|Hanging Heads exhibit at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum|
‘Glasgow’s miles better’ was the campaign, started in 1983, which changed the way the world looked at the city. With the cartoon figure of Mr Happy associated with the phrase, it was hugely successful in turning around people’s perceptions. In 1990 Glasgow was named the European City of Culture giving it another opportunity to attract visitors who might otherwise prefer its east coast rival, Edinburgh.
I am pleased to report that Mr Happy is alive and kicking in Glasgow. Within a few seconds of parking in the city centre, a smiling woman knocked on our car window to offer us the remainder of her ticket as she was about to leave. Elsewhere in the city the taxi drivers were helpful, waitresses were cheerful and the general public were keen to engage in conversation: laughing with us on escalators, in shops and museums.
Our first stop was the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, one of Scotland’s most popular attractions. It was also free to enter, like many attractions here. We loved it: a busy, fun, gloriously bonkers place, with random artefacts jostling for position such as the stuffed giraffe and the World War Two Spitfire in the main hall. Several interactive exhibits weren’t working but this seemed to make little difference to the enjoyment of the many children who, rather than bash buttons and levers, took the time to actually look at what was around them. Labelling was just right: interesting yet succinct and often quite amusing. Take the 17th century ‘bollock dagger’ we spotted in one case with these words beside it: ‘Visually I can find some beauty in most objects, it is the function that can be ugly. This is attractive, even humorous to look at, but ultimately its purpose was for killing.’
|The west wing of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery|
Other rooms were devoted to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style with some wonderful pieces from the famous Miss Cranston’s tearooms. On the first floor stunning paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Rembrandt were on show, plus the quite awe-inspiring Christ of St John of the Cross by Salvador Dali. This is a museum to return to again and again, as I’m sure the residents of Glasgow do quite often. The story-telling and the relaxed, warm atmosphere, make this a big hit for families.
|Courtyard of the Burrell Collection with the famous Warwick vase in the foreground.|
Another free museum with an impressive array of gathered treasures is the Burrell Collection, just south of the city centre in Pollok Country Park. A light, airy, contemporary building houses over 8000 objects donated by the shipping magnate, Sir William Burrell. He certainly had an eye for art as the collection has examples of Ancient Greek and Egyptian civilisations, Chinese and Islamic art and objects from Medieval Europe. Despite the fact that rain damage has closed the mezzanine floor, a selection of the paintings from that part of the museum have been moved downstairs to a temporary gallery: the ‘Bellini to Boudin’ exhibition has some exceptional paintings including works by Degas, Whistler and Cézanne.
|Dougie and Alex, best of pals.|
Galleried out, a little bit of modern culture was needed so we made our way to Hampden Park, home of Scotland’s national football team. The Hampden Experience includes a visit to the Scottish Football Museum plus a guided tour of the stadium: both well worth doing whether you’re a Scottish football fan or not. Dougie shed a tear looking at the Scottish Cup which his team, Hibernian, hasn’t won since 1902. The curators of the museum, a great bunch of knowledgeable blokes, gave him some ribbing about this. During the tour we tested out our shooting ability: Dougie nearly did his back in trying twice to get the fastest goal, Rory booted both of his over the bar and his girlfriend, Juliana, sent her shoe careering into the net. My own attempt was successful but rather daintily executed.
Our tour guide, Pat, was a joy to listen to. Full of stories and gossip, he entertained us for a full hour with tales from Hampden’s history. The tour included the changing rooms (only three hair-dryers?) and, best of all, a walk onto the terraces to look at the pitch. Only there was no pitch. Hampden is being converted to an athletics stadium for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. We weren’t allowed to take photographs of this, but an incredible feat of design and engineering, the ‘Glasgow Solution’, has created the world’s first 400m running track, 2m above the pitch, supported by 6000 steel stilts. Removing 8000 seats in the process, the work being done is mind-boggling but, with 100 days to go on the day we visited, it was looking very impressive.
If you’re thinking of attending the Commonwealth Games in the summer then I can assure you Glasgow will welcome you with open arms. It is an upbeat, trendy city full of spirited, proud people. They were right to adopt Mr Happy in 1983 and they have made sure he has never left them.
Look out for my next post about our accommodation: an amazing award-winning B&B.
Our trip was arranged by VisitScotland. For more information on holidaying in Scotland go to: www.visitscotland.com
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Argyle Street, West End, +44 (0) 141 276 9599
Trish’s Top Tip: Don’t miss the ‘Looking at Art’ room on the ground floor to unlock the secrets of paintings and see art in different ways.
The Burrell Collection
Pollok Country Park, +44 (0) 141 287 2550
Trish’s Top Tip: Look out for Rodin’s The Thinker sculpture in the courtyard. For excellent soup and moreish cake, head to the café where the cheerful staff will welcome you. Help yourself to free glasses of water.
Scottish Football Museum and Hampden Park
Hampden Park, +44 (0) 141 616 6139
Prices start from £7 for adults for museum admission, £11 for museum and stadium tour. For full details see here
Trish’s Top Tip: The tour is such a brilliant part of the experience, don’t miss out by just visiting the museum. Relax in the café, have a Costa Coffee and wait to be called. Ask your guide who is the most successful Scottish footballer; you’ll be surprised at the answer.