About the Clydeside Distillery
Last week I was lucky enough to be one of the first visitors at the new Clydeside Single Malt Whisky Distillery which has just opened in Glasgow and offers tours, a shop, a cafe and of course a chance to sample a few drams. It is one of the first malt distilleries to be built in Glasgow for over a century.
Situated on the banks of the River Clyde just along from other popular city attractions including The Riverside Museum and the SSE Hydro, it forms part of an ongoing regeneration of the area. The Clydeside Distillery is housed in the characterful Old Pump House with a contemporary glass extension occupied by two giant copper stills. The building itself is a perfect representation of the old and new connections that tie the location, owners, production methods and Glasgow's whisky heritage together.
The distillery is able to produce up to 500,000 litres of spirit each year although you will have to wait several years until its first lowland malt will be ready for release. If you are in Glasgow and want to find out more about Scotch Whisky then this is a must visit. Whisky aficionados may be more interested in the history of Clydeside along with the growing revival of uisge beatha in the city.
Dating back to 1877, The Pump House with its distinctive clock tower that now houses Clydeside Distillery is situated at the historic Queen's Dock on the River Clyde. It is by no coincidence that this location was chosen as the latest venture in the very impressive Morrison family whisky portfolio,
The distillery chairman, Tim Morrison, is the great grandson of John Morrison who originally built the dock in 1836. John Morrison later partnered with Thomas Mason to form Morrison and Mason, a civil engineering and building firm that was responsible for building some of the most significant and notable structures in the city including Glasgow City Chambers.
The Pump House was originally designed to provide hydraulic power to operate the swing bridge servicing the commercial dock which witnessed the export of whisky with ships destined for all continents of the world.
Glasgow was once significantly involved in the production of whisky in Scotland and home to countless whisky distilleries with associated blending houses, bonded warehouses, bottling plants and cooperages, although very little evidence of this remains.
The history of the production and export of whisky in the city is told through a short film and self guided tour at the Clydeside Distillery.
Being a Glaswegian I often get asked about things to do in the city and one question I get a lot is for my recommendation of the best Glasgow tours. Until recently I hadn't been on that many tours in Glasgow so I decided to rectify that and have spent the last few months on a mission to discover the top unique tours in the city. After walking countless streets, climbing umpteen stairs, having a peek behind the scenes of several city landmarks and even exploring a few graveyards (all in the name of research!), I'm finally ready to share my findings.
Recommending the best tours in the city is pretty subjective as it really depends on personal interests, so I have decided to include a range of unique tours that in my opinion are 6 of the best in Glasgow...
Glasgow Central Station Tour
If you think a tour of a railway station might be dull, think again, this is actually my top recommended unique Glasgow tour overall, guaranteed to educate and entertain, just remember your hankies!
Paul Lyons is the mastermind behind the 90 minute tours that take you on a journey below the station platforms through forgotten Victorian tunnels and hidden rooms. It is his vision and passion that has made these tours a success and his plans to restore historic parts of the 135 year old station with money raised from ticket sales are commendable. Paul's ability to bring the human stories of the station to life is powerful, when he tells you at the beginning he will have you "Greetin' before the tour is over", he isn't kidding, although pan faced Glaswegian humour is also something he does very well.
It's no surprise that this is also the number one Glasgow tour on TripAdvisor, a well deserved accolade.
Glasgow City Chambers Tour
I've explored Glasgow City Chambers quite a few times over the years and I'm always surprised how few people realise that free guided tours take place every weekday providing a look behind the scenes of this grand Victorian building filled with mahogany, mosaics and marble.
As the seat of political power in Glasgow, the City Chambers was designed to impress and not surprisingly the interior is just as ornate as the exterior. As it is a working building and the headquarters of Glasgow City Council, access to some areas may be restricted at certain times although tours generally take in the opulent banqueting hall, the grand marble staircase which is reputed to be the largest in the world, the portrait gallery and even the opportunity to sit in the Lord Provost's chair, an ideal photo opportunity! I've yet to find a better free tour in the city.
