Will I even be able to understand their English?
November 10, 2011 11:27 AM   Subscribe

I just spontaneously booked a five day trip to Glasgow, which leaves in about 9 hours. I have never been to the UK, don't know anything about Glasgow and don't know much about Scotland. Tips for a 27-year-old American/Bulgarian (but a Swedish resident) woman traveling alone?

I like walking around historical towns, and I like meeting new people. I like parks and botanical gardens, and cool pubs.

Also, this will be my first time traveling by myself. What do I need to take into consideration?
posted by halogen to Travel & Transportation around Glasgow, Scotland (27 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
You'll understand every word once people realise you're not a local, if my Glaswegian friends are anything to go by. You won't necessarily understand more than one word in three when they're talking to each other, though.

Also, Glasgow to Edinburgh are an hour apart by train, so there's nothing to stop you dividing your time between the two.

Maybe post a quick meetup suggestion for early on in your visit; you might even find a Mefite willing to show you the sights.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:33 AM on November 10, 2011

Rent a car and drive north. Scotland is small and you can cover a lot of territory in not much time. The scenery in the northwest Highalnds is amazing and there are tons of cute, small towns with surprisingly good food. Every other house in the Highlands, it seems, is a bed and breakfast, so there's no need to book accommodations beforehand.
posted by something something at 11:39 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

oh! I was in Glasgow earlier this year for about 4 days. Things I particularly enjoyed were the Necropolis, Mono a vegetarian cafe/bar/record store, walking along the river, and the Mackintosh house. Also the fact that there was an Apple store there becasue I cracked the ever living hell out of my iPhone.

I also went to Edinburgh which I basically wanted to marry, so I would suggest a day over there too.
posted by grapesaresour at 11:46 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would second a train to Edinborough, it's cheap and easy. I also took a bus to Glencoe for a night to get a taste of the highlands. And Stirling, which has a historically significant castle, is also an easy train ride.

Glasgow's a cool place. I especially enjoyed St Mungos and wandering around the necropolis behind it. There's a cool religious museum near the cathedral too as I recall.
posted by selfnoise at 11:49 AM on November 10, 2011

Response by poster: something something, that sounds wonderful, but my last minute deal came with a nice hotel in a good area, so I already have a hotel and would rather stick to daytrips.
posted by halogen at 11:51 AM on November 10, 2011

If you have any interest in art and architecture make sure you get to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh "House for an Art Lover", the Glasgow School of Art and the Willow Tea Rooms while you're there.
posted by yoink at 11:52 AM on November 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

Yes yes yes to the Necropolis, It is itself a weird and beautiful place, and you also get fantastic views from up there.
posted by rtha at 11:58 AM on November 10, 2011

You should definitely do a daytrip to Edinburgh and check out the Royal Botanic Garden. It's beautiful! Check the hours -- IIRC it closes rather early in the evening.
posted by Majorita at 12:01 PM on November 10, 2011

You could spend a couple of days around the west end, which is easily reached by underground from the city centre. There you will find the Botanical Gardens, Kelvingrove park, Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow University (including the Hunterian Museum). There are a bunch of pubs and restaurants in and around Byres Road in the West End, including in Ashton Lane, which is right next to Hillhead underground.
In the city centre, there's the Necropolis, the Cathedral, the museum of Religion and Provand's Lordship all in close attendance to one another. The Museum of Modern Art is also in the city centre. There are some nice pubs and restaurants around Merchant's Square. ( I am fond of Dhakin and Dhabba, which are South and North Indian restaurants, respectively, and of Blackfriars pub).
In the East of the City, there's Glasgow Green, The People's Palace Museum, and the Bar West brewpub. At the weekend, there's the Barras market, which used to be a bit of fun, but I haven't been for a while.
Further afield, Edinburgh and Stirling are easy day trips, just be careful that you don't miss the last train back, which may not be late especially during the week.
You won't find it difficult to strike up a conversation with people in most pubs and cafes - you'll have a blast.
posted by Jakey at 12:14 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Strange as it seems to recommend it but get the 11 pound sightseeing bus that starts in George Square. Lets you on and off at all stops for 2 days. If nothing else it will get you the layout of the city from the East End to the West End, Botanic Gardens to new Riverside museum, ( http://citysightseeingglasgow.co.uk/ )
Subway is always there and makes the jump around town easy. If you want to see cool pubs check out the website linked in my profile.
Oh yes the Kelvingrove Art Galleries has the AC/DC exhibit on downstairs just now.
All museums are free ( except small charge for AC/DC exhibit )
posted by stuartmm at 12:15 PM on November 10, 2011

If you like walking round historical towns, in Glasgow always remember to look up - the lower sections of buildings have often been remodelled with new entrances and the like, but the upper levels often still have wonderful Victorian carvings on them.

