***image1***Planning a trip to Scotland? With Ryan Air’s low fares and the summer travel season upon us, Scotland is a frequent stop for many travelers, and Glasgow is often the point of entry. With that assumption fully entrenched in my approach – hey, maybe you drove, floated, railed, or even backpacked – all paths will still likely lead you to Glasgow.
However, before I discuss the city proper, please allow me to jump right in with my very own travel tips:
Forget the rental car! You can catch a train from Prestwick International Airport to Glasgow’s Central Station for two pounds, 50 pence by showing your Ryan Air travel confirmation to the conductor – there’s no ticket purchase area in the terminal – you purchase your ticket after boarding.
As for travel once you reach Glasgow, Edinburgh is only a short train ride from Glasgow, and at a round-trip cost of less than 10 pounds per person. You can purchase a ticket for just over five pounds during non-peak travel times. By comparison, a day of parking in an Edinburgh parking garage will cost you 13-15 pounds, maybe more.
The Glasgow Tourist Information Center, located on George Square, can provide additional information on bus tours to anywhere else in Scotland, all at a reasonable rate. You might check their web site at www.seeglasgow.com.
If you plan to stay over a long weekend or only a few days, the sites of Glasgow can keep you busy enough. If your stay is longer, I suggest you spend several days in Glasgow, but plan a trip to Edinburgh too for a couple of days.
Now, once you’ve settled into your accommodations, I strongly urge you to make a beeline for the information center mentioned earlier. Besides offering a wealth of information on current tours, and all your usual tourist-type stuff, the tourist center is the launching place for several city bus tours. We chose City Sightseeing Glasgow (www.citysightseeingglasgow.co.uk), but all of the agents offer a one- to two-hour tour of Glasgow, with the opportunity for you to get off and on at numerous stops along the way, staying as long as you’d like at each stop. The buses return to the stops every 15 to 20 minutes, and the tours cost from three pounds per child up to eight pounds for an adult, with discounts often available. The first tour generally starts at 9:30 a.m., with the last bus heading out on the route at 4:15 p.m., each day during the summer.
As for the “nature” of Glasgow, it has successfully transformed from an industrial city to a center of culture. It hosts museums and centers of learning, to include the impressive Museum of Transport (free admission) to the Glasgow Science Center. The science center charges an entrance fee, and houses a superb collection of hands-on science-related activities for kids of all ages. You can also visit the IMAX Theater, adjacent to the science center, for an additional fee.
***image2***Of course, you may want to see Glasgow University then stop at the nearby Hunterian Art Gallery and Museum, visit the botanical gardens, or even take a tour of Glasgow’s gallery of modern art. Whatever your interests, the bus tour can provide you with a snapshot of the city, and all it has to offer. Oh yeah, one hint, hop from bus to bus. In other words, get off at a stop, and then get back on a subsequent bus. You’ll find all of the tour guides informative and interesting, but each presents a slightly different perspective, and they’re all fascinating.
And yes, the food – forget the stereotypical notion of bland cuisine and sheep entrails – sure, all that’s available, but Glasgow hosts many exquisite restaurants. You’ll find all the old familiar haunts too, from KFC and McDonald’s to TGIF. I recommend you skip these and try the all-you-can-eat Mongolian barbecue at Khublai Khan’s, a superb Italian feast at L’ariosto’s or a cup of strawberry tea with a slice of carrot cake at the Willow tearoom on Sauchiehall Street, instead. Glasgow has no shortage of fine dining, but you may need a reservation to ensure entry.
The city also provides four large shopping centers, Braehead Shopping and Leisure Center (www.braehead.co.uk), Buchanan Galleries (www.buchanangalleries.co.uk), Princess Square (www.princessquareglasgow.co.uk) and St. Enoch Center (www.stenoch.co.uk). You’ll find numerous shops along the city’s streets as well, ranging from the inexpensive to the pricey. Most close daily by 6 p.m., but are opened until 8 p.m. Thursdays.
Like most European cities, Glasgow has a wonderful transportation system. The underground subway will carry you around the city central for one pound 80 all day and the trains from Central Station to areas beyond. Taxicabs are both reasonably priced and abundant.
While I’ve only touched the surface of what you can see and do in Glasgow, in the end, I think you’ll find Glasgow quite metropolitan and its residents accommodating – if not friendly. There’s no shortage of national pride, but like most places, a warm greeting and a smile will be likewise returned.