted slabs of limestone around two hours north west of Bratislava.
Even for those able to differentiate their Slovakias from their Slovenias, this region remains undiscovered. Lower in altitude than the better-known Tatras to the north-east, its rock towers, needles, windows and gates, separated by deep waterless gorges and ravines, form a national nature reserve, deservedly popular with Slovakian walkers and climbers. Its forested and round-topped limestone ridges are also much more typical of Slovakia’s mountains than the Tatras, but you’ll find little tourist infrastructure and few English speakers.
Our base, Penzion Sulov, was an attractive self-catered, wooden chalet, equipped with hot showers, comfortable double bedrooms and even a tennis court, and represented amazing value at a week’s cost of only 70 euros each, particularly as it also boasted satellite TV and more than enough space to store and dry the plethora of equipment needed for a hiking/climbing holiday. Situated only five minutes’ walk from the starting point of the climbs and hiking routes, this accessibility put it in a class of its own: no driving hassle or petrol costs, simply get your kit and walk out the door.
The hiking trails offered something for everyone, with expertly-marked paths, colour-coded for difficulty levels ranging from gentle rambles to strenuous hikes. Although elevations peaked at around 800m, some ascents were steep and, with handrails and ladders in strategic points, hikes often resembled via ferratas.
But, with spectacular views from the highest ridges, plus outstanding rock features, castle ruins and a relatively unspoilt ecosystem, this region offered many of the best elements of hiking, concentrated in a compact area easily reached by foot or cycle.
Make sure you visit the 13 metre high Goticka brana (Gothic Gate) rock formation, admire the views from the ruins of Sulovsky hrad (castle) and see the Sulovsky vodopad (waterfall).
During the last 20 years, the Sulov area has developed into something of a paradise for climbers and, today, it is regarded as one of the most interesting areas in Central Europe. For our rock fiends the climbing proved to be a revelation, surprising even the veterans with the quality of the bolting and testing grades on the often bizarre-shaped rocks. And, uniquely, we were the only Brits, as apart from a lone American, our fellow climbers were exclusively Slovakian.
The Súľov rocks are famous for a remarkable collection of plant species, including some very rare orchids. In general the region, although rural, is relatively uncultivated, resulting in delightful meadows of pastel-coloured wildflowers. We didn’t manage to meet the resident lynx, but the forests echoed to the clatter of noisy, brightly coloured birds, while surreal looking butterflies and cleverly camouflaged leaf frogs remained unperturbed by our presence.
Around a mile away was the hamlet of Sulov, with its brightly painted houses and attractive old church. Its small general store supplied us with enough provisions for the first couple of days and the family from the small bar in the village centre went out of their way to cook us a hearty Slovakian dinner of gulas (goulash) and bryndzove halusky (potato gnocchi) on our first night. But this is an area not yet geared up for tourism. Bars and cafés, although welcoming, were thin on the ground and did not routinely offer meals without prior notice. Coffee was, however, universally excellent.
We self-catered and, from outside the chalet, there was a fairly regular bus service to the nearest town, Bytca. Slovakian buses , like their rail counterparts, are clean and punctual, if rather basic. Towns in this area tend to be an odd mixture of some ornate traditional buildings, interspersed with bleak blocks of Stalinesque flats, along with some pioneer outposts of McDonald’s and Tesco.
Bytca offered little for foodies, but Branko did lead us to one gem: Expresso-Jadran (Micurova, 369/8, 01401 Bytca), a small, unprepossessing café near the bus station. Owned by Branko’s fellow Bosnian, Kurtovic Hasan, a refugee from the civil war of the 1990s, it offered a bewildering range of delicious home-made ice cream and some seriously scrumptious pastries, particularly a mouth-watering sour cherry strudel, to accompany its strong, heady espressos.
If you want a cheap, peaceful, safe holiday with a range of outdoor activities for all ages right outside your door, in a beautiful, undiscovered, part of Europe, then visit Sulovske Skaly before everyone else does. Don’t go if you need wall-to-wall tourist infrastructure, upmarket restaurants, clubs and bars, fast food and western consumerism.
How to get there
Sulovske Skaly may be unsung, but it’s easily reached.Take the train (use Seat 61 for info on rail travel throughout Europe). Slovakia, nestling cosily between Vienna and Budapest, by rail is a breeze, more civilised and, with group bookings and unrestricted luggage, can be better value.
Mid Argyll could well be tagged as “Overlooked Scotland”; a little out of the way, no big towns or cities, not the easiest place to get to (certainly without a car), but, with its history, scenery, serenity, wildlife, culture and opportunities for walking and cycling, well worth the effort if you do go.
OK, so you can’t get to Kintyre by train, but you can take the bus and, if you have a word with Citylink beforehand, you might even find they’ll transport your bike. Coach 926 leaves Glasgow’s Buchanan Bus Station four times a day for Ardrishaig and for as little as £6 single, the 2 hours 45 minutes journey won’t seem long enough to take in the view of all the passing lochs and mountains from the window
Indeed, if getting to your destination is as important as the holiday itself, why not make your journey into an epic? Take the train from Glasgow to Gourock, then ferry to Dunoon, bus to Portavadie, another ferry to Tarbert and a final bus to Ardrishaig. It takes just over four hours, but where else on mainland UK ( and, yes, you are still on the mainland) could you combine rail, road and sea with scenery to die for? Use Traveline Scotland to organise your journey.
This jewel in the west of Scotland has the lot: as well as its unique history, relaxed pace of life and jaw-dropping scenery, it also has hotel/restaurant/cafe owners who actually seem to like and welcome visitors! What’s not to like?
Confined to a weekend visit, my major problem was so much to see, with so little time to do it. So, taking my theme as the area’s rich vein of history, ancient and modern, I headed for Kilmartin Glen to find out more about its standing stones, burial cairns, rock art, forts and carved stones that originated in the Neolithic period (6,000-4,000BC). Mid Argyll has the densest concentration of cup and ring marked rocks in the British Isles and the Glen contains Europe’s largest cup and ring marked site at Achnabreck.
