Greater Glasgow and Clyde Valley
The largest city in Scotland and once described as “the second city of the Empire”, Glasgow lies on the central west coast of the country. It was built on the banks of the River Clyde which was mainly responsible for its industry and wealth. In terms of Scottish history, Glasgow is a veritable latecomer as the original town was based around Govan which was eventually engulfed by the fast growing city.
The natural resources of the river and minerals such as the vast local coal reserves fuelled the industrial revolution of the area and paved the way to Glasgow’s growth in the 19th century. The growth of Glasgow came at a time of an itinerant population, especially emigration from the Highlands and from Ireland for basically the same reasons – lack of work and food shortages due to various famines caused a mass exodus into the industrial cities and before too long Glasgow’s population rose to over 1m.
To the credit of the city “fathers” of the time, much of Glasgow’s wealth was invested in its architecture and culture. Glasgow's tastefully preserved Victorian architecture is amongst the finest in Europe - the uniquely creative styles of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Alexander "Greek" Thomson add a distinctive edge to a city honoured in 1999 as UK City of Architecture and Design. The Art Nouveau work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh can be enjoyed at Glasgow School of Art, Scotland Street School (now a Museum of Education), The Mackintosh House at the University of Glasgow's Hunterian Art Gallery and in the House for an Art Lover.
The Gallery of Modern Art offers some of the best examples of contemporary art in the UK and the McLellan Galleries is a venue for many major exhibitions every year.
Glasgow also offers some superb theatres including the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, The Theatre Royal and the Citizen's, King's, Mitchell and Tron Theatres.
The city also has over 70 public parks and gardens. In one of these parks lie the Botanic Gardens which house a fine array of plants and shrubs from around the world and the magnificent Kibble Palace with its unique collection of Australasian plants.
From such an illustrious past, Glasgow has shaped a city designed to meet today's visitors. Second only to London, it is the UK's foremost centre for shopping, as strolls along the famous Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street instantly prove. From chic Princes Square and the monumental St Enoch Centre, to the magnificent recently opened Buchanan Galleries, shopping is an essential part of the Glasgow experience. This cosmopolitan air also has a serious aspect - seriously good restaurants, cafés and pubs.
Glasgow is also surrounded by historic houses, castles and gardens - the area around Hamilton is very historic with 13th century Bothwell Castle and the hunting lodge of Chatelherault, built by William Adam. Amidst beautiful parkland on the banks of the Clyde, the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre is built around the birthplace of this world famous explorer - many of the animal species he encountered are likely to be found in Glasgow Zoopark at Calderpark which also includes a childrens' farm and wildlife gardens.
Hamilton Park Racecourse is famous for its "Saints and Sinners" charity meeting held in June each year. Nearby Strathclyde Country Park is a haven for fun seekers and watersports fanatics. It is also home to a major theme park. The heritage of this area can also be appreciated at the Motherwell Heritage Centre which tells of the industrial past of this old steel town and surrounding area.
The Royal Burgh of Lanark was the site of Scotland's first parliament in 978 and William Wallace is said to have created Scotland's first army of resistance here. New Lanark was founded in 1785 to harness the power of the River Clyde for cotton production - it is now a unique World Heritage village offering a glimpse of a fascinating past in the award winning Visitor Centre. Robert Owen's 19th century revolutionary "new town" is tastefully preserved in its spectacular riverside setting near the Falls of Clyde.
Glasgow is a busy, vibrant place and very cosmopolitan – even the road layout in the city centre reminds one of New York!
This cosmopolitan city has been compared to New York but this comparison is not accurate enough. Chicago is more like Glasgow’s twin. The physical layout of the main streets, the riverside location, the multi-cultural society and the architecture. Charles Rennie Macintosh was the inspiration here with many of his buildings monuments in their own right to one of Scotland’s finest architects. Chicago, on the other hand, had, at the same time, Frank Lloyd Wright whose work was held in the same high esteem in America as Macintosh in the UK. It is surprising and unfortunate, that they never met.
Glasgow is a strong vibrant city, busy, prosperous and full of vitality, due to its people. The banks of the River Clyde that spawned this great city’s industrial past are now a major asset in the development of ultra modern housing but the nostalgia of Glasgow’s past is still celebrated upstream in New Lanark (and beyond, into the hills) and westwards, towards the Firth of Clyde, as far as Greenock.
It is intriguing how Glasgow, once the second city of the Empire, once denigrated as an industrial blackspot, has used the very prosperity thus generated to create a great city of life, art and culture.
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