On The Road Travel Essays

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Glasgow is the industrial capital of Scotland and its largest city, sprawling for miles along the River Clyde. It's the great rival of Edinburgh. After years of post-industrial decline Glasgow has recently undergone a renaissance, partly under the auspices of European funding. The city is still very much an earthy city, without the pretensions of Edinburgh. People from Glasgow are called Glaswegians, and speak in an incomprehensibly strong accent. There is a local saying that "The Clyde made Glasgow and Glasgow made the Clyde." Ships built in Glasgow link it to the world. The famous luxury liners Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and QE II, were built in Glasgow. Industry includes engineering works, paper mills, steel works, and a thousand-and-one subsidiary industries. Yet the city has a vibrant cultural and intellectual life. There's Glasgow University which was founded in 1451, and there are other universities which offer technical courses. David Livingstone studied medicine in Glasgow. James Watt, inventor of the steam engine, was born in Glasgow; Adam Smith, the economist, taught at the University. Glasgow's architectural heritage, largely dating from the 19th century, is magnificent. In 1999 it was declared British City of Architecture and Design. Classical buildings by Alexander "Greek" Thompson; impressive neo-Gothic public institutions and attractive civic parks; grand avenues on a grid plan full of buildings bespeaking industrial and commercial power, like a 19th century American city; its unique Art Deco heritage of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and new exhibition center, nicknamed the armadillo, by Norman Foster: all these contribute to one of the finest and most interesting townscapes in the British Isles. Glasgow also has its own opera house, home of the Scottish Opera and Ballet.


Glasgow School of Art  The school of Art is a must for anyone interested in the sensuous architectural style of eclectic designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It's one of his better known achievements, because each façade combines art nouveau with the Scottish Baronial style in wrought iron to reveal a unique synthesis of the two.

Gallery of Modern Art  Dating back to 1829, this four-storied building was the former home to Glasgow's Royal Exchange and, after World War II, the central lending library for the city. In 1996 it opened its doors as the Gallery of Modern Art and continues to be one of the few remaining authentic Georgian buildings in Glasgow.

Glasgow Cathedral  Honoring Glasgow's patron St. Mungo, who was also known as St. Kentigern, this ancient structure is Scotland's only Gothic cathedral to survive both the Reformation and John Knox. Begun in the 12th century atop a 6th-century foundation, the cathedral was razed by local clans then rebuilt. Its medieval underground mausoleum built to house the saint's remains has been preserved intact, and is said to be the finest in Europe. Behind the Cathedral is the Necropolis, a unique Victorian burial ground where several famous 19th-century Scottish industrialists are buried, among them William Miller of "wee Willie winkie" lullaby fame.

St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art  The St. Mungo Museum of Religion is located in a recently constructed building that sits adjacent to Glasgow Cathedral. The religious history of the country is depicted from a nondenominational point-of-view. See the restored painting Christ of St. John of the Cross by Dalí as well as works by Aboriginal Austrailians, burial discs from Neolithic China, early 20th century stained glass and the permanent Zen Garden in the grounds surrounding the museum.

Botanic Gardens  Out beyond Glasgow University you'll find these extensive tropical conservatories: turn right on Byres Road off University Avenue, then to the Grosvenor Hotel and Great Western Road. The gardens are celebrated for their Great Western Road, exotic begonias and tree ferns, while their orchids are so famous the world Orchid Conference was held here in 1993. One of the two superb hothouses, Crystal Palace, also known as Kibble Palace, keeps lily-lavished pools steamy amidst a small forest of tree ferns studded with sculptures.

Glasgow Green  The city's earliest public recreation area was established as a park three and a half centuries ago, and sheep grazed here until the end of the last century. Now it hosts occasional pop concerts and political demonstrations instead. Be sure to check out Nelson's monument, the first dedicated to the naval hero in Britain; the Saracen Fountain, opposite People's Palace; and Templeton's Carpet Factory, modeled after the Doge's Palace in Venice and now a business center.

George Square and City Chambers  Home of the City Chambers, George Square is also the heart of the city and a traditional gathering place for protesters throughout Glasgow's lively political history. Queen Victoria and her beloved Albert, who both adored Scotland, are commemorated by large statues on vast columns, the preferred memorials for 19th-century worthies. Scottish heroes are also well-represented among the statuary: Robert Burns, national poet of Scotland; steam engine inventor James Watt; and a towering Sir Walter Scott, who wrote "Rob Roy" and "Ivanhoe" and created an international mania for all things Scottish. Architecturally, City Chambers has a distinguished loggia and banqueting hall and an ornate Italian-Renaissance marble interior.

Willow Tea Room  The Willow Tea Room was designed for Miss Catherine Cranston by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the major figure of the Arts and Crafts movement in the earliest years of the 20th century. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon tea in the Room de Luxe with its unconventional yet impressive interior.

Pollok House and Burrell Collection  Pollok House, built in the 18th century, is home to Great Britain's finest collection of Spanish paintings, one of which is El Greco's Lady in a Fur Wrap. Located nearby Pollok House is the Burrell Collection which holds one of the nation's finest private collections of European paintings, beautiful tapestries, stained-glass and medieval and post-medieval European art.

Museum of Transportation  This outstanding museum, located in Kelvin Hall, showcases the advancement of transportation in the city during the 19th to the early 20th century.

Art Deco shop fronts line a reconstructed 1938 street and include a cinema where you can view intriguing footage of the town.


Subways  The underground is a simple circular subway with 15 stops serving the West End and the university area from the city center. It's the oldest subway in the world, built in the late 19th century, but looks quite modern thanks to a 1979 facelift. The system is informally known as the "Clockwork Orange" due to the color of the trains.

