Glasgow West End Walking Tour, Glasgow

Glasgow West End Walking Tour (Self Guided), Glasgow

Glasgow is a home to a great number of historic, cultural and architectural landmarks, the lion's share of which are found in the West End. The adjectives applicable to this part of Glasgow speak volumes: cosmopolitan, multi-cultured, bohemian, intellectual, grand, leafy, confident, tolerant, and trendy. Indeed all of them are true, especially given that inside the area there are several smaller neighborhoods, each with its own distinctive character.

Byres Road, the West End's main artery, has varied attractions centered around it: impressive Victorian architecture, quaint shops, bustling nightlife, public parks & gardens, and more. Complete with its upmarket residences, this district appeals to the young and mature professionals as well as Glasgow University students.

Situated behind the lively Byres Road is Ashton Lane, a cobbled backstreet with most of its premises occupied by various pubs and restaurants, plus a gallery of small specialist stores – popular with those coming to shop, dine and meet friends.

Other notable attractions within the West End include:

Kelvin Hall – one of the largest exhibition centers in Britain, opened in 1927; now a mixed-use arts and sports venue.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery – one of the most visited free-to-enter museums in the UK; among the exhibits is "Christ of Saint John of the Cross" by Salvador Dalí.

Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery – Scotland's oldest public museum, founded in 1807.

University of Glasgow – the 4th oldest university in the English-speaking world; established in 1451.

Riverside Transport Museum – zig-zagging, zinc-clad ultra-modern edifice housing impressive collections of motorcycles, cars, trains, ships, toys and other pieces of transport technology.

If you are intrigued by this highlight and feel the urge to experience first hand the flavors of Glaswegian West End, grab the opportunity and take this self-guided walk!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Glasgow West End Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Glasgow West End Walking Tour
Guide Location: Scotland » Glasgow (See other walking tours in Glasgow)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: irenes
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Kelvin Hall
  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
  • Lord Lister Monument
  • Lord Kelvin Statue
  • Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery
  • University of Glasgow
  • Mackintosh House
  • Ashton Lane
  • Byres Road
  • Riverside Museum (The Glasgow Museum of Transport)
Kelvin Hall

1) Kelvin Hall

The Kelvin Hall, situated on Argyle Street in Glasgow, is one of Britain's largest exhibition centers. It has transformed into a versatile venue for both arts and sports, initially opening its doors as an exhibition venue back in 1927. Over the years, it has also served as a concert hall, housed the Kelvin Hall International Sports Arena until 2014, and was the location of Glasgow's Museum of Transport from 1987 to 2010.

This impressive structure stands by the banks of the River Kelvin, directly across from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It was designed to complement the aesthetic of Kelvingrove Park and boasts a grand entrance plaza, constructed using red sandstone. The massive steel-framed building has been a fixture of the landscape since 1927.

Before the current Kelvin Hall, there was an earlier version built on former football fields at Bunhouse Grounds. It was a temporary structure made of brick, wood, and iron, opening in August 1918 to host the second British Industries Fair. The new Kelvin Hall was designed by architect Robert James Walker, known for his work on the 1911 Scottish Exhibition in Kelvingrove Park.

From 1918 to 1925, the Hall hosted numerous events like fairs, exhibitions, and carnivals, contributing proceeds to the Common Good fund. In 1926-1927, the current Kelvin Hall, spanning 6 acres, was built for large-scale exhibitions, commissioned by Glasgow Corporation and designed by Thomas Somers, Glasgow's Master of Work and City Engineer.

Today, the redeveloped Kelvin Hall serves as a hub for artistic, cultural, and health and fitness activities, made possible through a collaborative effort involving Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Life, the University of Glasgow, and the National Library of Scotland. This historic building holds category B listed status, reflecting its cultural significance and importance.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum

2) Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum (must see)

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum underwent a three-year renovation and reopened its doors in 2006. Since then, it has become one of Scotland's most popular attractions, offering free admission, and it stands as the most frequented museum in the UK outside of London.