The Glen is also home to one of Scotland’s most important historic sites of any period; Dunadd Fort, thought to have been built and occupied by the Dal Riata people from about 500AD. This area is now believed to have been a cultural and social centre where people, ideas and power were exchanged between lands connected by the sea.
Check out the artefacts and interpretations at the award-winning Kilmartin House Museum browse the rock art silver jewellery in the shop and sample the yummy home baking in the adjoining cafe.
But don’t be misled into believing the area declined in importance as time moved on: the first book to be printed in Scots Gaelic, John Knox’s liturgy, was translated by John Carswell, a 16th century Protestant reformer, in 1567 at nearby Carnassie Castle an attractive two mile stroll out of Kilmartin.
Head back to Ardrishaig to enjoy a later, but no less important, artefact; the delightful nine mile Crinan Canal Known as “Britain’s most beautiful shortcut”, it was built in the late eighteenth century between Ardrishaig on Loch Fyne and Crinan on the Sound of Jura.
The canal provided a lifeline between the islands of the west coast and the Clyde Estuary and enabled the puffer ships that transported coal, food and other essentials throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to avoid the long, arduous voyage round the south end of the Kintyre Peninsular.
Today, around two thousand mainly pleasure vessels, still pass through the canal and the waterway can also be appreciated, on foot or by bike, as an engineering marvel and an idyllic route through some stunning scenery.
When you reach Crinan, check out the top-floor gallery at the Crinan Hotel and, at certain times of the year, you might be lucky enough to see round one of the old puffer boats under renovation in the harbour.
Walking opportunities in the area are virtually endless, from gently coastal and woodland strolls to a lesser-visited Munro not too far away, while the Sustrans National Cycle Route 78 (Oban to Campbeltown) directly links Kilmartin, Crinan, Lochgilphead and Ardrishaig.
Five hours to spare, a mild, if cloudy, spring day in Glasgow; where else but the Kilpatricks? These surprisingly remote, heather-clad hills, set in relatively wild moorland, perch above Dumbarton a few miles north west of Glasgow. Given this location, their great asset is that they are very accessible from the city, by bus or train, even on Sundays. And, as such, along with Dumgoyne, Conic, Ben Lomond and The Cobbler, they are part of that bizarre and beguiling Glaswegian idiosyncrasy: sizeable hills and mountains that can be accessed by the city’s suburban transport network.
The Kilpatrick Hills are ideal for getting rid of winter’s cobwebs, or as an afternoon or evening walk as the nights get lighter and provide extensive views, not only back along the Clyde to the city, but also across the Campsie Fells and northwards towards the Arrochar Alps.
Trains run every 30 minutes to Old Kilpatrick from Glasgow Queen Street, and once at Kilpatrick station, just head along the road under the A82 road bridge to Kilpatrick Gasworks and follow the broad track signposted “Loch Humphrey”.
The usual route then heads along this path as far as the loch, however, the Forestry Commission are currently resurfacing the track, so the route is temporarily diverted on discernible hill paths up Kilpatrick Braes and around The Stacks. Unlike on many diverted routes, these signs are plentiful and easy to follow and indeed, I think the diversion adds to the circuit as it makes it more of a hill walk, as opposed to a trudge up a sometimes busy track, often shared with mountain bikers and others.
Once at the loch continue on the track that skirts round the loch and then keep on this still obvious, but boggier, path that continues north east along a visible ridge that passes Fynloch Hill on your left and Little and Middle Duncolm on your right.
Head on for the furthest and highest mound: this is Duncolm and take a few minutes to enjoy the 360 degree panorama, including Ben Lomond and Stob Binnein, after the short, steepish, but easy climb to the summit. On this overcast Tuesday, the islands at the south of the loch were still clearly visible and it was just possible to see the summit of the Ben peeping through the clouds.
Retrace your steps to the loch, then head back down to Kilpatrick station (about 3 and a half hours at reasonable pace), or if you have another couple of hours to spare, bear right at the loch embankment and follow a path north west through a conifer wood. After about a mile, turn left at a junction and follow a path downwards, in a south west direction, passing Brown Hill and Greenland Reservoir.
Follow the “Circular Crags Walk” signpost down to a road at Greenlands Farm, turn right and head along the “Crags Walk” to the Milton Inn. Then cross the A82 to the cycle track, turn left and follow this into Bowling, before turning right to the Forth and Clyde Canal.
Head along the towpath as far as Lock 37 at the Erskine Bridge. Cross the canal, turn left into Dumbarton Road, then right into Station Road back to the railway station.
Two trains an hour will take you back to the city for a late afternoon coffee, spot of shopping, or in plenty of time to scrub up for an evening out. Overall, an ideal way to spend the day that marks the equal division of daylight and darkness and heralds the advent of spring.
For details of other walks accessible by public transport Around Glasgow, visit:
Autumn, in particular October, is ideal for a short break. But perhaps time and money are a bit short and you can’t spare more than a few days away; not enough to enjoy some sunnier climes?
No problem, stay in Britain, make the most of the daylight before the clocks change, enjoy the changing autumn colours and, if the weather turns inclement, you can easily spend a day in a nearby city, or local attraction. Britain in autumn is perfect for a few days away where you can combine some cycling, walking, climbing, photography in the countryside, with a cultural, foodie, or chilled-out few days in the city.
One great advantage of our crowded island is that many of our major urban areas are cheek by jowl with national parks and areas of national beauty: think Sheffield/Manchester and the Peak District; Bristol and Exmoor; Glasgow and the Trossachs; Edinburgh and the Pentlands.
Even the sprawling West Midlands conurbation has the Malverns and the Cotswolds on its doorstep and woodland Surrey, the Chilterns and the south coast can be easily reached from Greater London.
But what to pack; particularly for us eco-conscious, self-sufficient travellers, who have to carry our needs for all eventualities on our backs, or bikes and on public transport? You need the footwear and outwear for protection in the great outdoors, but you don’t want to look like an outdoor gear geek as you sip your flat white in Convent Garden.
