Although it’s not the capital of Scotland, Glasgow (from the Gaelic word which means ‘My green place’) is the largest city in Scotland. Built on the river Clyde, this UNESCO City of Music and European City of Culture was one of British Empire’s foremost industrial arenas. The city centre has countless impressive Victorian structures coming from that era and the unique masterpieces of one of the city’s most celebrated sons, the legendary architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Completed in 1888 and overlooking George Square, Glasgow City Chambers is one of the city’s most prestigious buildings and which has for more than a century, been the headquarters of successive councils serving the City of Glasgow.
Another must see attraction is the Glasgow School of Art. Over a century since its completion in 1901, Mackintosh’s ‘masterwork’, continues to fulfill its original purpose as a vibrant educational institution where students still derive inspiration from Mackintosh’s legacy. Tourists can avail of the guided tours of the Mackintosh building through original interiors laced with intriguing furniture, ironwork and stained glass and identify Japanese influences, evidence of Scottish Baronial tradition and design details inspired by nature. The tour gives insights into Mackintosh’s remarkable life, his commitment to ‘total design’ and his influence on the international Art Nouveau movement. Over 200 pieces of original Mackintosh furniture can be found here. Don’t miss the library made entirely of oakwood housing, the original chairs designed by the renowned architect.
Then onwards to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which houses one of Europe’s great art collections. It is amongst the top three free-to-enter visitor attractions in Scotland and one of the most visited museums in the UK outside of London. The museum has 22 themed galleries displaying an astonishing 8,000 objects, including Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross as well as one of the largest and finest collections of 17th century Dutch and Flemish art and 19th century French oils in the UK. Although the architecture combines a variety of styles, the best description of the building design is Spanish Baroque. In fact, the two main towers are inspired by those of the pilgrimage church of Santiago de Compostela, in northeastern Spain. Glasgow is also home to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Theatre Royal, Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
One cannot leave Glasgow without visiting any one of the many tearooms that opened in the late 19th and early 20th century and even today are frequented by Glaswegians for the traditional afternoon tea. Designed by Mackintosh himself, The Willow Tea Rooms opened for business in October 1903. The tearoom was a four-storey former warehouse building on a narrow infill urban site on the south side of Sauchiehall Street. The name Sauchiehall is derived from saugh, the Scottish word for a willow tree, and haugh, meaning a meadow. Many of the high backed latticed chairs in the Willow Tea Rooms were originally designed by Mackintosh. Winner of the 2013 European Museum of the Year Award, Riverside Museum at Blake’s Lock is a transport museum located at Blake’s Lock in the town of Reading, in the county of Berkshire. The Zaha Hadid-designed museum, tells the story of Reading’s two rivers, the Kennet and the Thames. The museum occupies two former industrial buildings, the Screen House and the Turbine House and has more than 3,000 exhibits and hands-on interactives from skateboards to locomotives, bicycles and prams to cars including the Mini Cooper. The zinc clad five-peak roof profile of the building symbolises the ‘water’ or ‘fluid’ movement as the museum lies at the confluence of the Clyde and Kelvin rivers.
Castles and battles
The newly opened Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre is situated at one of the most important historic sites in Scotland. 700 years after the legendary battle, (the centre will celebrate the 700th anniversary this June 23 -24), the visitor centre uses cutting edge 3D technology to tell more about this crucial battle between two kings – Robert the Bruce and Edward II that changed the path of Scotland’s history. Located near the historic city of Stirling, the battleground in 1314 was a royal hunting park. An iconic statue of Robert the Bruce cast in shimmering bronze designed by Pilkington is now part of this historic battle landscape.
Nearby Stirling Castle, atop Castle Hill, is one of the largest and most important castles, both historically and architecturally, in Scotland. Several Scottish Kings and Queens have been crowned at Stirling, including Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1542. There have been at least eight sieges of Stirling Castle, including several during the Wars of Scottish Independence. The castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, managed by Historic Scotland. To the left of the gatehouse, is the Royal Palace, the first Renaissance palace in the British Isles, built by King James V. With its combination of Renaissance architecture, and Gothic detail, it is one of the most architecturally impressive buildings in Scotland.