There’s a semi-famous (and somewhat cliched) saying round these parts that runs “Glasgow made the Clyde, and the Clyde made Glasgow”. I’ve absolutely no clue who said it but the more I learn about the city, the more I believe in it. Well, on a sunny day at least…
Once an industrial powerhouse providing passage and commerce across the Atlantic, the 109 mile stretch of water isn’t as well-known for its commercial virtues today as it is towering museums, offices and bridges. However, that doesn’t make it any less important – with millions invested in its regeneration over the last few years. My favourite way to take in all the different ages and layers of Glasgow is a walk along a fairly consistent and straight stretch of the Clyde between Glasgow Green in the East of the city and Riverside Museum in the West. The route itself takes you through the varied history of Glasgow with remnants from its shipping past providing perfect juxtaposition to the huge diversity of new buildings, many originally built for the Commonwealth Games but now utilised for other (dynamic) purposes.
Living in the West-End of Glasgow, I’m beginning from the Riverside Museum and continuing on to Glasgow Green, however it’s not strict. Known affectionately as my ‘walk home from work’, you can join (and continue) the stretch however you want, with the main basis shown on the map above (minus several bridge crossings and aimless wanders back and forth- that’s you to decide what you fancy!).
Glasgow’s got a huge history of incredible architecture; fast-food restaurants, offices and shops all (often unknowingly) find themselves situated in buildings designed by some of Scotland’s most famous, while brick-red tenements allow even the most ordinary of us to live in a considered piece of art. Modern structures, which easily could have been belittled by such ancestors, don’t disappoint when it comes to continuing the legacy and there’s few better known structures from the last few years than the Riverside Museum.
The home of Glasgow’s transport museum, the building was designed by legendary Zara Hadid – one of the most prolific and prestigious names in modern design. Reminding me of an electrocardiogram, the jagged lines sit along the banks like a visual metaphor for their previous importance as the heartbeat of Glasgow. And, even better, it takes a gorgeous photo whatever the angle. Inside, you’ll find a fascinating museum exploring Glasgow’s history and key moments in the history of transport – with over 3,000 items attracting over one million visitors a year (find out more about what’s inside here).
If the building itself isn’t enough, you get a gorgeous view down both sides of the river; one towards the more industrial remnants (a BAE Systems hanger where there’s often top secret building going on and the old crane in Clydebank – below) and one toward where you’ll be walking (the picture at the top of the page). If you haven’t enough time to explore inside the museum (even though it’s free!), the views won’t leave you disappointed. I love nothing more than making the most of scene to the West by watching the sun go down over the Clyde…though if you’re following the route in its whole, you may want to get to the spot a little earlier than that…
Exhibition Way and Pacific Quay
If the Riverside Museum’s one of Glasgow’s most fascinating modern structures, the stretch of river between the SECC and Clyde Arc bridge has to be up there next to it. This is my favourite part of the walk and, I imagine, most other people’s too. With a cluster of the city’s most iconic sites all in the same frame, you could easily spend an afternoon just snapping in this one stretch; switching between the sites themselves and the clever reflections offered by both the river and several of the buildings.
Make the most of the area by walking over the several bridges along this stretch – it’s the one part of the Clyde with multiple crossings, so don’t be afraid to go back and forth – though you’ll want to ensure you’re back on the North side (where the crane and armadillo are) after the Clyde Arc, with the path taking you away from the river shortly afterwards.
From the Finnieston Crane as a towering reminder of the river’s history, to the armadillo (somewhat inspired by the Sydney Opera House) as a reminder of the investment the city saw as part of the 2014 games – on a sunny day, the blue skies make it one of the most snap-worthy stretches of land in the area. On a moody day, it’s sometimes even better.
On a calm night, be sure to head back along to this stretch if you can; crystal clear water combined with illumination around many of the structures create one of the best free light shows in the UK, making it hard to believe that it was only 2001 that the Clyde Waterfront project for regeneration first begin.
While the road gets busier when you hit the city centre, you can still breathe a sigh of relief away from the packed shops, often hidden under the numerous black spots of city bridges (though be warned, they’re not all a pleasant experience and probably won’t be your highlight). If you’re interested in the construction of bridges, you’ll likely find the collection near Glasgow Central station a rare treat; with the remnants of the first 1878 Caledonian Railway bridge next to the still-used 1905 grandeur. However, I’d advise a strong nose – as expected, it’s not renowned for its clear Scottish air.
Five minutes down the waterside walk lies some remnants of Glasgow’s red-brick past with once-grand structures often lying in disarray; some still used, though most empty and neglected, boards standing where shop windows once stood. As part of the city’s wider regeneration, you’ll also find some of the best examples of world-famous street art, brightening up otherwise less photogenic stretches of wall, empty shops and building edges. The vividly ferocious tiger by local artist James Klinge along Broomielaw is one of my favourites (alongside his panda by Mackintosh’s Lighthouse). While it’s difficult to get a shot without dexterous free-runners that often frequent climbing in frame, you might just find they make your picture (though an angry glare will usually be enough to warrant a clear patch).
After a very short walk from the tiger mural, you’ve made it. An oasis in the middle of the city, some may say the 3.3 mile trip from the Riverside Museum to Glasgow Green is too short to celebrate. Those people clearly haven’t visited West Brewery – a venue worthy of celebratory pint even if you’ve only walked two steps from the carpark outside.
Be sure to have a good clamber around the beautiful park itself first, taking in the most photographed spots (the People’s Palace, Nelson’s Column and Commonwealth Statue) and some of the more hidden-gems (a clamber down to the banks of the river shows the river’s secret weir). There’s certain moments you’ll find it hard to believe that you’re just a short stroll from the busiest road in Scotland, especially as you watch the wispy smoke from Strathclyde Distillery float silently across a golden sun (if the weather’s held out that long).
If you’re in the mood to appreciate golden beauty, however, there’s just one place you need to visit. A local gem (and recently crowned best pub in Scotland) you’ll find a selection of Bavarian style brews and food in a dog-friendly, warm space at West Brewery (with brewery tours running throughout most days – apart from refurbishment in March and April). Just a short walk through the park, you’ll hardly miss it when you spy the almost-Eastern looking beauty that is the Templeton building and, if you’re feeling brave in spite of Glasgow’s weather, take a bench outside to fully appreciate the beauty of the spot.
After a couple of golden pints, be sure to stay (or head if you weren’t so brave) outside for a breather and a few shots of Glasgow’s stereotypical golden sunsets. A one-time carpet-factory turned offices and flats, the vibrant Templeton building next door catches the last rays beautifully and you’ll be in good spirits to head back inside to celebrate a walk well done!
The walk in theory should take just over an hour at a nice, slow walking pace. However, you’ll probably find it’ll take you far longer if you’re as liable to stopping for photos like I am. Regardless of the time, savour each moment – the city’s surprisingly bonnie when it wants to be and you won’t regret it!
All images ©FindingScotland 2017 – please don’t use without permission