The key is, like with all packing, to try to take multi-purpose garments and, to be fair, the look, quality and weight of outdoor gear has improved immeasurably over the last few years. Merino wool tops, such as Icebreaker, look good enough to wear out or indoors, and merino also has the priceless asset of lasting several days without offensive odours. Similarly, ultra-lightweight down (and some man-made alternatives), like those by Rab, now are stylish enough, and in sufficiently pleasing shades, not to look out of place in city streets. And if it’s wet, wear your wet gear: if it throws it down, nobody cares much what you look like; hillside or city street.
This first “rule’ is generally to wear your “active” gear and footwear (usually because it’s the bulkiest) when you travel to your destination. This can result in some amusing scenarios: once, having secured a reasonably-priced first class ticket and resplendent in lycra and cycling helmet, I was initially blocked from entering the posh end of the train by an attendant who told me: “This is a first class coach madam.” When I replied that I had a first class reservation and offered to show him my ticket, he apologised and said: “I thought you were off on your bike, not travelling first class!”
So, other than specialised activity kit, what else to take?
Essentials: sleepwear, something to lounge about in, underwear and toiletries – if you’re staying in a hotel, b&b etc, it’s a good idea to check in advance what toiletries they provide as it can save considerable weight and bulk.
For trips of up to a week, I now organise my gear into: jeans/leggings, couple of tee shirts, tunic, sweater, comfortable lightweight shoes – obviously amend as appropriate.
These I can pack into a small, lightweight wheeled bag, with waterproofs, hat, gloves, water bottles and the like in a 20 litre backpack. Thus, I can carry my luggage easily and have enough adaptable gear to keep me dry and warm on the hills, but stylish enough to look reasonably cool in a cafe, or shop, museum or cinema.
Go ahead, take advantage of the autumn kaleidoscope in the woodlands, enjoy the hills and mountains before winter sets in.
Exeter and the Jurassic coast: the city’s beautiful St Peter’s Cathedral is well worth a visit http://www.exeter-cathedral.org.uk/ and the Bike Shed Theatre http://www.exeterviews.co.uk/whats-on/event/74/henry-v.html presents a critically-acclaimed production of Henry V on October 21st-22nd.
The city sits at the west end of the Jurassic coast: the Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site is England’s first natural World Heritage Site – it covers 95 miles of truly stunning coastline from East Devon to Dorset, with rocks recording 185 million years of the Earth’s history http://www.jurassiccoastline.com/
Walk sections of the coastal path, visit the Swannery at Abbotsbury, marvel at Durdle Door rock arch, hunt for fossils on Charmouth beach, or take short detours to Bridport and Thomas Hardy’s Dorchester. And, you don’t need a car; instead use the excellent X53 bus that links Exeter with Poole at the easterly end of the coast http://lulworthcovebedandbreakfast.com/lulworth-cove/buses-jurassic-coast.htm
Idyllic weather (yes, even at the end of July!) and a not-to-be-missed opportunity to climb two of Scotland’s classic Munros over a long weekend. As both are accessible by public transport from Glasgow, rather than add to the already packed and dangerous A82, you can sit back, relax and wonder at the stunning landscape along the West Highland Railway, before and after your climb. Both hills also enjoy good, well-surfaced paths and don’t demand any real technical abilities.
Blessed with the clearest summer day in memory, according to our expert guide, Beinn Dorain’s ideal, central location in the Southern Highlands ensures a superb 360 degree panorama; so distinct today that the solid mass of Ben Nevis, jutting majestically out of the north end of Rannoch Moor, seems within touching distance rather than 40 odd miles to the north.
Round to the west, the spear-like triangle of Ben Cruachan is shadowed by the mountainous outline of Mull, Ben More obvious in the background; a few degrees to the south west, Jura is recognisable by its three iconic Paps; and with a further slight turn to the south, it is just possible to make out the craggy horizon of the Isle of Arran.
A view to die for and worth every step of the 1076 metre climb necessary to get here. Beinn Dorain and its slight lower twin, Beinn an Dorthaidh, tower over the River Orchy and the small settlement round the eponymous bridge, and give visitors a tantalising glimpse of the wonders that await, northwards, to Rannoch and beyond.
The 9.07 Mallaig train from Glasgow’s Queen Street arrives in Bridge of Orchy, at 11.23 (This train runs Monday-Friday until September 23. On Saturdays and Monday to Friday from September 26, the service leaves Queen Street at 8.21, arriving Bridge of Orchy 10.46.) It takes about five hours from the village station for the climb and descent; factor in an extra 45 minutes or so if you want to climb Beinn an Dothaidh as well. That should give you more than enough time to complete the route and have some refreshments before catching the return train to Glasgow at 18.56, but do monitor timings carefully and take into account possible changes in weather conditions.
The Bridge of Orchy Hotel is your only refreshment option in the village. It serves drinks as well as bar and restaurant meals and is right across from the station where you end your walk.
A cool drink in the pavement table outside the hotel, admiring the impressive hill we have just climbed, ends a memorable day among spectacular scenery in ideal conditions.
Info: Travel – www.firstscotrail.co.uk Maps – OS Landranger 50, OS Explorer 377 Refreshments – www.bridgeoforchy.co.uk
Ben Lomond: The weather, not only holds, but improves. So, with a one day window left before I go home, I’m up and out by 7am and it’s already warm and sunny. What’s not to like?
Ben Lomond, the most southerly of Scotland’s Munros is widely regarded as “Glasgow’s Munro” and, given that it’s less than two hours out of the city by public transport – admittedly not your average commute, but an hour on the magical West Highland Railway, then a water bus across Loch Lomond – it’s an appropriate and well- deserved accolade.
Leaving Queen Street on the Oban train at 8.21, arriving Arrochar at 9.35, we turn left out of the station for the 10 minute walk down to the pier at Tarbet to catch the water bus operated by Cruise Loch Lomond (between April and October) that links Tarbet with Rowardennan and Inversnaid on the eastern shore of the loch.
