Glasgow: Kelvingrove Park and more

My jet lag is nearly all better! I’m still a tiny bit dizzy but I slept all through last night, and today had enough energy and clarity for a good outing. This post is going to have a LOT of photos so I’m dividing it into sections.

Around Cathcart and Glasgow

View of our street during a sunny moment

View of our street during a sunny moment

The sun actually came out a few times today. Very exciting. All day the weather went pretty much like this: drizzle, overcast, sun, rain, overcast, rain, sun, rain, overcast. Our sweet host wrote in an email, “I’m so sorry Scotland is so wet!” but really we don’t mind that much. Not only does it feel like San Pablo, but it reminds me of my first visit to Hong Kong… I think I’m used to rainy holidays. As long as we can still walk around, we’re fine.

We took the train to Central again and then exited the station from a different door, where we found ourselves in quite a different neighborhood from yesterday’s busy shopping district. There were few storefronts and still fewer pedestrians.

uphill street in Glasgow

This hilly street reminded me forcibly of San Francisco.

One thing that drives me a little crazy about Glasgow is there aren’t many freestanding street signs. Most of the street names are posted on little plaques mounted on the walls of buildings. It’s very picturesque, but not so good for navigating, since the signs are hard to read from a distance, and you can’t always predict which building the sign will be on.

Blythswood Square

On the other hand, there’s plenty of directional signage, and many useful street maps posted around the city. With that and my good instincts, we’ve not yet gotten lost. (All the Glasgow guides I read claimed the city is “so easy” to get around, since it’s on a grid. I think that’s more true of the city center than the areas we’ve explored, namely Cathcart and the neighborhoods around Kelvingrove Park.)

Intersection in Glasgow

Pretty buildings in the distance!

We walked for about a mile and a quarter, past Indian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, convenience stores, nightclubs, a couple of churches, a freeway, and many lovely old buildings.


Corner building with a little tower

And… we passed this.

Window display of many baked goods

I know you won’t believe this, but we didn’t even go in. We had just turned onto Sauchiehall Street from the quieter streets with no shops, so I had no idea whether we’d see bakeries like this on every block. I wasn’t hungry, and I didn’t know how long we’d be walking or if it would start pouring rain, so I didn’t want to carry anything. Crazy talk, I know. I’m so hungry looking at this right now!

Bradfords's menu, including Aberdeen Angus Pie and Gammon Salad Sandwiches

Excuse me while I go make myself some toast…

Kelvingrove Park

When we saw from one of the aforementioned street maps (these were posted at fairly regular intervals with useful “you are here” indicators) that we were two blocks from Kelvingrove Park, we decided to make our way there.

One entrance to Kelvingrove Park

Kelvingrove is a big park, situated in the West End next to the University of Glasgow. At 85 acres, it’s about 1/12 the size of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco — which makes it the perfect size for an afternoon of exploring.

University of Glasgow Tower, seen from the park

View of the university tower from inside the park

There weren’t tons of people in the park, but we did see some walkers, joggers, and the occasional bicyclist. We also spotted a few clusters of mushrooms and some birds we’d never seen before. Perhaps they’re very common in the UK, but we were utterly fascinated. (Especially Erik — he got so excited over the magpies that I couldn’t help laughing.)


Magpie. Apparently they’re very intelligent and are one of the few animals that can recognize itself in a mirror. This isn’t the best angle but it’s the clearest photo I got. It has a slightly ungainly walk, beautiful iridescent blue markings on its wings, and a long tail that fans out when it flies.

Wood pigeon

Wood pigeon. Bigger than a common pigeon, but otherwise similar enough that I kept doing double-takes.

The benches along the herbaceous border looked so inviting, except for the weather. We did see one girl sitting on one, earbuds in, eating her lunch.

Herbaceous border

Hole in a hedge

This would have been irresistible if the ground weren’t muddy. It looks like a door in this photo, but it was a short hedge and a small hole. We’d have had to crawl.

At the end of the herbaceous border we found an adorable tiny café. The structure was built in 1913 and the menu said it used to be a public restroom/shelter!

Inside the cafe

Ham sandwich (with greens) and Greek salad

We had a tasty lunch which was enlivened by several kids running around (the café is next to a playground). I’m very happy that so far on our travels we’ve found plenty of restaurants and markets that do the whole local/sustainable/humane thing. Not only is it more ethical and fresh, but it’s in keeping with our travel mentality; we don’t want to fly thousands of miles just to eat something that came from California!

