Glasgow and West Central Scotland was at one time the country’s industrial hub. Heavy engineering, shipbuilding, coal mining and steelworks predominated, providing work for thousands and fortunes for the favoured few. As well as the city of Glasgow, the area takes in the former counties of Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire, which all played their part in Scotland’s rich industrial history. But while it is still Scotland’s most populous area, and where the bulk of its industry and commerce is located, it is now clean and attractive, with much to do and see.
The scenery can be outstanding, from the upper reaches of the Clyde, with its quiet pastoral scenery and cosy villages surrounded by high, lonely moorland, to the hills above Greenock and of course, the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. Then there’s Glasgow itself. Once a gritty working class city with an image problem, it has burgeoned into a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city with a lively café society (at least once during a visit, do what the locals do - sit at a pavement café sipping coffee while people watch you watching them). There are art galleries and museums galore, bars, shops and shopping malls (it is the second largest shopping centre in winning restaurants, glitzy hotels, concert halls and nightclubs.
It is home to Scottish Opera, The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Ballet, and a string of theatres where you can see anything from serious drama to variety shows. It is also one of Britain’s best dressed cities, and it is reckoned that there are more Armani and Versace outfits worn here than anywhere else in Britain outside London.
That area of the West End known as Kelvinside is the city’s wealthiest area. It isn’t just a place of trendy flats and apartments, though these abound. It also has some seriously large mansions in the streets north and south of Great Western Road. These are occupied by professional people such as TV personalities, doctors, writers and lawyers, who appreciate the leafy elegance of the area.
And in the centre of Glasgow is the Merchant City, once run down and seedy, but now home to the city’s café society. New apartment blocks have recently been built and older properties have been converted into flats.
But there is still the quirky Glasgow - the city of fish and chips shops, betting shops, working men’s pubs, raucous laughter and street markets, including the famous Barras, held every Saturday and Sunday in the East End. The city is ringed by enormous council estates that took the families who used to live in the teeming tenements. It may not be the image of Glasgow that some people would like to project, but they are still there, and in their own way they have as much to do with the city’s character as the smart bars, restaurants, concert halls and theatres.
Glasgow has always been an easy place to get out of. Within half an hour of the city centre you can be admiring the grandeur of bens, glens and lochs, taking it easy in some wonderfully bucolic pastoral scenery, or strolling along a lonely beach that has a backdrop of magnificent hills.