While on a four country holiday, my friends and I decided on a quick side trip to Glasgow while we were in Dublin, Ireland. It would be my first trip to Scotland but not my last. I enjoyed the country so much that I revisited Scotland two more times after. Glasgow was my introduction to this region of the United Kingdom, and I have never forgotten its intrigue upon my initial visit.
Glasgow is the most populist city in Scotland, as well as the largest seaport. This city has many rich layers of history and culture, as well as its extraordinary architecture. Although not much of medieval Glasgow remains, the city still holds its 19th-century Victorian buildings. It is also renowned for the “Glasgow Style” architecture from the early 20th century, which was developed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. He was Scotland’s greatest British Art Nouveau designer and architect.
While we were in Glasgow, I made it a point to visit two of Mackintosh’s most important sites. The original Willow Tea Room and the Lighthouse, which is Mackintosh’s school of design.
There are many interesting layers to the city of Glasgow. When I visited it, I created an itinerary that revolved around the city’s architecture and design. I know there are many other parts to Glasgow and I am excited with the thoughts of returning to explore them- the museums, the dining and the unique neighborhoods. Glasgow is gorgeous!
If you are considering a day or two in Glasgow, here are some recommendations of places that I thought were pretty great – Enjoy!
The Willow Tea Room (Mackintosh at the Willow)
For those who are familiar with my blogs and reviews, you know that I have a high interest in authenticity, places that are the oldest or the first, architecture, design, culture and dining experiences. So, a visit to the original Willow Tea Room located at 217 Sauchiehall Street, which was designed by Scotland’s famous architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, was a must for me.
This tearoom on Sauchiehall Street was first opened for patron and local entrepreneur, Miss Catherine Cranston, in October 1903. The Willow Tearooms quickly became the most popular tearooms that opened in Glasgow during the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Mackintosh’s architecture style of British Art Nouveau is apparent throughout the tea room, it is beautiful in its natural simplicity.
Over the last century, the Willow Tea Rooms have changed ownership several times and the building was deteriorating. In 2014 – 2018, the building went through complete renovations using Mackintosh’s original designs. It was re-opened in July 2018, under the new name of “Mackintosh at the Willow”, due to a trademark dispute with the former operators.
When I had visited the original tea room, it was still under the name of The Willow Tearooms, and I will admit that made me happy. Although I would not mind returning to 217 Sauchiehall Street, and having tea at the Mackintosh at the Willow, as I love a good tea room!
For tearoom information, please visit – Mackintosh at the Willow website
The Necropolis (The City of the Dead)
When we stepped out from the bus, and looked up at the Victorian cemetery on the hill, all of us let out a “Whoa!” in unison. It was similar to a movie scene when the main characters come up to a site that is quite amazing, their eyes open wide, and then right on que “Whoa!” in unison.
The Necropolis felt mysterious, intriguing and a bit macabre considering it was a cold and gray day. I will add that three out of the four of us, including myself, used to be Gothic as teenagers, and fully appreciated the atmosphere of the the Necropolis.
We arrived at the main enterance to the Bridge of Sighs, which was completed in 1836. It was named the Bridge of Signs as it was part of the funereal procession to the cemetery, and an allusion (figure of speech), similar to the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.
The monuments, crypts and tombstones of the Necropolis were fascinating and reminded me of the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, which I had just visited on this same trip. It was the establishment of the Pere Lachaise Cemetery that lead to a wave of new cemeteries throughout Britain, which allowed burial for profit. Since fewer people were attending church and Glasgow had a growing population, it was the first to join the campaign. There are an estimated 50,000 people buried here but only 3,500 have tombs.
Glasgow Cathedral (St. Mungo’s Cathedral)
I have always enjoyed visiting medieval/ Gothic style churches throughout Europe, so stepping into Glasgow’s Cathedral was very interesting for me. There are also several significant historical factors to this Cathedral, which made it more interesting. Glasgow Cathedral is one of the last two remaining Medieval Cathedrals in Scotland that survived the Reformation; the other one is Saint Magnus Cathedral in Orkney, which I have also visited. Additionally, this is the oldest cathedral on mainland Scotland, as well as the oldest building in Glasgow.
The Gothic style of this cathedral was stunning- the exterior with the aged and blackened stonework, the single spire, as well as the arched doorways and windows. The interior of the cathedral was just breathtaking. The dim lighting, cool temperature, and natural quietness gave it a serene atmosphere. The high arched ceilings, the naive and high altar with the colorful stained glass windows, was magnificently medieval.
The Lower Church, underneath the main structure, was the most fascinating section of the cathedral, and held several tombs and crypts. The most significant tomb is of Glasgow’s Patron Saint and founder, Saint Mungo. Glasgow Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Mungo who lived during the 6th and 7th centuries, and died on January 13, 614 AD. Once a year a special service is held in the Lower Church to celebrate his life.
For more information, please visit – Glasgow Cathedral website
The Lighthouse in Glasgow is not an actual lighthouse but Scotland’s Centre for Architecture and Design. The building was designed by British Art Nouveau architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in 1895 for the Glasgow Herald Newspaper. After 1980, there were various businesses in the building and it was not finally secured until 1999; when it became the UK City of Architecture and Design.
The history and story of the original designer, Mackintosh, along with the center’s vision to create a connection of design, architecture and creative studies, had become a full circle cycle for Mackintosh and the building he designed.
One of The Lighthouses great features is the tower top of the building. It is similar to a top of a lighthouse where you can stand with a beautiful uninterrupted view of the city of Glasgow. To get to the top, there is a spiral staircase which is also similar to the stairs inside of a lighthouse.
To this day, my friends and I still talk about our trip to Glasgow, especially our visit to the Necropolis. Even during our visit in the winter time when it was chilly and gray, we had an unforgettable time. I found that the gloominess just added another layer of character to this old city. Although I will admit that I would love to visit Glasgow on a warm sunny summer day!
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📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre