Impressions of Glasgow


Before the weekend, one of Astrid’s colleagues told her that Glasgow was the most American of UK cities.  While I’m not sure if I would have thought that on my own, with the seed planted I could definitely see why one would say that.  The city center has a solid grid pattern of streets, with some one-way streets, and the streets are generally relatively wide (at least for Europe!).  There are also several multi-story parking garages to be found, with a fair amount of on-street parking as well. 

Hilly areas, one-way streets - a little slice of San Francisco perhaps?

Finally, there are some highways (excuse me, motorways) that stink of American style; as Wikipedia so kindly tells us, the M8 motorway in Glasgow is “unique amongst UK motorways in that it directly serves (and bisects) a large urban area, whereas most other motorways bypass such conurbations.”   None of this bears any resemblance to other UK cities I’ve seen, especially London.   

Anderston Station, serving Glasgow's Financial District just west of Glasgow Central Station, is buried in highway overpasses. This is not a European scene!

As Astrid mentioned, Glasgow is actually fairly well known for its large towers of public housing (known as council housing here), which does bring to mind the famous “projects” in places like Chicago or Baltimore…and, like those American cities, we saw some in the process of being demolished – although I don’t know if they are replacing them with attempts at creating “communities” of “townhouses” as well. 

A sample of what we saw from the train and driving around...

My first impression upon arrival at Glasgow Central, after 5 hours on the train from London, was that Glaswegians were older, poorer, and heavier than Londoners.  Like Astrid said, though, London is artificial – with lots of rich young beautiful people (plus us!).  Glasgow is more real, then, one could argue. 

If Glasgow is American in style (or, perhaps more accurately, American cities are Glaswegian in style), it does it pretty darn well.  First, Glasgow Central is a fine portal, fairly simple but probably nicer (and busier) than every train station in America save Grand Central Terminal and maybe LA’s Union Station. 

Glasgow Central Station, the north end of the 400-mile West Coast Main Line from London and the busiest rail station in the UK outside of London.

The pedestrianized streets that Astrid showed pictures of – Buchanan and Sauchiehall Streets – are an appealing combination of old and new, and alive with people, many of whom are actually shopping (compare this to the almost complete failure of pedestrian-only streets or pedestrian “malls” in the US).  While there are primarily chain stores here, they are at least located in the city center, instead of being relegated solely to suburban malls or strips.

Attractive stone buildings at the head of Buchanan Street, filled with Saturday shoppers and strollers.

My colleague who is a born-and-raised Glaswegian had warned me to avoid the “dodgy” characters, and perhaps I saw a few, but he also made a list of places worth seeing in his hometown – and it was not a short list!  Overall, I liked Glasgow – it is a real place, for sure, and also has the interesting mix of old and new that I find so interesting in European cities.  It will be interesting to compare to Edinburgh, it’s cross-Scotland rival, when we see that briefly in August.

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Posted on 29/07/2010, in Exploring the UK, travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Well, you saw more of Glasgow than I did when I was there three years ago.
    Hey, John and I are on our way to Turkey tomorrow. We’ll be back on the 16th of August, so I’ll miss a bunch of your posts. I’m not taking any bloody computer on vacation!
    Love, Suzanne

  2. Did you see anybody who looked like you? I mean you were in the land of your ancestors!! The pictures are great! Appreciate the commentary.
    Love, ywm Valerie

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