This institution boasts an impressive collection of arms and armor, renowned worldwide, along with an extensive natural history assortment. The art collection is equally noteworthy, featuring exceptional European artworks, including pieces by renowned artists like Rembrandt van Rijn, Gerard de Lairesse, and Jozef Israëls from the Old Masters era. Additionally, it houses works by French Impressionists like Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh, and Mary Cassatt, as well as Dutch Renaissance, Scottish Colourists, and representatives of the Glasgow School.

Notably, the museum is home to Salvador Dalí's "Christ of Saint John of the Cross," with an interesting history: the curator acquired the copyright for this painting after a meeting with Dalí himself. For a period spanning from 1993 to 2006, the artwork was temporarily relocated to the Saint Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art.

Furthermore, within its walls, the museum holds a substantial donation of decorative arts by Anne Hull Grundy, an art collector and philanthropist. This collection provides insight into the history of European jewelry during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Why You Should Visit:
Easy to reach, very family-friendly, with lots to see, plus reasonably priced shops & café, and the glorious organ recital in the afternoon is a real bonus.

The best way to get an overview is to go on one of the daily, free tours – you might be surprised what you will learn.
At weekends and holidays, you can take part in one of the family activities throughout the exhibits.
If you're going to visit both the café & gift shop, go to the café first as they'll give you a voucher for 10% off in the gift shop.
Lord Lister Monument

3) Lord Lister Monument

Seated alongside Lord Kelvin in the west part of Kelvingrove Park is a bronze statue of Lord Lister. This memorial pays tribute to Joseph Lister who succeeded Lord Kelvin as the President of the Royal Society in 1895 and whose research into antiseptic systems revolutionized medicine around the world.

Essex-born Lister was primarily based in Edinburgh and London throughout his long career, but it was during his tenure as Professor of Surgery at the University of Glasgow in the 1860s that he undertook his first experiments with carbolic acid. He pioneered the usage of carbolic acid to disinfect surgical tools and instruments, thus causing mortality rates in hospitals to fall by almost 50%.

The initial idea to commemorate Lister's legacy, mooted after his death in 1912, implied setting up a museum in the Royal Infirmary to display his old equipment. However, the outbreak of WWI and the subsequent lack of support from the Infirmary management led to a revised proposal of a simple statue.

The latter was cast in bronze, upon request from a royal commission, by Scots sculptor George Henry Paulin and was unveiled in Kelvingrove Park in September 1924. The sculpture depicts a vibrant figure of Joseph Lister clad in his academic robe. The monument is placed atop a grey granite pedestal which has a carved Caduceus symbol above Lister's name at the front of the plinth.
Lord Kelvin Statue

4) Lord Kelvin Statue

Glasgow University is one of the most interesting places to visit and in a small garden below the University Tower you will find the Lord Kelvin Statue.

The statue was erected on this site in 1913 and was the work of Archibald MacFarlane Shannan, who was commissioned to immortalise Sir William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin of Largs, in bronze.

You can see the great man sitting on his stone plinth, his head bent over a book, undoubtedly studying higher forms of mathematics or some other learned scientific work.

Sir William Thomson was born in Belfast in 1824 and his family moved to Glasgow in 1836. Sir William was a brilliant student and he finished his studies at Glasgow University, his speciality was mathematics, science and energy.

He was particularly drawn to understanding the vagaries of heat and is renowned for his determining of Absolute Zero degree temperature, now known as the Kelvin Scale.

He was involved in many scientific inventions and improvements, that although today are somewhat dated and some of them have been proved false, he was nevertheless highly respected in his time.

He is also known for his work on the mirror galvanometer, the siphon recorder which recorded the receipt of telegraph messages and the Kelvin Water Dropper – a prototype of the electrostatic generator.
Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery

5) Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery

Situated within the University of Glasgow, this institution holds the distinction of being Scotland's oldest public museum. Its establishment dates back to 1807 when Dr. William Hunter, a prominent physician, anatomist, and leading obstetrician of his era, bequeathed funds for its creation in his will. Dr. Hunter's diverse interests extended to book and coin collecting, and upon his passing, he generously donated his extensive collections to the museum.

The museum boasts a vast collection comprising more than a million items. Notable highlights include Roman artifacts originating from the Antonine Wall, artifacts from Captain Cook's Voyages of Discovery, meteorites, and scientific instruments once owned by renowned figures like Lord Kelvin and James Watt. An entire section is dedicated to the study of early humanity, featuring several mummies and dinosaur fossils.

The exhibit titled "A Healing Passion" delves into the history of medicine in Glasgow and showcases anatomical instruments from Dr. Hunter's teaching collection. His coin collection is renowned as one of the most comprehensive worldwide, as he acquired various collections from fellow enthusiasts, including Horace Walpole and Thomas Crofts. Interestingly, even King George III contributed an Athenian gold coin to the collection.

The museum offers numerous interactive displays, making it an engaging educational experience suitable for both children and adults. Additionally, the library houses an impressive collection of over 600 manuscripts and more than 1000 books, with the oldest manuscript being "Homilies of Saint Basil," penned in the year 859.

Why You Should Visit:
Eclectic but well presented, with room to accommodate a lot of people without feeling crowded. The dramatic setting and design of the interior are breathtaking.

Allow a good amount of time – there is a lot to see and the area is good for a stroll. Try and go on a sunny day to get the best pictures.
University of Glasgow

6) University of Glasgow (must see)

The United Kingdom is home to several prestigious and ancient universities that enjoy global renown. Among these institutions, the University of Glasgow holds a significant position as the fourth oldest in English-speaking countries.

Its establishment can be traced back to 1451 when it received formal recognition through a Papal Bull issued during the papacy of Pope Nicholas V. Subsequently, King James II granted permission to Bishop William Turnbill to integrate the university with the city's cathedral. However, during the Reformation period, both the Mace and the Bull were transported to France. While the Mace eventually found its way back, the fate of the Bull remains uncertain, possibly lost or stolen.

In 1870, Sir George Scott oversaw the construction of the university's main campus on Gilmorehill, adopting a Gothic architectural style and featuring a twin-quadrangle design with an open undercroft. A spire was later added to the bell tower in 1887. The university's various departments are dispersed across different buildings within the city and across the country.

During the 18th century, the University of Glasgow played a central role in the Scottish Enlightenment movement, while in the 19th century, it broadened its admissions, welcoming students beyond the privileged upper classes. Children of merchants enrolled to pursue studies in fields such as law, medicine, education, engineering, science, and theology.

Within the campus, visitors can explore the impressive Hunterian Museum & Gallery, as well as the Mackintosh House, offering enriching cultural experiences.

Why You Should Visit:
Boasting some of Glasgow's oldest and most beautiful, magical architecture, this University definitely deserves a spot on all tourist lists.
Its campus houses several of the city's museums, including the excellent Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery, and the Zoology Museum.
The University is also close to a number of great restaurants and bars, as well as the charming Ashton Lane.

Go to the south side of the main building for breathtaking views across the city and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum.
Also, you should make sure to visit the University Chapel, preferably on Tuesdays at 6 pm when the choir is singing.
Mackintosh House

7) Mackintosh House

No-one should miss the chance to visit a house museum if possible because they are an excellent way of feeling as though you are stepping back in time. Mackintosh House on the Glasgow University campus is a very fine example of this.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a 19th/20th-century architect, designer, artist and the principal representative of the Art Nouveau Movement in the UK. He and his wife Margaret, who was also a renowned artist, lived in the house on Southpark Avenue between 1906 and 1914, when they moved the house and its contents were bought by a Mr Davison and his family. When they put the house up for sale in their turn in 1946, it was bought by Glasgow University and the Davidsons made the university a gift of the furniture.

The house museum has been a part of the Hunterian Art Gallery since 1981 and is a faithful reconstruction of the time when the Mackintosh’s lived there. The beautiful furniture was designed by Mackintosh himself and several examples of his and Margaret’s paintings adorn the walls.

You can visit the hall, drawing room, dining room, studio and main bedroom, all of which are elegantly decorated. As you drift from room to room, you almost expect to come across Charles working on the designs of another building, or Margaret, paintbrush in hand, bent over her easel to catch the last rays of the summer sun.

