I used to be in Glasgow quite often due to my work and studies, but I never spent much free time in the city. So I decided to change this and got in touch with friends who also work or live in the area and we all met up for a weekend. Scotland and the Highlands are amazingly beautiful, although you must be prepared for unfriendly weather. Glasgow itself is a city that offers many cultural sights and – while often overlooked next to Edinburgh – is an ideal starting place to experience Scotland and I should have done this much earlier.
Trip Date: 09/2018
Trip Duration: 2 Days (weekend, no holiday required)
Trip Cost: ~200€ (100€ / day / person) (moderate)
Day 1: Loch Lomond and City exploration
After an early flight, I made it to Glasgow around noon and checked into the AirBnB. Brilliantly, all the Scottish guys had left it to the German to book the place and I had chosen Maryhill district, since it was much cheaper and close to Westend (where the students are and nightlife is). That might not have been my best decision. The house was nice enough, but Maryhill is quite run-down and not so safe. Still, the location proved better than we thought, but more on that later.
One of our friends who lived in Glasgow picked us all up and off we went for a tour of Loch Lomond and the Highlands. The large lake (Loch means ‘lake’) is part of a national park and located a half-an-hour drive from Glasgow. I did not bring my drone for this trip, but the weather was very Scottish that day, with rain and low clouds, so it wouldn’t have worked anyway. We toured around the lake, stopping at many different spots. I can [recommend] the village of Luss, with its picturesque cottages, and the southern shores near Cameron House. Cameron House is a 17th century castle and quite impressive, sadly it was severely damage in a fire end of last year and is still blocked off. Nonetheless, the area and little bay nearby is beautiful for a walk.
Weather wasn’t too great, so after a quick local dinner (everyone eats early, we had dinner at tea time, so around 5pm) we headed back towards the city and did some exploring, strolling through Westend and heading to Glasgow University. The university is ranked among the top 1% of all universities worldwide. It is one of the four ancient universities of Scotland and was founded in 1451. Famous alumni include Adam Smith, Lord Kelvin, and James Watt. One of my friends had graduated from here and gave us a private tour. The campus grounds are beautiful, as are the views of the city:
You should also stop for pint at Oran Mór – a former Church-turned-pub and home to the “A Play a Pie a Pint” theatre plays. If you have the chance, I strongly [recommend] to walk along Kelvin river. It flows through pretty much all of centre Glasgow, so in the end it turned out to be a lucky coincidence that we booked in Maryhill, as the walkways along the river and below all the old bridges are great for a run or casual walk back from Westend. It stretches all the way to Kelvingrove Park, which is one of the largest parks of the city and very enjoyable. The park also houses the Kelvingrove museum, which is another [recommendation] and – as all museums in Glasgow – free of charge. A good place to stop for a refill is InnDeep, a famous pub located under one of the river bridges about halfway between Maryhill and Kelvingrove Park. Here two shots alongside Kelvin river:
Afterwards we hustled to get back in time to shower and change. Time for Scotstoun Stadium and the first game of the season: Glasgow Warriors vs. Munster. Going there with a big bunch of Glaswegians I think it might be obvious who we rooted for. 😉
It was my first rugby game. I had seen several Football matches and expected it to be similar. It was not. Much more fast-paced and structured, the following quote summarizes Rugby quite well:
“Rugby is a thug’s game, played by Gentlemen and football is a gentleman’s game, played by thugs.”
I am not a big sports watcher and the stadium was small, but the atmosphere was great and we had good fun (and we won 😉 ). Always good to try something new.
Day 2 Cowboys and Vikings
Another beautiful morning in Scotland – weather was really on our side for this trip. I went for a run along Kelvin river and then joined the guys for an early breakfast. We had a long day ahead of us as we planned to drive out to Largs – a small village by the western coast. It’s ~1hr from Glasgow. Largs was the site of the final battle between the Scots and the Norse and marked the final banishing of the Vikings from Scottish lands. It houses a big Viking museum and for many years now, the final battle is reenacted in Largs every September.
The festival includes not only a live battle, but also a rebuilt Viking village, lots of different, crazy festival activities, a large food market, fireworks, and the ceremonial burning of an actual longboat. As the main part of the Viking festival was scheduled for the evening hours, we combined it with yet another festival nearby and headed first across the to the island of Cumbrae. Millport – the only town on the island – hosts the largest country music festival in all of Scotland on the same weekend as the Viking festival and the small island (~1400 people) was swamped by 10 times as many crazy country music fans. Now country music is probably the farthest possible option from my taste in music and so is the typical narrow-minded mentality that goes along with this (they even had some confederate flags up, which really got one of my friends worked up). Still, the isle of Cumbrae is very beautiful and the festival was fun to watch. After a while, we all needed a break from the Cougars in Cowboy hats and headed over to the quiet shores, got ourselves some bottles of Scottish Gin, and sat by the ocean, watching the waves and chatting for a few hours.
With sundown approaching, it was also our queue to take the ferry back and we went for traditional Fish&Chips and afterwards a huge ice cream at Nardini’s. Their ice cream selection is amazing and I can [recommend] to try it out. The fish&chips is also great:
It was finally time for the Viking battle and it started with a fire bearer procession to the shore:
The burning of the longboat was quite an event, although I felt police were a tad bit overrestrictive. I did not get good pictures of the battle itself, as it was quite crowded.
Since the whole place was packed, we headed further out to take some undisturbed shots of the fireworks, as the end of the evening was approaching:
After this, it was a long drive and/or flight back home for all of us and the end to a short but amazing weekend escape in good company.
Glasgow is not a place with that many postcard motifs, but the surrounding highlands are beautiful
- Glasgow University Grounds
- Kelvingrove Park, and the Crescent up the hill
- Loch Lomond, including Cameron House
- Cumbrae Island, don’t miss Crocodile Rock
- George Square (Victorian Architecture)
- During holiday times or when a big trade fair is on, hotel prices jump by 400%. Plan ahead
- Account for bad weather. That is the normal state and if you are prepared, it’s no problem
- Public transport is good and easy to manage. UBERs also get you everywhere fast and cheap.
- Don’t forget to change money, Scotland is part of the U.K. and has the Pound
- No tips when you pick up a drink at the bar, but if you are serviced 10% is common. Same for taxis. Often this cannot be charged to the card, so just leave some coins on the tablec
- Haggis, pudding based on sheep innards mixec with oatmeal and suet. If you like liver or similar dishes, you will like this one. It looks awful but taste is surprisingly good, definintely try.
- Black Pudding (contrary to the name, this is like blood sausage)
- White Pudding (same style as black pudding, but does not contain blood, only regular meat. Probably easier for first timers)
- Fish & Chips
- Yorkshire Pudding – this is like a baked mini cake and goes along well with Sunday roast – pretty good!
- Edinburgh Gin (Try the Elderflower Flavor)
- Scotland is very safe, so is Glasgow overall. Some city districts are not that ideal at night. For example Maryhill or Clydebank, and should be avoided.