Newest Review: ... friendly and vibrant city that doesn't stand still. In recent years, Glasgow has underwent a massive transformation, demolishing the old ... more
Fly in the ointment
Glasgow in General
Member Name: cpf1993
Glasgow in General
Date: 19/06/02, updated on 19/06/02 (414 review reads)
Advantages: Great public transport, great shops, great restaurants
Disadvantages: Bigotry, bad weather, not car friendly
Picture living in Scotland's central belt. To the West of you is Greenock, a scenic drive into an admittedly run-down area. South-West of you is Ayrshire, full of beaches and short breaks to wonderful places like Millport and Arran. To the North-West is Loch Lomond, North of you are the Trossachs, North-East of you is historical Stirling. Traveling East takes you towards Edinburgh, South-East into the Clyde Valley and places like New Lanark, while the road South can get you anywhere pretty quickly.
Yes, Scotland is a fantastic country with lots of beautiful attractions. However right in the middle of all this is Glasgow, to me the fly in the ointment. Now admittedly I am more than a touch biased having worked in Glasgow for four and a half years, but to me it shows some of the worst of what Scotland has to offer. However there is a lot of good to it as well.
So starting with the bad...
1 - Sectarianism
Think it only exists in Ireland? Sorry, the Catholic/Protestant divide exists in the West of Scotland too. It is over the entire region, but with Rangers and Celtic at the heart of it I'm afraid it is concentrated in Glasgow. If you have never experienced it before it will shock you, even if you only hear about it through "light-hearted" tales at work.
Also I personally feel that there is a higher proportion of anti-English feeling in Glasgow. Although I have only received a few jibes personally a collective loathing does exist, especially when a World Cup is taking place (I cannot even begin to describe the "fun" that takes place).
2 - Traffic
Want to get somewhere by car? Glasgow really isn't the city to do it in. On occasions when my wife has asked me to pick something up I will try and do it during a lunch hour during the week, rather than having to bring the car in. Admittedly traffic isn't as bad during the weekends, but if you leave at the wrong time getting caugh
t up in the post-match traffic from either Ibrox or Parkhead isn't any fun at all.
In the week I quickly found out after moving here that taking the car into work is best avoided. This is for two reasons.
i) If you do not have access to free parking it will generally cost you at least a pound an hour.
ii) The M8 (which I would normally need to use) is a nightmare in the mornings. From one point after junction 13 (traveling westbound) when it is effectively five lanes wide it bottlenecks into being just two lanes wide going through the city centre. If there is a crash of any kind along the way the delays are considerably worse - I personally rate the M8 as being worse than the M25 for traffic and delays (although admittedly I've not had to use the M25 very much).
Looking on the bright side both traffic and parking regulations/costs are a lot better at night, and to be fair it is marginally more car-friendly than Edinburgh.
3 - Grey and depressing
On its day, when the sun is shining, Glasgow can look fabulous. However when the clouds come over the high proportion of grey buildings really do make it feel grim and depressing. There is not a lot of greenery around the city either, something I especially miss in the summertime. George Square (approximately ten minutes walk from where I work) does have some lawns to relax on, but unsurprisingly they are very busy in the summer.
4 - Weather
It is not just the clouds that I mentioned earlier, it is not just the cold, the weather is just generally bad.
There are some days when I am commuting into work that the weather progression seems like this:
Get into car at home - seems like a nice day.
Get onto bus in a nearby town (Wishaw/Motherwell) - a bit worse, breezy and a touch overcast.
Arrive in Glasgow - where did the gusty wind and dark skies come from?
Just after moving up here I was warned, "Don't go into Glasgow wit
hout an umbrella." When it rains here it can very quickly turn into a deluge, which is not a lot of fun!
In addition to this during the winter you walk around a street corner and are greeted with a significant gust of wind, the type which sends a chill right through you. It makes Glasgow feel significantly colder than it probably is during the winter. It would be easier if we got nice summers, but at the moment we are struggling through a second consecutive year of terrible summer weather. Not funny!