I second St Mungos, the Necropolis, Macintosh house and add in the Burrell Collection (worth a visit for a the stained glass alone), the Hunterian (marvelous eclectic collection, from stuffed two-headed animals to microscopes, to a triceratops skull) and GoMA. The Kelvingrove is a nice museum - I'd visit the others first, but that's just me.

You don't have to go to Edinburgh for botanic gardens, Glasgow has its own lovely set - and you can grab yourself a delicious takeaway from my favourite deli, Heart Buchanan while you're down that end.

I'm a bit of a Glasgow evangelist - I think it's massively overlooked by tourists in favour Edinburgh, when it has as much if not more to offer.
posted by Coobeastie at 12:16 PM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you get one of those lovely bright sunny days with low, slanting light that compensate for the shortness of daylight hours at this time of year it is definitely worth hopping the suburban train out to Balloch (45 mins) at the foot of Loch Lomond, or perhaps to Largs (similar time) for a visit to Cwmbrae island (5-minute ferry trip). They're close enough that you can do a November daytrip from Edinburgh, an hour further away, let alone from Glasgow city centre. From Glasgow you're close enough that you could head out earlyish, spend a couple of hours walking by the lake (or around Cwmbrae) and be back in Glasgow for lunch.

This is in addition to the excellent suggestions above, of course.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 12:51 PM on November 10, 2011

Lived in Glasgow two years. Always took visitors to the Necropolis! It's weird, but honestly awesome!

My favourite restaurant: Stravaign.

Favourite pub: Uisge Beatha, Woodlands Road, G3 6ND

Tea Rooms: Glasgow has some amazing tea rooms! There's the 1920s Rennie Mackintosh designed Willow Tea Rooms (on Sauchiehall St (pronounced: sucky-hall) or for high quality tea (and incredible choice) Tchai Ovna.

Also nice: West End stuff like Ashton Lane (unoriginal, I know, but it's quaint, and if you've never been to the UK! GO GO GO!)

If playing go and see Scottish Chamber Orchestra, or the Red Note Ensemble. Go see a play and a pint at Oran Mor (itself an impressive converted church). They run every lunch during the week!

Edinburgh... meh... full of English and tourists.
posted by jujulalia at 12:54 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

jujulalia sad to say but Uisge Beatha is no more. Luckily the Doublet and Halt Bar ( and a few more ) are nearby
posted by stuartmm at 12:58 PM on November 10, 2011

We were in Glasgow this summer. A wonderful city we didn't have enough time to really explore enough of. As well as echoing the recommendations above for the Macintosh house and the School of Art, I'd like to recommend Rogano as a restaurant. Upstairs is quite fancy, but they have a much more affordable bistro lounge downstairs which also does very good food. We stayed at the Rennie Mackintosh Art School Hotel, well appointed, reasonablly priced and within easy walking distance of downtown.
posted by bonehead at 1:31 PM on November 10, 2011

Seconding stuartmm's suggestion of taking one of the tour buses - they give you a good sense of the geography of the city and an overview of the main sights.
posted by penguin pie at 1:33 PM on November 10, 2011

I enjoyed the Museum of Industry
posted by bq at 1:40 PM on November 10, 2011

AMG! I fucking LOVE Glasgow and I'm so jealous you'll be visiting (I don't live there anymore...).

Ok, so there are lots of great suggestions up above, but I haven't looked at them closely, so apologies for any overlap.

In no particular order, these are the things you should try your best to see/visit:

Kelvingrove Museum and Park - brilliantly evocative museum with brilliant holdings and amazing views over the park. Apparently designed the wrong way round, but it's an urban legend supported by the fact that the main road outside it runs past the back end of it.

Uisge Beatha - brilliant whiskey pub just recently done up. Lost a bit of its charm, but still a good place to hang out.

King Tut's Wah Wah hut - brilliant (are you seeing a theme here?) music place where some of the UK's most famous bands have played.

University of Glasgow, particularly the main quadrangle - what a university should look like. Gothic architecture, lots to see and wander around looking at, great views over the city to the south.

Glasgow Science Centre, IMAX and Tower - I used to work here (!), but it's good for a wander about and the tower is the world's tallest, fully-rotating (from the base up!) tower.

Ashton Lane - Lovely little cobble-stone lane chock full of bars, restaurants, gift-shops and coffee-shops, just near to the university.

Oran Mor (had to google it because I've been away so long...) - old church done up and now a fully-functioning pub. No music, just chat. Good bar staff and slightly older clientele. There's also a great cocktail bar around the corner called Booly Mardy's, but everyone calls it Bloody Mary's. There's a whole story about the name of the place that I'm sure a barman there will be happy to relate to you. Gets really busy Thursday - Sunday nights, but great cocktails.

New transport museum down by the quayside - not been yet, but multi-million pound refurb and the reviews have been decent.

New BBC building - right next to the Science Centre and all modern glass and steel construction. Bottom floor is open to the public (I think).

Squinty bridge - so called because it goes over the River Clyde at an angle, rather than parallel to the river. Quite quaint and cool.

