Thanks to a recent work opportunity, last weekend I was fortunate enough to enjoy a couple of sun-soaked days in Glasgow. This is a city of great art, distinctive red and beige sandstone architecture and fantastically friendly people who compensate for the relative lack of sun by kindling warm conversation whenever and wherever possible. The West End, where I have family, is a particular favourite space for me. Now the Sun and Glasgow may not always be on the best of terms but this is a city that has plenty of charm whether or not the sun appears. When it does, however, the streets of the West End come alive with spirited people. So what to do? Follow me …
First stop: Coffee. A must to start my day. Kothel on the Crow Road affords a welcome like very few other places. Ed Avdiasi and his cousin Ben are some dapper gents with great taste and an appreciation for the charms of yesteryear, who welcome patrons with sincere hospitality. The decor in Kothel is a special mix of reclaimed hardwood countertops, soaring ceilings, and well placed antique curiosities. The cakes, coffee, focaccia sandwiches and platters will fuel you up when you want to wander. I chose to start my day here more than once. I also ate on another occasion at their sister location, Pianola, where the decor is similarly impressive, the service is warm and the Italian menu unfussy and honest.
After some steady jolts of caffeine, my legs carried me down towards Hyndland Road. Do stop at the Hyndland Bookshop which is a credit to independent bookshops and the joy of reading. Once you’ve stocked up with some good reading material, keep walking. It’s time to appreciate some of the best things in life, which sometimes do happen to be free. At the intersection of Byres Road and The Great Western Road, Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens are a wonder that never cease to lift the spirits. Also on days of inclement weather, the shelter and warmth of its Victorian greenhouses, bursting with an anthem of colour and life makes one feel, well, alive. Think pink, lush green and a riot of bloom. The city’s slogan Let Glasgow Flourish is really exemplified by this horticultural paradise. The Kibble Palace with its glass dome, marble statues and circular layout are a particular favourite, able to transport you into another space and time.
Now that you saved your pennies and refreshed your lungs let’s talk shop again. Glasgow has plenty of retail therapy. My number one stop this trip was First Trade Days, located down Ruthven Lane, past the Hanoi Bike Shop and around the corner. The selection of pottery, crafts, and some independent mags I had never previously encountered really appealed to me.
A wee bit farther down the lane in the Ruthven Mews Arcade is an antiques shop, The Studio, run by Liz McKelvie for lovers of the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau movement, with an emphasis on the Glasgow style. Some astonishingly beautiful works move through here. Coincidentally, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, has a good little exhibition running currently regarding Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style. Both are well worth a look.
Hungry again? Thirsty? Well not far away, on Ashton Lane a host of options await. All sorts of smartly dressed sorts are out, some contemporary, some kilted and more traditional seem to frequent this chic alley. I stopped in at the Ubiquitous Chip on more than one occasion, usually for a pint but also for a lunch of Chorizo Mussels once. The service is friendly and there’s a dining room, brasserie and a pub, so you can choose your level of formality.
I can’t really get enough of Glasgow, even when I restrict my movements to the West End. It has a feel unlike any other city, and this is only a small glimpse of a place brimming with good people, spontaneous conversation and all sorts of curiosities worth exploring. My advice is wander. Even if the sun disappears there’s always a place to shelter, and find yourself welcomed.
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