The Friends of Glasgow Necropolis Walking Tour
As part of my research I did a few history based Glasgow walking tours and the only one I felt really stood out as being unique was the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis Tour around the city's most famous graveyard. This might not be everyone's idea of a fun day out but in my experience graveyard's offer one of the best insights into the history of a place and the volunteer guides really bring this city of the dead to life with their knowledge about monuments of interest and anecdotes about people that are buried here.
The Glasgow Necropolis is a 37 acre cemetery which has seen 50,000 burials and is home to 3,500 tombs, some of which are works of art in themselves designed by major architects and sculptors of the time. It also boasts impressive views over Glasgow from the top of the hill and joining a walking tour will really enhance your visit and knowledge about the city.
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.
This year I spent a rather romantic Valentine's night checking out Glasgow's latest winter festival, The Electric Gardens. From 23rd January to the 15th February the Botanic Gardens and the iconic Victorian Kibble Palace were transformed by a display of colourful lights and accompanying soundtrack.
It was a nice way to spend an alternative evening out in the trendy west-end of the city and I also think that the concept of the festival fits in perfectly with the gradual colourful night time transformation of Glasgow city centre over the past few years.
This was the first year of the event and I did think there was scope for improvement, however with the recent announcement that it will return next year I am already looking forward to bigger and better things.
When I was approached by Premier Inn to be their Glasgow city ambassador for the festive period and go on a Christmas themed expedition around the city for the day I jumped at the chance to share some of the best winter fun that is taking place over the holiday season. With the slogan 'Glasgow Loves Christmas' being used to promote the city I was keen to discover what extra offerings were available.
So this weekend I wrapped up warm, charged my camera and put on my special stripy expedition ear muffs before setting out with a vague plan. In case you were wondering my day ended up a going a little something like this...
An early rise, a flurry of snow and several thousand Santas ensured my day started off with a festive bang. The Glasgow Santa Dash is an annual event organised by Glasgow City Council and aims to raise money for nominated charities and good causes.
A sea of red swept through the city centre as Santas of every age and size, Including a few four legged hairy ones, made their way around the 5K route. If you are in Glasgow during December this is a spectacle you won't want to miss and you might even be tempted to take part next year!
Glasgow has had a lot to celebrate in 2014 after being the host city for a very successful Commonwealth Games in the summer, then continuing the party into the autumn by hosting the MTV European Music Awards. As the year draws to an end the city is looking more magical than ever as it sparkles under twinkling lights and the festive revelry begins.
Glasgow is already renowned as one of the best shopping destinations in Europe. With its style mile, designer names, traditional department stores, shopping centres and usual high street offerings there is no shortage of places to find the perfect present. However, Glasgow is also a retail haven for hand made Scottish goods from talented designers which can found at one of the many craft markets that take place around the city and of course at this time of year you can also hunt down some unusual goodies at the annual outdoor Christmas Market. I headed off with my pennies and my Christmas shopping list for some retail therapy at some of my favourite venues.
Frasers Department Store - The city's oldest department store is a much loved Glasgow institution, especially at Christmas time when it's shopping halls are adorned from head to toe in twinkly brilliance. Visiting Frasers at this time of year always takes me back to my childhood and I still find it just as magical an adult.
It really is a shopping mecca and I found myself spending a bit too much time (and money!) wandering around it's maze of floors brimming with tempting treasures.
When you walk around any city it is easy to get distracted by the waves of people, the streams of traffic and the inevitable window shopping. It is all too easy to miss the finer details that make up the urban fabric and the architectural styles of the many buildings.
Glasgow's city centre grid iron street pattern is home to magnificent Victorian masterpieces and Rennie Mackintosh and Greek Thomson gems which sit alongside architectural designs from sturdy medieval stone constructions to sleek contemporary glass formations.
If you're in any city find a place that you lets you gaze across the building tops and it will open up a whole new world to you, ornate carvings, sculptures, domes, towers, spires and characterful spaces hidden from the streets below.
The Lighthouse in Glasgow was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and now houses a visitor and exhibition centre complete with a viewing tower providing an amazing 360 degree panorama of the city. I find the views fascinating and could easily spend hours studying the detail on every building and watching the ever changing skyline as buildings rise and fall.
