A beginner’s guide to Glasgow and Edinburgh
Scotland is a fascinating country, with diverse landscapes and communities to discover. Most likely, your gateway into Scotland will be through the major cities of either Glasgow or Edinburgh – both of which are worthy destinations in their own right.
The history of this heartland of the industrial revolution is impressive. Tracing its origins back to medieval times, Glasgow has always been an important political and trading centre. While east-coast rival Edinburgh may be more postcard-pretty, Glasgow has cultivated a gritty, urban appeal that can make it a more interesting proposition.
A good starting point is the River Clyde which cuts through the city. Glasgow’s shipyards have, in the past, made the Clyde a fairly murky river, but improving water quality has seen salmon, otter, and seal become regular visitors once again. Sea-planes land on the river, ferrying passengers from the islands that are scattered along the coast.
Also worth checking out is the impressive Kelvingrove Museum – a stunning building and a landmark for the city.
While much of the day-to-day action is found in Glasgow’s central business district, you’ll get a different perspective on life in the city’s West End. This is where you’ll find the Glasgow University precinct. Head to the Ashton Lane area for bars and restaurants and a night out with a vibrant crowd.
For the LGBTQ traveller, there’s a busy bar and club scene that caters to pretty much all tastes - from Bears in the West at Revolver in the city centre, to Bitter Glitter at Bennets in nearby Glassford Street, or Sugar Rush at FHQ in John Street. Major events include Pride Scotia in June, and Glasgay cultural festival in October. If you fancy a bit of exercise, the local branch of Front Runners meets every Thursday and welcomes visitors to run with them.
If you strike it lucky with some sunny weather, Glasgow Green is worth exploring. This open expanse of parkland sweeps from the High Court on Saltmarsh down and along the River Clyde. The stately Winter Garden houses tropical plants from around the world.
Another area of Glasgow worth investigating is the Merchant City - a quarter that came to prominence in the late 18th century as the location for the warehouses and residences of the wealthy shipping magnates. Having fallen into disrepair in the 1960s, the area has been regenerated and now offers great shopping, cafes, and restaurants amidst the grand Victorian buildings.
It’s hard not to be a little overwhelmed by the beauty of old Edinburgh.
Like something out of a Harry Potter movie, this is an ancient city defined by its cobbled streets, old stone buildings, and steep stone steps that away down narrow alleyways.
It doesn’t take too much imagination to visualise Edinburgh as the medieval power house that it once was, and while still one of the UK’s pre-eminent cities, by day Edinburgh’s cobbled streets are awash with tacky “olde fayre” tempting the tourists to part with their cash.
This is a city where you need to look beyond the obvious, a city in which you need to immerse yourself in order to really get an understanding of what it’s like to live here.
This is where you’ll find the massive Edinburgh Festival. New Year’s Eve is also a big deal in Edinburgh, and definitely worth experiencing.