Sailing at 10am, the boat – fellow passengers include ornithologists, photographers, sightseers, walkers for the West Highland Way to Inversnaid, climbers for the Ben, cyclists for the heart of the Trossachs and Rufus, the black field spaniel, who looks up for all of these activities – reaches Rowardennan in about 45 minutes. From the pier a few steps through the car park towards the toilets brings us to the path marked “Ben Lomond”. And, from here, we just stick to the obvious, well-surfaced path. But remember, it can still be a bleak and potentially dangerous climb in poor weather, so do ensure you always carry a map, navigation aid, wet weather gear and adequate food and water.
The climb starts in woodland, for about a mile until we emerge into the open hill through a gate. Don’t be too surprised if you meet some unimpressed-looking Hielan coos monitoring your progress at this point.
Although fairly steep to begin with, the route levels out along the Sron Aonaich Ridge and after about two miles, we reach a final, steep section of switchbacks to the summit.
After some well-earned rest and another wondrous circular panorama – this time taking in the Arrochar Alps, Lochs Lomond, Sloy and Katrine, the Campsie Fells to the south and Lomond Hills to the east – either retrace your steps , or head north west from the summit, descending steeply along a rocky ridge, then across some stepping stones to the Ptarmigan Ridge. Here you will enjoy more breathtaking views of the loch on a straightforward route. Both paths finish at the car park.
The return boat sails from Rowardennan at 16.45, so it is essential to work out your timings carefully, particularly if the weather turns inclement: in our case, despite spending too long sunbathing and admiring the views from the summit, we make it back with enough time to enjoy a cold drink at the Rowardennan Hotel.
Arriving back at Tarbet Pier at 17.30, we take full advantage of the gorgeous evening, chilling out with fish and chips and a great vista across the loch, before taking the short walk back to the station for the return to Queen Street at 20.08. (On Saturdays between March and September, an additional train calls at Arrochar at 18.02, arriving Queen Street 19.20.)
Info: Travel – www.firstscotrail.co.uk www.cruiselochlomond.co.uk Maps – OS Landranger 56, OS Explorer 364, Harvey Maps; Glasgow Popular Hills Refreshments – light refreshments are available on board the water bus, you may have time for a drink at http://www.rowardennanhotel.co.uk/ and there are a number of hotels, restaurants and tea rooms in Tarbet
But: very isolated outside of the villages, can be bleak with high rainfall and infrequent transport, so vital to check timetables and plan in advance; proper equipment, sufficient supplies and spares are vital
Info: routes shown on maps; OS Explorers 320, 321, 328, 329
Terrain: steep gradients away from valley floor, often wet and muddy
Separated by the bleak and brooding Lowther Hills from its more famous neighbour, the Clyde, the River Nith follows a southerly course from its source in East Ayrshire to the Solway Firth. Best known for its excellent trout and salmon fishing and associations with Robert Burns, the majority of its valley lies in Dumfriesshire; from the bleak, open vistas of Upper Nithsdale, through a dramatic, gorge-like stretch between Mennock and Carronbridge – Highlandesque, in terms of its spectacular beauty – to the wide flood plain of Dumfries and thence into the Solway.
This is undiscovered Scotland; usually hastily bypassed on the M74 and West Coast Main Line 15 miles or so to the east. Undiscovered, of course, also means unspoilt and non-commercialised. But, linked by rail to Carlisle and Glasgow, with direct access to the Southern Upland Way and with world-class on and off-road cycling opportunities, it’s an excellent area for booters and bikers, with plenty of history, culture and even some foodie options thrown in.
It’s also a remarkably easy area to get to: change at Carlisle – about four-five hours from London and around three from the Midlands on the West Coast Main Line – take the service to Glasgow via Dumfries and you arrive in Sanquhar/Kirkconnel (both villages have stations) in just over an hour. Similarly, the same service in reverse from Glasgow takes about 90 minutes.
Increasingly popular with off-road bikers as it’s right in the heart of the Seven Stanes series of world-class MTB courses, www.sevenstanes.org.uk this corner of SW Scotland is also ideal for road cycling and touring and every type of walking, from the most testing long distance footpath in Britain to riverside rambles http://www.uppernithsdale-events.org/walking A 15 mile trail focusing on the coal and lead mining heritage of the area has recently been opened linking Kirkconnel to Wanlockhead. It crosses rough moorland, with some spectacular views, but is strenuous, so proper equipment and hill-walking experience are necessary http://www.geolocation.ws/nearby/en?loc=55.420516,-3.823472
Although not renowned for copious amounts of sunshine – it can be bleak and cool even in the middle of summer – it is usually mild and the area’s plentiful rainfall results in a lush, emerald vista of deciduous woodlands and fast flowing streams (as well, regrettably the ubiquitous midges). It’s refreshingly untouristy and the evening light lingers long, from April right through to August.
The area, generally, is noted for its salmon fishing and, for admirers of Scotland’s national bard, it is smack in between Robert Burns’ birthplace near Ayr, and his grave and mausoleum in Dumfries.
Definitely worth a look is the beautiful and historic church in Kirkconnel that dates from the early 18th century. However, the first church in the village is thought to have been established by St Conal in the eighth century. Closed down during the period of Covenanter unrest in the 1680s, a Celtic cross now marks the site, about two miles out of the village, and a recent renovation project has restored the site of the original kirkyard. http://www.kirkconnel.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=81&Itemid=211
Both Kirkconnel and Sanquhar have strong historic links with the Covenanters – people in Scotland who signed the National Covenant in 1638 opposing any interference by the Stuart kings in the affairs of the Scottish Presbyterian church. In 1680 the preacher Richard Cameron, issued the famous Sanquhar Declaration, renouncing allegiance to Charles II. This, and a second declaration in the town, by James Renwick five years later, set out the basis of future religious freedom in Scotland.
