After staying in Edinburgh a few times now, and knowing I will be returning a week from now, I decided to venture out of the city on my last layover and check out Glasgow, which is an hour train ride west. To me, there seems to be a rivalry between the two cities similar to that of New York City and Boston. They are near each other and can often be talked about together, but they are determined to show how different they are from one another. They have rival sports teams and of course fans on both sides are very proud when it comes to their teams. Apparently, there is also a theory that in the mid-1600s, bakers from Edinburgh offered to bake bread in Glasgow because the bread in Glasgow wasn’t as good, but the Glaswegian bakers were too proud to accept and thus a rivalry began (this seems to be written by an Edinburgite…Edinburgian…Edinburger…either way, it seems to favor Edinburgh in this story).
On the train to Glasgow, I knew very little about the city. From what I had heard, it was a much more industrial, modern city compared to Edinburgh and was more working class compared to the middle-class Edinburgh. As a history lover and avid bookworm, I think I was biased thinking I would like Edinburgh a lot more due it feeling older, like walking around in the fairy tale days of magic and dragons and sword fights. I thought because of the history of authors and all the literary connections within the walls of Old Town Edinburgh, it would be easy for me to pick a side.
I had this expectation of Glasgow already in my head that was just blown away when I stepped out of Queen St Station that overcast (but lovely) Saturday afternoon. While it definitely has a more modern feel than Edinburgh, I was pleasantly surprised to see that many of the buildings I was looking at were built in the same fashion as those lining the streets of Edinburgh. It was just that there are more of them in Edinburgh while the ones in Glasgow are interspersed with newer buildings.
My first stop of the day was to follow George’s Square towards the cathedral and necropolis. As mentioned in my last post on Scotland, I love walking around in cemeteries. It is oddly calming and gives me future writing ideas. I liked this one because it was set up on a hill and I like to think that if the dead can enjoy their deaths, it’s better to do so with a view.
From up here you can see the more industrial parts of the city to one side and the university to the other. Obviously if you’re continuing your exploring you should walk towards the university, which would bring you towards High Street which is littered with restaurants to get a bite to eat. I recommend fish and chips. I went to the Merchant Chippie on the corner of High Street where they have a wide selection of fresh fish and other baked items to choose from. This was much better than the chippie I went to in Dublin, which while good was nothing to rave about. This place was better bang for my buck…er, pound, and tasted much fresher. I got a big portion of haddock, gravy-smothered fries, and a soda for less than £8. It’s not hard eat a lot and spend very little money if you just take a few minutes to look around!
Me being the late to life person that I am, I headed to shopping street near Central Station to find all of the shops were closing. Apparently they do that early on Saturdays, which kind of killed my plans to buy something, but I guess I wasn’t supposed to spend money like that this trip. Subtle way of my wallet telling me I’m broke until payday perhaps. So instead, it was time to get a subway to check out the nightlife in the West End.
I took the underground to Hillhead. It’s so simple to use as it just goes in a circle and as long as you go in the correct direction, where there are posters telling you the entire route from your current location, you can’t get lost. It took ten minutes and I was setting off in search of some inebriating juice.
Ashton Lane branches off of the road the subway station is on like an alleyway. I walked past it at least three times before going down it because I wasn’t sure what it was. So glad I did go down it though because it was so cool! Pubs line both sides of the street, all with patio seating and most of which also had their own beer gardens or rooftop seating. I couldn’t get a picture, unfortunately, because there was a protest going on at the time and people were swarming all over the place. It was hard to walk without running into someone trying to hand me a pamphlet.
Being against beer and wine as I am, my favorite of the night was Vodka Wodka, an upbeat bar with a club-like atmosphere and a huge sitting area out back. They make all sorts of interesting concoctions with tons of different vodkas, the two I tried being strong and delicious. I guarantee anything you pick from their large selection will not disappoint.
It seemed to me by the patrons there that this was where the university students came to hang out, possibly to pregame before going to clubs based on the attire of many of them, or just to enjoy getting wasted outside with some music.
This being my third bar (before this I was at Ubiquitous Chip and Del, both small bars with a nice selection of drinks and different levels of seating and standing room) I was sufficiently tipsy and decided to call it a night. I made my way towards the university so I could check out the campus before getting on the metro back to Queen Street, when I saw I had pinned something on Google Maps in the area called Valhalla’s Goat. I couldn’t remember pinning it nor had I any idea what it possibly could be, but it said it was closing in an hour so I decided my detour could be a little longer and not be detrimental to my returning to my hotel.
However, I had no idea if I was supposed to be looking for a building, a statue, a giant crater, or what, so I ended up just wandering around. This is what I get for allowing drunk me to make decisions. But it wasn’t all bad, because it led me to a park near a bridge above the Clyde River, where a bar called Inn Deep was cut into the side. There’s a separate arched opening for the bar and the restaurant area.
It seemed very hole-in-the-wall to me (pun intended), with a crowd of students sitting together on picnic tables outside. They are obviously used to a younger crowd being there because this was the first place in Europe I can remember getting asked for my ID. If I had gotten there earlier I would have stayed longer and sat by the river for a while. But it was late and I needed to get back so I could sleep for my flight in the morning.
I never found Valhalla (which turned out to be a liquor store) but I did find some new favorite spots for drinks and newfound appreciation for exploring cities on my own without always listening to what I’ve read or heard from others who have visited. I have to say, as much as I didn’t think it would happen, I really like Glasgow. I definitely think it wins for nightlife and I would go back again to spend the night with friends and hopping around some more. However, I think Edinburgh wins in the historical culture department. At the moment, I can’t choose a favorite because I loved both so much. That just means I’ll have to return to both to further inspect!