Glasgow Short break
By Steve Boyle
If you've never been to Glasgow a short break is an ideal way to get a flavour of the city. Glasgow is City which oozes history and culture and yet at the same time is modern and dynamic.
There is a wide range of accommodation to suit every budget and taste. After a quick hunt of the papers and the net and we managed to get the Travel Lodge at the Airport for £30.00 per night. Not bad for a room which will accommodate up to two adults and two children and has all the usual on Suite, TV [including Cbbies much to the delight of our youngest] and coffee making facilities. The price is room only but you can have a cooked breakfast for about £8.00 or continental for under £5.00 which would work out very pricey for a family. We found an Asda supermarket about four miles away in the Phoenix retail park at Linwood where you could get a full cooked breakfast for £2.25 or cereal and milk for 50 pence. There are also a range of fast food outlets and a multiplex cinema in the same park. Interestingly when we tried to book the offer online with the online promotional code it came up with no rooms available at the promotional rate yet when we called the freephone number and quoted the promotional newspaper code we got a room no problem.
As said the lodge we stayed at was at the Airport which is about six miles out of the City. This is not a problem as its bang on the motorway which runs right through the middle of Glasgow. What is a problem though are the lack of the Brown tourist signs which direct you to visitor attractions. When we did see these often they indicated a slip road which was different from the one you expected from your map. And worse still when you got to the exit there was never any indication of whether you should go left right straight on or just hang around and hope for the best. Never a good idea in a busy city where being in the wrong lane can mean a major detour in the wrong direction. Once we abandoned what signage there was and started to rely on our map things went a lot better.
Glasgow Science Centre
Our first trip was the Glasgow Science Centre a relatively new feature on the banks of the Clyde. The Science Centre is one of the biggest Millennium projects in Scotland. It's made up of the Science centre itself , an IMAX cinema and the Glasgow Tower The brochure tells us " The tower is the only building in the world capable of turning 360 degrees from the ground up. Its built to an aerofoil design to minimise wind resistance and it's entire height can turn in to the prevailing wind." The snag is it's not actually turning at the moment in fact it's completely closed. I'm not sure what the problem is but they hope to have it back in operation in the Autumn . People have been very critical of these so called Millennium projects. But in my mind any problems that there have been is because they are Projects for the new Millennium. They are cutting edge. No doubt the guy [or gal ] who invented the wheel had to knock a few edges of it before it was perfected. I'm sure that the Tower will be a major tourist attraction in it's own right for years to come. So leaving that aside for the moment we're left with the IMAX cinema and the Science centre itself. Having done the IMAX bit elsewhere before we thought we would spend a pleasant four hours or so in the Science centre and then go off and do something else. How wrong could we be! We ended up staying the whole day . We didn't know what to expect but we soon found out that Glasgow has another world class attraction. The Centre is spread over four floors the ground floor has the usual restaurant, tat shop and an E-Learning centre [ Computer Games and internet room to you and me]. The first floor is where the centre really comes to life every few yards there is a new interactive exhibit to get to grips with. To make your way around the first floor and have a go at everything there is to do takes a few hours and there is still another two floors to get through. They say that today's children aren't interested in Science, Maths and Engineering . Not so: if its done well then they are very interested indeed and this it has to be said is done well. In addition to the exhibits there is a lecture theatre and regular interactive lectures are given when we visited the topic was using light in medicine. There is also an excellent planetarium said to be the best currently available in the UK and a 3D theatre some of you may have come across this type of thing at Disney but believe me the one at the gsc is not showing "Honey I Shrunk The Kids" . There is a 3D view of a car and the chemical structure of a drug . If you haven't experienced 3D virtual reality before it can be a bit unsettling as the car seems to morph around you . Great fun though to see the kids trying to touch empty space. Fortunately for the squeamish the autonomy film was only in 2D I'll leave you to discover the delights of that one yourself fascinating stuff though. These theatres run at regular times throughout the day but my advice would be to get in the queue early especially for the 3D virtual reality theatre which is smaller than the other two. In short a great day out our admission for a family of Five was £19.50 the IMAX and the tower run at similar prices although you do get a slight discount for a two item or three item ticket. My advice would be to devote a day to the science centre then save the other two for another day.
The Burrell Collection
Our next trip took us to the Burrell collection. Most people will have heard of the collection but for those who haven't: The collection was gifted to Glasgow in 1944 by Sir William Burrell and his wife Lady Constance. Burrell was basically a local lad made good. He amassed great wealth in the shipping business and used that to fund his passion for art. He became an internationally respected collector and amassed over 9000 items. When he gifted the collection Burrell stipulated that it must be housed in a building 16 miles from the city centre in a rural setting. Sadly when he died in 1958 a suitable site still had not been identified. It was not to find a permanent home until 1967 when Mrs Anne Maxwell and her family gifted the almost 400 acre Pollock Estate and house to the city. Whilst this was still inside the City boundary it was decided that this represented the best opportunity to house the collection in a rural setting. An open architectural competition was launched which was won by a group of three architects Barry Gasson , John Meunier and Brit Anderson. The collection was eventually opened to the public in 1983. The building attracting much acclaim and awards. Save for a small parking charge admission is free and free guided tours are available. I have to say I hated the outside of the building but when you get inside you don't really notice the structure. It allows the exhibits that are light tolerant to be displayed in good space and light around the outside whilst those that are less light tolerant such as paintings and textiles can be exhibited in areas towards the middle of the building. The collection encompasses many periods from recent day to the ancient world. Here you will find Oriental and Roman ceramics , Dutch engraved glass fine European paintings and tapestries and furniture to name but a few. I just love this sort of stuff. The enjoyment for me is to see these pieces which have been created hundreds of years ago or in the case of some of the exhibits from the ancient world 1000's of years BC and reflect on what a story each piece could tell. Sadly we had only a couple of hours to spare next time we will stay a lot longer.
The Falkirk wheel
The Falkirk Wheel is about 45 minutes to the north of the city [ on a good traffic day] The wheel is a key stage in the reinstatement of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals which once linked Glasgow and Edinburgh. It's another Millennium project but so far this one has worked right out of the box.. "In the past, the two canals were connected by a flight of 11 locks, which dropped the canal 33.5m over a distance of 1.5km. British Waterways, however, were keen to present a more visionary solution and The Falkirk Wheel became a reality" The wheel is fast becoming an icon of grand engineering in much the same way as the Forth Rail Bridge. And here's the good news after you've paid the £2.00 to park that's it you can wander around the visitor centre and get within feet of the wheel itself. There are boat trips on the wheel which will set you back £16.00 for a family 2+2 ticket. Such is the popularity of the wheel that you are advised to book these in advance I wont trouble you further with the statistics check out the website or better still just go there. Especially if you heading North or travelling south past Stirling it will only cost you about an hour on your journey.