ii) walk/cycle from Sanquhar along minor roads and forest tracks to Kirkconnel and back – about 11 miles, off-road bike needed
From Sanquhar station go down Station Road, cross the A76, then straight head along Blackaddie Road. Cross the bridge and keep straight ahead. The road then follows Euchan Water past a lovely waterfall. The scenery is superb and after about two miles you will reach a coniferous plantation. Cross a ford (you may need to lift your bike over a gate here), keep on the track through the rest of the trees, descend to cross a burn and follow the track through the next plantation. Keep on the track until a cattle grid, turn right, cross another grid and then continue along the side of Corserig Hill. Keep going until the track splits, bear left on the well-defined path and follow this through Librymoor Plantation until you see Kirkconnel Cemetery in front of you. Turn right on to the minor road that runs behind Kirkconnel and continue on this for approximately three miles. At Blackaddie Bridge, turn left and follow the road back into Sanquhar.
ii) cycle from Sanquhar to Drumlanrig Estate near Carronbridge – 17-20 miles, depending on route, off-road bike needed if riding the forest trails at Drumlanrig
Follow above directions from Sanquhar station to Blackaddie Bridge, then turn left and follow the minor road with the River Nith on your left; past Menock and Eliock Wood the valley is spectacular. At Burnmouth the road heads south, away from the river. Continue for about half a mile to Burnsands where you can either turn left and follow the road direct to Drumlanrig Castle (about 2-3 miles) or go straight on for about five miles, where the road then loops round back to Drumlanrig. http://www.drumlanrig.com/drumlanrig-outdoor-activities/cycling
A wealth of culture, some of the finest art and architecture in Europe, a shopping mecca, vibrant nightlife: just some of Glasgow’s best known features. But, alongside these attributes, its marvellous location for walking, cycling, sailing and numerous other outdoor activities is all too often overlooked.
A city infamous for poor health and housing and blighted by its planners in the mid 20th century, Glasgow, which means Dear Green Place, has, surprisingly, more green spaces per head of population than any other conurbation in Britain, with beautiful parks to be found all over the city. And, within an hour of its centre, you can be climbing a Munro, cycling along Loch Lomond,or sailing in some of the world’s most beautiful coastal waters. This fairly unique combination makes the city ideal to shop till you drop, enjoy many varied forms of culture, but equally easily escape to the great outdoors that are literally on your doorstep.
In addition, the city has an excellent public transport system; in terms of connecting areas and scope, second only to London. And, given Glasgow’s location, its commuter lines actually reach some of the most scenic and iconic places; for example, Balloch, at the foot of Loch Lomond, is around 40 minutes out of the city on a twice-hourly service, whilst the legendary West Highland line, reaches Arrochar and the northern end of Loch Lomond at Ardlui in about an hour.
It is this mix of unique location, plus easy availability of public transport, that makes Glasgow such an ideal base for a boot and bike trip.
Get there and about:
Virgin Trainswww.virgintrains.co.uk travel to Glasgow from London, the Midlands and North West England on the west coast main line; journey times are about five hours from London and just under four from Birmingham.
Strathclyde Passenger Transport www.spt.co.uk is responsible for city and suburban trains, buses and subway.
Scottish Citylink coaches www.citylink.co.uk run out of the city along the A82 en route to Fort William, Portree and Oban.
Loch Lomond Cruises www.cruiselochlomondltd.com operate a ferry service from Tarbet across the loch to Rowardennan and Inversnaid, between April to October.
Glasgow Guest House www.glasgow-guest-house.co.uk enjoys a great location on bus routes, five minutes from Dumbreck rail station, within walking distance of the subway, virtually next door to Mackintosh’s House for an Art Lover and 20 minutes walk from the Burrell. It’s clean, welcoming, serves brilliant breakfasts, has a residents’ kitchen and ample and secure storage for boots, bikes and equipment: Glasgow with hospitality, humour and style.
Make sure you see:
Architecture; Look out for Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s buildings and designs www.crmsociety.com Alexander”Greek” Thomson’s buildings www.greekthomson.org.uk There is a wonderful Victorian legacy throughout the city and the magnificently-renovated 18th century Merchant City www.merchantcity.com is also a must-see.
Art; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Burrell Collection and Pollok House
Museums and Culture; Kelvingrove, Tenement House, Cathedral, People’s Palace, new Riverside Museum of Transport with the Tall Ship and any of the 13 major museums in the city www.seeglasgow.co.uk
Music; King Tut’s, O2 Academy, Royal Concert Halls, Theatre Royal, SECC
Film; Glasgow Film Theatre and Grosvenor, numerous multi-screens
Theatres; King’s, Citizen’s, Tramway, Arches, Theatre Royal, Tron and many more
Why? wonderful views only usually enjoyed from much higher aspects, ideal to fit in for morning/afternoon, or for a winter walk
But; shares some of access route with West Highland Way and can be busy, especially in holiday periods and in spring dog-walkers cannot access the high moor behind the hill
Info; OS Explorer 347, Harvey Superwalker 1:25,000 Glasgow Popular Hills www.harveymaps.co.uk Glasgow, 40 Town and Country Walks, www.pocketmountains.com
Directions; path starts from Visitor Centre in Balmaha where bus terminates, follow the well-signposted route and good path to the top of the hill
Distance; 3 miles
Terrain; woodland and hill paths, steep in places
Refreshments; Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha www.oak-tree-inn.co.uk village shop next door also sells hot drinks and sandwiches, as well as provisions
iii) Where? Dumgoyne Hill, Blanefield, north of Milngavie
How? bus (no10) from Buchanan Bus Station to Blanefield (hourly during most of the day)
Why? more fantastic views to southern aspects of Loch Lomond, Arrochar Alps, Ben Lomond and more, from a steep, but short, climb, within easy reach of city centre
But; very boggy in places, have to jump across a couple of burns en route
Info; OS Explorer 348, Harvey Superwalker 1:25,000 Glasgow Popular Hills www.harveymaps.co.uk
Directions; start from war memorial in Blanefield, carry on up Campsie Dene Road to Cantywherry Cottage, then take path to the right up the hill