These photos were taken from my most recent trip there and I would highly recommend a visit but allow yourself plenty of time as you may spend longer than expected drifting among the enchanting city rooftops.
If you had told me when I was a girl growing up in Glasgow that one day I would sail into my home city on the biggest flotilla ever seen on the river to the cheer of thousands of people it would have sounded like a fantastical story. In fact until a couple of months ago I would still never have believed it, yet this week it actually happened and I am still wondering if it was all just an amazing nautical dream.
The Commonwealth Flotilla was timed to coincide with another huge event happening in Glasgow, the Commonwealth Games. Although sailing isn't one of the sporting events in the Games it is one of the events that make up the Olympics and it was a good way of reminding people that sailing is another of the many sports that people can get involved in.
As Saturday morning arrived and my train pulled into Greenock I was almost bursting with excitement. I was soon shown to my transport for the day, the Clyde Clipper, one of two boats run by Clyde Cruises that were taking part.
I had very kindly been invited along by James Stuart, CEO of RYA Scotland to not only experience this once in a lifetime event but to learn more about the opportunities available for people in Scotland to get on the water. I was joined by other excited guests, many of them RYA Gold members and representatives from other agencies looking to promote water based activities available in the country.
With the sound of boat horns and the musical strains of a piper drifting from the quayside we started to move into position.
We were one of the leading boats with the new hybrid CalMac ferry, Lochinvar, guiding us up the Clyde.
The Commonwealth Flotilla was making history as this was the biggest flotilla ever to have sailed up the river with over 250 boats of all shapes and sizes taking part. As we left Greenock behind and boat after boat appeared on the horizon I started to get my first real visual understanding of the scale of the event.
One of the reasons I love Glasgow is the vast amount of free things to do. From attractions to tours, there is always something to do and it is the perfect city for those on a budget
Widely advertised are the big museums and parks which offer amazing experiences and there is a reason that they are so popular. However, there are also plenty of lesser known gems in the city that are equally deserving of a visit and offer a more unique experience.
If you are looking for something alternative to do in Glasgow, then this guide lists ten places and tours that are free and in my opinion worthwhile. As with everything in my travel blog I have visited them all and I'm happy to provide any more information you need although I've included all the links to the appropriate websites.
Although everything listed here are free things to do in Glasgow, I've noted ones that are grateful for donations to help maintain their attraction so please consider this if you enjoyed your visit. I could easily have included another ten so maybe I'll have to work on part 2!
If you're looking for something different to do in the city this is a good place to start.
1. Go on a free walking tour of the Necropolis
Friends of the Necropolis run free walking tours around Glasgow's most famous graveyard. Pointing out monuments of interest and telling the real stories of some of the people that are buried here brings this city of the dead to life. The views at the top are some of the best in Glasgow.
The volunteer guides are very knowledgeable and passionate which really adds to the experience. Tours last approx 2 hrs (mine was almost 2 1/2), wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. The walking tours are free but donations welcome which help towards restoration projects, you also need to book in advance.
2. Visit the Glasgow Gurdwara
The Glasgow Gurdwara serves the Sikh community in the city and beyond. However, it also extends a warm welcome to anyone wishing to visit and free tours can be booked.
Lasting approx 45 mins, tours take in the various areas of the Gurdwara, explain about the Sikh faith and there is the opportunity to enjoy a free meal from the community kitchen.
Glasgow is a mulitcultural city and a visit here helps you understand more about one of the many faiths that make up modern day Scotland.
Shoes should be removed within the Gurdwara and scarves are provided to cover your head.
3. Take a free tour of Glasgow City Chambers
Glasgow City Chambers is the headquarters of Glasgow City Council. Free public tours take place weekdays at 10.30am and 2.30pm, there is no need to book just arrive at the reception.
Tours last approx 40 mins and take in the working area, opulent banqueting hall, marble staircase and portrait gallery. There is even the opportunity to sit in the Lord Provost's chair, an ideal photo!
As the City Chambers is a working building access to some areas may be restricted at certain times.
I highly recommend a visit here as the architecture, artwork and decor are pretty impressive, and in my opinion it is the best free tour in Glasgow!
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