If you have a limited amount of time in the city, then these are the highlights we recommend that you try and see. Between them, they cover the broad strokes of Glasgow's history, heritage, and culture. Many are within walking distance of one another, and can all be taken in during a well-planned weekend.
In the few weeks of the year that Glaswegians call “summer,” you will often find residents and students flocking to this park, situated in the West End near the University of Glasgow.
wHERE IS IT?
In the city's West End, with the main gate accessible where Byres Road meets Great Western Road.
The gardens were originally developed in 1817 to supply the university with plants for their botany department. It has an array of glasshouses, but the most impressive is Kibble Palace. The 19th Century greenhouse was initially conceived by John Kibble for his home in Coulport, then a summer retreat for wealthy Glaswegians, but now a Royal Navy Armament Depot. The conservatory was a famous sight of Coulport for over a decade until Kibble himself donated it to the Gardens in 1872. It was dismantled and shipped up the River Clyde on a barge, and reassembled in its current position.
Nearly 130 years later, the ironwork was heavily corroded, and so the Palace was shut between 2003 and 2006 while a £7 million repair project took place. Inside features an array of plant life, trees and herbs, such as the Australian Bottlebrush, Japanese Banana, and Camellia cultivars as well as various statues.
The gardens themselves have hosted numerous events, and continue to do so, including the outdoor Shakespeare festival company Bard in the Botanics. Occasionally they even perform inside Kibble Palace and is well worth trying to catch.
Here you can find Glasgow Cathedral, Provand's Lordship House and Gardens, St. Mungo's Museum of Religious Life and Art, and the Edlington Gate, which leads to the Necropolis.
High Street train station
wHERE IS IT?
The precinct is located north-east of the city centre, at the top end of the High Street, just past Strathclyde University and next to the Necropolis.
Cathedral Precinct was the result of a competition launched in 1985 to redevelop the area and provide a glimpse into Glasgow's past. It was won by architecture firm Page Park, in association with Scottish sculptor Jack Sloan, whose works are dotted around the city.
The precinct is home to Provand’s Lordship House, the oldest building in Glasgow. Across the road is St. Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life & Art and Glasgow Cathedral.
Here you will find Edington Gate, which leads to the Bridge of Sighs and the Necropolis. There are several statues spread across the precinct, including three prominent businessmen from the 19th Century; James Lumsden, James White and James Arthur.
A statue of the Scottish medical missionary David Livingstone faces onto Castle Street. His meeting with Welsh journalist H.M Stanley gave rise to the infamous quote “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” when Stanley finally found Livingstone after an exhaustive search in Africa. The statue was originally placed in George Square, but moved to its current location in 1959. Behind it lies the Bishop’s Castle marker; a stone from the original medieval castle marking the location of the keep.
Just south of the precinct is the small Peace Gardens, with one of Glasgow’s four famous blue police boxes at its corner. Nearby are another two statues. The first is of Norman MacLeod, who was a Dean of the Chapel Royal, and a friend to Queen Victoria. He preached to her and her husband, Prince Albert, when they visited Scotland for the second time in 1844. MacLeod shares both his occupation and first name with his father and son, often leading to confusion.
The second, grander statue is of William II of Scotland (who is also William III of England). He is better known as William of Orange, as he was a Prince of the House of Orange-Nassau, though colloquially he is known as King Billy. The statue was funded by Glasgow businessman James Macrae and depicts William as a Roman Emperor astride a horse. It was originally positioned at Glasgow Cross, but moved to the Precinct in 1923. At the centre of the gardens, there is also a mural entitled "Let Peace Flourish."
Provand’s Lordship was built in 1471 by the then Bishop of Glasgow, Andrew Muirhead. It is believed that the original intention was to provide living quarters for the Preceptor of the nearby hospital. However, historic evidence suggests it was later occupied by a canon of the Cathedral Chapter assigned to the Provan (district) of Barlanark. It is rumoured that the post was handed to the illegitimate sons of Kings. The building was used as a sweet shop and factory in the early 20th Century before the Provand’s Lordship Society raised the funds to buy it and turn it into a museum. They furnished it to look like a 17th Century house with donations from Sir William Burrell (of The Burrell Collection).
The building itself has been renovated several times in order to stop it from falling into ruin. At the rear of the building lies the small, calming St. Nicolas Gardens, which opened in 1995. It features the famous Tontine Faces, which were sculpted by David Caiton. These baroque keystones originally adorned the arches of Glasgow Town Hall when it opened in 1790. When the hall was demolished, the heads were saved but scattered around the city. They were only reunited after their long history was uncovered by journalist James Cowan.
St. Mungo Museum is one of the few museums in the world completely devoted to religion. It is a relatively new addition to the city, having opened its doors in 1993. It was built in an ersatz-medieval style to match the surrounding buildings. It is named after the 6th Century Christian apostle St. Mungo, who was also known as St. Kertigern. he is credited as being the founder of the city of Glasgow.
While St. Mungo is mainly honoured in Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, the museum aims to promote and cultivate understanding between different faiths. It includes works from almost every religion on the planet, including Islamic calligraphy and Scotland's first-ever Zen Garden.
Glasgow Cathedral, also known as the High Kirk of Glasgow and St. Mungo’s Cathedral, was constructed during the latter half of the 12th Century. However, work on the cathedral continued well into the 15th Century. The site was chosen as it was thought to be the resting place of St. Mungo himself. The impressive cathedral is the only one in mainland Scotland to survive with its roof intact after the Scottish Reformation in 1560. This saw the country reject the Pope’s authority and the celebration of Mass forbidden. It only survived because the townsfolk took sole responsibility for repairs to the kirk. King James VI made available the tax from a number of lands in the surrounding area to fund ongoing maintenance.
You can gain access to the Necropolis by passing through the gold and black Edington Gates. They were designed by Glasgow architect David Hamilton in 1838 and produced in the city’s Phoenix Cast Iron Foundry (later known as the Edington Foundry). They were originally located on the Bridge of Sighs, which was designed by David’s son James. The gate features the insignia of the Merchants House, a Clipper Ship, accompanied by their motto, “Toties Redeuntis Eodem,” which translates to “so often returning to the same place.” Beyond this, but before the Bridge of Sighs, are a number of memorials to those lost before their time.
DUKE OF WELLINGTON
Duke of Wellington stands proudly outside of GOMA. His head is almost always decorated with a traffic cone, which has over the years become an unofficial symbol of the city.
Buchanan Street subway
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In front of the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) facing onto Queen Street, looking down the length of Ingram Street
The Duke of Wellington statue is one of the defining symbols of Glasgow. The statue depicts Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, sitting proudly upon his loyal horse, Copenhagen.
The statue was sculpted by Italian artist Carlo Marochetti and erected in 1844. However, it came to prominence in the 1980s when locals started putting a cone on the statue's head. The odd headwear has remained in place ever since, in one form or another.
Over the years, the statue with the traffic cone on its head has become an unofficial symbol of the city. Despite many attempts by Glasgow City Council to remove the traffic cones from the Category-A listed statue, they always seem to find a way back.
More recently, the traffic cone has been used for marketing and decorative purposes. Businesses and organisations design cones displaying messages or icons. In the summer of 2012, it was painted gold to honour the Scottish athletes who won gold medals at the London Olympics Games.