Distance; about 6 miles
Terrain; hill paths, boggy and muddy, steep in places
Refreshments; nice deli with lovely little coffeeshop www.pestleandmortar.com across from bus stop in Blanefield
iv) Where? Loch Humphrey and Duncolm, Kilpatrick Hills, west of the city
How? train to Kilpatrick from Glasgow Queen Street or Central
Why? extensive views over the city from a surprisingly remote, heather-clad range of hills very easily accessible from the city
But? bleak and isolated on the hilltops, steepish climb to the Loch
Info; OS Explorer 347, Harvey Superwalker 1:25,000 Glasgow Popular Hills, www.harveymaps.co.uk Glasgow 40 town and Country Walks, www.pocketmountains.co.uk
Directions; from the railway station head along the road under the A82 road bridge to Kilpatrick Gasworks, then follow the track signposted Loch Humphrey. At the loch keep on the obvious path, passing Little and Middle Duncolm before climbing to the summit of Duncolm
Distance; about 8 miles
Terrain; tarmac stretch at start, then rough heather and bracken, boggy in places on hillside
Refreshments; none on direct route, pubs and shops in Kilpatrick
Where? Ben Lomond
How? train from Glasgow Queen Street to Arrochar/Tarbet, Cruise Loch Lomond www.cruiselochlomondltd.com from Tarbet Pier across loch to Rowardennan (April-October), leaving Tarbet at 10am, returning from Rowardennan at 16:45
Why? great way to climb Scotland’s most southerly Munro on day trip from city without having to drive
But; absolutely vital that you have sufficient hill-walking experience/fitness to complete the climb and descent before return sailing
Info; Harvey Superwalker 1:25,000 Glasgow Popular Hills www.harveymaps.co.uk OS Explorer 364, 347
Directions; follow clear route to the mountain from car park in Rowardennan
Distance; around 7 miles
Terrain; tough mountain climb, remote and exposed in places
Where? Ben Arthur (The Cobbler), overlooking Arrochar
Why? One of Scotland’s iconic mountains, yet within easy access of the city, stupendous views of Ben Lomond and other peaks in the Trossachs, lochs Lomond and Long How? Train from Queen Street, or bus from Buchanan Bus Station www.citylink.co.uk to Arrochar But: very steep last section to exposed summit where slabs can be very slippery; liable to be cold, windy at higher levels irrespective of conditions at start; proper equipment, clothing and adequate fitness essential; limited train service and seats on return bus journey often need to be booked in peak months, so check timetable carefully to avoid a long wait in an area with few places to shelter Info: Harvey Maps: Glasgow Popular Hills, OS Explorer 364
Directions: turn right out of station, head into Arrochar, then follow road round head of the loch to the start of forest path opposite car park at Succoth Distance: 6 miles Terrain: excellent, easy-to-follow stone path for majority of route, steepish climb at start, then reasonably gentle gradients, apart from final stretch to the summit which is very steep and involves a short section of scrambling Refreshments: fish and chips and some daytime cafes in Arrochar but few options in the evening, Tarbet, perhaps better bet
Where? Loch Katrine by western access from Inversnaid
How? train from Glasgow Queen Street to Arrochar/Tarbet, Cruise Loch Lomond www.cruiselochlomondltd.com from Tarbet Pier across loch to Inversnaid (April-October), then cycle from Inversnaid along Loch Arklet to Loch Katrine, with option of using paddle steamer, Sir Walter Scott http://www.incallander.co.uk/steam.htm on outward or return journey across the loch
Why? quieter, better way to enjoy wonderful scenery and the iconic loch, without having to drive or having a long cycle in from Stirling
But; watch timings carefully to catch return sailings and take bike spares and emergency kit
Info; OS Landrangers 56,57 Harvey Superwalker 1:25,000 Glasgow Popular Hills www.harveymaps.co.uk
Directions; only one road out of Inversnaid, so cycle (or push!) up the hill out of the village and follow road along Loch Arklet to Stronachlachar, then either take the steamer to Trossachs Pier and cycle back, or cycle to Trossachs Pier and return on ferry
Distance; depends on what route you select, but with a full circuit of loch total distance will be in region of 30 miles
Terrain; quiet, mostly well-surfaced tarmac roads, steep climb out of Inversnaid, undulating round the loch
Refreshments; Inversnaid Hotel www.lochsandglens.com/HotelInversnaid.asp
Cafes at Stronachlachar and Trossachs Pier www.lochkatrine.com meals and refreshments at Inversnaid Bunkhouse www.inversnaid.com
West Highland Way Walk:
Where? stretch between Rowardennan and Inversnaid (or reverse) on eastern side of Loch Lomond
How? train from Glasgow Queen Street to Arrochar/Tarbet, then Cruise Loch Lomond www.cruiselochlomondltd.com from Tarbet Pier across loch to Rowardennan (April-October) and back from Inversnaid, or route can be done in reverse from Inversnaid to Rowardennan
Why? fairly easy stretch of WHW on eastern side of Loch Lomond, within easy travelling distance of the city
But? can be busy, some of the route is in forest, so restricted views in places
Info; OS Explorer 364, 347, Harvey Superwalker 1:25,000 Glasgow Popular Hills www.harveymaps.co.uk
Directions; follow the obvious and plentiful route signs for the WHW
Directions; from Helensburgh station, head towards the shore and walk along the promenade to Rhu Marina, then turn right into Pier Road, right into Station Road and then up the hill till a large metal gate, before following the track through fields and woodlands to the Hill House
Distance; 7 miles
Terrain; tarmac roads and woodland paths, steep in places
Refreshments; selection of restaurants and cafes in Helensburgh, tea room at Hill House
Walk into History:
Where? New Lanark Mills and Falls of Clyde
How?train from Glasgow Central to Lanark, then take shuttle bus, or 20 minutes walk to New Lanark
Why? see Robert Owen’s 18th century mill village, often regarded as the birthplace of socialism and now a World Heritage Site and combine with a walk along the Clyde valley past the spectacular Falls of Clyde, taking in a wildlife reserve along the way
But? train takes over an hour and the site can be very busy during holidays and in the summer
This is not designed as a definitive guide to Glasgow. The city has many and varied attractions – art, shopping, music, sport, architecture, history, to name but a few – and this points a few guidelines towards some of them. Use it to dip into some, or all, of your own particular interests, or to whet your appetite for a more detailed tour.