Buses  The main bus terminal in Glasgow is Buchanan Station, located on Buchanan Street (two blocks north of Queen Street Station) at North Hanover Street.

Trains  ScotRail trains are clean and punctual; rail connections are frequent. There are two train stations in Glasgow: Queen Street Station and Central Station. It's about a ten-minute walk between the two stations. Both stations offer luggage storage. A surface rail system connects Central Glasgow with the suburbs. Queen Street Station serves five routes to the west, Central Station nine routes to the west and south. Other suburban destinations are served by the subway system.


Weather here is generally impossible to predict. Glaswegians rarely leave home without an umbrella about their person. Dampness and clouds rule the west coast of Scotland, and Glasgow is certainly not immune to fog and long grey days. Fall is mild or fairly cold with crisp, frosty mornings, and by December daylight is but a memory after 4pm. Winter brings cold easterly winds and some snow, though more often rain; but it can surprise you with clear and sunny days while other places freeze. Spring is blustery and streets are awash with blossom; summer changes rapidly from clear and sunny to light showers, so don't forget to bring an umbrella.

March  Temperature 33ºF to 48ºF
Daily Hours Sunshine 5
Monthly Rainfall 2"

July  Temperature 50ºF to 70ºF
Daily Hours Sunshine 8
Monthly Rainfall 2.3"

October  Temperature 42ºF to 57ºF
Daily Hours Sunshine 4.4
Monthly Rainfall 2.5"

January  Temperature 33ºF to 42ºF
Daily Hours Sunshine 2.2
Monthly Rainfall 2.3"

Synchronize your watches  Scotland is 5 hours ahead of E.S.T. If it's 8am in Boston, it's 1pm in Glasgow. Great Britain is one hour behind of its continental cousins (France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany) but in the same time zone as Ireland and Portugal.

Money, money, money  As all over The United Kingdom, the best way to get Pounds Sterling is to withdraw money from a bank using your ATM card. Paying wherever you can with a credit or a debit card is, of course, a pleasure. When it comes to changing money, banks are just as expensive as Bureaux de Change and can take forever. In general, with the exception of some shops devoted solely to the tourist trade, traveler's checks in Europe cannot be used as a substitute for cash. There is no advantage in buying traverler's checks in Pounds Sterling. You will still have to change them.

The joy of servitude  Restaurant checks almost always include a 10% to 15% service charge. If a service charge has not been included, it is customary to leave a few additional pounds behind based on the level of service you have received.

The mailman cometh  Mail service to and from Glasgow is reliable and inexpensive, however, it is not cheap to send parcels abroad. You can purchase postage stamps at many newsagents or petrol stations. The main post office in Glasgow is located on St. Vincent Street. Post offices are usually open from 9am-5:30pm Monday through Friday and 9am-12:30pm on Saturdays.

Please wait while we try to connect you  As usual, the golden rule is never call home from your hotel. It will cost a fortune. Public telephones are easy to find and easy to use. They accept telephone cards that can be bought in at any newsagent.

The access code to put you through to an ATT operator from Great Britian is 0800 89 0011. For MCI it is 0800 89 0222.


The brew is spelled "whisky" in Scotland and "whiskey" (with an "e") only if it's made in Ireland. The name comes from the Gaelic words wisge-beatha, meaning water of life. In the Middle Ages, whisky was officially called aquavita, water of life in Latin. There are many distilleries in the Highlands and Islands, with a much greater variety of whiskies available there than are to be found down in England. Brands in England will go up to 70º proof; in Scotland you will find whiskies up to 100º proof. There are three types of whisky: malts, grains and blends. Malt is the oldest type, distilled from fermented barley, and generally considered the best. It varies immensely in taste according to the peat content in the soil and the characteristics of the stream water. Grain whisky is distilled from unmalted barley and is popular because of the large quantities it can yield in a short period of time, but lacks the quality of pure malt whisky. Most brands of whisky are blends of grain and malt. Blended whiskies are made from a mixture of up to 50 different malts. The only other ingredients should be yeast and water from streams. Specifics of the manufacturing process differ slightly but in general whisky takes about three weeks to make. The barley is malted (ie. left in water to germinate); dried; mashed; fermented with the addition of yeast, and distilled. The whisky is then left, normally in oak barrels, for a period of at least three years to mature. Et voilà. (Incidentally, the word "Scotch" applies only to whisky. Otherwise the word is "Scottish.")


Haggis, an epicurial specialty, is made of spiced sheep's intestines mixed with oatmeal. Perhaps not appealing to the American people, in certain circumstances, it tastes surprisingly good; generally accompanied with turnips ('neeps') and potatoes ('tatties'). For the faint of heart there is such a thing as vegetarian haggis.

For those who are not as prone to this culinary adventure, traditional favorites are available. Such dishes include salmon, kippers, angus steak, scotch broth, venison and stovies. End your meal with a typical dessert of Scotch pancakes served warm with butter and honey, syrup or jam or sweet butterscotch tart.


When shopping in Glasgow, you will come across typical Scottish items, such as delicately- designed glassware, handmade jewelry, tartan kilts and Arran or Shetland knitted sweaters (jumpers). The prime shopping area in Glasgow is around Princes Square. The Barras, open on weekends, offers almost anything for the bargain hunter. Most shops are open from 9:30am to 5:30pm Monday through Saturday.


January 1 & 2 (New Year)
Late March/early April (Good Friday)
First Monday in May (May Day)
Last Monday in May (Spring Bank Holiday)
First Monday in August (Summer Bank Holiday)
December 25 (Christmas Day)
December 26 (Boxing Day)


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