Springingtiger's Blog


Five Things I Love About Scotland
May 1, 2013, 19:40
Filed under: Scotland, Travel | Tags: , , , , ,

I choose to live in Scotland, I choose to live in Glasgow, I have seen other countries and other cities, some I love, but I always return to Glasgow. Why, I ask myself, do I love this “Dear green place”?

1. The People. When I was quite new to Glasgow I wanted to get to a concert in the City Halls and as I entered Sauchiehall Street at Charing Cross, I asked a man coming the other way for directions. “Do you know Candleriggs?”, he asked.
“No”, I replied.
“Do you know George Square?”
“No.”
“Come with me”, he said, and walked me all the way to Candleriggs and pointed out the City Halls. It was a long way out of his way, but in forty years I have never forgotten his kindness to a stranger. To me this story captures the essence of the Glaswegian. True, like any city, Glasgow has its share of crime and violence, but Glaswegians, on the whole, have a generosity of spirit that makes the city a good place to be.
I have travelled around much of Scotland, from The Western Isles to Edinburgh, the Borders to The Black Isle and I can honestly say I have never been made to feel unwelcome. I don’t know whether it is the northern climate and its harshness that breeds a sense of community, but whatever it is the people tend to be straightforward and friendly.

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2. Glasgow. Glasgow is my home, it is for me the heart of Scotland. If you scrape the new paint off the Clydeside you will still find red underneath. Glasgow is a city, but it feels like a huge village. People stop in Glasgow and pass time with each other, on street corners, at the checkouts, in queues, there are always conversation. Ok, I admit I don’t like making conversation myself, but I do like the way it happens here and the atmosphere it generates. One might very well live all one’s life in Glasgow and never step out of the city, but every day would be filled with things to do.

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Time magazine, I think it was, put Glasgow in its Top Fifty Cities because of the quality and variety of its music venues. Glasgow resounds with music, it is inescapable, I think I like that. As well as the obvious concert halls and theatres, we have  a huge number of pubs and clubs providing music led by the world famous King Tut’s but there are many more like Nice and Sleazy   and Sub Club . I must admit I personally prefer my music quieter but Glasgow is the place for music, rock, folk, classical or country. If you want free music, just walk around the streets and enjoy the buskers – the best free gig in town.
Glasgow is full of comedians, it’s often said and it’s true, people are funny here, but they also love their comedy and so Glasgow is well served for comedy venues, we even have an International Comedy Festival We have clubs like The Stand and Jongleurs but there are gigs in clubs and pubs all over the city as well as big names playing the big venues check out ents24  I think humour is endemic, it is built in to the fabric, a fact indisputable to anyone who remembers the subway before it became the “Clockwork  Orange” ; the ability of the walls, floor and celling to move independently in different directions gave a sense of being inside a Loony Tunes cartoon.

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Glasgow is full of theatre from a Pint and a Play in the Oran Mor to Traditional Theatres like the Kings or Progressive theatres like the Citizens . Must mention the Pavilion the variety theatrewhich made Mrs Brown a household name.  There are literally too many theatres, clubs and venues to mention.
I am not even going to try and mention all the pubs, Glasgow is a network of pubs with stuff in between. Pubs are still at the heart of Glasgow social life, but they are so much more than places to drink, in many the food is excellent, they also host, plays, music live and DJs, comedy gigs even plays, I was actually on a training course in the back room of a pub. You could visit a different pub every night and never repeat the experience. Glasgow is in many ways a truly European city and its cafes are always full, when the sun is out the tables on the pavements quickly fill up. Were it not for the temperature one could believe oneself in Paris or Firenze.

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Perhaps you want to do nothing, why not just walk around and take in the sights. Glasgow has the highest area of public parks per head of population in Europe and Europe’s oldest public park, Glasgow Green. Throughout the year there are all sorts of events and activities in our parks, many particularly suitable for children.

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3. The country. Scotland is a beautiful country. It is true that many countries have more spectacular views, but ours are still breathtakingly beautiful. Of course as well as the beauty every inch of the land is steeped in history, much of it given by the ongoing struggle against exploitation by the English, but much by the giants of our culture.

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The mountains of the Highlands, The Hebrides, The Shetland Isles, The Orkneys, The Great Glen, The rolling hills of The Borders, Scotland is a great country for the walker, climber and cycle tourist. Personally I’m not bothered about the tourists, I just love that a short journey can take me to so many beautiful places – I can see the Campsies from my window.

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4. The museums. Museums, free entertainment and a great way to keep the kids occupied. Scotland is rich in museums celebrating our culture, our heroes our heritage. Glasgow has many museums the Riverside (transport), The People’s Palace (popular culture) The Saint Mungo Museum of religious life, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Burrell Collection the Hunterian, the Rennie Mackintosh House, even a Police Museum. Even small towns like Fort William have museums like the West Highland Museum and nearby the Glencoe Museum. Around Inverness there are several, in fact wherever you go in Scotland it seems there’s another museum, even Edinburgh has got a few, They’ve got a writers museum The National Museum of Scotland – Edinburgh’s answer to the Kelvingrove – I could probably fill a page just with links to Edinburgh museums, the whole place is a museum, come to think of it most of the people look like exhibits!

5. The Whisky. Ah Whisky the blood that flows through the veins of Scotland! “Freedom and whisky gang thegither” wrote Robert Burns. I am forcing my way through a 12 year old Bowmore  just now, such a hardship. My first malt, still much loved by me, was Glenmorangie but I’m also quite partial to a wee Talisker from Skye. There are more web sites concerned with Scotch than there are museums in Edinburgh ‘tho not as many as there are pubs in Glasgow! You could start by visiting http://www.scotchwhisky.net/ , I’m no expert, but personally I’d start with a good malt then sip it while exploring the internet. You must visit a distillery – or several – just for the pure sensual pleasure of it you could learn something too, if you were so minded. I like Glengoyne  but there are plenty of others visit http://www.whisky.com/distilleries/ for plenty. The Whisky.com website is conveniently divided into regions featuring the major didtilleries. As well as the single malts we have a great many skilfully blended whiskies to suit any palate, Islay Mist based on a Laphroig malt with other malts is worth a try (or three) strictly speaking a blend of malts is a vatted malt whisky whereas a blended whisky also contains grain whiskies. Some malt drinkers look down on blends, but in reality they are a testament to the taste and skill of the blenders and some like Chivas Regal and Johnny Walker Black Label have an international following. The Famous Grouse based on Glenturret malt  is the best selling whisky in Scotland, Dewers in the USA, and J&B in Europe. There are good whiskies to be found at a reasonable price, some of the lesser known ones carried by supermarkets like Lidl have picked up awards and good reviews.

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