But whatever, enjoy your visit to the city. Glaswegians are noted for their friendly hospitality and most love to show off their knowledge of the city to visitors. So, if you do get lost, or need any information, ask bar or shop staff, or even someone in the street – although they might well be a fellow tourist too!
My recommendation for a comfortable, hospitable, stylish stay in Glasgow, at reasonable price, has to be the GlasgowGuestHouse. A sandstone villa, combining original Victorian features with en suite power showers and flat screen TVs, it enjoys a great location in the leafy suburb of Dumbreck, yet is only a five minute train ride from the city centre and close to both major motorways. It’s renowned for great breakfasts, provides a residents’ kitchen and proprietor John, welcomes guests with traditional Glaswegian humour and hospitality.
Southside Tour: the House for an Art Lover, the Burrell, Pollok House and the Scotland Street School
Staying here in the Southside also enables you to combine four of Glasgow’s key attractions in one day. The guest house is virtually next door to Charles RennieMackintosh’sHouseforanArtLover in BellahoustonPark www.houseforanartlover.co.uk Don’t be put off by the approach as the interior is fantastic. The house was created in the early 1990s from Mackintosh’s original, but unused, plans and it makes an interesting comparison with the Hill House in Helensburgh.
In addition, the guesthouse is only a 20 minute walk (10 minute drive, the traffic is bad!) from the world famous BurrellCollection in PollokPark
http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/our-museums/burrell-collection/ Considered one of the greatest collections of art ever accumulated by one person, the paintings, tapestries and ceramics of ship owner SirWilliamBurrell and his wife were gifted to the city and eventually housed here in the 1980s. It is an astonishing collection and every bit a must-see as the Mackintosh legacy.
Also in the park is the 18th mansion PollokHouse http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/48now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and home to more art treasures (Goya, Blake), an extensive library and beautiful gardens.
Not far away, also in the Southside, is another key Mackintosh building: the Scotland Street School http://www.scotcities.com/mackintosh/scotlandst.htm This is a stunning example of Mackintosh’s architecture and also has some great reconstructions of classrooms through the 20th century. It’s free and just across the road from Shields Road subway station. (Glasgow has a cheap and efficient underground system, known as the subway, or underground, but never the tube!)
Charles Rennie Mackintosh Legacy:
There are numerous other examples of CRM’s legacy in and around the city- have a look at: www.crmsociety.com You can buy an all-in-one ticket to cover entry to the main Mackintosh attractions in and around Glasgow and the bus travel between them: https://kiosk.iristickets.co.uk/k?spt&MACKINTOSH But you may not have time to visit them all, so if you are at all interested in Mackintosh, start with The School of Art; this is his masterpiece.
The School of Art www.gsa.ac.uk is right in the city centre, just off Sauchiehall Street. You will be shown round by a Mackintosh expert and provided with a wonderful introduction to CRM’s work.
As you are in the Garnethill area, try to fit in a visit to the Tenement House http://www.gnws.co.uk/glasgow/galleries It’s just round the corner from the Art School, in Buccleuch Street. Now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, this wonderfully preserved interior of a typical Glasgow tenement provides an unforgettable social history of the city and is well worth a visit.
NB: although it’s tempting to spend all the time on the Mackintosh Trail, he was only one, if the most famous, of the adherents of the so-called GlasgowStyle. This emerged in the late 19th/early 20th centuries when crafts and tradespeople were given grants to study design to ensure that Glasgow retained its cutting edge in manufacture and production. At that time, Glasgow was known as the Second City of the Empire and was the world’s leading centre for shipbuilding, as well as locomotive and other engineering.
It had grown prosperous as a trading city and the influence of other parts of the world can be seen in design all over the city. The exhibitions in Kelvingrove http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/our-museums/kelvingrove/Pages/home.aspx on Glasgow and the World and Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style explain this really well (as does a general look at buildings in the city) and are important in appreciating the wider context of Mackintosh and his work.
Start with the Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Glasgow Style Gallery at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This is the largest collection of the Glasgow Style’s media and techniques; eg, stained glass, textiles etc.
Any visit to Glasgow has to include a trip to Kelvingrove – the most visited museum outside London has everything from a Spitfire to a Dali, housed in a marvellous Victorian building and it’s free – so take some time to look around the rest of the museum while you’re here.
Now make the short walk up Kelvin Way to the Mackintosh House at the University’s Hunterian Art Gallery http://www.hunterian.gla.ac.uk/collections/art_gallery/mac_house/machouse_index.shtml Here the interior of 6 Florentine Terrace, Charles and Margaret Mackintosh’s home between 1906-14, has been recreated. (The gallery is free, but there is a small entrance charge for the Mackintosh House.)
This area was designed during Glasgow’s period of prosperity in the nineteenth century. So while you are in the West End, take a look round the Victorian spires of Glasgow University http://www.gla.ac.uk/about/history (designed by George Gilbert Scott of Albert Memorial, St Pancras Station fame)or if it’s not raining, walk through Kelvingrove Park (designed by Joseph Paxton, best known for the original Crystal Palace); the Stewart Memorial Fountain, commemorating the establishment of the Loch Katrine water system is well worth a look, as is the statue to the renowned physicist, William Thomson, LordKelvin.
A short walk from Kelvingrove will take you to the city’s most recent must-see attraction,’ the new Riverside Transport Museum, at Pointhouse Place on the banks of the Clyde. Designed by the award-winning architect, Zaha Hadid, this stunning building shares its waterfront location with the iconic Tall Ship, the “Greenlee”.
Both building and ship testify to the city’s world-renowned industrial heritage and the museum contains over 3,000 exhibits, including locomotives, trams and models of famous ships built in Glasgow.
Byres Road/Ashton Lane, the student hub of the West End, is nearby, with some of the city’s best bars, restaurants and cafes and the independent Grosvenor cinema. You’ll find the Ubiquitous Chip and the Wee Curry House here, as well as some less crowded and less expensive places to eat and drink (see below, Eating, Drinking, Shopping).
