The West End
Start: Charing Cross.
Finish: Botanic Gardens.
Time: About 2 to 3 hours.
Best time: Daytime.
Worst Time: Late at night.
Walking Tour: The West End
This walk will give visitors a sense of Glasgow's salubrious and trendy West End, while hitting some of its landmarks as well. The stroll begins in Charing Cross on Sauchiehall Street, but on the western side of the M8 motorway, which is set in a canyon as it bores through the city center. The West End's development began in the 19th century, as the booming city needed more space to house its ever-growing population, which made Glasgow the Second City of the British Empire.
1. Cameron Fountain
From the red stone fountain, built in 1896 and listing considerably eastward, detour briefly a few streets south on North Street to see the Mitchell Library, among the largest public reference libraries in Europe, with its prominent dome.
From the fountain walk up Woodside Crescent to:
2. Woodside Terrace
This late Georgian row of homes (designed by George Smith in the 1830s) began an exemplary New Town development. Here you'll find Greek Doric porticos unlike any in the city. But most of the credit for the overall elegance and charm of Woodlands Hill goes to Charles Wilson, whose designs in the middle of the 19th century are mostly responsible for the terraces up the hillside to Park Circus.
Continue on Woodside Terrace, turning right (north) on Lynedoch Terrace to Lynedoch Street and proceed left (west) to:
3. Trinity College & Park Church Tower
The former Trinity College (now Trinity House) is a landmark whose three towers are visible from many approaches to the city. Designed by Wilson, it was constructed in 1857 as a Free Church College. Most of the original interiors were lost when the complex was converted to flats in the 1980s. Across the broad triangular intersection is the cream-colored Park Church Tower. Part of J. T. Rochead's 1856 design, it is the other feature of the neighborhood recognizable from some distance. Alas, the church that went with the tower was razed in the late 1960s. Similar to the Tolbooth and the Tron Church at Glasgow Cross, only a steeple remains.
From here, go left (south) and follow the gentle curve (west) of Woodlands Terrace, turning right (north) at Park Street South to:
4. Park Circus
This oval of handsome and uniform three-story buildings around a small central garden is the heart of Wilson's plans, designed in 1855. No. 22 (the so-called "Marriage Suites" where the city conducts civil marriages and other ceremonies) offers remarkable interiors with Corinthian columns and an Art Nouveau billiards room. Attendants are not impressed when uninvited visitors just wander in, however. Luckily, the external door is impressive enough. At the western end of Park Circus is Park Gate, leading to an entrance to Kelvingrove Park. This promontory offers excellent views toward the University and south to the River Clyde.
5. Kelvingrove Park
Originally West End Park, the development of this hilly and lush open space on the meandering banks of the River Kelvin was commissioned to Sir Joseph Paxton in 1854, although construction apparently began a year before he produced his plans. At this elevated entrance is the statue of Lord Roberts on his steed. Down the hill to the left, the Gothic Stewart Memorial Fountain includes signs of the zodiac and scenes that depict the source of the city's main supply of water: Loch Katrine. Crossing the river below Park Gate at the Highland Light Infantry Memorial is the faded red sandstone Prince of Wales Bridge. Across the bridge looking back at you is the head of historian/writer Thomas Carlyle emerging from the roughly hewn stone.
If facing the bridge at the infantry memorial, go right (north) and follow one of the two paths that run along the river and exit the park at:
6. Gibson Street
Leaving the park, turn left (west) and cross the short road bridge that brings you into the Hillhead district, which includes the main campus of the University of Glasgow on Gilmorehill, and the NHS Western Infirmary.
7. Stravaigin Cafe Bar
On Gibson Street, Stravaigin Cafe Bar (28 Gibson St.; tel. 0141/334-2665) is an ideal place to stop for a coffee, a bite to eat, or a drink. "Stravaig" means "to wander" in Scots. The basement restaurant is one of the most innovative and well-regarded in the city, and the same chefs prepare food on the less adventurous but still excellent cafe/bar menu. Alternatively, if you just want a coffee or cup of tea, try Offshore Café across the street.
Continue west on Gibson Street to Bank Street, go right (north) 1 block to Great George Street, then left (west) 1 block to Oakfield Avenue and:
8. Eton Terrace
Here, on the corner across from Hillhead High School, is the unmistakable hand of Alexander "Greek" Thomson on an impressive (if rather poorly maintained) terrace of eight houses completed in 1864 (following his similarly designed Moray Place). Two temple-like facades serve as bookends -- both pushing slightly forward and rising one floor higher than the rest -- which have double porches fashioned after the Choragic Monument of Thrasyllus in Athens. For all his admiration of Eastern design, Thomson ironically never traveled outside the U.K.