5 - Hilly
Perhaps not significant to everyone, but the City Centre is surprisingly hilly. If you catch a train to Central Station and never leave Argyle Street you won't see it, but if you explore up Buchanan Street (and towards either the bus station or Queen Street railway station) you will quickly become aware of it. You do not want to venture up Montrose Street to Strathclyde University either, as it is possibly one of the steepest roads I have ever seen!
Again, it is not something you may consider, but walking around the city can be more strenuous because of it.
Glasgow does have a good side (honestly!), and here are some of those for you to consider:
1 - Public transport
Probably the best use of public transport I have seen in Britain outside of London. I have commuted into Glasgow by coach for almost as long as I have worked here, and it really is the best option to take. Express buses into Glasgow seem to run from just about everywhere, and if they are anything like the one I take they are probably very affordable (I currently pay £11.50 for a ten-journey ticket).
Trains are also very popular. Along with mainline expresses the two City Centre stations (Glasgow Central and Queen Street) are well served from all directions, although a popular topic on the METRO letters page is how overcrowded many of the services are.
In my opinion (based on personal experiences and hearing f
rom workmates who actually live in the city) Glasgow is one place where you can easily survive without a car. However once you get outside the city it is a little bit different, and a car is (in my opinion) essential.
2 - Shopping
I have to admit that because I work in Glasgow five days a week I like to see as little of it as possible at other times, and will generally only go into Glasgow on weekends if I am dragged kicking and screaming by my wife. Being fair though, the shops in Glasgow are excellent.
If you only count indoor centres you have three main choices:
BUCHANAN GALLERIES (Buchanan Street, City Centre): Very clothes orientated, somewhat up market, big branch of John Lewis, over 70 shops. (www.buchanangalleries.co.uk)
ST. ENOCH CENTRE (just off Argyle Street, City Centre): More of a mixture of stores, less up market, nicknamed "The Greenhouse" as it has a colosal glass roof (which leaks in the winter and traps heat in the summer, not a good combination), over 80 shops. (www.stenoch.com)
BRAEHEAD CENTRE (off J25, M8, west of the city): A lot of clothes shops, but a good mixture, excellent food court and free parking (6500 spaces). Personally I find it a bit out of the way and end up thinking that it always disappoints me slightly. Over 100 shops. (www.braehead.co.uk)
Further to that if you're prepared to venture outside there are countless other big stores on Argyle Street, Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street, including large branches of chains such as Marks and Spencer. Tip of the hat to Glasgow here, for shopping it is superb.
3 - Restaurants
I have to admit to being positively biased here, as Glasgow has a few of my favourite restaurants.
There are not many places that you will find two superb Mexican restaurants, but you can in Glasgow. Driftwood (formerly "Los Borrachos") on St. George's Road and Cantina Del Ray in King's Court are both super
b. On a more general scale I really like The Crystal Palace on Jamaica Street, a Wetherspoon's pub where food is both cheap and of good quality.
Glasgow seems to have a good mix of various national restaurants. A number of Tapas bars have sprung up recently, and I have also seen a Sushi bar to go along with the more typical choices (Chinese, Italian, Indian, etc.). There is also a good choice of higher market places, which I have to admit are not my kind of thing. Still, whatever your choice of restaurant, you are likely to be able to find it in Glasgow.
So overall Glasgow gets a grudging 3/5 from me. I am not a fan of it, but see what it has to offer. I would perhaps enjoy it more if I saw it on my own terms - time to search the job ads I think!
More reviews in the field of Destination National
- Fantasy Island Fun Park (Weymouth, Dorset)
- Sandworld International Sand Sculpture Park (Weymouth, Dorset)
- Come into Play (Stone, Staffordshire)
- Wiseman's Bridge Campsite (Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire)
- Ilford Town Centre (Ilford, Essex)
- West End of London (England)
- East End (Glasgow)
- North of the City (Glasgow)
- South Side (Glasgow)
- Glasgow City Centre (Scotland)