Scotland: Visiting Glasgow and Edinburgh

glasgow

GUEST ARTICLE: I arrived at Glasgow after a 5 hour Virgin train trip from London. The very attentive first class trolley service allowed me to get in some drinking practice for my weekend stay with friends from my Sydney Uni days.

Glasgow

On Saturday we popped in to see the refurbished Kelvingrove Museum – which still retains some of the feel of an old-fashioned “bit of everything” museum. One hall is filled with stuffed animals but also has a World War II aircraft suspended from the ceiling.

There are fine collections of the Glasgow Boys (the Scottish school of impressionists), as well as displays on ancient Egypt, the images of Scottish nationalism, Glasgow sectarianism and Kylie Minogue’s costumes.

Sunday morning saw us at sung Mass in St Bride’s, Hyndland, a very nice Arts and Crafts church, with a fine carved rood and an eastward position high altar with six candlesticks and tabernacle.

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The words were from the 1929 Scottish liturgy but rearranged into a modern order. The small team of very elderly servers provided all that was required, including incense. They all wore the same type of servers’ guild cross that my grandfather wore as a senior server at Dundee Cathedral over 50 years ago.

The robed choir sang a mass setting that I did not recognise (the pew sheet was truncated because the parish laptop had been stolen the day before during a city-wide “open door” day), but also managed a Tallis anthem during communion and Marbeck for the Creed.

Later in the day, we went on to Pollock House, which boasts the finest collection of classical Spanish art in the British isles. It included a very striking and timeless portrait of a woman in a fur cape by el Greco. The woman has never been identified, although some have said that she was el Greco’s mistress.

glasgow bank facade

The collection of portraits of the Spanish royal family from 16th and 17th centuries allows you to trace the horrible effects of inbreeding within the Hapsburg family. Unexpectedly, there was also a room full of works by William Blake, including his Adam and Eve.

Monday allowed a few hours to wander around the city and take in the Gallery of Modern Art which, like all of the Glasgow Museums, has taken up the policy of the Scottish Executive to eradicate the scourge of sectarianism in Scottish life.

Although, I must admit that I am not sure that displaying photographs of Celtic and Rangers football players will do that much to sort out the mess.

Edinburgh

I spent a weekend in and out of Edinburgh, including a visit to the new parliament buildings and the Royal Scottish Academy.

The parliament buildings, which have only been open a couple of years, are the result of a partnership between a group of Barcelona and Scottish architects.

They certainly present an interesting combination of shapes and building materials (steel, wood and stone). The structures are apparently best appreciated from above – which is a little difficult to arrange just at the foot of the Royal Mile, opposite Holyrood.

Inside was an exhibition explaining the Act of Union of 1707 (UK) which dissolved the old Scottish Parliament and vested legislative responsibility for Scotland in the Parliament at Westminster which, from then on, included Scottish members. It is a subject of some controversy in Scotland and was mostly reversed in 1999 with the devolution of some areas of government back to the Scottish parliament.

Interesting fact: In 1822, George IV was the first British monarch to set foot in Scotland for 170 years. Which means that none of the later Stuart monarchs actually visited Scotland after the Restoration in 1660.

edinburgh royal scottish academy

The Royal Scottish Academy had an interesting and comprehensive exhibition of the work of Andy Warhol, announced to the drab world outside in Princes Street by the conversion of its Ionic columns into stacked tins of Campbell’s tomato soup.

Further interesting fact: Andy Warhol was a practising Catholic, attending Mass pretty much weekly all of his life. This, for me at least, probably explains the iconic nature of his famous portraits.

On Sunday, Mass for me was in the parish church of St Michael and All Saints, which was celebrating one of its patronal festivals. (St Michael and All Angels having been the day before.) The church itself is a gothic revival building with plain painted walls and stone columns.

The sanctuary, backed by a wood and gilt wedding cake of a reredos and guarded by seven large sanctuary lamps, provided the setting for a choral High Mass with procession, incense and a full complement of sacred ministers. The red-robed and very capable choir sang Haydn’s Missa Brevis in F. The black-robed and lace trimmed servers were all women to a man.

Further Reading

This travel diary has been written by my friend Joseph Waugh who likes to travel to places with interesting architecture and history.

If you’ve travelled somewhere off the beaten track, can write well and have good quality photos I encourage you to contact me and I’ll consider publishing your travel diary here including generous attribution and links back to your website as thanks for your contribution

8 thoughts on “Scotland: Visiting Glasgow and Edinburgh”

  1. simply wonderful, you gotta miss that architecture. i used to life overseas and now here in Utah the pinnacle of architecture is walmart.

  2. Great post on Scotland! It is definitely on my list of places to visit, eventually. I wil have to check out the Kelvingrove Museum when I am there….I wonder whose weird sense of humor decided that teddy bears and fighter jets go together! 🙂

  3. Yes – I have to admit Scotland is wonderful in many ways! If you like the rain (and I do) then its beautiful all year round (it does rain rather a lot)

  4. Hi, I thought this was an excellent article and well puts across the information on Scotland that someone might wish to view

  5. Scotland is a great destination for people of all ages. Though Scotland is wee compared to some large countries, it is quite diverse.

    That’s why I’d recommend visitors see what the Highlands are all about. Fort William is to Scotland as Vail is to America. There’s little in common between Fort William and Glasgow, with the scenery so different, the hustle and bustle of the city versus the relaxed atmosphere of life up north. Come on up and have a look around – you might spot the Loch Ness monster on your way to the tallest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis.

  6. For students having a holiday up in the Highlands of Scotland (near Fort William), I recommend they call around the local hostels and Bed and Breakfasts (or use the internet to browse and email), and make an enquiry – stating clearly that they are a student and that budget travel is of utmost importance. MANY of the smaller establishments will give a special price!!

  7. I went to Glasgow and Edinburgh too however I travelled 9 hours in the National Express bus which only costed 1 pound. It was extremely cold because it was winter however I enjoyed the highlands trip in Scotland especially visiting the 3 sisters, Inverness, Lochness and so forth. Scotland is a must to be visited.

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