Why You Should Visit:
Even if you have only limited interest in architecture, the half-hour tour through this house is worth every penny.
Eye candy wherever you look, and breathtaking examples of the Mackintosh genius. The use of light and space, too, is a revelation.

Take the morning guided tour first – you will then be able to pop back in the afternoon when you can go round at your leisure.
Ashton Lane

8) Ashton Lane

Ashton Lane, situated in the West End of Glasgow, is a charming cobblestone backstreet that connects to Byres Road via a short lane adjacent to the Hillhead subway station.

In the past, Ashton Lane did not hold the prominent position it does today in the West End cafe scene. Back in the early 1970s, it was a neglected area with modest residential and vacant commercial properties. Nowadays, most of the buildings along Ashton Lane are occupied by bars and restaurants. Notably, The Famous Grosvenor Cafe and the internationally acclaimed 'Chip' are iconic establishments in the area, while others like Jinty McGuintys Irish Bar have also been serving patrons for nearly a quarter of a century.

Heading north, Ashton Lane transforms into Cresswell Lane, where the array of bars and restaurants is complemented by a collection of specialized small shops. The Lane and its surroundings are often likened to Glasgow's version of Dublin's Temple Bar district or Edinburgh's Rose Street. While it still remains popular among local residents and students, Ashton Lane has firmly secured its place on the list of must-visit attractions for tourists exploring Glasgow.
Byres Road

9) Byres Road

Byres Road, located in the Hillhead area of Glasgow, serves as a vital thoroughfare in the city's West End. This street encompasses a diverse blend of commercial enterprises, shopping outlets, and high-end residential properties, primarily characterized by traditional sandstone tenements. These buildings typically feature retail spaces on their ground floors and three stories of residential apartments above. Notably, its proximity to the University of Glasgow has resulted in a significant student population in the surrounding West End of Glasgow.

Prominent Glasgow artist Alasdair Gray has embellished several establishments along Byres Road with his murals, including the Ubiquitous Chip, the Oxfam Bookshop, and the Oran Mor bars.

Stretching from the Botanic Gardens, adjacent to Great Western Road in the north, to Partick Cross at Dumbarton Road in the south, the road initially traversed a relatively rural region known as the Byres of Partick, also referred to as Bishop's Byres. One of the area's oldest pubs is Curler's, dating back to the 17th century. Legend has it that King Charles II granted this establishment a seven-day license, and it was originally situated beside a pond used for the sport of curling.

The neighboring lanes and byways have thrived thanks to the commerce generated by Byres Road, now hosting a diverse range of small businesses, from tapas bars to second-hand record stores. Among these, Ashton Lane stands out as the most renowned, featuring bars, restaurants, and even a cinema.
Riverside Museum (The Glasgow Museum of Transport)

10) Riverside Museum (The Glasgow Museum of Transport) (must see)

The Glasgow Museum of Transport was established in 1964. In 1987 the museum was relocated to the city's Kelvin Hall, and then moved to its current location in the Riverside Museum building, designed by Zaha Hadid, at Glasgow Harbour in 2011.

Although containing approximately the same floor space as the previous museum facility, this distinctive building creates a more environmentally stable home for Glasgow's significant (over 3,000 exhibits) Transport Technology collections featuring motorcycles and bikes, vintage cars, trains, ships, toys and other means of transportation to pore over.

The building also houses a workshop and office space for the Clyde Maritime Trust. It even has a cobbled street depicting life in Glasgow from the turn of the 20th century, where you can wander in and out of recreations of old shops, whilst passing by horse-drawn carriages. Another popular visitor attraction, berthed right outside the museum, is the Glenlee (aka The Tall Ship), launched in 1896 and circumnavigated the globe four times. This is one of the few remaining Clyde-built ships still afloat.

The building has a zig-zagging, zinc-clad roof and a 36 metre-high glazed frontage overlooking the River Clyde. The design, combining geometric complexity with structural ingenuity and material authenticity, continues Glasgow’s rich engineering traditions and forms part of the city’s future as a centre of innovation.

Why You Should Visit:
A prominent and truly unique location – allows visitors an opportunity to get a sense of history by literally stepping inside (aboard) some of its pieces.

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