Glasgow Cathedral view

A Morning in Glasgow and a Drive to Islay

Day 7, Scotland: A morning of speed tourism in Glasgow followed by a beautiful drive to Islay

Up early around 9 am, I had quite a morning planned for us. We had half a day to check out the major sites of Glasgow, the largest Scottish city and third largest UK city. We checked out and headed to Glasgow Cathedral.

Tolbooth Steeple

Tolbooth SteepleWe saw this seven-floor clock tower, built in 1625-7, in the center of Glasgow Cross, a historic intersection of the city. Tolbooth Steeple use to be part of a larger building, the Tolbooth, which housed the Town Clerk’s office, council hall and a prison. It was interesting to see it in the middle of a busy street.

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow CathedralWe parked and toured the cathedral, which isn’t technically still a cathedral as it has not been the seat of a bishop since 1690. Built in the late 12th century, it is still used as a place of worship for the Church of Scotland. The gothic architecture was impressive, but unfortunately under restoration while we were there.

We were so early, that the church wasn’t even open to visitors yet. We joined the tourists and entered when the floodgates were opened. Inside the cathedral had a large underground crypt with several tombs. We saw the area where St. Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow, supposedly built his church. Also Glasgow University was founded here with classes in the crypt starting in 1451!

Also in the Cathedral Square was the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art. We walked down the street following the signs to the Necropolis.

Glasgow Necropolis

The Necropolis is a huge cemetery, opened in 1833, built on a hill overlooking the cathedral. Here around 50,000 people are buried and 3,500 monuments stand. It’s creepy walking around the dead. There are plenty of old mausoleums here and some look like they’ve had break-in attempts, but are now well fenced and locked up.

The most notable monument is one depicting John Knox, a Scottish clergyman who helped bring reform to the Church of Scotland. It is perched at the top of the hill.

John Knox has the best view in Glasgow… Baller.
Then we walked back across the street to the Glasgow Evangelical Church where we parked. We then drove to the center.

Glasgow George Square

We drove around the square a few times to find a parking spot. Walking around we found the square was quite large and littered with statues of all kinds. There was one of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, some poets, inventors, military figures, and politicians. The 80 ft high statue in the center of the square is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott the author of Ivanhoe and Rob Roy among other notable works. A large metallic structure of Olympic rings were also conveniently placed for good photo-ops in the square.

On the east side is the Glasgow City Chambers, which houses the Glasgow City Council, opened in 1888. A good example of Victorian architecture, it is a prominent part of the square.

Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA)

This museum opened in 1996 has a small collection of modern art. None of which I found too interesting to be honest. The museum is housed in a 1778 Tobacco Lord’s townhouse. These are merchantmen that made plenty of money trading tobacco.

In front of the building is a statue of the Duke of Wellington, who was became Prime Minister of the UK in the 1800s. Apparently the statue often has a traffic cone on its head, but I witnessed no such hat. Free entrance.

This is photo is Modern Art. What?

Willow Tearooms

We had built up quite an appetite at this point so we stopped at one of the famous tearooms behind the museum. The Willow Tearooms were designed by the renowned architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh between 1896 – 1917.

The food and service were quite average, but the atmosphere was fun, even if it was mostly tourists frequenting the place.

We got back to the car and drove to our next stop across town.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

This large museum opened in 1901 and is located in an impressive Spanish Baroque style building. The brick is made of red sandstone from Dumfriesshire a region in the south Scotland.

Powerful.

We spent some time to walk through the museum and see all the exhibits. They had many stuffed animals, including a Sir Roger the elephant. They also had a recreated section on the original Willow Tearooms. The most impressive and famous piece is the painting, Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí. The museum curator, Honeyman, actually bought the painting from Dali himself. Apparently the Spanish government offered £80 million for the painting but no deal.
My head’s spinning watching these heads spin…

I saw a sign not to go up into the towers because they are haunted… cool!

Leaving the museum, in the distance stood the University of Glasgow.

Riverside Museum

A bit of a drive away, we arrived at the Glasgow Museum of Transport’s new home, the Riverside Museum. This interesting building situated on the River Clyde, opened in 2011 and cost £74,000,000.

The exhibit was well designed going through the history of locomotion and displaying different forms used throughout the country. It was very interactive and visitors could enter many of the vehicles, buses, trains, etc.

I need a wall like this.

Outside the back entrance is the “Glen Lee”, a Tall Ship open to visitors. The views of the Glasgow Harbour were great.
Ready for the rough seas Captain!

That last museum concluded our limited time in Glasgow. Now we were off to the western islands of Scotland. A drive just over two hours, we took it easy and stopped along the way at interesting sites.

Loch Lomond

Driving into the Highlands, we entered the Loch Lomond and the Torssachs National Park. It was a beautiful though slow drive. The lake is the largest fresh water lake by surface area in the UK.

We stopped at Tarbet, a small town on the lake. There was a huge lawn with picnic tables near the pier. I chased the geese and local water foul around to stretch my legs. The lake was really tranquil and calm. A few tourists threw around a Frisbee.

Here’s some trivia, Captain Haddock from Tintin drinks whisky branded “Loch Lomond”!

We continued driving and stopped at the well-known pass Rest and Be Thankful. This is the highest point of the drive at 245m above sea level. It offers great views of Glen Croe. Over the ridge, we passed by Glen Kinglas and continued on the A83.

The highlands of Scotland. Glen Croe viewed from “Rest and Be Thankful”

Inveraray

Driving up behind a slow circus truck of some sort took away some of the pleasure of the experience, but soon enough we arrived in Inverary. This small town is on the western shore of Loch Fyne, a salt-water inlet to the sea.

Inverary Castle

We first stopped at an 18th-century neo-Gothic castle sitting on the hill overlooking the town. It is open to tourists, but a family, the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, live there. Apparently there is a harp-playing ghost in the castle too. We didn’t get the chance to experience that phenomenon though.

Quaint.

Driving into the town center, we parked for an ice cream near the dock. The town was really cute and a great example of a town would look like in 18th century Scotland.

I walked down the main street and saw my favorite place in the city, Loch Fyne Whiskies. This whisky shop claims to be the “world’s most respected whisky shop”. Not surprising considering its location and selection of 200+ malts.
Yum.

Heaven is similar to this minus the whole “paying for stuff” concept

Further into town is the Bell Tower sitting high. It contains the second-heaviest ring of ten bells in the world.

I also found that Shinty is a popular sport here (yes that is the real name). A sport similar to field hockey and the Inverary team is pretty good!

We continued through Tarbert to Kennacraig Port where our ferry should be departing to Islay. We were trying to catch the last one. We arrived to find that the ferry was just closing its gate. Damn! I ran out to see if it was possible to still get on, but it was definitely too late. So we went to the ticket office and bought our ticket for 7:30 am the next day.

We now had an evening to spend on the mainland.

Tarbert

We headed back to the nearest town, as it was getting late and looked for accommodation. After checking a few hotels we finally settled on Anchor Hotel right in the bay of Tarbert. It was very clean and had modern newly decorated rooms. We had an amazing seafood dinner of local langoustine and fish.

Then we took an evening stroll through the quiet town. The sunset over the bay was beautiful and very picturesque. The town was tiny and I’m guessing tourism and fishing are the primary economic drives for the area.

We had a very early day, so after doing some work and checking emails, we got some well-needed rest.
Whisky Island tomorrow… can’t wait.

David De Clercq

About David De Clercq

Founder and writer at World-Adventurer.com, David is on a mission to travel to every country in the world and has less than 10 countries left! He loves new adventures, unique cultures, historic landmarks, and luxurious hotels. Follow along as David shares a journey of a lifetime!