July 28 – Our West Highland Way hike starts in three days, in a little town just north of Glasgow, so this morning we made our way to the ScotRail station in Haymarket, and caught the train for the forty five minute ride west to Glasgow. Once again, the train was super clean, with cheerful personnel and stations clearly marked. What a pleasure!
We stepped out of the Glasgow Queen St. station right onto historic George Square, laid out in 1781 and named in honor of King George III. The first thing we saw was a row of statues, some with traffic cones on their heads – how curious!
Around the corner, in front of the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art, stood a statue of the First Duke of Wellington with a cone on his head colored in pink and blue to support the Ukraine!
My Google search revealed that a traffic cone first appeared on the Duke’s statue back in the 1980s, and as fast as city workers removed it, it would reappear the next evening. The city threatened action against anyone defacing the statue, but the people of Glasgow rallied round the cause, and now the statue with cone (sometimes the horse has a cone too) appears on Glasgow tee shirts and post cards as a symbol of the city. I like a city that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
As we were there at the Gallery of Modern Art, we checked it out. There was lots of space, and not much art. We watched some videos, like a woman riding on a snowmobile for twelve minutes. Other offerings:
There was one Andy Warhol, and here it is:
At 3pm we were able to check into our hotel, one of a UK chain called Point A. When we opened the door to our room, I thought we were on the lowest deck of a ship. The room is just slightly larger than the bed, with no furniture, no seating, no doorknobs, no amenities of any sort, and no windows. A little pull-out tray may hold a few of your things, but if the tray is pulled out, you can’t walk around the bed. The hotel is highly rated. Oh dear.
July 29 – As there was no coffee maker in our room, Jim got out his camp stove, placed it in the shower, cooked us a lovely oatmeal and coffee breakfast, and served it on the bed. Some day, we’re going to get in trouble.
Glasgow, known as the Merchant City, is a working class city that doesn’t offer the range of touristy attractions that we had in Edinburgh. Don’t worry, we’ll find things to do. We set out this morning for a walk to the Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis.
The cathedral is dedicated to St. Mungo, the founder and patron saint of Glasgow. He was a missionary in the sixth century, and named Glasgow, which means ‘beloved green place’.
The cathedral was dark and austere. Outlander fans will be interested to know that the cathedral served as Claire’s French hospital in season 2.
The 37 acre cemetery behind the cathedral is called the Necropolis, containing the bodies of 50,000 Victorian souls, including a memorial to John Knox, founder of the Presbyterian church in the 1500s.
It also contains a memorial to William Wallace, who you will remember from Braveheart. Freedom!
We wandered up and down many rows of monuments, but we didn’t find a single Hay or Blair (my ancestral clans) even though my forebears hailed from Lanarkshire, just a half hour’s drive south of here. I guess a half hour was pretty far, back in the day.
Many of the monuments were topped with statues of caskets or urns, which seemed a little odd to me.
Down at the bottom of the hill was a small, fenced-off area where the Victorian Jews were interred. There was a sign with a tally of the number of men, women, children and babies buried there.
After lunch we walked across town to the Glasgow Botanic Garedens. Lots of Glaswegians strolling the walkways or lying in the sunshine – the weather got up to a balmy 72 degrees.
There were rows of connected greenhouses displaying tropical plants that Scots might not typically see – ferns, cacti, and some teensy orchids.
The largest greenhouse, the Kibble Palace, also held a group of Victorian marble statues:
The main lawn was landscaped with identical plants in rows like soldiers. I kept thinking, ‘Eliese would not approve!’
One of the parks benches was covered in colorful crochet. When we stopped to admire it, a local woman stopped to ask if we knew the story. She told us that after the death of a local artist, her daughters decorated her favorite bench as a memorial. Another nice person, stopping to share.
We walked all afternoon, admiring the plants and enjoying the sunshine. A good day!