Centre (East) and Merchant City,
There’s much more to Glasgow than Mackintosh, so before you go, check out the other end of the city, to the east of the centre.
Glasgow Cathedral http://www.glasgowcathedral.org.uk/ is built on the site where St Kentigern, or Mungo, the first bishop within the ancient British kingdom of Strathclyde, was thought to have been buried in AD 612. The present cathedral was built between the 13th and 15th centuries and is the only medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland to have survived the 1560 Reformation virtually intact.
Try to make time to visit the Necropolis, Glasgow’s unique hilltop cemetery, just south of the Cathedral. Here an array of monuments, many designed by leading architects, mark the graves of Glaswegians from a past age.
From here, head down High Street, past Glasgow Cross and the Tolbooth Steeple to GlasgowGreen. This is the city’s oldest park; the green space where the original teams from both Celtic and Rangers played their first matches in the late 19th century. Look for the needle-shaped Nelson’s Monument and you will see the WinterGardens, a huge Victorian conservatory at the back of the People’sPalace, Glasgow’s social history museum http://www.glasgowguide.co.uk/ta_peoples
Here you will see the story of the people and city of Glasgow through words, music, pictures and film and the tropical plants in the Winter Garden make an ideal backdrop for a relaxing refreshment after your tour. As you step outside you’ll see the wonderfully-restored DoultonFountain, while to the side is the amazing architecture of the former Templeton’s Carpet Factory.
Head towards the river and walk back along the Clyde Walkway, under St Andrew’s suspension bridge towards the city centre. This brings you into the MerchantCity. This is the historic heart of Glasgow, now transformed by a massive regeneration over recent years. The grandiose townhouses of the merchants who built up the wealth of the city in the 18th century have now metamorphosed into luxurious shops and trendy bars, restaurants and.cafes. Read more about Merchant City at http://www.glasgowmerchantcity.net/merchant_city.html
GLASGOW: Eating, Drinking, Shopping:
Bars, Restaurants, Cafes:
Believe it or not, Glasgow has always been known for its cafe society – even if the pavement umbrellas are mostly used to deflect the rain, not the sun – and there is a strong Italian tradition of providing good coffee, cafes and ice cream. One of Mackintosh’s most famous commissions was for Miss Cranston’s tea rooms.
The WillowTearooms in Sauchiehall and Buchanan Streets attempt to recreate this with copies of original furniture and fittings. But although understandably popular with visitors, they are not among the best cafes in the city.
Rogano www.roganoglasgow.com in Royal Exchange Square is a Glasgow institution. Opened in the 1930s, it was fitted in the same Art Deco style as the most famous Clyde-built ship of the age, the Queen Mary. Popular with all sorts of Glaswegians, you are quite likely to run into well-known faces from stage, screen and media amongst the clientele.
The WestEnd, particularly around ByresRoad and AshtonLane has a wealth of acclaimed cafes, bars and restaurants, including the Wee Curry House and Ubiquitous Chip. And you don’t have to pay the earth to find good food and coffee, even in the West End. The Left Bank http://www.theleftbank.co.uk/ 33-35 Gibson Street and its sister cafe/bar, The Two Figs http://www.thetwofigs.co.uk 5&9 Byres Road (the Kelvinhall end) are renowned for their good value food (and cocktails) and are both pleasant places to hang out.
But don’t overlook the less fashionable areas of the city.Tucked away just off the Paisley Road West in Ibrox, is Cherry and Heatherhttp://www.cherryandheather.co.uk 7 North Gower Street, Ibrox +44 0141 427 0272, a tiny gem of a deli/cafe, right across the road from the Glasgow Climbing Centre.
MerchantCity is the place in the city centre to sample the best in food and drink that Glasgow has to offer. Several Indian restaurants in Candleriggs are particularly well regarded and do visit the CorinthianClub in IngramStreet, www.thecorinthianclub.co.uk even if just for a coffee and the opportunity to gaze at the ceilings and chandeliers of this beautifully revamped 18th century tobacco merchant’s townhouse.
Many consider the TapaBakehouse in Dennistoun and its outlet in the Southside www.tapabakehouse.co.uk serve the city’s best coffee. Cranberry’s is a cute little cafe in Merchant City, seen occasionally as a backdrop in episodes of Taggart, that sells good homemade soup and delicious cakes. And there are many more cafes across the city: but beware, the west of Scotland is traditionally renowned for its sweet tooth and favourites like millionaire’s shortbread and empire biscuits.
Shop Till You Drop:
Glaswegians love to shop and the city centre is generally considered to offer the UK’s best shopping, outside London.
The central shopping area takes the form of a large Z, with BuchananStreet in the middle and Argyle and Sauchiehall Streets running off at right angles at either end.
BuchananStreet has the flagship HouseofFraser (including the original WylieandLochhead store, one of Glasgow’s landmark buildings) at one end and JohnLewis, in the BuchananGalleries, at the other. Princes Square,RoyalExchangeSquare, the ItalianCentre and MerchantCity, off Buchanan Street to the east, offer more upmarket options.
In general, the further away from the Buchanan Street apex on both Argyle and Sauchiehall, Streets, the more tacky the shops.
One real highlight of shopping in the city is to sit back and enjoy afternoon tea in the aforementioned CorinthianClub, after your retail expedition.
GLASGOW: Theatres, Cinemas, Music
Glasgow enjoys more theatres than anywhere else outside London’s West End. They include:
The city claims to have the tallest cinema in the world, Cineworld at the top of Renfield street; you can’t miss it!
There are two good independents, the Grosvenor and the Glasgow Film Theatre.
You’ll find every type of live music from small bands playing in pubs, to top stars at the SECC, Royal Concert Halls and Theatre Royal. Oasis were reputedly discovered at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and there are numerous other musical venues.
Karaoke abounds, particularly a Glaswegian version known as Curry Karaoke. If you fancy a tikka masala while you listen to the next SuBo, the most scenic venue (can’t vouch for its tunefulness) is by the Tall Ship at Glasgow Harbour.
For all entertainment, check out: www.seeglasgow.co.uk
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