There are tons of great restaurants and pubs around Glasgow. Good idea to get a Lonely Planet guide and have a flick through that.

MeMail me if you want any more suggestions or anything specific, be glad to help :)
posted by Scottie_Bob at 1:48 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh god, and there's the Hunterian museum, Glasgow Rangers or Celtic football grounds (if you're into soccer), the necropolis (as mentioned above), Byres Road, Buchanan Galleries and Princes Square (relatively top end shopping malls, especially the second one), I could go on for ages! Don't worry about the accent btw, most Glaswegians are relatively easy to understand, at least in the west end :)
posted by Scottie_Bob at 1:51 PM on November 10, 2011

Response by poster: All right, I officially proposed a weekend meetup IRL.

All this sounds awesome and I'm super excited now – Glasgow was just the cheapest last-minute place I could find that I hadn't visited yet, so I didn't know what to expect.

Any idea whether my American Express charge card will be accepted in pubs, etc? I just lost my wallet and won't have any cash or debit card for a while because my credit union won't ship it to Stockholm unless I can fax(!) them an address change form (I don't want to but I can resort to my emergency stack of US cash).
posted by halogen at 1:53 PM on November 10, 2011

I lived in Edinburgh for a few years but I enjoyed Glasgow on my all-too-brief visits. One of the coolest things I ever saw there was the Sharmanka kinetic theatre (nearly everything else I might recommend has already been mentioned). You should take a day trip to Edinburgh. Yes, it's full of tourists, but that first glimpse of the skyline when you come out of the train station is astonishing -- it's a unique city, with a very different feel from Glasgow. Go to Holyrood Park and up Arthur's Seat, then down to the Sheep's Heid pub. If you prefer a shorter day trip, there's Linlithgow half way between Edinburgh and Glasgow, which has an fascinating ruined palace.

I miss Scotland.
posted by alopez at 2:02 PM on November 10, 2011

It should be, but you might incur an extra fee to process it and don't rely on everywhere you go taking it, so have cash as a back up.

Oh yeah, and do go to Edinburgh, it would be a shame if you missed it.

If I was still in Glasgow, I would definitely meet you up and buy you a pint and a dram. Damn it. If you ever end up in Birmingham, you can cash that offer in.
posted by Scottie_Bob at 2:11 PM on November 10, 2011

Make sure you have cash as well , you can probably convert at airport. Also remember to make sure your card provider knows you are going to the UK so they dont put a stop on the card for new activity.
posted by stuartmm at 2:20 PM on November 10, 2011

I (single American female) spent a few days in Glasgow when I was newly out of college about ten years ago. The things that stick with me from that trip are:

a) I couldn't understand a damn word anyone said, even when people slowed it down for me. I have a somewhat uncommonly bad ear, though.
b) Being approached in a pub by a guy asking if I was ok, because "women don't go into pubs alone here." I have yet to figure out if the guy was hitting on me, genuinely concerned about a woman alone in a pub, or a little of both.
c) The underground goes in concentric circles. Circles! So cute!

I also quite enjoyed the science museum, so give that a look if you have time!
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 7:19 PM on November 10, 2011

Don't know if you are a film buff or but it's sometimes worth checking out what's on at my favourite place in the city, the independant/ arthouse Glasgow Film Theatre (see www.gft.org.uk)

Today (Friday 11th) for example at 6 pm they are showing a sweet French romantic comedy called "Romantics Anonymous" and the director will be there to introduce the film and answer questions afterwards. It is currently the start of a whole French Film Festival so you might see something you would never see otherwise. I love the ambience of the GFT and even it's little cafe though sometimes for special events you might need to go earlier in the day to pick up your ticket in case it sells out.

Otherwise the vegan Cafe Mono is a nice spot I recommend their lovely soy hot chocolates or if you prefer something savoury the spicy fries are very good (see http://www.monocafebar.com/index.php?pid=79 . and St Mungo's Museum of Religious Life is very interesting for those of all faiths (and even of none!). Given a limited amount of time the price for the Glasgow Sightseeing bus which leaves from George Square is well worth it, you get a quick orientation of the place and it brings your guide book to life. Just have a sweater on as well as your jacket it will be a bit chilly on the top deck where you get the best view of the architecture from.

The train from Glasgow Queen Street station to Edinburgh is pretty quick and not too expensive after the commuter rush (i.e. after 9 .a.m). The Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh I have to say is way better than Glasgow's GOMA in my opinion.

Have a great time in Glasgow!
posted by AuroraSky at 7:24 PM on November 10, 2011

I spent a few days in Glasgow in 2008, on the bookends of a trip into the Highlands, and walked around quite a bit. It is a lovely city, and I must agree with those above recommending the botanical gardens. I was a solo female traveler as well.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:29 PM on November 10, 2011

You'll have a great time in Glasgow. Very friendly place.

If you have time, check out Edinburgh and the Highlands.
posted by CMCC at 4:14 AM on August 27, 2012

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