After lunch we dodged raindrops to walk around the park some more, following the Kelvin River. At some point I think we might have been technically outside the park boundaries, but it was the same paved trail system.

Footbridge over the Kelvin

One part of a fabulous photorealistic mural depicting sketchbooks, pencils, and scenes from Glasgow

Isn’t this mural wonderful? We noticed the acknowledgments mentioned two primary schools, and we wondered what their part was. “Either those are some talented kids,” Erik remarked, “or they had a really good paint-by-numbers system.” Or maybe fundraising or something?

Another part of the mural

Another view of the river Kelvin, this one lined with trees

Not many skaters in the skate park in this weather, though we did see a kid on a scooter, and a middle-aged man making a jokey attempt on his son(?)’s board.

Skate park

When I saw this tall slide I really wanted to give it a go, but wasn’t willing to get my jeans that wet. Instead I just climbed partway up. Actually that was challenging enough, since it was a little scary climbing on wet metal.

Full front view of the slide

Lisa on a big spiral slide

I got to the middle level and then climbed back down, skirting several teenage girls who’d appeared as I started my climb. I don’t know what they were thinking but they didn’t pay me the least attention.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and my own sketches

Shortly after my climb, we arrived at the imposing Art Gallery and Museum. Like so many other museums in Glasgow, admission was free.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

This is a much bigger museum than GoMA, and since we were getting a little tired, we didn’t see much of it. The exhibits are divided into Life (natural history) and Expression (art).

Hanging white mask sculptures in an exhibit hall

I mostly stuck to the Expression side, where I passed over Dalí and Italian artworks in favor of Scottish painters and designers. In the design gallery, I saw beautiful stained glass windows and early-1900s teacups; in the art gallery, paintings by a late nineteenth-century group called the Glasgow Boys were hung side by side in close proximity.

Work by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

James Paterson, "The Last Turning, Winter, Moniaive," 1885.

James Paterson, “The Last Turning, Winter, Moniaive,” 1885. Image from Wikipedia, public domain.

Jack Vettriano, "Self Portrait V (Study)," undated.

Jack Vettriano, “Self Portrait V (Study),” undated. It’s such a small painting — only 12″ x 10″ — but as with many Vettriano works, there is an exquisite stillness about it. Image via

William Strang, "Lady with a Red Hat (Portrait of Vita Sackville-West)," 1918.

William Strang, “Lady with a Red Hat (Portrait of Vita Sackville-West),” 1918. Fabulous colors in this one. Look up Ms Sackville-West’s bio if you don’t already know of her. Image via

Avril Paton, "Windows in the West," 1993.

Avril Paton, “Windows in the West,” 1993. I love love love this painting because this building is so Glasgow. Click on the image for a description from the artist’s own website. There’s also a fun panoramic photo someone took of the actual building at Image from the artist’s website at

Inspired by the artworks and the beautiful, high-ceilinged central hall — and wanting a spot of tea and a seat — I bought a slice of Victoria sponge and a cup of tea, and began to sketch the museum’s pipe organ (we missed the 1PM recital, but maybe that’s okay… they played “Memory” from Cats).

My afternoon tea and sketchbook

Ink sketch

Ink sketch, 30-45 minutes. About 3″ x 6.5″.

As I began to draw all the tiny lines I groaned to Erik, “I wish I didn’t always draw everything in such detail. It should be a choice, but… I just seem to do that way.” He offered to time me for a quick sketch, so I took him up on it. Funny that the 5-minute version is also bigger, taking up the whole page of my Moleskine sketchbook. (Thanks Apricot!)

Ink sketch

Unlike in Taiwan, Hong Kong, the US, and Canada, no one remarked on my sketching. Maybe no one noticed, or else people here are much more reserved about commenting on strangers’ work. I’ll have to do more sketching and see. 😉

We left the museum after that. When we went around to the main road we saw that there was another entrance there (we’d entered from the park).

Street entrance to the museum

Since we’d walked such a distance from the train station, we took the subway to get back. I was going to write about that too, since it was an interesting experience, but this post is already so long I’ll save it for another time.

Another view over the Kelvin

Thank you for reading!