Return to the corner of Great George Street and follow Oakfield Avenue, crossing Gibson Street to University Avenue, then turn right up the hill to the:
9. University of Glasgow
While aficionados rightfully bemoan the loss of the original campus east of the High Street -- which may have offered the best examples of 17th-century architecture in Scotland -- the university moved here in the 1860s. The city could have done worse -- a lot worse. The setting high above Kelvingrove Park is befitting of a center of learning. Englishman Sir George Gilbert Scott (who designed the hotel at London's St. Pancras Station) won the commission. His Gothic revival is punctuated by a 30-m (100-ft.) tower, which rises from the double quadrangle, and provides a virtual beacon on the horizon of the West End. There are fragments of the original university brought from across town, too. For example, the facade of Pearce Lodge, as well as the salvaged Lion and Unicorn Stair at the chapel. The cloistered vaults and open columns under the halls between the two quads evoke a sense of meditation and reflection. From here you can enter the Hunterian Museum, whose exhibits include ancient coins, as well as geological and archaeological discoveries.
Cross University Avenue north to Hillhead Street and view the:
10. Hunterian Art Gallery
Built in the 1980s next to the university library, the Hunterian Art Gallery houses the school's permanent collection, which includes 18th- and 19th-century Scottish art as well as many works by American James McNeill Whistler. Scottish-Italian pop art pioneer, the late Eduardo Paolozzi, designed the chunky, cast-aluminum internal doors to the main exhibition space.
Incorporated into the building past the gift shop is:
11. Mackintosh House
Charles Rennie Mackintosh's and his wife, Margaret Macdonald's, West End home (originally nearby and demolished by the university in the 1960s) has been replicated here, with furniture and interiors designed by the pair. Visitors to the Mackintosh House enter from the side (the front door is actually several feet above the level of the plaza outside) to see the entry hall, dining room, sitting room with study, and the couple's bedroom. On the top floor is the replica of a bedroom he designed for a house in England: His final commission.
Return to University Avenue, exit turning right to:
12. University Gardens
This fine row of houses was designed primarily by J. J. Burnet in the 1880s, but it is worth stopping for -- especially to admire no. 12, which was done by J. Gaff Gillespie in 1900 and exemplifies Glasgow Style and the influences of Mackintosh and Art Nouveau.
Continue down University Gardens past Queen Margaret Union and other university buildings, going left down the stairs just past the Gregory Building. At the bottom, follow the sidewalk and turn right onto:
13. Ashton Lane
This cobbled mews is the heart of West End nightlife, although it bustles right through the day, too, with a mix of students, university instructors and staff as well as local residents. The host of bars, cafes, and restaurants includes the venerable Ubiquitous Chip, which can be credited for starting (in 1971) the ongoing renaissance of excellent cooking of fresh Scottish produce.
Continue onwards to:
Especially welcome on nice days, Brel (39-43 Ashton Lane; tel. 0141/342-4966), a bar and bistro, provides both outdoor and conservatory seating in the back. It has a Belgian theme, serving mussels and European beers.
Go left past the Ubiquitous Chip down the narrow lane to Byres Road. Here is an underground station, and you can catch the train back to the city center. Otherwise, turn right onto:
15. Byres Road
Full of bars, cafes, restaurants, and a panoply of shops, this is the proverbial Main Street of Glasgow's West End. Rarely less than buzzing, the road, for many, exemplifies the lively district. If you're not in a hurry, the tree-lined streets running west from Byres Road, such as Huntly Gardens, merit a detour to see the proud town houses.
Proceed north up Byres Road to:
16. Great Western Road
It took an 1836 Act of Parliament in London to create this street, then a new turnpike road into the city. Today, its four lanes remain a main thoroughfare in and out of Glasgow. A stroll west for five or six blocks from this intersection at the Botanic Gardens will reveal the opulent terraces (including one by "Greek" Thomson) along the boulevard's southern flank. Going in the opposite direction takes you to more retail shops. At this corner, the former Kelvinside Parish Church has been converted into a bar, restaurant, and center for the performing arts called Oran Mor.
Cross Great Western Road to the:
17. Botanic Gardens
Neither as extensive nor as grand as the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, this hilly park is pleasant nonetheless. One main attraction is the extensively refurbished Kibble Palace, a giant, domed, cast-iron-and-glass Victorian conservatory with exotic plants. Other greenhouses contain orchid collections, while the outdoor planting includes a working vegetable plot, roses, and rhododendrons, and beds with lots of flowering perennials.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.