Having grown up and lived in Glasgow most of my life, I have watched it transform from a rather unattractive post industrial weed into a colourful bloom, worthy of its place in the cultural garden of Europe. As part of its reinvention, this 'Dear Green Place' on Scotland's west coast is gradually learning to capitalise on the talented art and design scene that has always been present in the city but not always marketed as one of its major assets. Creative studios have been reclaiming historical buildings, world class museums now attract visitors from every part of the globe and public art has appeared all over the city.
I moved out of Glasgow almost 3 years ago and each time I return I notice more changes, some subtle and some designed to make a bolder statement. The street art scene in the city has exploded over the last few years and this artistic development made such an impact on me it was the very first topic I wrote about on this blog!
With my blog turning 2 next month I decided it was time to revisit the street art of Glasgow that first inspired me to put finger to keyboard to find out how it has been progressing and I'm glad to report that almost 2 years on, we are both flourishing!
These days, Glasgow's street art has spread its graffiti tentacles all over the city, however a walk around the centre provides a good introduction to the diverse range of murals that have been commissioned since 2008 to brighten up neglected spaces. The nature of street art means that new pieces appear while other pieces disappear; it is an every changing open air gallery which can be enjoyed for free by anyone at anytime. I'm a huge fan of the murals and judging by the amount of people that were clicking away on cameras and phones next to me, I'm not alone.
If you want to find out more about the Glasgow city centre street art murals, here is an introduction to some of the main artists and venues.
Street Artist - Smug
Smug One (aka Sam Bates) is an Australian born street artist based in Glasgow and as you walk the streets of the city it is hard to miss his enormous works of art that often adorn entire gable end walls. His pieces are completed freehand using aerosol cans and in my humble opinion he is one of the most talented street artists in the world. Here are a few of his most prominent works in the city centre.
If you are looking for a historical escape within an hours drive of Glasgow or Edinburgh, Biggar might just be the ideal place for you. Add in a large dose of lush, green hills and a higher than average ratio of award-winning local businesses and a short break in this characterful South Lanarkshire town will easily satisfy most needs.
The area in and around Biggar occupies an important strategic position between the rivers Tweed and Clyde, which has resulted in people settling here since prehistoric times. In the 14th Century, the Fleming family were given lands in the area by Robert the Bruce, whose cause they had supported. The Flemings later built Boghall Castle, one of the largest and most imposing castles in the south of Scotland and a few remains from the building can still be seen today. The Flemings found themselves on the wrong side in the 16th Century, when they supported Mary, Queen of Scots, and their lands were given over to the Elphinstone family.
Biggar was also a principal stopping off point on the old Pedlars' Way from Edinburgh to the South West of Scotland which attracted everyone from royalty to hawkers and some famous names in Scottish history including the usual suspects, William Wallace, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Robert Burns, have all been associated with the town.
Sitting on the Northern edge of the Southern Uplands and surrounded by rolling hills, a visit here also offers the promise of a rural escape with a variety of countryside walks starting nearby and the many independent stores will also cater to those in need of a shopping fix!
To help make the most of your stay I've devised a suggested a 2 day itinerary to help you discover the best of Biggar.
MORNING - VISIT THE EXCELLENT BIGGAR MUSEUM
Definitely not stuffy and boring, The Biggar and Upper Clydesdale Museum is a recent addition to the town and what a fabulous addition it is! The light, bright and imaginative displays span 14,000 years of Biggar's rich archaeological, social and historical heritage. I particularly loved exploring Gladstone Court at the back of the museum, where old shops, businesses and even a working telephone exchange have been recreated. Great value at £5 entry and a fantastic introduction to the history of the town, a must do during your visit!
Biggar High Street is not particularly long, yet it is bursting with awards and pride. Reflecting its history as a busy and significant market town, most of the businesses remain independent. It seems that every other window proudly displays at least one certificate (often several) for a recently won accolade. From ice-cream to books, the range of honoured businesses are as diverse as their awards,
I popped in to Biggar Flavour, the local bakery which as you might now have guessed, has won several awards. I was in a cake heaven dilemma with over 50 types of freshly baked goodies to choose from with so many flavours I'd never seen before. Gooseberry and Hazelnut and Carrot and Courgette cakes are just some of the more unusual creations on offer! I opted for a lemon coconut bar which went down a treat with a cup of tea in my hotel room later :-)
GRAB SOME LUNCH AT A LOCAL CAFE
When you're all shopped out head for lunch at one of the local cafes. I managed to get a seat at The Olive Tree, a local deli with a few tables. I opted for whisky and marmalade pate on toast which was served with sun dried tomatoes, a light and tasty combination. This is also a good place to pick up a bottle or two of Broughton Ale which is brewed in the neighbouring village.
If you can't get a table here then there are plenty other choices for lunch along the High Street.
AFTERNOON - EXPLORE THE HERITAGE TRAIL
I really believe that the best way to get to know a place is on foot, wandering along the streets, taking your time to look up at the buildings and probing all the dark nooks and crannies. The Biggar Heritage Trail is a great resource that encourages you to explore and learn about the history, characters and legends that are interwoven in the fabric of this picturesque market town. The trail is easy to follow in an afternoon and a few of the interesting places to look out for include
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